Can You Use Retinol After Paula’s Choice BHA?

Retinol is a powerful skincare ingredient that reduces fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes, and the Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant is an effective product that can help clear away dead skin cells and open up clogged pores.

It also helps reduce excess oil and active acne on the skin’s surface.

Although effective on their own, retinol and BHA can be too strong when used together, therefore;

No, retinol isn’t recommended to be used after the Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant.

It’s best to alternate between the two products, allowing a couple of days between each use to reduce the risk of skin irritation.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of retinol and Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant, explain why they shouldn’t be used together, and provide some alternatives that can be combined with the cult-favorite toner.

paulas choice cha with retinol

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

About Paula’s Choice BHA?

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a gentle, hydrating toner that contains salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) and an oil-soluble ingredient that can cut through the superficial skin oil and travel deeper into the pores, where it will dissolve the gunk made up of dead skin cells, white blood cells, oil, and other cellular debris, that’s causing a stiff clog.

This will, in turn, allow for our natural oil to flow freely out of the pores instead of remaining stuck inside and causing issues such as blackheads and acne.

Additionally, besides its main active ingredient, the Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant also contains soothing and hydrating ingredients, such as green tea extract and methylpropanediol, a solvent that enhances the absorption of other ingredients into the skin and provides hydrating properties.

The toner has a lightweight consistency and leaves a beautiful glow when applied to the skin. It also absorbs quickly and doesn’t contain fragrance, making it suitable for sensitive and reactive skin.

Excellent for all skin types but best for those with oily and acne-prone skin, the Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant can be used in combination with many other ingredients, but retinol isn’t one of them.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that is found in skincare products.

This component has small molecules and is a cell-communicating ingredient that works by increasing cellular turnover from the deeper layers of the skin.

This action causes the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface to shed faster and be replaced with newer, fresher, and plumper cells, resulting in an improved skin texture, tone, and overall appearance.

An additional bonus of increased cellular turnover are clear and decongested pores because retinol causes the clogs made up of dead skin cells and oil to push through and come to the surface, where they will appear as pimples and will eventually heal.

Other than that, retinol is also an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and boosts the production of elastin and collagen, which are the proteins that make the skin elastic and bouncy.

An increase in collagen and elastin production creates a “plumping” effect, which reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores.

Finally, retinol has also been proven to balance your skin hydration levels, but this phase will come once your skin gets past the initial irritation and gets used to the active ingredient.

Can You Use Retinol After Paula’s Choice BHA?

Using retinol with exfoliating products like Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant isn’t recommended, as side effects can definitely occur.

Some potential side effects of using retinol with exfoliating products include:

  • Dryness.
  • Irritation.
  • Redness.
  • Flakiness.
  • Peeling and shedding.

It’s important to note that these side effects can occur even if you use retinol and exfoliating products on different days.

Therefore, if you experience any of these side effects, it’s best to either reduce the frequency of exfoliating or opt for a milder product.

Additionally, you can consider doing the same with retinol if the side effects become too much to tolerate.

Lastly, you can give your skin a 2-3 day break between actives or decide on one active to use, depending on the skin concerns you want to address.

Once you do that, you can continue your journey towards a clear and healthy complexion without compromising the skin barrier with multiple active ingredients.

What Can You Use After Paula’s Choice BHA?

What Can You Use After Paula's Choice BHA

Since retinol isn’t suitable to use with Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant, here are some active ingredients that can be used after it to improve the appearance of your skin:

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is an excellent addition to your skincare routine after applying Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

This ingredient is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture in the skin, keeping it soft and supple.

Apply it several minutes after you’ve used Paula’s Choice BHA to ensure that the product has been absorbed into the skin and won’t be moved around.

Follow up with a moisturizer while your skin is still damp to lock the hydration in and keep your complexion looking plump and healthy.


Niacinamide is another excellent ingredient you can use after Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

This multi-tasker component can help even out the skin tone, protect the skin from environmental aggressors, reduce inflammation, and refine texture.

It also helps rebuild and strengthen the skin barrier to keep your complexion hydrated and healthy.

Apply it to the skin a few minutes after using Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant and follow up with a moisturizer to lock in hydration and protect your skin.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide can be a good follow-up treatment to the Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant if you are dealing with moderate to severe acne.

This ingredient infuses the pores with oxygen, which kills the overgrowth of bacteria inside the pores that cause acne and aids in exfoliation to keep the skin clear.

Make sure to apply it a few minutes after you’ve used Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant and follow up with a light moisturizer.

However, benzoyl peroxide is a strong ingredient that shouldn’t be used more than 2-3 times a week.


Ceramides are great for dry and sensitive skin, as they help repair the skin barrier and keep it hydrated.

Usually found in moisturizers, they are an excellent follow-up treatment to Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

Apply the ceramide-rich moisturizer a few minutes after using Paula’s Choice BHA, and you’ll notice an increase in moisture levels and plumpness and a decrease in dryness and acne.

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