Trying out: Paula’s Choice RESIST AHA and BHA

Review Paula's Choice AHA & BHAIn late August I ordered these Paula’s Choice RESIST AHA and BHA trial sizes from PC’s Spain site. These little guys have lasted quite a while, though now it’s time to think about a reorder.

Would I buy this in full size? We’ll get to that in a moment.

I haven’t used many Paula’s Choice products, but I’ve been familiar with this brand through founder Paula Begoun’s Cosmetics Cop site and books, which I first read when I was about 17 (wow, time really flies), and since that time I’ve kept her advice in mind when choosing products, though not always to the letter.

Thank goodness, since over time I’ve found some of her advice to be rather questionable; the worst to date was her recommendation for baking soda + Cetaphil exfoliation; I’m sorry to say that thanks to this tip, which came from a source I trusted more at the time, this was a frequent practice of mine which took its toll on my poor skin.

On the other hand, it was also through Paula’s books that I got into the habit of daily sun protection, which I’ve followed religiously since I was seventeen, and it shows. It was also in this way how I got into the habit of snooping product formulas and INCI lists, instead of following word of mouth advice and tips or ads and magazines’ nonsense.

For those not familiar with this Seattle brand, Paula’s Choice philosophy includes using only ingredients backed by scientific research and a record of effectiveness, avoiding superfluous ingredients and potential irritants such as fragrances or dyes, and keeping a strict stance on ethical supply of raw materials and cruelty-free formulations; for this  reason, the firm doesn’t sell in China.

Nevertheless, this shouldn’t lead anyone to think this is one of those brands that posit a “pure and natural” approach to beauty: Paula Begoun is known for her (somewhat controversial at times) criticism of “gimmicky ingredients” with overblown marketing claims and little scientific backing, as well as the wholesale demonization of any and all synthetics and chemicals in favor of plant extracts and essential oils, for no very good reason other than to lure consumers interested in these alternatives.

All this is to say, this may not be a very attractive brand, from a marketing standpoint, for fans of “natural” or of somewhat exotic ingredients with a halo. Me, I confess that at first look, PC products seem a tad boring and “conservative”, being the sucker I am for sort of “foodie” type marketing angles, such as honey, infusions, fruit extracts and nourishing oils, even though I rationally know that topical application of this stuff may or may not translate into any real benefits, save for that of psychological satisfaction. As La Begoun herself says “you can’t put food on your face and have lunch.”

Paula’s Choice RESIST AHA & BHA

Paula’s Choice RESIST AHA & BHA

Paula’s Choice RESIST AHA and BHA: first impressions

For starters, I’m all about this option of travel sizes to try: IMO this should be adopted by more brands besides the usual offering of small sample packets… particularly for things like actives, which besides often being more expensive could actually be detrimental, so it’s best not rush headlong into them: the first time I tried a BHA (also from Paula’s Choice) many, many years ago, I had a very unpleasant millia reaction, which made me glad I’d opted for the less costly mini-bottle instead of the full size.

A small sample for 1-2 uses is useful for checking that the product: a) does not wreak immediate havoc on my skin, either causing breakouts, irritation or something equally wrong, and b) that I like the texture, scent (or lack thereof), application, etc.

Which is all very good and well, but in order to make sure using the product for a prolonged period of time provides visible and positive results for my money, these travel sizes are perfect: I’ve been applying mine for over two months 2-3 times a week, and I still have a decent amount of BHA left (the bottle started at 30ml); the AHA (10ml) was all finished about two weeks ago. 🙁

At this point, I can say that after several weeks using these two products (I began using the BHA a week before starting with the AHA), I began seeing improvements I could not ascribe to wishful thinking.

Paula’s Choice RESIST BHA

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore Refiner 2% BHA

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore Refiner 2% BHA

The product itself is a watery liquid, colorless and odorless, and nice to use… it’s a bit hard to believe that something that looks so unassuming actually does anything. The packaging says to apply with a cotton disk, but I normally apply it with my hands… cotton absorbs just too much product, and ends up being wasteful.

