If You Haven't Tried These Paula's Choice Products Yet, You're Missing Out

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In the world of various skincare brands, Paula’s Choice is truly unique. Mainstream enough that you or someone you know has probably dabbled with their various offerings, it’s still somewhat niche and with an under-the-radar cult-like following.

Originally founded in 1995, the Seattle-based company was created by Paula Begoun—yes, there is a Paula—who set out to create effective skincare with scientifically-backed ingredients…without questionable ingredients known to cause irritation. Ingredients are truly at the heart of this brand, both when it comes to what’s in the products and what isn’t (everything is free of dyes, fragrances, phthalates, just to name a few). In fact, the brand’s website even has a helpful ingredient dictionary. (Insider secret: Beauty editors rely on it all the time.) And if you check out the ingredients listed for any of their products, there’s a helpful parenthetical that denotes the exact function of each one. The line is also all about inclusivity, catering to pretty much every skin type and concern, with offerings that range from mega-gentle exfoliators to power-packed anti-agers to standout serums.

So, where to start if you’re getting ready to choose from all the goodness? We suggest any—or all—of these best Paula’s Choice products below.

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

4.8
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

 Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Minimizes pores

  • Absorbs quickly

  • Reduces fine lines

What We Don't Like
  • Can be irritating if overused

This is the brand’s number one product worldwide, and if we absolutely had to choose, ours too. Why, you ask? It’s a unique leave-on exfoliator, made with a 2% concentration of salicylic acid, to unclog pores and clear your complexion and it really, really works. Still, it’s gentle enough that it can be used twice daily and also absorbs super quickly thanks to a lightweight, lotion texture.

Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 1 ounce, 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

paula's choice skin perfecting 2% bha liquid exfoliant

Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

4.8
C15 Super Booster

 Courtesy of Paula's Choice

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Potent

  • Mixes well with other products

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

There’s no denying that vitamin C gets an A+ in the skincare world, offering everything from antioxidant protection to collagen-boosting properties to spot-fading abilities. Here, you get it in an impressive 15% concentration, but of a stabilized vitamin C that will remain active (the vitamin is notoriously unstable and tricky to formulate with as a result). And it doesn’t stop there; it’s blended with ferulic acid, another potent antioxidant that works synergistically with vitamin C to up the benefits even further. Also nice: You can use this on its own, or mix a few drops in with your moisturizer or serum.

Benefits: Boosts radiance, evens out skin tone, ant-aging, hydrates, protects from environmental damage | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2 to 3 drops | Size: 0.67 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

paula's choice C15 super booster

Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

What Our Testers Say

"Given the quality of Paula's Choice products, I say that the Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster lives up to its gold standard. It hydrates and brightens skin." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester

Paula's Choice RESIST Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA

Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA

 Courtesy of Dermstore

What We Like
  • Minimizes pores

  • Lightweight

  • Firms skin

What We Don't Like
  • Dropper can be annoying

Key Ingredients

Allantoin, also known as aluminum dihydroxy allantoinate, is an extract from the comfrey plant (which is native to temperate climates of Asia and Europe). It has potent healing and soothing properties and may also help exfoliate the skin.

This product hits the perfect balance of effectively and efficiently exfoliating—all without ever stressing out your complexion. Its formula, which contains a combo of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, and four alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, malic, and tartaric, to be exact), is designed to dissolve dead cells that leave your skin looking lackluster and uneven. At the same time, the product, which features other ingredients such as allantoin, oat extract, and licorice, keeps irritation at bay.

Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, salicylic acid | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Paula's Choice Smoothing Primer Serum SPF 30

Smoothing Primer Serum SPF 30

 Courtesy of Paula's Choice

What We Like
  • Contains SPF

  • Lightweight

  • Reduces fine lines

What We Don't Like
  • Can pill

You’ll be hard-pressed to determine what you like most about this multi-tasker. Is it the silky texture that creates the perfect canvas for foundation? The built-in SPF 30? The protective antioxidants it contains? Happily, there’s no need to choose, since you get all three. It’s a morning routine must-use, whether or not you’re applying makeup over it.

Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, green tea, coffee seed, chamomile | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Pea-sized amount | Size: 0.33 fluid ounces, 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Paula's Choice Clinical Niacinamide 20% Treatment

Paula's Choice Clinical Niacinamide 20% Treatment

Courtesy of Paula's Choice

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Potent

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • Can be irritating if overused

Niacinamide gets major points for its laundry list of benefits, including but not limited to: evening skin tone, combatting redness, improving the look of stretched-out pores, and more. Not to mention that, unlike many other powerful ingredients, it is generally very well-tolerated by most. This newbie touts the highest concentration to date of the superstar, in a featherweight serum that’s choice for helping to improve both the texture and tone of your skin.

Benefits: Minimizes pores, calms redness, fades hyperpigmentation, boosts radiance | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2 to 3 drops | Size: 0.67 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Paula's Choice Omega+ Complex Serum

Omega+ Complex Serum

 Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Can use twice daily

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't smell good

Key Ingredients

Ceramides are a part of a complex family of fats or lipids called a sphingolipid. They work to restore the skin barrier and lock in moisture.

Another top-seller, this serum is a great universal pick, particularly for anyone dealing with dryness. Rich in Omega 3, 6, and 9 oils for extra hydration, it also touts ceramides, an essential ingredient for maintaining a healthy skin barrier. It’s moisturizing enough to use alone, though lightweight enough to layer under a moisturizer as well (try doing the former in the summer, the latter in the winter).


Benefits:
Protects against environmental damage, hydrates, reduces fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 1 to 2 pumps | Size: 0.17 fluid ounces, 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Paula's Choice Triple Algae Pollution Shield

Triple Algae Pollution Shield

Courtesy of Paula's Choice

What We Like
  • Provides antioxidant protection

  • Non-sticky

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note packaging is flimsy

In case you missed it, pollution ranks up there with the sun when it comes to skin saboteurs. So what should city-dwellers do to safeguard their complexions? For starters, you can use this every morning, under SPF, obvi. Made with three types of algae, this formula creates a protective shield that prevents pesky pollution particles (say that three times fast) from sticking to and damaging skin but has a silicone-free gel-cream texture that feels silky and never sticky. According to the brand, it also boasts not one, not two, not three, but 16 research-backed antioxidants to help counteract free radicals caused by exposure to sun and pollution.

Active Ingredients: Green algae, red algae, brown algae, glutathione, grape polyphenols | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 ounce | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Paula's Choice Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol

Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol

 Courtesy of Paula's Choice

What We Like
  • Reduces fine lines

  • Hydrating

  • Firms skin

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave a residue

Key Ingredients

Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.

Anyone who knows their skincare stuff will tell you that the name of this product sounds oxymoronic; retinol and barrier repair usually don’t go hand-in-hand. Yet somehow in this formulation they do. You get the proven wrinkle-smoothing benefits of retinol, but without the likelihood of irksome side effects (think redness and flaking), thanks to hydrating, barrier-protecting ingredients such as shea butter and ceramides.

Active Ingredients: Retinol, potent antioxidant blend | Skin Type: Balanced, dry | Size: 0.33 fluid ounces, 1.7 fluid ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Paula's Choice Weightless Body Treatment 2% AHA

Paula's Choice Weightless Body Treatment 2% AHA

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Great for keratosis pilaris

  • Provides antioxidant protection

What We Don't Like
  • Must use SPF after for a.m. routine

Oh yeah, did we forget to mention that Paula’s Choice has some awesome body products, too? To take care of the skin below your chin, we especially like this lotion. Like the 2% BHA treatment for face, this also has salicylic acid. Here, it helps to remove dead, dry skin and leave it silky soft. It’s a great pick for anyone, including those trying to get rid of keratosis pilaris aka KP aka those annoying bumps that crop up on the backs of your arms.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, chamomile, green tea, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 fluid ounces, 7 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Courtesy of Dermstore

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Mixes well with other products

What We Don't Like
  • Results aren't drastic

Say peace out to parched skin. Formulated with, you guessed it, hyaluronic acid, one of the best moisturizing ingredients out there, this almost instantly hydrates skin. Dab on the gel solo, or mix a few drops into any moisturizer or serum to up the hydrating benefits. And here’s the really nice thing: Hyaluronic acid also has an immediate plumping effect, so this is great for using to help quickly fill in fine lines and wrinkles, like crows’ feet around your eyes.

