Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Review (Esthetician Reviews)

One of the joys of owning a skincare blog is that I get to try an inordinately large number of products without being judged too harshly.

However, as much as I love experimenting with different skincare products and writing all about it, trying all these doesn’t come without its occupational hazards.

Sometimes products break me out, make my skin peel, give me pesky little pimples on areas I’ve never had them, or they simply don’t do anything for me which leads to a massive disappointment for the money I’ve spent.

However, every once in a while, I run across a real skin treat that I can’t wait to share my opinion on and hopefully help my readers make the right pick with their next product purchase.

Today, I am going to talk about one of those treats and explain how this particular product helped my skin overcome several annoying spots that looked like they weren’t gonna go anywhere if it wasn’t for this.

This is my Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid review. 

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Review

NB: If you’re someone with oily/acne-prone skin, you need my new book “The Ingredients Handbook for Acne-Prone Skin“. Download it here.

Paula’s Choice 2% Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid Exfoliant is an exfoliating solution marketed as a daily facial treatment that promises to treat acne, blackheads, enlarged pores, as well as provide an even skin tone and contribute to a smoother complexion.

I cannot praise this product enough for what it does. When used properly, it can deliver great results which are visible after the very first use. Although I don’t use this product every single day, I always look forward to seeing that luminous glow in the mirror the morning after I’ve applied it to my skin.

And it never fails to amaze me, every single time.

I’ve seen a lot of people online saying this is a toner, however, I beg to differ.

Exfoliating solutions such as this one is something you typically use after a toner, but it wouldn’t be a sin if you skipped the toning part, in my opinion.

What Are The Main Ingredients?

Water, Methylpropanediol (hydrator/penetration enhancer), Butylene Glycol (slip agents/penetration enhancers), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (anti-irritant/antioxidant), Polysorbate-20 (solubilizing agent), Sodium Hydroxide (pH balancer), Tetrasodium EDTA (chelating agent)

So, besides plain ol’ water and other super-hydrating ingredients such as Methylpropanediol and Butylene Glycol, the two main superstar ingredients in this product are:

Salicylic Acid.

Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) that’s used as the gold standard in skincare products intended for oily and acne-prone skin.

This is due to the fact that salicylic acid mimics the natural exfoliation process of younger skin by helping it shed extra layers.

Additionally, salicylic acid is an oil-soluble ingredient, which means it can cut through the surface oil to get inside the pores and remove the buildup of sebum, bacteria, dead skin cells, and white blood cells.

Furthermore, it is a very gentle, anti-inflammatory ingredient that is easily tolerated by the skin and it takes very little time to get used to.

Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract.

Camellia Oleifera is a type of green tea plant that’s mostly known for the oil that comes from its seeds. As for the leaves, it has similar properties as the better known Camellia Sinensis leaves.

Camellia Oleifera has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as skin-soothing properties that show a significant promise for improving the appearance of damaged skin, according to research.

According to this study from June of 2013, green tea extract showed to have a prolonged moisturizing effect, reduce skin roughness, as well as the ability improve skin wrinkles.

How Do You Use Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant?

How Do You Use Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant

On the official Paula’s Choice website it says to:

“Lightly soak a cotton pad and apply over the entire face, including the eye area (avoid lash line and eyelids). Do not rinse. For daytime, follow with a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater.”

But, since I am trying to be more environmentally cautious, I totally skipped the cotton pad part and applied it directly onto a slightly damp skin right after rinsing.

I also skipped the toner, since I am currently at the stage where I try not to overwhelm my skin with unnecessary steps in my routine such as a toner and it worked totally fine for me.

I would highly recommend you use this product on damp skin though because you will probably find it slightly less oily and shiny when applied in this manner.

This will also allow the product to absorb better into the skin and does its thing without leaving that annoyingly greasy layer on the surface.

I also reserved the usage of the BHA liquid exfoliant for my nighttime routine and I have never used it in my morning routine as I don’t see the need to.

After using it in the evening, I always follow it up with a nice thick layer of sunscreen in the mornings.