BHA products are usually recommended, among other things to unclog pores and clean out those disgusting looking sebaceous filaments on the nose and surrounding areas.

Well, during the first two months or so, it didn’t really accomplish great things in that regard, nor did I expect it; in my experience, the only thing that manages to shoo away the problem for a couple of days is either mechanical exfoliation or even better, a clay mask, which for me works like a charm.

Paula’s Choice RESIST BHA

Aqua, Dypropylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Dipotassium Glycirrizate, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid, Oleanolic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Trehalose, Panthenol, Glycerin, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Caprylyl Glycol, PEG/PPG-18/4 Copolymer, Methyl Gluceth-20, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dymethil Silane, Glycereth-26, Sodium Metabisulfite, Sodium Hydroxide, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA.

However, after about eight weeks using it this BHA it became much, much easier to keep pores under control, and my skin looking cleaner, fresher and decongested; I use it 2-3 times a week at night, alternating with the AHA.

Also important is that it doesn’t dry out my skin, a common error with formulas for oily/combo skins, which just makes the problem worse. This feels nice, and like I said it’s hard to believe it’s working at all when I apply it: no sting or astringency, and I haven’t seen any flaking, yet my skin is clearer and brighter.

After several weeks of use, hormonal breakouts around that time of the month have been reduced to an absolute minimum and disappear much faster (however, I must say that other changes I’ve included in my daily routine may also be playing their part).

Would I buy the full size then? Hmm… generally I’ve had good results, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I feel as if it could be a bit better… I’m actually quite tempted to try the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid before deciding (I used the Skin Perfecting BHA Gel a couple of years ago, and didn’t care much for the texture).

Ya, that’s what I will do, battle of BHA’s Highlander-style: in the end, there can be only one… (cue Queen’s Princes of the Universe).

Highlander: Mac trains Richie

And since it’s my blog and I get to choose the images, here’s some gratuitous Adrian Paul, plus Stan Kirsch’s fine back. Mmm… Source: Highlander Wiki

My score for Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore Refiner 2% BHA: 4.5 points.

1 point: No! Never again, not even if you gave it to me. Not even paid me to wear it.
2 points: I didn’t finish the trial period and it’s very unlikely I’d buy this again. It might work for you, but it does nothing for me.
3 points: Meh. I’ll use up my jar/tube, but I doubt I’d buy again. It might work for you, but it doesn’t do much for me.
4 points: I like it. It’s nice and does its job. I might buy this again, if I find nothing I like better.
5 points: I love it! It does its job very well, I find it a pleasure to use, and it’s earned its place in my beauty routine.

Paula’s Choice AHA

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment 5% AHA

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment 5% AHA

From the items I ordered, this was the one I was less sure about at first, and in the end it’s the one I liked best, even more than the BHA, which I thought would be the most appropriate for my skin.

AHAs are usually recommended for drier and mature skins, especially those that show sun damage or hyperpigmentation, while the maker of indicates this AHA as suitable for normal to dry skin on the container, but I personally experienced no negative effects in my combo/oily skin (not even in late summer, with plenty of SPF on, of course); quite the opposite, the results were surprisingly good. Almost from the moment I began using it I saw noticeable improvement on my skin, without causing any other trouble such as breakouts.

Paula’s Choice 5% AHA

Aqua, Glycolic Acid (Alpha Hydroxy Acid), Cetyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide 12, Ceramide 2, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Caffeic Acid, Salicylic, Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphates, PEG 10 Rapeseed Sterol, Cucumis Melo (Melon) Fruit Extract, Bisabolol, Allantoin, Dimethicone, Polysorbate 20, C12-25 Alkyl Benzoate, PPG-14 Butyl Ether, PEG-40 Stearate, Sorbitan Stearate, PVM/MA Decadiene Crosspolymer, Polyacrylamide, Disodium EDTA, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Sodium Hydroxide, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglicerin, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol.

The product itself is a light, burnt-yellow cream, with a mild scent I find pleasant… curious since this product in principle does not contain any fragrance.