Benefits: Hydrates, reduces fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2 to 3 drops | Size: 0.17 ounces, 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Paula's Choice CALM Redness Relief Repairing Serum

Redness Relief Repairing Serum

 Courtesy of Paula's Choice

What We Like
  • Can use twice daily

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Can pill

No matter whether you’re dealing with a condition such as eczema or rosacea, or are just having a temporary redness flare-up, reach for this skin savior. Made with an effective combo of both hydrating and soothing ingredients (lots of antioxidant-rich plant extracts), this option goes to town to quickly tamp down ruddiness and soothe stressed skin. For the best results, use it twice a day, pre-moisturizer. 

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles, hydrates, calms redness | Skin Type: All | Dosage: A few drops | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What to Look For in Paula’s Choice Products

Skin Type

Knowing your skin type helps determine which types of Paula’s Choice products you should look for. Choose those created for your skin type, whether you have oily, acne-prone, dry, balanced, sensitive, or combination skin. If you have aging skin, products that combat effects such as fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and thinness may be best for you. Avoid aggravating ingredients or ones that may clog your pores if your skin is sensitive or prone to breakouts.

Active Ingredients

When choosing your ideal Paula’s Choice products, look for active ingredients known to provide the benefits you seek. Some of these tried and true ingredients include salicylic acid, AHAs, retinol, ferulic acid, vitamin C, antioxidants, niacinamide, plant oils, ceramides, and algae. If you are interested in any of the active ingredients you see on Paula’s Choice labels, research them to find out if they can benefit your skin.

Benefits

When looking for Paula’s Choice products, search for those that provide multiple benefits that appeal to you and suit your needs, skincare routine, and that you know you’ll actually use. Multipurpose formulas, like C15 Super Booster, are packed with several highly effective ingredients, saving you money and time.

FAQ
  • Is Paula's Choice dermatologist-approved?

    Paula’s Choice is dermatologist approved, being recommended for many years by skin experts and beauty editors alike. The effective, science-backed ingredients used in Paula’s Choice products have helped create a reputable, positive view of the brand.

  • What is Paula's Choice good for?

    Paula’s Choice is good for all skin types. The wide range of highly effective products can serve everyone in all parts of a skincare routine. Paula’s Choice products can even skin tone, protect against free-radical damage, cleanse, exfoliate, hydrate, boost radiance, and smooth.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The roles of vitamin C in skin healthNutrients. 2017;9(8):866. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

  2. Zduńska K, Dana A, Kolodziejczak A, Rotsztejn H. Antioxidant Properties of Ferulic Acid and Its Possible Application. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2018;31(6):332-336. doi:10.1159/000491755

  3. Savić VLj, Nikolić VD, Arsić IA, et al. Comparative study of the biological activity of allantoin and aqueous extract of the comfrey rootPhytother Res. 2015;29(8):1117-1122. doi:10.1002/ptr.5356

  4. Tung RC, Bergfeld WF, Vidimos AT, Remzi BK. alpha-Hydroxy acid-based cosmetic procedures. Guidelines for patient management. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2000 Mar-Apr;1(2):81-8. PMID: 11702315. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200001020-00002

  5. Wohlrab J, Kreft D. Niacinamide - mechanisms of action and its topical use in dermatology. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(6):311-315. doi:10.1159/000359974

  6. Meckfessel MH, Brandt S. The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014;71(1):177-184. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2014.01.891

  7. Coderch L, López O, de la Maza A, Parra JL. Ceramides and skin function. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(2):107-29. PMID: 12553851. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200304020-00004

  8. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oilsInt J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

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