AHA Comparison: The Inkey List vs. Paula’s Choice

It’s been a while since I’ve compared Paula’s Choice to a more budget-friendly option that does the same thing.

Now, we all know that Paula’s Choice is irreplaceable when it comes to going the extra mile and adding more than one beneficial ingredient to their products, which is why the brand leans towards the pricier side.

Therefore, having already used and reviewed the Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum, I decided to purchase Paula’s Choice gel exfoliator and see how the two AHAs perform next to each other.

This is my Inkey List vs. Paula’s Choice AHA comparison, so let’s jump right in:

AHA Comparison The Inkey List vs Paulas Choice

NB: I can show you how to never have acne again. If you have acne and want it gone, read this message.

What is The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum?

The Inkey List AHA Serum Review

FYI: The Inkey List’s Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum has been discontinued since the initial posting of this review. For a comprehensive list of alternative AHA products and insightful reviews, click here.

The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid is a gel-like serum that exfoliates the skin by ‘ungluing’ the dead skin cells on its surface to reveal brighter, smoother, clearer, and more even skin from underneath. 

Additionally, the Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum also increases cellular turnover to address blemishes and dark spots while also hydrating the skin to keep it soft and plump.


The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum has a pretty short and straightforward ingredient list and consists of only two active ingredients.

The serum’s main active ingredient is 10% AHA derived from natural sources such as food and plants, including bilberry, lemon, and orange extracts and sugar cane extract (glycolic acid.)

These work to gently exfoliate the skin and leave it smooth, soft, and bright by increasing cellular turnover and addressing several skin concerns at once.

Additionally, the serum also contains 1% low-molecular hyaluronic acid, which boosts the skin’s hydration levels and soothes irritation.


Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum Review

The Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum has a lightweight gel consistency and spreads easily on the skin while also absorbing quickly.

Once it fully sets, the serum doesn’t leave an oily, greasy layer on the skin’s surface but rather boasts a refreshed healthy-looking flow.

I would highly recommend applying it to damp skin as it can absorb quickly, and using it on dry skin will lead to patchy and uneven application.


The serum has a faint medicinal scent which completely disappears once it’s applied to the skin.


The first time I used the Inkey List AHA serum, I noticed a slight redness followed by a mild tingling sensation, which is typical when using a low-pH AHA.

My skin pretty much got used to it, and the mildly unpleasant effects fully disappeared after several uses.

However, you should definitely be careful with a reaction like this, especially if you have sensitive skin, as this skin type is more prone to developing more serious inflammatory conditions, such as dermatitis and rosacea, so if redness persists, it’s best to discontinue use.

On the flip side, the results of using The Inkey List’s Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum a few times were immediately obvious, with my enlarged pores looking visibly smaller and more refined, my uneven skin texture looking smoothed out, and my face looking feeling plump and hydrated rather than oily and shiny throughout the day.

The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Gentle on the skin.
  • Good for oily/acne-prone skin.
  • It has a short and simple ingredient list.
  • Free of fragrance and alcohol.

The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum Cons:

  • None.

What is Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant?

Paula's Choice AHA Gel Review

Paula’s Choice 8% AHA is a gel exfoliant that also helps break down the proteins that hold dead skin cells together and encourage them to shed.

This will smooth out the appearance of wrinkles and texture on the skin as well as improve hyperpigmentation, sun damage, and uneven skin tone.


Paula’s Choice exfoliants are known for containing soothing and calming ingredients to help minimize potential irritation or sensitive reactions during the exfoliation process.

A few ingredients that stand out are its main active ingredient, which is 8% glycolic acid, and a slightly milder percentage than in The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum, which boasts 10%.

This tells us that the Paula’s Choice AHA Gel Exfoliant is more suitable for sensitive skin dealing wth common skin concerns glycolic acid can help address, including hyperpigmented spots, uneven skin tone, fine lines, wrinkles, and even acne.

Additionally, the Paula’s Choice AHA Gel Exfoliant also contains several soothing ingredients, including chamomile and green tea extract, a fantastic natural antioxidant that can provide some anti-aging benefits but is overall great for calming the skin and helping it heal, and minimizing redness.