How Often Should You Use Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant?

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Review

On the official Paula’s Choice website it says to:

“Apply it once or twice daily after cleansing and/or toning.” 

However, I personally think that nobody needs that much exfoliation.

As I already touched upon this in one of my other posts, I will simply repeat that healthy skin, or more specifically a healthy epidermis isn’t about how “young” the skin cells are, but how well the cells are able to communicate with other cells across the layers of the epidermis, how well they are able to interface with something called the “skin microbiome’, and how well they are able to relate with their immediate environment.

The dead skin cells or “corneocytes” are indispensable in this healthy ecosystem, even though they may technically be considered “dead”.

Their maturity, structure, fortified cell walls, and higher surface area allows them to hold the most amounts of what is called the Natural Moisturizing Factors or NMFs.

NMFs are what allows the skin cells to hold on to water and maintain optimal hydration levels within the outermost layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum.

Young and fresh cells are not able to hold on to much water because they are simply not strong enough to withstand the osmotic pressure of water building up within the cells.

Over exfoliation removes the matured corneocytes, leaving behind the immature cells that may look bright, plump, and radiant, but this also leaves your skin unable to keep itself hydrated.

Therefore, while regular exfoliation should still take place in a good skincare regimen, this is definitely a process that needs to be reserved for no more than 2-3 times a week.

Can I Use Paula’s Choice BHA Everyday?

While I don’t see any short-term harm from using this product daily, I would still be a little cautious about it. Exfoliation is not something that should be done daily as this can potentially compromise the skin microbiome in the long run.

That being said, if you are currently struggling with moderate to severe acne, you may try and use this on the daily, however, make sure to always give your skin what it needs, not what you want.

How Long Does It Take For BHA To Work?

How Long Does It Take For BHA To Work

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to waiting on your new skincare routine to begin showing results. This pressure and anxiety can totally be amplified if you are dealing with acne breakouts.

Yup, it’s totally understandable that you need to evict that annoying acne out of the free real estate which is your skin once and for all.

However, when it comes to skincare, constantly switching it up can do way more harm than good and it can also be incredibly hard to tell which products are working and which ones are making your acne worse.

So let’s look at what we know:

It takes 28 for the skin to go through a full cycle. However, depending on the product, your skin concerns, and even your age, it could take even longer.

When it comes to exfoliators, this is slightly more complicated as using ingredients like AHAs and BHAs are very likely to cause a purging phase in the beginning.

That’s why I always like to point out that continuous use is most required to achieve and maintain results. While some skin products can show immediate results, it can still take anywhere between one and three months to see the full benefits of using a product.

Therefore, the best solution to this is to tread lightly, purchase one product at a time, and try not to overwhelm your skin with many products and elaborate routines at once.

This habit can make it impossible for you to figure out which products are working for your skin and which ones are aggravating your skin concerns.

My Experiences Using Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid

I already had high expectations for this product even before purchasing it as I have read so many excellent reviews and seen so many YouTubers and skin bloggers praise it.

So here are the most prominent things I noticed upon the first use.

Texture.

The texture of this product is slightly oily and overall very rich. It feels like pure decadence when applied to the skin as it coats it with a nice layer of hydration.

As soon as I applied it the first time I immediately got a little worried that it won’t work very well for me because my skin is already super-oily, therefore, I feared this rich texture will create that unnecessary layer of grease.

But that wasn’t the case, however, there is a trick – a little goes a long way. 

We sometimes get carried away with skincare products and we think that the more we apply – the more benefits we will receive, however, this is not a good way to go about any skincare product, and the BHA Liquid Exfoliant isn’t an exception.

The skin can only absorb as much, therefore, the less you apply – the better it will absorb.

Smell.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid Exfoliant has no added fragrance, however, it does have a slight smell to it. It’s not horrible (unless it drips to the corners of your mouth and you accidentally taste it), but there is a slight “laboratory” type of smell to it.

It smells medicinal, I would say, but also a little bit like the slight smell you notice upon entering a hair salon.

Where To Buy Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant?

