Paula’s Choice skincare review: Simple, no-nonsense treatments for dry skin & keratosis pilaris

Paula's Choice skincare review

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When I was asked if I wanted to try a Paula’s Choice skincare regimen through Pretty in My Pocket (download the free PRIMP app here; it’s a sort of lookbook/shopping list/review panel/beauty newsfeed), my immediate answer was yes!

I’ve been curious about the Paula’s Choice line for a while, and I wish I had given it a try sooner. The brand is cruelty- and fragrance-free with simple, coordinated packaging, and they actually have a surprising number of silicone-free options!

The consultation (and how to get 20% off!)

The Paula’s Choice skincare range is huge, so the brand offers free personal skincare consultations by phone to help customers figure out their ideal skincare regimen. Mine took about 10 minutes, and it made choosing the best products for me super easy.

Plus, as a Pretty in My Pocket Power Primer, I get to offer you guys 20% off plus free US shipping with the promo code PRIMPFALL20. It lasts until the end of the year, so if you’re looking to update your skincare regimen (or if you need to add an extra product or two for the winter), make sure you do it before December 31st!

» shop 20% off with free shipping! «

Paula's Choice PRIMP review

The hydrating products

Moisture Boost Essential Hydrating Toner ($17 USD)Paula's Choice Moistsure Boost Toner review


I didn’t love all of the products that I tried, but I definitely liked the Moisture Boost Essential Hydrating Toner! It’s a soothing, scent-free, alcohol-free toner, and it helps boost hydration immediately after cleansing. It’s not a must-have for me, but I feel like it leaves my skin a little smoother; a little more hydrated — in other words, it’s everything that I wish the Cremorlab Beauty Essence was.

Plus, it’s only $17 (compared to Cremorlab’s $42), so you can’t go wrong!

Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster ($35 USD)Paula's choice Resist oil booster review

THIS OIL, you guys. love this oil.

The Paula’s Choice Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster is packed with plant oils like jojoba, apricot, and borage, and blended with ceramides for the ultimate smoothing treatment. At just $35, I think it may be my new favourite overnight product! It’s not as luxurious and thick as my beloved Po+R, but it’s way more cost-effective ($52/oz vs $247/oz) and my dry skin just loves it.

For anyone who gets “dryness breakouts,” I recommend this one (not something with actives) as your best option for an acne fix-it.

Resist Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser ($18 USD)

Paula's Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser review

The other Paula’s Choice product that I really loved was the brand’s Resist Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser, which is totally taking over as my new daily cleansing milk. (Sorry, Marcelle.) It’s a measly $2.81 per ounce, and it gets the job done, removing my makeup and the grime of the day without stripping my skin. 

I’d love to see this one re-packaged to be, uh, a little less boring, but other than that, I have no complaints!!

The treatment products

Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol ($37 USD)

Paula's Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer with retinol review

Okay, so it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The Paula’s Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer was the first product that I tried, and I… kind of hated it.

I tested this for a solid week, and then another one after that, but it absolutely trashed my skin. It makes my skin feel smooth but very, very dehydrated, and the dehydration caused one of the worst breakouts of my life — we’re talking cystic acne, clogged pores, and little nodules that I’m still struggling to get rid of.

I know that this one works for some people, but like my friend Lulle, I’m just not feeling Paula’s moisturizers. If I never have to touch this guy again, it’ll still be too soon.

Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant ($28 USD)

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 8 AHA glycolic review

I also tested out this 8% AHA Skin Perfecting Gel, which did nothing for me. It didn’t do anything bad, but it also didn’t seem to do anything at all? Maybe I don’t need a glycolic product yet; maybe this one just wasn’t right for me.

Resist Weekly Retexturizing Foaming Treatment 4% BHA ($35 USD)

Paula's Choice RESIST weekly retexturizing foam review BHA

I wanted to finish on a high note, so let’s talk about the Paula’s Choice Resist Weekly Retexturizing Foaming Treatment! This contains 4% BHA (salicylic acid) and wouldn’t be a good choice for my face, but it’s a great choice for my arms.

I have really bad keratosis pilaris (which I’ve talked about on the blog before), and I can say with 100% certainty that this stuff is A+ at treating it. I applied it every other day for about a month to only my left arm, and there is a noticeable difference between my left and right sides, now. It’s not as obvious in pictures, but I can really tell when I touch my skin: my right arm is covered in bumps, but my left arm is now smooth. Y’know, like you’d expect skin to be.

Paula's Choice before after Weekly Resist Retexturizing foam review

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get my arms to “normal” with continued use, but only time will tell! Paula’s Choice has a few other options for treating KP as well, which I’m really curious about. This one smells kind of gross (sour), as BHAs tend to do, but it would be great to find a product that I don’t need to apply every day.


Paula's Choice hydration review

Just in case it wasn’t already abundantly clear: I get the hype, now. While I didn’t think that all of the products that I tried were winners, the ones that were were fantastic! I love that the brand has something (or many things) specific to each and every skin concern, and that the products are affordable without scrimping on the ingredients, packaging, or actives.

I’d like to find a Paula’s Choice product to treat the blackheads on my nose next, I think, and something that’ll really go to town on my KP — maybe their Resist BHA 9 (for both), or the Clear Acne Body Spray with 2% Salicylic Acid for my KP and the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion Exfoliant for my blackheads.

