Sunday, October 4, 2015

Revisited: Paula's Choice CLEAR Extra-Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution

It wasn't that long ago that I reviewed one of the cult products in the Paula's Choice range, the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid - and while I thought it was a decent acid toner, I wasn't blown away. However, when I recently won MegsMakeup8's generous Paula's Choice giveaway on Instagram, I decided to try another liquid exfoliant from Paula's range: the CLEAR Extra Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution with 2% Salicylic Acid ($28 for 4 oz/ 118 ml).
I've said in the title that it's a revisited product because honestly, I don't know how the CLEAR Exfoliating Solution differs from the BHA Liquid. The salicylic content is exactly the same, the ingredients are the same, the texture is the same, so it's a bit confusing why Paula would have two exact same formulations marketed as two distinct products - please let me know if I'm wrong on this, but for now my understanding is that the two products are one and the same.
The CLEAR line, aimed at acne-prone skin, is all packaged in pretty blue bottles, and the Exfoliating Solutions come in two strengths, 1% and 2% salicylic acid (BHA). As you know, I'm a long-time hydroxy acid user, so I chose the Extra-Strength, hoping to get a more noticeable result. I've been using the Solution for the past two weeks, having replaced my usual First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads with it at night time.
The Extra-Strength Solution is a clear, fragrance-free liquid I use in the acid tone step of my evening skincare routine. Even though it's a transparent liquid, it does not feel like water on the skin - it's a bit thicker than water and has a bit of slip to it, leaving a somewhat oily film on the face, which is why I reserve it for use at night. In the past, I quite disliked the texture and feel of this product on my face, but since my skin has gotten a bit drier this past year, I actually don't mind it as much anymore. Now it feels like the liquid is a bit more nourishing, and maybe the ingredients that provide that slip in this formula also help to cushion the skin against the possible dryness from the salicylic acid.
In terms of results, I can already see a bit of an improvement in my skin after switching from the FAB pads (and don't get me wrong, I still love that product! Simply taking a bit of a break). Most of the bumpy texture I've had on my forehead for the past month has disappeared already, my pores are overall clearer, and my whole face looks a lot more even in tone. I've also haven't had any significant breakouts in those two weeks, and the two tiny whiteheads I got where gone within a couple days without leaving any marks. I'm quite impressed! Another interesting thing about the CLEAR Solution is that somehow it still manages to pick up dirt from my face even after double cleansing with oils and balms; I think the oilier texture dissolves the last traces better than a regular toner, or maybe the product is already pulling some gunk from the pores.

I'm quite happy that I gave this product another chance - I don't know if it's something I have to have on hand at all times, but I think it's a nice one to rotate in and out of my routine once in a while. It just goes to show how our impressions of products change according to the condition of our skin. In that same order, I also got the RESIST Exfoliant, which I believe Claire has told me doesn't have that slippy texture, so it'd be an interesting one to compare - stay tuned for the review! As for this CLEAR one, I would especially recommend it if you're struggling with uneven texture, but your skin is more on the normal to slightly combination side, and prone to dehydration. For oilier-skinned folks, I don't think the slightly oily residue of the Exfoliating Solution would feel very pleasant. Have you tried any of the Paula's Choice AHA or BHA exfoliants? Which one is your favorite?


  1. I think they're exactly the same product packaged two different ways and that it's just a marketing thing - I remember reading that a few years ago. (I think the prices are different, too...)

    It's interesting, I bought samples of this years ago and got no results, after using a few other drugstore BHAs, so I just concluded that BHAs don't work well for me. I've stuck to AHAs since and I definitely see results, but every once in a while (usually after someone raves about a BHA!) I remember that scientifically BHAs are supposed to do more for your skin/penetrate deeper, and I'm tempted again.

  2. You're right. Paula's Choice confirmed that it was the same product, but since acne treatments legally require drug labeling, they had to package it differently to make anti-acne claims on the label. But they said since they already had something that worked in their line, they didn't need to formulate anything else. I like this stuff a lot, too! I just buy whichever one is on sale (this one or the white bottle.)

  3. Now I would like to give it a try. First I was hesitant and was not very convinced about it but now I am. Will do check on it......

  4. I LOVE Paula's Choice 2% BHA. It's one of those products that fools you thinking it doesn't work very well until you stop using it and realize how effective it really was. It keeps my forehead smooth and keeps acne at bay. If I do get a spot, I soak a cotton bud in the 2% BHA liquid and apply that directly to the pimple twice a day and it clears up much faster. (Sometimes overnight if I catch it at the right time.) I use the 2% lotion and the liquid and like them both very much. The lotion is better in the winter when my skin is drier.

  5. I so agree w. you on Paula & 3 different kind of BHA products, why? (And another "maddening thing" is that she now comes up with Eye Cream. Yep, Paula Begoun, the lady who said, "Who needs an eye cream anyway?"). I've been pondering about the tackiness/oiliness issue and I think that maybe it is the "glycols" on the ingredient list that cause that (they are needed as penetration enhancers).

    I'm now actually doing the "reverse" of what you do and leaning more towards gentler acid peel (just finished Dr. Wu, I love that stuff -- although maybe this is not as gentle as the others?). I use both BHA and AHA from PC on alternating days now, and off during the weekend.

  6. I just came across your blog while looking for some Dr. Wu reviews (currently working on a review for the HyaluComplex line) and love that you are a skincare junkie too!

    I am a huge fan of PC's 8% AHA. I was scared of the percentage at first, but once I got passed that intial tingling sensation, my skin just adored it. The texture got better and my skin was smoother than it has ever been! I wanted to pair it off with a PC BHA, but I wasn't sure if I was going to be killing my skin so I may just alternate and take a break like you did.

    1. Hi Jayne, welcome! Haha, yes, I'm definitely skincare-obsessed; the number of products in my medicine cabinet just keeps balooning out of control...

      I've never tried any of the PC AHAs, I need to change that asap! It's interesting to be that you can have much higher percentages of AHAs in products but not BHAs; they're only ever at 1-2%.

      I currently use the CLEAR BHA in the evenings, but in the mornings I reach for the Pixi Glow Tonic, which is also glycolic-based, although I think it's a lower percentage than 8. Just take it slowly and see how it goes!

  7. I am still yet to try Paula's Choice and I don't know why - the products all sound worth trying but I just have so much to use up before I feel comfortable placing an order >< I need to get into a better skincare routine I think