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!

Epiduo Forte

This stuff is so powerful that it is causing me to have to temporarily forfeit like, 70% of my regular skincare regimen. On that note, I may be taking a temporary hiatus until my skin gets back on track after having used this.

This is my second go-around with Epiduo Forte. I was prescribed this in conjunction with spironolactone when I first saw a dermatologist about my cystic acne. Yep, prescription only, depending on where you live — and I think there are different variants on the name of Epiduo, depending on the strength.

The first time around was a true clear out of my extremely broken out skin. I was excited to start using this white-gel-cream product, with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide for bacteria killing and .3% adapalene for cell exfoliation. The general Internet consensus is that this stuff really does work, but I quickly realized that applying Epiduo at night isn’t exactly the same pleasant experience as slapping on a sheet mask. For the first month or two? This stuff is gonna burn like mad.

You know that phrase “if it burns, it’s working”? Ok, first of all, that phrase is terrible advice to live by, because it’s NOT true for most skincare products, except maybe this one. Even then, you will question if it really is working for the first few weeks, because it actually makes your skin WORSE. Like, a lot worse.

The first time around, my cystic acne multiplied. By a lot. It was terrible, painful, and just all around hard to deal with. Even now in my second go-around, my skin is probably the worst it’s been in about two years. Epiduo forces your skin cells to turn over more rapidly, thus bringing the bacteria to the surface and causing a break out. It doesn’t matter how diligent you are keeping your face clean — you’re still going to break out, a LOT. And in areas you don’t normally break out in, too!

I waited it out for about six weeks, the first time. My skin finally started to improve! I mean, it doesn’t PREVENT your break outs from happening, but it makes your pores quite a bit clearer, and overall the texture and condition of your skin will be brighter.

So what’s my deal with Epiduo today, 3 weeks into my second go-around? Heck, why am I even here, on a second go-around? Shouldn’t my acne be mostly cured-ish after using it the first time? Not exactly. You need to keep using it. And that’s what I stopped doing. Sure, I would use it like… every two weeks… to spot treat, but that was it.

About nine months after I stopped using it consistently, my face started to get a little more… blotchy. Not so much cystic acne as it had been before, since the spironolactone keeps a lot of that at bay. But the texture overall just wasn’t great. My dermatologist told me in no uncertain terms that I “can’t just stop using Epiduo”.

So here I am, week three. I apply Epiduo every night. The first two weeks, my skin burned like CRAZY — that’s getting a little better now, though. Peeling skin though? Non-stop. Exfoliants are risky to use, since the Epiduo is already exfoliating for me and my skin is pretty raw. I can’t use most of my moisturizers or sunscreens, since they’ll pill, even if my face is 100% clean. And my skin is still… not great. New spots are turning up every day!

I’ve gone through Epiduo before and know it works, so I’ll have to just hold out for another month or so. In the meantime, my skin care routine is minimal: Clinique’s Dramatically Different in the morning, a TINY dot of Its Skin 2pm, and CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream at night (and The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 5% if I’m feeling brave).

Hopefully my next post will contain some positive news. Hey, if the Epiduo works for me a second time around, then that will mean the product REALLY works! Unfortunately it’s a pricey venture at $375, and many insurers won’t cover the cost — although, manufacturer’s coupons will occasionally help to knock the price down if they’re available. Ah, the price we pay for clear skin… ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3/5 (you have use it regularly)

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5 (the burning! the purging!)

Recommended for sensitive skin: It will MAKE your skin sensitive, even if it wasn’t in the first place. Prepare for two months of total annihilation!

The Ordinary 5% Lactic Acid + HA

The Ordinary’s had a lot of misses for me personally, but their 5% Lactic Acid + HA product absolutely knocks it out of the park, and for only $13. It’s on my very short list of their products that I would definitely re-buy if I ever ran out. I’ve never seen such visible, instant results in such a short period of time after usage.

Again: this is an acid, so exercise extreme caution. Your skin will probably burn a tiny bit, or purge, over the first couple of usages because… well, it’s an acid. There is a 10% formulation available, but I have absolutely zero confidence that my skin would survive it. Maybe someday!

This pink-orange liquid comes in a clear glass bottle with a dropper that you use to pull up the product and drop onto your face. One drop goes a long way, so I generally drop one on each side of my cheeks, my forehead (careful not to let it run into my eyes, of course!), and any small excess droplets can go on my chin.

I’ve seen results in as quick as an hour from this. My skin is noticeably brighter, and some of the errant texture is gone. Fine lines are at least superficially dimmer, and hyperpigmentation appears to have noticeably faded. My skin in general just seems more uniform in color and texture.

As I mentioned before this will probably burn a little bit unless you’re built up a tolerance already. I’ll wait about 30 minutes before applying my next step in my routine (usually moisturizer). As long as it’s dry, it shouldn’t pill with the next product.

Not going to lie, I did experience some trepidation when I applied this for the first time. I’ve had bad experiences with glycolic acid, and have heard mixed reviews on lactic acid as an exfoliant. So I reiterate to sensitive skin users to start at 5% if they’re going to try this, and remember to exercise the usual rules: try to avoid the sunlight, use sunscreen if you must go outside, build up your tolerance SLOWLY (even now, I only use this product twice a week, and it took two weeks for my skin to be comfortable with it’s usage) and don’t be shocked if there’s a brief purging period. Other than those standard exfoliant caveats, I think this product is totally worth the buy! ~A

Buy The Ordinary’s 5% Lactic Acid here:
https://amzn.to/2SDSCtA


Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4/5 – results are noticeable for at least a day or two

How much I actually like this product: 4.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe