Paula’s Choice Review
Table of Contents
About Paula’s Choice
The skincare market is flooded with frilly, fussy brands, but every now and again, I come across one that cuts the fluff and gets right to results. That’s Paula’s Choice.
A skincare brand that is all about transparency, I learned that not only are its formulations safe, powerful, and based on research, but the brand believes that customers should know exactly what is in each product and why.
Now more than ever, customers are concerned with what’s in their products, as 36% of responders in this survey said they’d ditch any cosmetic products or brands that weren’t cruelty-free.
Paula Begoun struggled with acne and eczema, but couldn’t find products that helped. This struggle inspired her to enter the beauty industry, where she sought research-backed effective ingredients and strong but safe formulations.
She founded Paula’s Choice in 1995 with a noble philosophy: “Smart, safe beauty. The products you use should work and be good for your skin, no exceptions… We uncover the truth about skin care and share all of the facts with you along the way—because keeping your skin healthy shouldn’t be a mystery.”
Indeed, this Seattle, Washington-based company cares about educating its customers. In 2002, it launched the Ingredient Dictionary, which is perhaps my favorite feature.
This source lists all ingredients commonly found in beauty products, gives them a rating from “poor” to “best”, assigns a category (such as a preservative or an emollient), then provides an explanation. It ensures customers are fully informed about what they apply to their skin and educated them to make better future decisions.
Stay tuned as I take an in-depth look at the company in this Paula’s Choice review. Ahead, I’ll give you the details on their collection, ingredients, benefits, customer ratings, promotions, and more, to help you make that crucial decision.
Let’s begin by looking at their pros and cons.
Pros and Cons
- Ingredient transparency: Paula’s Choice emphasizes ingredient transparency and provides detailed information about the ingredients used in their products. They avoid using fragrances, dyes, and other potentially irritating or harmful ingredients, which can be beneficial for individuals with sensitive skin or specific concerns.
- Science-based formulations: The brand prioritizes research and scientific evidence when formulating their products. They often include effective ingredients in their products at concentrations that have been shown to be beneficial for the skin.
- Wide product range: Paula’s Choice offers a wide range of skincare products targeting various concerns, including cleansers, exfoliants, serums, moisturizers, and sunscreens.
- Cruelty-free and vegan options: Paula’s Choice is committed to being cruelty-free and offers many vegan-friendly products. They do not test their products on animals and have certifications from organizations like Leaping Bunny and PETA.
- Customer support and education: The brand provides excellent customer support and educational resources on their website. They offer detailed product descriptions, ingredient dictionaries, and skincare tips to help customers make informed decisions about their skincare routine.
- Pricing: Some customers may find Paula’s Choice products to be relatively more expensive compared to other skincare brands available in the market.
- Availability: Paula’s Choice products are primarily sold online, which may be less convenient for individuals who prefer to purchase skincare products in physical stores.
Recent Studies About Skincare Products
Seeing as how Paula’s Choice are intently focused on educating their customers, it only makes sense for me to further that process by giving you some recent skincare studies to check out.
- A 2021 study investigated the efficacy and safety of a novel multi-ingredient skin brightening serum in subjects with facial hyperpigmentation. The results showed significant improvement in skin brightness, evenness, and radiance with no adverse effects.
- Vitamin C plays a role in skin health by accelerating the production of collagen and elastin, as well as restoring a youthful, glowy look.
- This study discusses how glycolic acid works to break the bonds between the outer layer of skin cells, gently exfoliating and aiding in excess shedding.
Here are the ingredients Paula’s Choice most commonly uses in their products.
- Salicylic Acid: A beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) known for its exfoliating and pore-clearing properties. It helps unclog pores and refine skin texture.
- Glycolic Acid: An alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates the skin, promoting a smoother and brighter complexion.
- Niacinamide: Also known as vitamin B3, it helps improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, and fine lines.
- Retinol: A derivative of vitamin A, retinol promotes skin renewal, improves the appearance of wrinkles, and helps even out skin tone.
- Hyaluronic Acid: A hydrating ingredient that helps retain moisture in the skin, improving hydration and plumpness.
- Peptides: These amino acid chains can help support collagen production, improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Antioxidants (e.g., Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Green Tea Extract): Antioxidants help protect the skin from environmental damage and promote a more youthful complexion.
- Ceramides: Lipids that help strengthen the skin’s barrier function and retain moisture.
- Aloe Vera: A soothing ingredient known for its hydrating and calming properties.
- Licorice Extract: Known for its brightening properties, it can help even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of discoloration.
- Skin irritation: Some individuals may experience skin irritation, redness, itching, or a burning sensation when using certain skincare products, especially those containing active ingredients like acids or retinoids.
- Sensitivity to sun: Some products, particularly exfoliants or those containing acids, can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight, potentially leading to sunburn or sun damage. It’s important to use sunscreen and take appropriate sun protection measures.
- Dryness or dehydration: Some products may have a drying effect on the skin, especially if used excessively or without proper moisturization. This can result in dryness, flakiness, or an uncomfortable sensation.
- Purging: Certain active ingredients, like exfoliants or retinoids, may cause an initial “purging” phase where the skin may temporarily experience an increase in breakouts or congestion before improving over time.
- Eye irritation: Some products, if not used as directed or if they come into contact with the eyes, can cause eye irritation, stinging, or redness.
6 Best-Selling Paula’s Choice Skincare Products
Whether you’re struggling with acne, dryness, age spots, or a variety of other skin concerns, Paula’s Choice has a product that is designed to help. I loved the fact that if I wasn’t sure why a specific ingredient is included in a formula or how it can help me, I could simply check out the brand’s Ingredient Glossary for an explanation. That’s incredibly helpful to me.
The brand has hundreds of products to choose from, including creamy cleansers, replenishing toners, gentle exfoliators, powerful treatments, and more. If you aren’t sure where to start, I’ve got you covered in this Paula’s Choice review has you covered. I’ll take a look at some of the company’s most iconic products so you can see what it has to offer.
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant Review
When you hear the name Paula’s Choice, the first product you think of is probably the 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. And there’s a reason for that: this award-winning leave-on exfoliator was one of the firsts of its kind, ever.
Like you do, I know how important a step exfoliating is in our beauty routines. Other products can’t do much if we’ve got a layer of dead and dry skin covering up our radiant complexion. The Paula’s Choice 2 BHA product offers a gentle method of exfoliating that can be used up to twice daily.
This exfoliator’s key ingredient, beta hydroxy acid (BHA), works to minimize and unclog pores, shed old skin, and even out texture. To use, simply apply to cleansed skin with your fingers or a cotton pad. It’ll absorb quickly. Then, follow up with your favorite moisturizer and a Paula’s Choice sunscreen.
In an independent study, 91% of users reported healthier-looking skin after using the 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. Add this top product to your beauty regimen for $13-$34 (1-4 oz).
Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Exfoliant Review
I have sensitive skin. If you do too, then you know that while abrasive exfoliators get the job done, they often leave behind red, irritated, and damaged skin. Paula’s Choice offers a more gentle alternative with the 8% AHA Exfoliant.
This award-winning alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) formulation combines glycolic acid, antioxidants, and plant extracts to enhance radiance, blur wrinkles, and smoothen uneven tones. It is gentle enough to use twice daily, but always make sure to follow up with SPF 30+ if you’re heading outside after using it.
Simply apply this exfoliator all over cleansed skin and let it sink in and work its magic. With continued use, you’ll likely notice firmer and more radiant skin. The 8% AHA Exfoliant (3.3 oz) is available for $34, or you can grab a travel-friendly size for $10 (1 oz).
Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment Review
Do wrinkles, crow’s feet, or age spots seem to pop up on your skin out of nowhere? This is the perfect point in my Paula’s Choice review to remind you about retinol—a superhero ingredient that combats and prevents common signs of aging.
The high-strength 1% Retinol Treatment features a lightweight formula that sinks into the skin quickly. It’ll lessen and prevent aging concerns, as well as provide a much-needed dose of hydration. If those features weren’t enough, it’ll also help tighten your skin while reducing the appearance of large pores. Where do I sign up?
Retinol is a powerful ingredient, so this product is also infused with oat extract and licorice to soothe the skin. The brand recommends starting slow by only using it three times a week until your skin builds up more of a tolerance.
Add this award-winning Paula’s Choice retinol product to your arsenal of anti-aging superheroes for $15-$62 (0.17-1 oz).
