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- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
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- Best exfoliant: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
- Best retinol treatment: Paula’s Choice Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum
- Best eye cream: Paula’s Choice Ceramide-Enriched Firming Eye Cream
- Best serum for radiance: Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster
- Best vitamin C serum: Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster
- Best peel treatment: Paula’s Choice 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel
- Best moisturizer with SPF: Paula’s Choice Skin Restoring Moisturizer with SPF 50
If you’re a beauty aficionado, you’ve likely heard of Paula’s Choice. Founded by Paula Begoun in 1995, the brand has amassed a cultlike following thanks to their collection of powerful skin care products. Paula’s Choice uses scientifically backed ingredients and a no BS approach to skin care.
What’s in the products is just as important as what’s not. Everything is formulated free of dyes, fragrances, and phthalates. The website even features a handy skin care ingredient dictionary that beauty editors love to reference.
A couple of Paula’s Choice ingredients are mainstays with beauty editors and dermatologists, such as their Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. But the truth is, the brand is prolific. There are tons of formulations and collections to choose from, and it can be intimidating knowing where to begin and what products to try.
Here, we dig deep into Paula’s Choice as a brand and find out what products are worth your time and money.
Paula’s Choice first and foremost is about safe and effective formulas backed by scientific research. According to their website, their products are developed using hundreds of independent studies, safety data, and tons of consumer testing.
All products are also formulated to be non-irritating and free of any ingredients your skin just doesn’t need, such as fragrances and dyes.
Paula’s Choice formulates without:
- 1, 4 dioxane
- abrasive particles such as nut shells, salt, or sugar
- aluminum powder
- essential oils
- fragrant plant extracts
- sodium lauryl sulfate
- synthetic fragrance
- synthetic dyes
The brand is also intentional in their packaging. Products don’t come in jars or transparent packaging, so formulas stay potent for as long as possible.
Paula’s Choice is also Leaping Bunny certified. Lastly, Paula’s Choice is about inclusivity as much as they are about results. Their seven collections cater to pretty much every skin type and concern, from acne-prone skin care to clinical skin care.
Paula’s Choice sells a plethora of different types of products for a variety of skin types and concerns. Some of the most popular include:
Paula’s Choice collections for different skin concerns include:
- anti-pollution skin care
- bumpy skin
- dehydrated skin
- dull skin
- clogged pores
- oil control
- skin firming
- skin redness
- uneven skin tone
In choosing which products to review, I picked a mix of Paula’s Choice bestsellers, as well as products I know I could benefit from given my own skin concerns. Lastly, I picked a variety of items from their different collections.
- $ = under $35
- $$ = $35–$50
- $$$ = over $50
- Price: $
- Active ingredients: salicylic acid, green tea
- Pros: exfoliates gently, clarifies skin, evens skin tone
- Cons: can be irritating if overused
- Best for: dull skin, clogged pores, acne-prone skin
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is perhaps the brand’s most well known and most revered product. And for good cause. This formula is gentle enough to use daily to exfoliate dead skin cells, clear pores, and reveal a more radiant and even tone. It has a nice light lotion texture that absorbs super quickly.
Although you can use it every day, I used it one day on and one day off, alternating with Paula’s Choice Intensive Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum below. I did find that it visibly reduced hyperpigmentation left over from previous acne scars, and blackheads. Overall, my skin looked smoother and brighter.
Best retinol treatment
- Price: $$
- Active ingredients: retinol, squalane, vitamin C, vitamin E
- Pros: combines retinol and antioxidants, silky serum formula
- Cons: feels oily when you first apply it
- Best for: wrinkles, uneven skin tone
Paula’s Choice Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum is one of the few I’ve seen that combine both retinol and antioxidants such as vitamin C. The effect is one that treats the appearance of wrinkles, helps with radiance, and improves firmness, uneven skin tone, and red marks.
You can use it twice per day, but I like to alternate acids and retinol, so I only used it every other day. The formula almost goes on like an oil, so at first I thought it was a bit greasy. But it absorbed super quickly and did leave me with a dewy glow. I’m almost certain it’s also helped smooth a few of my nascent under-eye fine lines.
Best eye cream
- Price: $$
- Active ingredients: ceramides, vitamin C, retinol
- Pros: moisturizing, creamy formula, low concentration of retinol
- Cons: results not immediate
- Best for: wrinkles, under-eye brightening
Paula’s Choice Ceramide-Enriched Firming Eye Cream combines five ceramides and fatty acids, the primary lipids in skin that make up about 50 percent of the uppermost layers and help keep skin smooth and strong. It also includes four forms of vitamin C, retinol, and plant-derived brighteners to help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and under-eye bags.
My under-eye circles are not too pronounced, so I didn’t experience a ton of difference in this area. But I did like the general formula. It was creamy enough that a little went a long way, and my eyes looks visibly more moisturized.
Best serum for radiance
- Price: $$
- Active ingredients: niacinamide, allantoin, licorice extract, vitamin C
- Pros: improves uneven skin texture, reduces appearance of pores and fine lines
- Cons: super sheer formula, almost meant to be mixed in with other products
- Best for: dull skin, uneven skin tone, texture issues
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. Research has found that it can help reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, wrinkles, and dry skin. This Paula’s Choice formula uses a whopping 10 percent of it, and the effect is visibly calmer, moisturized, and more radiant skin.
The product is meant to be used as a booster, so a little goes a long way. It feels sheer and watery. Only about 2 drops mixed in with your moisturizer works wonders. I noticed that a lot of reviewers on the Paula’s Choice website also mention their skin feeling and looking visibly smoother and brighter.
