I have always had sensitive skin, but when I started to break out, I couldn’t find products that worked for me, until I found Paula’s Choice. I have been on Accutane, Spironolactone, antibiotics and Proactiv, various prescription creams and nothing really worked. I have also used retinols, clinical grade chemical peels and high concentration AHA/BHA cleansers that worked for a while in my late teens and early twenties. Now that I am older, those products make my skin dry at first, then oily and flaky, which pushes me to use physical exfoliants to keep the increased skin turnover from clogging my pores further. On top of that, products with fragrance tend to make my skin itchy and irritated, which exacerbates my acne.
Leading up to my wedding day last year, I had been using a lot of those products to fade my dark spots and acne marks, and although my spots were fading, I kept breaking out and my skin was inflamed. It was a vicious cycle. I decided to stop using those products, and switched over to a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser followed by a fragrance-free regular moisturizer (with no special ingredients), and my skin calmed down for my wedding day. I guess for some of us, less is more. All of the Dermatologists that I have seen have always recommended gentle cleansers for my skin type, for example, Dove Sensitive skin body wash, Cetaphil cleanser for the face, and fragrance-free laundry detergent. So it seems like simple, gentle, fragrance-free products are best for my skin. This is the reason why I started to look into Paula’s Choice.
I had never heard of it before, even though it has been around for many years. Paula’s Choice is committed to being non-irritating and effective, and their ingredients are transparent. The products are also affordable, if you are used to buying premium brands at Sephora or at a department store, and you can stack coupon codes at checkout, including a 10% student discount (scroll to the bottom of the page)! Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, also provides Cash Back for Paula’s Choice. High quality, effective skin care doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
If you are a busy, budget-conscious woman like me (we’re on a debt-free journey!), check out some of their products. I tried enough products to build a sort-of skincare regimen: cleanse, tone, exfoliate and treat. I always followed that sequence with sunscreen during the day, as well. There is a tool on the website that will also help you build a skincare regimen based on your skin type and concerns. It was nice to have a starting point because browsing through all of the products on the site can be overwhelming at first. Below are my first impressions of each of the following products from Paula’s Choice:
This scrub is not abrasive at all. It feels creamy and soothing when I apply it and the jojoba beads melt away by the time I am ready to rinse off. I use this as a second cleanse following the Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser when I have traces of makeup to remove, or as my cleanser in the morning if I want a pick-me-up. Like all of Paula’s Choice products, this scrub is fragrance free. It definitely did not leave my face feeling raw, but really soothed and moisturized, especially in the winter months. FYI this product contains parabens.
This is a great scrub if you want a scrub in your daily routine. This was great for winter flakiness, but because it is an extra step I don’t necessarily have time for, I am just going to stick with my Clarisonic.
This was so unexpected. When I put this on my face for the first time, I was half expecting the usual burn of alcohol that is found in products like these. I was pleasantly surprised. This just felt like a water-based liquid, but as such, it also takes a while to dry. It actually feels a little sticky and uncomfortable right after you put it on. I felt like I needed to wait five minutes for this to soak into my skin before I applied the next step of my skincare routine. I have no other complaints considering that this was as effective at keeping minor breakouts at bay as a mild chemical peel, but with less irritation. If you have oily, acne-prone skin, I would ABSOLUTELY give this one a try. This is the most raved about Paula’s Choice product and it does not disappoint.
This is a **really good** non-irritating chemical exfoliant.
I can’t get enough of this cleanser. It says “Foaming” but it is really a delightful cream cleanser that foams just a little bit once you work it in. It is super hydrating and fragrance-free, which I love. Unlike some of the other cream cleansers I have used in the past, this one removes almost all of my makeup (I still need a Clarisonic) on the first pass, and it doesn’t leave a weird residue behind. My skin doesn’t feel tight after I rinse either. I am upset that this is $19.00, but until I can find something better for less money, this is my holy grail face wash. This size bottle lasted me about two months with twice daily usage.
This is an awesome, effective daily cleanser that won’t irritate sensitive skin. I will let you know when, or if, I find anything better at this price point.
This serum definitely made my face look firmer and plumper, and was an extra layer of light hydration after toning. If you don’t like silicones on your skin, like me, then this is not for you. I like to feel like my skin can breathe under the products that I use,
Overall: Skip this one
While it worked just fine for a serum, I didn’t get miraculous results that would warrant me spending money on this extra step in my skincare routine.
I love retinol for my skin, but I always get dry and flaky when I use it. I used this cream as a night cream, as the final step in my skincare routine during the cold, dry winter months. It didn’t feel too heavy. It feels like butter and absorbs very well without leaving a greasy feeling behind. When I wake up in the mornings after using this, my skin is hydrated and glowing. As to the claims of it firming skin and targeting signs of aging, I can’t tell if it worked or not. I feel like it did help with my dark spots a little bit, though.
This is an excellent cream for the winter months with a little bit of retinol for added benefit.
As far as toners go, this is at the top of my list. It has no alcohol in it, so it feels soothing and refreshing after a nice cleanse. Unlike witch hazel and other toners I have used in the past, this actually made my skin feel hydrated. It made my serums and moisturizers spread easier, and absorb better, and prepped my skin for what was next. While the Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser was not stripping by any standards, this toner replenished my skin’s moisture. I found myself missing this one when I ran out of it, and I don’t normally bother with toners.
If you like toners and use them to get rid of any last traces of makeup and cleanser residue, I would definitely give this one a try. This lasted me about two months of twice a day usage.
This is a mineral sunscreen, which I love. It doesn’t sting my skin like chemical sunscreens do, and it is also fragrance free. However, if you have darker skin like me, you are probably wondering if this will leave a white shadow on your face. It does when you initially put it on, but it blends away as you massage it in. It also helps if your skin is hydrated before you put it on so that the white doesn’t settle in those dry spots. While this is a good formulation, it is not mattifying and my skin still felt greasy at the end of the day. If you can find a mineral sunscreen for less money, you should go that route.
If you are purchasing this to be shine-free, you will be disappointed.
This mask came in clutch during the cold, dry winter. I would use it on nights when my skin needed some soothing. It is VERY rich and buttery. This mask doesn’t dry like a clay mask, it just feels like you are putting thick cold cream on your face. It rinses very well and leaves skin hydrated, not greasy. Now that the winter months are gone, I use this to help melt away my makeup. I will slather this on a full face of makeup, hop in the shower, let the steam permeate a bit and rinse it off. It makes cleansing my face way easier. If you have dry skin year round, this would probably be a life saver. I think it would be more economical to use coconut oil and then cleanse really well afterward.
This mask is not a necessity for me and my skin routine. I have a whole bunch of money laying around for me to use, I might get this. For my skin type, I think a clay mask would be more beneficial.
Out of all of these products, the only two that I can’t live without are the Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser and the 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, but I do want to look into the ingredients and see if these will be long-term keepers. For now, they work, so I am sticking with them. I am currently on a quest for “clean” personal care products, and just trying to avoid toxins and pesticides in general. Stay tuned for more product reviews. I will be checking out Sephora’s new (and affordable) “clean” skincare line, as well as many other toxin-free products that are budget-sensitive.
Let me know in the comments what more you would like to see!