Paula’s Choice BHA 9 Treatment Review
Do you feel like you’ve tried every product under the sun with no success? Same.The BHA 9 Treatment is for people with stubborn skin problems that don’t want to go away, such as milia or large pores.
Formulated with salicylic acid, glycerin, arginine, and oat whip extract, this treatment targets multiple skin concerns. It’ll help restore your skin’s moisture barrier, lessen sensitivity, smoothen the appearance of bumps and uneven textures, and diminish redness—all while you sleep.
I’ve read that this product is best used at night, and because of its powerful ingredients, you should only use it where you need it. Add the BHA 9 Treatment to your routine for $46 (0.3 oz). If you’ve got stubborn spots on your face that need some extra TLC, try a Paula’s Choice azelaic acid treatment, too.
Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster Review
Vitamin C from foods such as oranges and peppers is good for our bodies, but did you know that it’s incredibly beneficial when applied topically to your skin, too? You did? Ok, well let me tell you about the C15 Super Booster.
15% of the C15 Super Booster’s formulation is pure vitamin C, which helps to brighten uneven skin tones.
As someone with a quick morning routine, I like that this Paula’s Choice vitamin C product comes in a lightweight liquid formula that absorbs quickly into the skin. So how does it work?
Vitamin C works alongside ferulic acid, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid to fight aging concerns, hydrate, even out skin tones, and firm the skin. The result? A glowing and more youthful complexion.
The C15 Super Booster is powerful but gentle enough to use both morning and night, simply follow up with a Paula’s Choice moisturizer and some SPF. It is available for $55 (0.67 oz).
Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster Review
Large pores, uneven textures, and fine lines have met their match with the 10% Niacinamide Booster. This lightweight treatment works quickly to calm, soothe, and blur common skin concerns—like the tiny forehead wrinkles I have from overthinking.
Featuring niacinamide (vitamin B3), antioxidants, vitamin C, and licorice extract, this award-winning product will promote a younger-looking appearance by improving the radiance and texture of your skin. I read that it’s safe to use twice daily, just make sure to follow up with an SPF if applying it in the morning.
Best used on cleansed skin prior to moisturizing, add the 10% Niacinamide Booster to your skincare regimen for $49 (0.67 oz).
Who Is Paula’s Choice For?
Paula’s Choice products are well-suited for most skin types as they cater to specific ailments rather than serving as blanket remedies. You’ll also want to check Paula’s Choice out if you have particular allergies to common ingredients since they avoids using fragrances, dyes, and other potentially irritating ingredients in their products.
If my Paula’s Choice review has yet to quench your thirst for skincare, considering checking out these similar brands:
- Farmacy Beauty: Farmacy Beauty use hand-picked, farm-grown botanical ingredients in their skincare products.
- Timeless Skincare: Timesless Skincare products are affordable and made in small batches, meaning they contain few chemicals, preservatives, and other filler ingredients.
- Herbivore Botanicals: Their serums, masks, soaps, and more are made with all-natural plant-based ingredients and food-grade cold-pressed oils.
Paula’s Choice Reviews: What Do Customers Think?
The brand’s products look promising, but I wanted to see what customers really think about them. So, for this part of my Paula’s Choice review, I sourced testimonials from ThingsTesting, Influenster, Trustpilot, and the BBB.
Overall, most users are happy with the brand’s treatments, creams, and cleansers, and report that they are effective. Let’s take a look.
On ThingsTesting, Paula’s Choice garnered an average of 4.5/5 stars from more than 90 customer reviews as of May 2023, with most customers reporting an improvement in their skin condition after using.
I also took an in-depth look at the 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant on Paula’s Choice’s website. because it’s the brand’s most-reviewed product. Users report fast results and an improvement in acne, texture, and skin tone. Take this example:
“I literally used this product twice in the last week and already my acne and red patches have faded dramatically.”
Meanwhile, another customer reports that this product is now a staple in their regimen: “After one use… I am blown away. My skin is really sensitive and usually when I introduce new products, no matter how mild, my skin reacts. This was surprisingly gentle on my skin but immediately effective… This will 100% become a staple.”
On Influenster, the company’s products have been reviewed 6.7k times. Here, customers flock to discuss the Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner and the RESIST C15 Super Booster. The toner earned 4.5/5 stars from more than 220 ratings and the booster earned 4.5/5 stars from more than 200 ratings. I saw products described as being super beneficial to users’ beauty routines.
