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

Running a skincare blog allows me to test countless products, despite the occasional drawbacks.

Sometimes, they cause breakouts, peel, or don’t work at all, leading to disappointment.

However, occasionally, I discover a standout product that addresses stubborn skin issues, and I eagerly share these findings with my readers.

Today, I’ll be reviewing one such gem – Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid, which has been a staple in my skincare regimen for oily and acne-prone skin for over three years at the time of writing this review.

Below, I will explain some of this product’s benefits and drawbacks and provide tips on how to use it correctly for the best results.

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Review

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 Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant? 

Paula’s Choice 2% Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid Exfoliant is an exfoliating toner marketed as a daily facial treatment that promises to treat acne, blackheads, and enlarged pores, as well as even out the skin tone and refine rough and bumpy skin texture.


The Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is packed with hydrating, nourishing, and soothing ingredients.

Besides water and other hydrating humectants 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) and an oil-soluble ingredient that cuts through the surface oil to get inside the pores and dissolve the buildup of sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

Furthermore, salicylic acid is a gentle ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties that relieves irritation and soothes visible redness caused by inflammatory skin conditions like acne.

Salicylic acid is easily tolerated by most skin types, and it takes little time to get used to, unlike some more intense acne remedies, such as retinoids.

Green Tea Leaf Extract (Camellia Oleifera)

Camellia Oleifera is a type of green tea plant mostly known for the oil produced by its seeds. Its leaves have similar properties to those of the better-known Camellia Sinensis.

Research shows that Camellia Oleifera has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and skin-soothing properties that show significant promise for improving damaged skin on a cellular level.

According to this 2013 study, green tea extract has a prolonged moisturizing effect, reduces skin roughness, soothes redness and inflammation, and improves the appearance of wrinkles caused by premature cell damage.


The Paula’s Choice BHA has no added fragrance; however, it does have a smell.

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.

Some users have complained about the Paula’s Choice BHA smell, saying that it smells like vinegar; however, this wasn’t the case with any of the bottles I’ve ever had, so I would go ahead and assume that they could’ve purchased a bad bottle.

With that said, if your Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant has a heavy, bad, or vinegary smell, it’s best to err on the side of caution and replace the product.


The Paula’s Choice BHA has a liquid consistency that’s slightly oily and rich in texture.

It feels like pure decadence when applied to the skin as it coats its surface with a decent layer of hydration.

As soon as I applied it the first time, I immediately got a little worried that it wouldn’t work very well for me because my skin is already super-oily.

Therefore, I feared this rich texture would create that unnecessary layer of grease.

However, I soon learned that a little goes a long way with this product and that the more I applied, the greasier my skin became.

So, if you have very oily skin like me, it’s best to use a little bit of product that would create a thin and even layer of coverage across your face and neck.

Remember that the skin can only absorb as much; therefore, the less product you apply, the less product you will waste, and you will still reap the benefits without inconveniences such as excess oiliness and shine.

Paula’s Choice BHA Review on My Oily & Acne-Prone Skin

I found out about the Paula’s Choice exfoliating toner at a time when it was gaining traction thanks to its supposed ability to soothe active acne, refine enlarged pores, improve skin texture, and give an unmatched glow, all without irritating your skin.

As someone who has been personally victimized by harsh exfoliating products, I knew I immediately had to try this product, in hope that its claims, and coincidentally my skin concerns at the time, were indeed true.

Coming in a simple yet sleek packaging, the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a clear liquid that can be used as an exfoliating toner or treatment for your skin.

The product contains 2% salicylic acid (BHA), an oil-soluble ingredient that penetrates deep into the pores to unclog them and reduce inflammation, making it perfect for acne-prone skin.

But what sets this exfoliant apart from others in the market is its unique blend of soothing and hydrating ingredients such as green tea extract, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid.

These ingredients not only minimize the chances of irritation but also provide much-needed hydration to the skin, making it suitable for all skin types.

Now, I certainly got a little too excited while using it for the first time and ended up applying too much of the exfoliating toner.

As I already mentioned above, the product has a rich texture, which created an extremely glowy and rather greasy layer on my skin’s surface.

I was initially happy with it because it looked like my skin was absolutely shining under a dim light.

However, waking up with not only a greasy face but also hair and pillow wasn’t all that fun.

Therefore, I patiently waited for a couple of days so that I could use the toner again, but I decided to use much less the second time around, which significantly improved my experience.

Using less product helped the toner absorb into my skin like a dream, and although it still left a slightly glowy layer behind, it didn’t make my face, hair, and pillowcase greasy this time.

So, if you have oily skin, I would definitely recommend using the tiniest bit to cover your entire face but not drench your skin in it.

The latter will not only lead to excessively oily skin the next morning but may also increase the risk of irritation, as, regardless of its soothing formula, let’s not forget that this is still an exfoliating toner.

That said, I had quite a big issue with acne when I started using the Paula’s Choice BHA, and the product did help calm my deeply inflamed cysts, making them look significantly smaller and less red the morning after using it.

