The Paula’s Choice motto is “no-nonsense skincare, based on published research” & when I stumbled across their site a few months ago I found it really refreshing.
All their products are cruelty-free & there are no added fragrances or colours (a big plus if you have sensitive skin). There’s lots of chat in the product descriptions about ingredients (Vitamin C, salicylic acid, etc.) but no wild promises about results (something that really bugs me about mainstream skincare brands).
The emphasis is on educating customers so they can make informed choices about the products they buy, & nowhere is this more clear than on the Paula’s Choice sister site Beautypedia. Now, to be clear, Beautypedia is run by Paula’s Choice so I tend to take the reviews of PC products with a pinch of salt, but I’ve generally found them to be fair, & I now basically don’t purchase products without first checking out their reviews.
So, what did I buy?
It’s no secret that my biggest skincare concern is acne, so I went ahead & purchased a trial set of the Clear Extra Strength line, which contains a two week supply of their core acne-fighting products: the Clear Pore Normalising Cleanser, the Clear Extra Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Liquid with 2% Salicylic Acid, & the Clear Ultra-Light Daily Mattifying Fluid with SPF 30+. I also picked up a trial sachet of the Skin Perfecting Gel Exfoliant, just in case the extra-strength version was too intense for my skin.
I would always recommend picking up samples for skincare products before you commit, but with the Paula’s Choice acne-fighting range I’d say it’s essential. Not only are they fairly pricey, but the active ingredients – particularly salicylic acid – won’t be right for everyone, & the last thing you want is to be stuck with a product you can’t use (although PC do offer a 30-day money back guarantee).
The Pore Normalising Cleanser
(RRP £14.50) is a clear, very runny gel formula which lathers up nicely when mixed with water. It’s super effective at breaking up light to medium makeup, although I found it quite irritating around my eyes, so tended to use a makeup remover first so I could focus the cleanser on the less sensitive areas of my face, where it’s really gentle. I didn’t find it drying at all, & the inclusion of an anti-bacterial agent means it should help keep your skin clean & clear. Personally, I prefer an oil or balm cleanser, but I can’t fault the effectiveness of this product.
Next up is the star of the show, the Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution
(RRP £23.50). The liquid formula means you use this much like a toner, applying it using a cotton pad following your cleansing routine. Because it contains salicylic acid, I did find it left my face looking a little red & shiny following use, but it quickly faded & if you use this as part of your night-time routine it shouldn’t be an issue. I did try the gel formula as well which you apply more like a serum, massaging it on with your finger tips, but honestly I found the liquid version easier to use, especially since – like the cleanser – you want to keep this away from the more sensitive areas of the face.
The final step is the Ultra Light Daily Mattifying Fluid
(RRP £29) which is essentially a moisturiser with added sunscreen for use in the morning. Although the opaque white liquid was a little intimidating at first, I found it blended into the skin well & left no visible residue, perfect for applying makeup on top off. I don’t generally use sunscreen every day (I know, I know), but when using products containing salicylic acid it’s important you do, as the acid can make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage. I didn’t end up repurchasing this as it just felt a bit pricey, but I honestly can’t fault it.
So, what about the results? Am I now a smooth-skinned goddess?
The short answer is no, I still have acne, & if I’m honest I found that during the first week & a half of using the products my skin actually got worse, particularly on my cheeks which hadn’t really been a problem area for me in the past. Apparently this is fairly common, as the products penetrate deep into the skin & draw out all kinds of grim stuff which appears on the surface as breakouts (so maybe best to avoid starting this routine just before a special day).
So why the glowing review?
Well, four weeks on, & I can honestly say Paula’s Choice has changed my life. I no longer get cystic acne on my face or neck, which considering the fact that in the past I generally had at least three large, under-skin spots at any one time is a minor miracle. My acne scarring has also been significantly reduced, & the areas of my face which are spot-free look really smooth & healthy. & finally, the life-cycle of my acne is now around 24 hours (that’s from first feeling a spot emerging to being completely clear), which is incredible considering I used to have breakouts that would last for weeks on end.
These aren’t miracle products, but the reality is that miracle products just don’t exist. Thanks to Paula’s Choice my skin now feels like it’s on the mend & it looks better each day. For the first time in years I feel in control of my acne, & if you’ve struggled with acne yourself you’ll know how much of a big deal that is. I would 100% recommend this line to anyone with severe acne & I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a Paula’s Choice devotee for life now.
(I’m aware that this review might seem too good to be true, but I bought all these products myself & am in no way affiliated with Paula’s Choice. I just think they’re really great.)