On application I feel a very, very faint sting that fades quickly… some find AHAs stinging more of a problem, but my skin generally likes acids very much and tolerates many potential irritants rather well; once the product is absorbed, my skin feels nourished, bouncy and smooth.

So, after weeks of use, I can see my skin tone is significantly more even and has better texture, and the faint lines on my forehead and between my brows have been cowed underground and neutralized; I know they are there biding their time to make an appearance again, but right now they’re quite demoralized and out of sight.

Would I buy the full size? A resounding yes: I love this product, and I plan to order it to continue using it for a while longer before going on to try the Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel, which I’m curious about as it is a bit stronger.

Note that besides glycolic acid, this formula also contains salicylic acid towards the middle of the INCI list, so keep that in mind in case this is an ingredient you avoid due to allergies.

My score for Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment 5% AHA: 5 points. They’ll pry this thing from my cold, dead, well-exfoliated hands.

1 point: No! Never again, not even if you gave it to me. Not even paid me to wear it.
2 points: I didn’t finish the trial period and it’s very unlikely I’d buy this again. It might work for you, but it does nothing for me.
3 points: Meh. I’ll use up my jar/tube, but I doubt I’d buy again. It might work for you, but it doesn’t do much for me.
4 points: I like it. It’s nice and does its job. I might buy this again, if I find nothing I like better.
5 points: I love it! It does its job very well, I find it a pleasure to use, and it’s earned its place in my beauty routine.

Paula’s Choice Cleanser

Paula’s Choice RESIST Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser

Paula’s Choice RESIST Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser

I didn’t put this product in my shopping basket, but the shop included in my package this travel-size cleanser to try anyway, along with a few small sample sachets of other products. Generally, I liked all the things they included, but this cleanser was hands-down my favorite discovery.

It says on the bottle that this is for normal to dry skin, but it worked wonderfully on my skin for morning cleansing: it’s quite gentle and fragrance free, does not dry out skin or leave any greasiness behind, and leaves skin soft and supple with no taut feeling; according to PC’s EU site, it has a pH of 6.0-6.5; however, in line 257 of this spreadsheet I found in the Asian Beauty Reddit, it is listed as having a pH of 5.5, even closer to that of skin.

(By the way, this is one of the things I find most captivating about the online beautiverse: props to the people who unselfishly give their time and knowledge to help create things like spreadsheets for fellow beauty junkies. Not all heroes wear capes).

Paula’s Choice Cleanser

Aqua, Caprylic/Capric Trigliceride, Decyl Glucoside, Glycerin, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, PPG-20 Methyl Glucose Ether, Methyl Gluceth-20, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Alcohol, Polyacrylamide, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Sapindus Mukurossi (Soapberry) Peel Extract, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyetanol.

Still, when I get home at night I prefer to use other products that will remove all down to the last trace of my potions and war paint, sebum production, sweat and city filth. For this kind of deep thorough cleansing, I find this product falls rather short.

So given all the above, would I buy the full size?

Well, for sure I wouldn’t buy it from the Spanish or from the EU site, on account of the price. I don’t mind spending more on actives such as exfoliants and other potent stuff, but I can’t justify shelling out twenty-something euros for a cleanser, however good it is… especially seeing that the price in the Paula US site is $19… still steep, but I might be persuaded to go for that on my next trip across the pond, whenever that is.

Still, I like it so much that I’m considering throwing in the trial-size in my basket on my next purchase, to keep in my travel bag; just like with the other trial bottles, a little goes quite a long way, and since I use mine only in the morning, the 1 oz. bottle has lasted me about two months, plenty for several escapades.

My score for Paula’s Choice RESIST Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser: 4 points.

1 point: No! Never again, not even if you gave it to me. Not even paid me to wear it.
2 points: I didn’t finish the trial period and it’s very unlikely I’d buy this again. It might work for you, but it does nothing for me.
3 points: Meh. I’ll use up my jar/tube, but I doubt I’d buy again. It might work for you, but it doesn’t do much for me.
4 points: I like it. It’s nice and does its job. I might buy this again, if I find nothing I like better.
5 points: I love it! It does its job very well, I find it a pleasure to use, and it’s earned its place in my beauty routine.

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