However, the strange thing about it was that the Paula’s Choice BHA never truly saw the healing of my pimples to the end.

It would help soothe the active zit, no matter its size, but the more I used it, the more it seemed the pimple would never heal but remain on my skin, albeit reduced in size and severity.

This is an issue that usually stems from a damaged skin barrier. And exfoliation, no matter how gentle, can’t help repair a compromised skin barrier.

So even though the product was helping reduce the severity of acne, my compromised skin couldn’t heal the zit thoroughly.

Considering this, I learned that the trick to making the product work is to use less in both frequency and quantity.

Applying a lot of product to my skin only made it even more oily, and using it more than twice a week never really helped my pimples disappear completely.

On the other hand, when using it just once a week, my skin seemed to enjoy the exfoliation more and actually showed significant improvement in terms of acne and overall texture.

Therefore, don’t let the product’s description trick you into thinking that using it every day will give you better results.

Chances are that if you have active acne and a compromised skin barrier, the experience will be the complete opposite of a positive one.

All in all, I would definitely recommend trying the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant if you have oily and acne-prone skin.

Just be sure to use a tiny amount and not too frequently, and you’ll surely see improvement in your skin’s texture, pores, and acne severity.

How To Use The Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant?

How Do You Use Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant

The best way to use the Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant is to lightly soak (not drown) a cotton pad and apply it over the entire face and neck, excluding the eye area on clean, damp skin.

This will help the product penetrate the skin better and enhance its benefits, as damp skin is more permeable than dry skin, which means it’s more ready to receive the formula’s benefits.

Additionally, applying the toner to damp skin can make it slightly less oily, which can be useful to those with oily skin.

Additionally, if you are trying to be more environmentally cautious, you can skip the cotton pad part and apply it directly to damp skin after cleansing.

Finally, you should only use the Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant during your nighttime routine, as resurfacing treatments are more suitable for evening use when the skin is in repair and rejuvenate mode overnight, rather than on high alert to fight against free radicals and environmental pollutants during the day.

After using it in the evening, you should always follow up with a nourishing moisturizer to seal the benefits into the skin and prevent dryness, flaking, peeling, and irritation.

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

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Review

The official Paula’s Choice website says to “Apply it once or twice daily after cleansing and/or toning.”

However, since this is an exfoliating toner, you don’t need to apply it once or twice a day, as this can lead to over-exfoliation, which can compromise the skin barrier and lead to symptoms such as dryness, peeling, flaking, irritation, and exacerbated acne.

Therefore, using Paula’s Choice BHA 2-3 times a week is ideal. This frequency maintains skin balance, prevents excessive exfoliation, and addresses skin concerns without causing side effects.

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 the brand’s ethics, skincare products, and their functions and purchase your desired products.

Additionally, the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant can be purchased on the following sites:

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Paula’s Choice BHA Help With Acne?

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant can help reduce the severity of mild to moderate acne, as the salicylic acid in the formula unclogs pores, reduces inflammation and promotes clearer, smoother skin.

Furthermore, the green tea extract in the formula has anti-inflammatory properties, which can relieve redness and irritation surrounding active acne.

How Long Does Paula’s Choice BHA Take to Work?

The time it takes for Paula’s Choice BHA to show results may vary between individuals, but many users report seeing improvements in skin texture and clarity within a few weeks of consistent use.

It’s important to give any skincare product, including this exfoliant, at least a 4-week trial to evaluate its effectiveness on your skin.

This is because it takes the skin 28 days to go through a full cycle, so any changes in the skin may take at least that long to become noticeable.

However, depending on the product, your skin concerns, and even your age, it could take even longer.

Can I Use Paula’s Choice BHA Everyday?

While Paula’s Choice recommends daily use of their 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, it’s important to consider your skin’s individual needs and tolerance to avoid over-exfoliation; starting with 2-3 times a week and adjusting as needed may be beneficial for maintaining skin health.

Can You Use Paula’s Choice BHA For Fungal Acne?

Yes, Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant may help with fungal acne as it contains salicylic acid, which can reduce the accumulation of fungal-causing yeasts within hair follicles by exfoliating dead skin cells and unclogging pores.

Is Paula’s Choice BHA Supposed to Burn?

Due to the active nature of salicylic acid, a slight tingling sensation may be normal when applying Paula’s Choice BHA, but it should not cause a burning sensation.

If you experiencing burning after apply BHA to your skin, you should discontinue use, as this may be a sign of a damaged skin barrier or an allergic reaction to the product. 

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An extensive, no-nonsense course showing you how to never have acne again, from a licensed Esthetician specializing in oily/acne-prone skin.

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!!

      • 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 🙂

  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!!!!

    • 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

  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.

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

    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!

    • 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!

  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.

    • 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!

  5. Hi Simone!

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

    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 ❤️

    • 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!

  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?

    • 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. 🙂


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