Best vitamin C serum
- Price: $$$
- Active ingredients: vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid
- Pros: light formula that absorbs quickly
- Cons: can have an unpleasant smell
- Best for: visible signs of aging, dull and uneven skin tone
I think vitamin C should be a mainstay in anyone’s morning routine. It is an anti-pollutant that helps neutralize free-radical damage to your skin. Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster is formulated with a blend of 15-percent vitamin C, also known as l-ascorbic acid, at a pH of 3.0. It also includes other skin-stabilizing antioxidants like vitamin E, ferulic acid, and peptides.
All together, these ingredients can help diminish signs of aging, and help you obtain smoother, brighter, and firmer-looking skin. I’ve been a vitamin C fan for a long time, so luckily I didn’t have a ton of hyperpigmentation issues to begin with, but I definitely liked this formula for maintenance.
Best peel treatment
- Price: $$
- Active ingredients: glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, butterfly pea flower extract
- Pros: fast results
- Cons: can be irritating for sensitive skin
- Best for: visible wrinkles, bumpy skin, clogged pores
This peel employs a strong multi-acid blend. It has 2-percent salicylic acid, plus an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) blend of 8.4-percent glycolic acid, 7.1-percent lactic acid, 5-percent mandelic acid, 2.5-percent malic acid, and 2-percent tartaric acid for multilevel resurfacing. The butterfly pea flower extract helps calm and gives the peel its lilac color.
It is meant to be applied weekly on clean dry skin and left for 10 minutes. This worked wonders for me. I felt like my skin was hydrated, supple, and extra-glowy after using it. That being said, I have oily skin that isn’t sensitive at all. So, be aware this may be an advanced product for anyone who hasn’t been introduced to acids yet or has ultra-sensitive skin.
Best moisturizer with SPF
- Price: $$
- Active ingredients: shea butter, broad-spectrum SPF 50, niacinamide
- Pros: has SPF
- Cons: can irritate your eyes
- Best for: dry skin
As a last step in any skin care routine, a moisturizer with sun protection factor (SPF) kills two birds with one stone. This one’s formula is specially formulated for dry skin with antioxidants like shea butter, coffee seed, niacinamide, and licorice.
Although the formula seemed a bit thick, I did find it very moisturizing and not greasy. It sinks in beautifully, doesn’t leave a white cast, and works as a great primer before I apply foundation.
Paula’s Choice has so many skin care collections, ranging from products for acne-prone skin to products for advanced skin aging. Because of this, I would say Paula’s Choice has something for skin of every type.
While I didn’t get to try every single product in the Paula’s Choice line, whatever I did get my hands on worked well for me.
The Paula’s Choice website also has a handy little skin type quiz. You can use it to narrow down which one of the Paula’s Choice collections would be best for you.
Not every product I tested delivered on its claims.
For instance, I didn’t see a ton of results from Paula’s Choice Ceramide-Enriched Firming Eye Cream. However, it’s worth noting that some products are targeted toward more mature skin. Perhaps I didn’t have too many fine lines to begin with.
However, I’d say that most of the Paula’s Choice products I tried did deliver on their claims. I noticed brighter, smoother skin with no breakouts or irritation.
I would generally say that Paula’s Choice products do work. Most items have positive reviews across the board at beauty retailers like Sephora, and a cultlike following from influencers and beauty editors alike.
Paula’s Choice products are sold at a variety of retailers, including the brand’s website and Amazon. Other spots to shop include:
A return policy will depend on where you buy the product.
But if you buy from Paula’s Choice directly, they will provide a refund for products returned within 60 days and store credit up to 180 days after your purchase date, if you’re not satisfied with the product for any reason.
For the most part, Paula’s Choice tends to amass positive reviews from their customers. The company has 4 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot. Most customers praise the brand’s effectiveness, reasonable pricing, product variety, and attentive customer service.
A frequent criticism of Paula’s Choice is their unreliable customer service and misleading return policy. The brand’s return policy requires customers to pay to send the product back.
Paula’s Choice isn’t currently rated by the Better Business Bureau. A few customer complaints have to do with shipping delays, lost shipments, and customer service.
I was not able to find any class action lawsuits against Paula’s Choice.
Although Paula’s Choice carries many effective products, some items may not be suitable for every budget or skin type. A few alternatives to Paula’s Choice are:
Is Paula’s Choice suitable for acne?
Paula’s Choice has such a large variety of products, so there’s certainly something for everyone. Paula’s Choice Clear line is best suited for people with acne. The line includes moisturizers, acne sprays, spot treatments, and exfoliating treatments with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Are Paula’s Choice products vegan, or do any of them contain animal byproducts?
According to the Paula’s Choice website, the majority of their products do not contain animal or animal-derived ingredients. However, some of their products do contain animal or animal-derived ingredients. This might be due to formulary necessity, or because an equivalent vegan ingredient was not available to use.
How long does it take to see a difference when using Paula’s Choice?
The time it takes to see a difference when using any product depends on the product you use and its ingredients.
I saw a difference in my skin tone and texture at least 1 week into using these products. But the effect may have been less dramatic since I regularly use these ingredients in my skin care routine already.
Paula’s Choice is a great beauty brand with a large variety of products suitable for most skin types. They aim to make great products that are transparent, effective, clean, and potent. I would say they deliver on their claim.
That being said, not all skin care brands are suitable for everyone. Be sure to do your research and test a few different options to make sure that Paula’s Choice will work for your particular skin care needs.