Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice BHA, your day of reckoning is finally here. Sort of. I’ve been experimenting with this product for close to a year now, and I’m actually still not quite sure where I stand on it.

The first thing I wanted to say is that this BHA was actually way more effective before they reformulated and chucked it in new packaging. Back then, I felt like I actually saw my pores shrinking in almost real-time. I think this is why it achieved holy grail status on a lot of blogs and subreddits. Back then, it was certainly worth it’s $24 retail value.

This exfoliant comes out of the bottle in liquid form — only a few drops will come out of the bottle at a time, which is really all you need for either your whole face, or any trouble areas that might be in need of it. It leaves a very slight oily residue behind, but nothing that will deter you from the rest of your skin routine.

The purpose of BHA (which is usually found in the form salicyclic acid) is to break through the oil and dead skin on your face and fight any acne-causing bacteria underneath, so the thought is that it’s good for both fighting and pre-empting acne. It can clear clogged pores, and help them to shrink. But this product does this in a very… hit or miss manner. On some sections of my face it seemed to smooth out my pores, and sometimes stop acne before it got any worse. On other sections, it was like I had never applied anything at all. My skin was either the same, or worse, by the next day.

I can chalk some of the skin-worsening up to the typical exfoliant “worse-before-it-gets-better” cell turnover, sure. But I never felt like certain sections of my skin got any better, even after long-term and careful use. I say careful because it is tempting and easy to want to go overboard with this liquid, but buyer beware: this stuff is crazy drying. You might not notice it until the end of the day, but be prepared for some skin pilling and cracking, particularly around your chin and lips.

What I liked about the old formulation was that it was fantastically effective against sebaceous filaments which a lot of people have trouble with on or around their nose. Actually, that was the only reason I ever bought this pricey BHA in the first place! But the new formulation doesn’t seem to address this problem.

This review probably seemed all over the place — there really were small sections of my face that showed a positive difference after using this, but overall, this wasn’t a good product for me. Different people have different reactions of exfoliants, so it’s possible this BHA is still worthy of the $24 spend for some people. For me personally, I think I’ll need to rely on AHA’s to keep my skin under control. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1.5/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No. Or maybe yes? Who knows!

Pacifica Kale Luxe Oil-Free Cream

I feel like such a fool! I was lured in by the words “oil-free” on this moisturizer! But alas, Pacifica has sadly snuck denatured alcohol into this otherwise very short ingredient listing. While alcohol denat has it’s place in the beauty industry, such as industrial-strength stage makeup fixing spray, I certainly don’t think it should find it’s way into moisturizers. And there’s even a chance it’s presence would not have bothered me so much if it didn’t act like a moisturizer that had alcohol in it!

I had a bad couple of weeks in early winter where my skin became a veritable oil-slick, and my skin began to break out like crazy. My dermatologists words suddenly came rushing back to me: “Only use oil-free moisturizers!“, a ghostly, subtle reminder that maybe I was doing too much in my routine, and needed to go back to basics. Cue the purchase of Pacifica’s oil free cream.

There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy in this $16 cream except, um, kale, which I’m not convinced really does anything. Mostly I just purchased it because it was oil free, somehow glossing right over the ingredient listing for alcohol denat. So although this 1.7 oz bottle gives you quite a bit of product to hold you over for a few months, for the ingredients alone, I do not think this is worth $16.

The moisturizer is really luxurious and silky feeling as you apply, but it’s more likely the smell will distract you from how nice this feels. I think the idea is that it smells like kale, but is more akin to smelling like the place it grew from, which is wet dirt. It is a matte moisturizer so it dries down quickly — too quickly, in fact. You’ll start to feel your skin underneath it start to dry up as soon as the cream does.

It does play well with makeup over top of it initially, but because this is such a drying moisturizer (wow, those two words next to each other don’t really make any sense…), you’ll find your skin start to develop dry patches throughout the day, causing your makeup to crack or pill on it’s own. Guess who started to get a few breakouts after day three of using this? Yep, you got it — this girl.

I think calling this a “drying moisturizer” should speak for itself. This cream flat out does not do it’s job at moisturizing, and if you have sensitive skin, you’ll almost definitely experience a break out from the sheer dryness alone, which isn’t cool since this cream specifically cites blemish-prone skin types as types that should use this product. Although I still love Pacifica as a brand, I think this was a huge miss on their part. Steer clear! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Pacifica Dreamy Youth

I’m really digging Pacifica Beauty lately. They weren’t even on my radar until I bought this moisturizer. I was so pleasantly surprised by this product that I purchased a couple more items by Pacifica. What’s even better is that the majority of their products are under $15 — this face cream included, I think I grabbed it for $12 — and they seem to last forever. And it’s vegan, and it’s cruelty free, and the packaging is cute!

The “lasts forever” aspect of Dreamy Youth is that this seemingly standard-issue push pump is ridiculously efficient. One push will give you all the product you need — no more, no less. This white cream is somewhat thick yet it’s not too difficult to spread. It dries down clear in under 30 seconds. This has a very powerful floral scent — I personally like it, but it is strong, so this may not be for everyone.

Now, for a couple gripes about this moisturizer. It does leave behind a bit of waxy residue, similar to paraffin, without the “destroys every other product on your face” effect of paraffin (PS: paraffin itself does not make an appearance in Dreamy Youth!). It does make your skin feel very soft, of course. And while this plays well with makeup, I think this acts more as a barrier rather than a primer for makeup, so your makeup won’t completely “take”, making it seem dull and patchy in certain areas. For the most part, blending, as well as checking in the mirror at least thirty times before you leave the house, should mitigate this issue — but it’s still an annoying problem to have.

Dreamy Youth has a few good guy ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, aloe, shea butter and a couple choice peptides. Despite some of these proponents of age-reversal, I never really felt like this moisturizer was doing anything “extra” for my skin, besides, well, moisturizing! And even then, this isn’t the most moisturizing product on the market — while the cream is on the heavier side, I usually experience some skin tightness around hour six of wear.

I know I just complained a lot, but I do still like this moisturizer, as it’s never caused any issues for my sensitive skin! For skincare beginners especially, I would go so far as to say it’s a phenomenal purchase: there’s no outright “unfit for skin” ingredients, it’s foolproof to apply, and it does make your skin feel soft to the touch. Throw in the added bonus of purchasing from a cruelty-free brand? Sold.

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes