Paula’s Choice RESIST Brightening Essence | Getting picture-perfect for the holidays


Paula’s Choice RESIST Brightening Essence review

The product: Paula’s Choice RESIST Brightening Essence

I like to start every brightening/whitening post the same way: with a reminder that I don’t think that whiter or brighter skin is “more beautiful” than darker skin, ethnic skin, or hyperpigmented skin. Brightening products are a great option to have for those who choose to use them, but I don’t think anyone should feel the need to.

(You’re beautiful just the way you are!) 


Why use a brightening product?: I have had countless sales associates tell me that I need to brighten my skin due to my ethnicity, but respectfully: fuck that noise.

I was really interested in this product because my skin holds a tan, and I don’t want my choice of holiday dress this year to be limited by my tan lines. But that’s not the only reason to use a brightening product: if you feel like your skin looks a little dull and you want a bit more glow, or if you have pigmentation that makes you uncomfortable and you’d like a slightly more even skintone, then brightening products could really help you outN. If you want extreme results, then opt for a peel or treatment instead.


How it works: I like the Paula’s Choice RESIST Brightening Essence ($42 USD) in particular because it’s very gentle. It’s not sensitizing the way peels can be, so just make sure to layer under sunscreen during the daytime and use sparingly — the formula pills if you over-apply.

The formula uses licorice extract, arbutin, vitamin C, and niacinamide to brighten the complexion, plus a blend of sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid to add moisture to the epidermis. It’s free of silicones, parabens, and fragrances, and it hasn’t been tested on animals.


But does it work?: In short, yes. I used this “essence” twice a day on my chest tan (a rather unfortunate cross between a scoop neck and a v-neck) for two weeks straight, and I think my skin looked brighter and more even at the end of the test.

The only thing that confused me about this product is that it’s marketed as an essence, but it’s NOT a K-beauty essence. It’s applied like a serum and it acts like one, so why not just call it a serum? I mean, I know it’s just a thing that brands are doing nowadays, but… it’s confusing. Stop it, skincare industry. Stop it.


The verdict?

If you’re nervous about holiday photos and you want to get a leg up over the competition (everyone has that hot cousin who always looks better than you in photographs; goddammit, Kylie, why are you so pretty), then right now is exactly the right time to start a brightening regimen.

The Paula’s Choice RESIST Brightening Essence is effective and unobtrusive, and more or less feels like a “nothing” step in your skincare routine wherein you’re applying water and waking up two weeks later with results. (Huzzah for skincare products that are easily added to/removed from your routine!)

Availability: $42 USD at Paula’s Choice and Nordstrom.


The Paula’s Choice RESIST Brightening Essence ingredients:

Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Arbutin, Acetyl Glucosamine, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Licorice Root Extract, Arcostaphylos Uva-Ursi Leaf Extract, Morus Alba Root Extract, Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hyaluronic Acid, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Allantoin, Adenosine, Silanetriol, Carbomer, Polysorbate-20, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.

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  • Spyarchive

    Completely agree with you – no one likes uneven skin from blemishes no matter what skin tone or ethnicity they are. I'm from S. Korea and could not be more put off by South Korean beauty standards. I'll keep my monolids and the distinctive bridge of my nose, aka I'll keep ME, thank you very much. And I never feel more fantastic than when I'm a glowing golden brown.

    That being said, I really needed this review and have added this to my Christmas wishlist! The blemishes seem to stick around longer than they used to. We must have similar skin bc your recommendations have never steered me wrong before!

    • I LOVE Asian nose bridges – they're so cute!! It breaks my heart that we're encouraged to contour/"fix"/etc such a distinctive part of our ethnicities.

      I'm so happy to hear that my reviews have been helpful for you! Hope this one works like a charm with your skin, too :)

  • This sounds really great and the price is totally reasonable for those ingredients. I think it's kind of annoying how a lot of Beautypedia reviews rail against misleading marketing practices and trends but a lot of the PC products have started to incorporate trendy buzzwords into their names, but if the product works who can really complain? So sorry to hear that SAs have tried to make you feel bad about your natural skintone, though – that's really awful. I'd never rec a brightening product to lighten a naturally deeper skintone; they are, as you went over, appropriate and useful for so many other things, and that's what they should be sold for.
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  • How much brighter can you get? I'm 3/4 scottish and you and I wear the same color foundation, lol.
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  • shireenplatt

    Sigh, when I was growing up I was often jeered by others because I am not fair skin like most Chinese and my parents often got told about what a shame that their only daughter is so tan or I would have been pretty. I grew up thinking I'm the ugliest in town. LOL!

    Onto the product, I love this and yes, I too saw results after two weeks! I use whitening products because I have dull skin and to even out my skin tone. The beauty of aging…buh bye radiance. :-(
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    • :( :(

      Shireen, I feel like I say this all the time, but you are BEAUTIFUL. I love your skintone (and your face) – I was literally just watching your Insta story today and thinking about how captivating you looked in that bright lip! I hope you no longer feel like the ugliest person in town <3 <3

      So glad that this one worked for you as well.