Finally, the Paula’s Choice AHA Gel Exfoliant, much like the Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum, also contains hyaluronic acid, a powerful humectant with unmatched water-holding capacity.


Paula's Choice Glycolic Acid Review

Similarly to The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid, Paula’s Choice AHA Gel Exfoliant also has a gel-like texture that feels on the skin like slimy water and spreads across its surface easily.

It’s also best to use it on damp skin, as this way, you will require much less product and get even coverage.

Additionally, applying it to damp skin will also help the product feel less sticky when it dries out. 


The Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant has a slightly stronger chemical scent, and although there isn’t any added fragrance to the formula, you can still sense it.

However, much like with The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum, the scent goes away quickly.


The Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant is a better-suited option for skin that’s more sensitive and reactive to chemical exfoliants.

Therefore, since it has a milder glycolic acid percentage, followed by multiple soothing and hydrating ingredients, I didn’t experience even the slightest irritation or redness when using it for the first time.

My oily and severely broken-out skin at the time got along perfectly with it, and I particularly enjoyed the subtle glow it gave me in the morning and the way it refined my pores.

I don’t use it as often as I would like to because I am constantly testing new products, but since I purchased a few travel-sized versions, I always make sure to pack them up if I am going somewhere for a few days.

You can use the Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant up to 3-4 times a week for best results, but more than that is unnecessary and can increase your chances of dryness, redness, irritation, and peeling.

That said, while the product visibly reduced the severity of my active acne at the time, it didn’t help my post-inflammatory redness, so if you are looking for something that can help you with this particular concern, it’s best to check out azelaic acid instead.

I also cannot speak about wrinkles because apart from a barely visible expression line on my forehead, I don’t have any yet, so I primarily tested this product to see how it works with oily and acne-prone skin.

Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant Pros:

  • A little bit of product goes a long way.
  • Good value for money.
  • Gentle on the skin.
  • It contains many soothing and redness-reducing ingredients.
  • Suitable for sensitive and reactive skin.

Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant Cons:

  • Expensive ($37)

Inkey List vs Paula’s Choice: Which AHA is Better?

When comparing Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant to The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum, the former stands out for its formulation, rich in soothing and hydrating ingredients, making it an excellent choice for sensitive or reactive skin.

The Paula’s Choice AHA Exfoliant is designed to gently exfoliate while simultaneously nurturing the skin, thanks to its blend of beneficial ingredients that promote healing and moisture retention.

On the flip side, The Inkey List’s Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum is a more budget-friendly option.

However, while it provides the exfoliating benefits of a high glycolic acid content, it lacks the additional skin-soothing components found in Paula’s Choice, potentially making it less suitable for those with sensitive skin conditions. 

Therefore, if you are looking for a budget-friendly product that does the bare minimum, The Inkey List Alpha Hydroxy Acid serum is a better option.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a well-rounded product that offers additional skin benefits besides exfoliation, and don’t mind spending a little extra on it, you would likely find the Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant a more suitable option.

Related Questions

Here are a couple of other related AHA questions:

Is AHA Good For Oily Skin?

Yes, AHA is good for both oily skin and acne-prone skin as it helps loosen and remove the dead skin cells that may be contributing to clogged pores and the formation of acne.

Can AHA Cause Skin Purging?

Yes, AHA can cause skin purging, a temporary increase in breakouts, as it accelerates the skin’s exfoliation process, revealing new skin quicker.

However, the accelerated acne flareups should subside after 4-6 weeks of consistent use.

Is it Okay to Use AHA Every Day?

No, you don’t have to use an AHA every day, as this can potentially result in over-exfoliating over a prolonged period of time.

Over-exfoliating can lead to an impaired skin barrier, moisture loss, dehydration, irritations, and bacteria invasion that can trigger or worsen other inflammatory conditions such as acne.

Using AHA 2-3 times a week is the ideal way to improve the skin’s health and appearance without experiencing adverse effects.

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