One Paula’s Choice reviewer reports that the Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner is great for oily skin types: “works great! especially with oily skin. it makes my pores look a little smaller which is great, definitely recommend if you have large pores and want them to be less noticeable, and i’d definitely get it again.”
So far, I’ve been amazed at the brand’s feedback, but I needed to check out the Better Business Bureau and Truspilot to flush out any red flags. The company’s overall rating takes a dip on both platforms. On the BBB, the brand earned a 2.1/5 star score, but only from 9 customers as of May 2023.
Paula’s Choice has had eight complaints in the last three years, and the brand has not responded to any of them. Most complaints are in regards to the brand’s customer service. But since there are so few here, I can’t take any of them as a red flag.
Similarly, Trustpilot gives the brand 4.3/5 stars from 275 reviews as of May 2023. Though not all reviews were negative, the ones that were mentioned a poor customer service team and slow responses.
But, I’m happy to report at this point in my Paula’s Choice review that the positive reviews far outweigh the negative ones. Overall, most customers agree that the brand’s products are effective, work quickly, and are a good value for the price. I do hope that the company works on improving its customer service responses so that all shoppers have a positive experience.
Is Paula’s Choice Worth It?
By now you might be wondering, is Paula’s Choice any good? Well, I definitely think so! I saw thousands of positive testimonials that attest to the quality, efficacy, and value of the brand’s cleansers, toners, treatments, and other skincare products.
Though there were some unsavory comments about the brand’s customer service team, such reviews were quite rare. And, with more than two decades of experience in the industry, it’s easy to see why shoppers gravitate towards the company’s formulations.
What I appreciate most about the brand is how transparent it is. The company provides detailed information about the ingredients in each product. Plus, it offers a robust ingredient dictionary for customers to learn more about skincare and a blog that covers important skin conditions, such as in the Paula’s Choice orange peel skin article.
Finally, the company’s prices are reasonable when compared to other similar skincare brands. For all of these reasons, my conclusion in Paula’s Choice review is that the brand’s products are worth the buy.
Paula’s Choice Promotions & Discounts
Just like I appreciate effective skincare, I value brands that offer deals. While checking out the company’s website, I uncovered several ways to save:
- 15% off for signing up for the brand’s e-newsletter
- 25% off cleansers, toners, and anniversary kits to celebrate the brand’s birthday
- Subscribe to recurring deliveries for 15% off and free shipping
- 10% off for students
- Paula’s Choice Perks loyalty program: earn 1 point for every $1 spent
Where to Buy Paula’s Choice Skincare
For the best selection of products, I recommend shopping directly at PaulasChoice.com. The Paula’s Choice Sephora, Nordstrom, Amazon, Coolibar, DermStore, Skincarerx, and Skinstore collections are also among your options.
Where is Paula’s Choice made?
I’m happy to report here in my Paula’s Choice review that their products are made in the USA.
How long is Paula’s Choice’s shipping?
The brand ships both domestically and internationally. Deliveries to the US and Canada will be sent out within 1-3 business days. Shipping is sent through UPS, FedEx, or the U.S. Postal Service and is free over $49. Your other shipping options include:
- US Standard (5-7 business days): $6
- US 2- Business day Express: $15
- US 1- Business day Express: $25
- Canada Standard (14 business days): $8
- US Territories Standard: $10
- International Economy: $55
Can you return Paula’s Choice?
While writing this Paula’s Choice review, I discovered that the brand offers refunds and exchanges within 60 days of your purchase if you are unsatisfied for any reason. If this time period has passed but you are still within 180 days, then you will receive store credit instead. Not a bad compromise, just keep in mind that you’ree responsible for the cost of return shipping.
To make a return:
- Fill out the Return/Exchange Form on the back of your packing slip
- Pack the items in any box and include the form
- Mail your items to: Paula’s Choice Returns, 23215 66th Avenue South, Bldg 1, Kent, WA 98032
How to Contact Paula’s Choice
If you have any questions after reading this Paula’s Choice review, you can contact the brand via:
- Email or chat: form on the company’s site
- Phone: 1.800.831.4088
The company’s customer service hours are Monday through Thursday, 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, and Friday 9:00 am to 12:00 pm PDT.
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