The official Paula’s Choice website is the place to go if you want to further educate yourself on skincare products and their function as well as purchase your desired products.

However, since Paula’s Choice (unfortunately) doesn’t do product deliveries in my country, I purchased several of the BHA Liquid Exfoliants on Amazon and it was great cause I didn’t have to wait for them for longer than a few days and the price is also the same like the one on the official website.


 

OILY SKIN PRONE TO CONSTANT ACNE-BREAKOUTS?

simone sydel licensed esthetician

I've coached hundreds of clients just like you helping them tame their oily and acne-prone skin.


I've had my battle with acne. I know what it's like when your skin seems to be conspiring against you


The good news is, I can now show how to manage it!


My new book will help you understand your skin better so you can make informed decisions about what products would work best for your specific needs.

14 thoughts on “Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Review (Esthetician Reviews)”

  1. Can you please help me figure out which products to put on first or if I should just do them on separate days. So I use
    La Roche Posay Cleanser
    Salyscilic Cleanser The Inkey List
    Niacinamide Serum The Ordinary
    AHA BHA Peel The Ordinary
    Paulas Choice Liquid Exfoliant
    Some Bi Mi Moisturizer

    Which ones should I not mix with the others. THANK UUU!!

    Reply
      • Hi Kerry and thanks for reaching out!

        I didn’t realize my sentence was confusing, so I fixed it. What I meant is that after using the BHA at night, I always follow it up with a thick layer of sunscreen in the morning 🙂

        Reply
  2. Hi love!!
    Can you please let me know which products I should not mix with he BHA??

    In the am I cleanse, snail mucin, SkinCeuticals vitamin C, moisturizer and SPF

    Pm double cleanse, on alternate nights I use Differin or an AHA/BHA (drunk Elephant TLC or Farmacy Honeymoon) then moisturizer

    Not sure where the BHA would fit best in my routine.

    Thank you!!!!

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah and thanks for reaching out!

      Ideally, the BHA Liquid should fit somewhere in your evening routine on nights when you don’t use Differin or any other exfoliants. Use it as a toner right after cleansing. 🙂

      I hope this helps x

      Reply
  3. Hi there! I had a question about my skincare routine for the morning and night. I am relatively new to the skincare industry, and am a teenager who’s looking to get rid of her acne and dark spots with oily skin. Since you are a skincare professional, I was wondering if you could look over my routine and let me know if it is good enough for starting off in the beginning of skincare.

    Morning:
    La Roche Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser
    The Ordinary Niacinamide
    The Ordinary Natural Moisturizer
    Eucerin Daily Hydration Cream with SPF 30

    Night:
    La Roche Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser
    Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
    The Ordinary Niacinamide
    The Ordinary Natural Moisturizer
    (once a week use The Ordinary AHA + BHA Peeling Solution after cleanser, and then moisturizer)

    Can you please let me know whether you recommend this routine, or if I should change anything? Thank you for your suggestions!

    Reply
    • Hi Ramya and thanks for reaching out!

      I really like the products you listed here and they are all excellent for oily skin with acne and dark spots. However, I would like to advise you to always pay attention to what your skin is trying to tell you and you can do this easily by introducing these products slowly, one by one.

      This will be an easy way to tell if a product is helping you or is simply not working for your skin.

      I would also like to suggest that you start off with using Paula’s Choice exfoliator 2-3 times a week and slowly build tolerance. I would also avoid any additional exfoliation, so The Ordinary’s peeling solution is a bit extra and something you don’t need at the moment.

      Besides that, try to use the Niacinamide serum once a day and if your skin can tolerate it well after 3-4 weeks – you can then build up to using it twice a day.

      I hope this helps.

      Everything else looks fine to me so good luck and keep me updated!

      Reply
  4. Hello! I just found your blog, and I love how you explain everything. I am new to skincare and I am trying hard to learn more about what my skin needs. I am only 24 years old, but «everyone» says I look like I am 30, because of my skin.. I struggle with clogged pores and tiny bumps on my forehead, and my skin is also a little on the sensitive side. I have an oily T-zone, but I am also dry everywhere else.

    I just purchased these products:
    – Paula’s Choice Perfectly Natural Cleansing Gel
    – Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
    – The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
    – The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
    – Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer wirh Chia + Flaxseed
    – Paula’s Choice Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 50

    I used them in that order, but now I have 3 problems:
    1. After putting on the Ordinary Niacinamide, my skin startet to peel. When I put the product on, I got white «clumps» everywhere.. I still continued with the routine, because I didn’t know what I did wrong.
    2. After putting on the Paula’s Choice Sunscreen, my skin started to burn. Now I don’t know if I used the products in the wrong order, or if it’s just too strong for my skintype.
    3. I am struggling to find out if I need to add more products to my skincare, or if I just did everything wrong 🙁

    Could you please give me some advice? I am lost.

    Reply
    • Hi Anita and thanks for reaching out!

      I love the products you chose to use, however, here are a few potential things that may cause the unpleasant symptoms you are experiencing:

      The BHA Liquid Exfoliant, although marketed as a daily toner, is still an exfoliating solution that can potentially irritate the skin with overuse. For this, I would suggest you minimize the usage to 1-2 times a week and no more than that to see if it makes a difference. Also, use it in the evenings because BHA paired with chemical sunscreens can cause a sensitive reaction.

      Next is the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, which is an excellent serum, however, it doesn’t agree with other products and the Niacinamide Serum is sadly one of those. This “disagreement” usually shows in the form of pilling which means both products are essentially ineffective.

      Try to use each one of these every 48 hours or every 3 days and use them in separate routines and see if there is a change.

      Regarding your sunscreen, chemical sunscreens can cause sensitivity in many people, especially if your skin is over-exfoliated, so I would suggest you purchase a mineral, zinc-based sunscreen until your skin heals a little bit and reintroduce the chemical sunscreen slowly over some time.

      And lastly, if your skin concern is also aging besides breakouts, you may wanna look into retinoids such as Adapalene as this is an excellent solution for breakouts and has shown some promising anti-aging effects.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  5. Hi Simone!

    I’m new enough to skincare but I’ve always had problems with my acne. My current routine is:
    AM
    La Roche Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Cleanser
    Revolution 3% Vitamin C
    Cerave moisturising lotion (AM)
    Garnier Ambre Solaire UV face Fluid SPF 50+

    PM
    La Roche Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Cleanser
    The ordinary 0.2% retinol in squalane
    Cerave moisturising lotion (AM)

    I have just purchased the Paulas Choice 2% BHA liquid exfoliant and the ordinary 10% niacinamide & zinc 1% and was wondering how best to introduce them to my routine.

    Thank you ❤️

    Reply
    • Hi there and thanks for reaching out!

      I would suggest you switch your cleanser to a regular one that doesn’t contain exfoliating acids before starting the 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. This may be too much exfoliation for the skin.

      You can start by using it 2-3 times a week in the evenings and see how you go from there. Always start slowly and avoid using it on retinol nights.

      As for the Niacinamide, you may very well combine it with vitamin C in your morning routine for that extra brightening boost or even use it in the evenings following the BHA Exfoliant or prior to retinol.

      That being said, also start incorporating the Niacinamide into your routine slowly and avoid using it twice a day.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  6. Hi Simone~!
    Thank you for the in depth and thorough explanation of the exfoliant! I got it and used it morning and night as directed on the packaging but now after a week my face is severely peeling and often burning, irritated and red after using it. I have normal to dry and slightly sensitive skin. Is this reaction to the exfoliant considered purging and eventually it will go away? Or am I using it too often and should continue use fewer times a week in order to get good results? What are your suggestions on this exfoliant’s compatibility with me?

    Reply
    • Hi Jamie and thank you for reaching out!

      This is a normal reaction when you over-exfoliate your skin, which means you are definitely doing it too much and you should pause for some time until your skin heals.

      Once you reintroduce it back into your routine, don’t use it more often than 2-3 times a week and always use it in the evenings. 🙂

      Reply

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