I’m kind of tempted to pick them up with PRIMPFALL20, so I promise to let you know how it goes if I do!

Have you tried the Paula’s Choice skincare line yet? What did you love/hate?

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  • Nina B

    I have been using Paula's Choice for several years. I also find the retinol products too harsh for my skin. The Skin Recovery line is very gentle, moisturizing and comforting. I love the oil booster, the antioxidant serum (Resist for combination skin), the 2% BHA liquid, AHA lotion, and Resist cleanser. The Vitamin C products did not work for me.

    • Hey, a couple of years is eons in the skincare world! ;) I'm glad to hear that you're loving the oil booster and Resist cleanser too, Nina! And I'll definitely have to check out the BHA products — you and Melissa (below) make them sound great.

  • I feel like I need to try that oil pretty much right this second. You've sold me!
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  • Oh you have the AHA gel, I didn't see that on IG, I thought it was the BHA gel. Try the BHA lotion then! I love it! It definitely does something for me.

    As for all the hydrating products, do you think they'll work well for dehydrated (not dry) skin as well?
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    • It's going directly onto my wishlist! Thanks for the rec, Melissa!

      I think they will. I'm not sure you'll like the way that the cleanser feels (you're on the oilier side, right?), but I think the toner will work really well for you! And the oil isn't heavy at all; I'd just make sure to apply it mixed into your moisturizer or instead of — you'll probably only need 2-3 drops on its own/1 drop in a light moisturizer. :)

      • Yep, my skin is super oily but also very dehydrated, it's a pain in the arse. I just placed a new Paula's Choice order on Black Friday, but maybe I'll add the toner and the oil to my next one!
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        • I hope you love 'em, Melissa!

          They do a hyaluronic booster for oilier skin types as well, if I'm not mistaken — I haven't tried it, but it might work well for your skin! (Although can I just say, my top pick for hyaluronic acid right now is definitely Deciem! It's not enough to conquer my dryness, but my partner has oily skin and he LOVES their Hylamide SubQ serum and HA booster. Great prices and free worldwide shipping, too!!)

        • Also I should probably totally not be pimping out Deciem in this comment thread oh god whoops

  • Oh wow your KP results are pretty damn good! My bf has it REALLY bad and the struggle is real, he has tried eeeeverything doesn't think anything works. BUT he's seen success with Tepezcohuite Powder Body Lotion (you can find it on Amazon). I used a little, twice, on very minor KP and my redness is still gone a month later. Pretty cool!
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    • I'm definitely going to look that up — thanks so much, Sarah!

  • esharp1978

    For KP I recommend the Salux towel and Amlactin!
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    • Thanks for the recs, Erin! I don't think I can use Amlactin ('cones), but I've looked at the Salux towel before — it sounds really good! I'm dying to give it a try now that you've thrown your weight behind it, too ;)

  • Oh no, I hope you can get rid of your acne breakout soon! I feel you, I've been having the worst cystic acne of my life for the past few months (I believe triggered by a change of hormonal birth control) and it's driving me crazy…

    I'm glad you found products by Paula's Choice that you liked! I only tried a handful, and unfortunately, none have worked for me. Well, you know about the "moisturizer" but I was also very disappointed with the liquid and gel BHA treatments. They do absolutely nothing for me, don't help with my sudden acne issues, and my blackheads haven't gone anywhere after almost 6 months… And the smell of the liquid one is hard to stomach!
    Too bad because the no non-sense approach and non-gender specific packaging were really resonating with me. Oh well.
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    • Aww, thanks Lulle! I'm so sorry to hear about your breakout — that really sucks :( Can I ask what you're using to treat your acne right now (if anything?)

      Definitely taking note of the smell of the liquid BHA treatment. I'd be using it right on my nose, so I want to stay as far away as bad smells as possible — thank you!

      • Yeah that BHA liquid smells sour like effervescent aspirine. I guess that's the price to pay for having unscented skincare!
        Right now here's what I'm using to fight cystic acne:
        – morning: AHA cleanser, BHA liquid, vitamin C serum, my moisturizer, and a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment
        – evening: a gentle cleanser, Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2 (I usually avoid alcohol but things are out of control…), a clearing serum containing vitamin C, salicylic acid, retinol, niacinamide and tea-tree oil.

        Usually the cysts heal well if I don't pick them, but new ones pop out as soon as they get better, and they do leave deep red scars :/
        I'm at my wits end and ready to try sulfur or whatever it takes!
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        • Ahaha, that sounds terrible!!! >.< Yeah, that's why I'm in camp "yes please scent everything (just please make the scents good)!"

          That regimen sounds so intensive, Lulle. I can barely be arsed to use serums half the time, so I am super impressed with you for sticking to it! I really wish that your skin would smarten up and start behaving for you!

          All skin is so very different, but what really worked for me was eliminating silicones from my skincare/haircare regimen entirely (and my partners', over the years; I still break out like crazy whenever I date someone new), switching to a non-stripping cleanser (my skin breaks out worst when it's imbalanced, so I have to be careful not to let it get too dry or too oily), and using Mario Badescu acne treatments.

          The last one is a little weird, because I don't use (or even like) ANY of their other products, but their spot treatments make a huge difference for me. I started with the Drying Cream, switched to the Drying Lotion, and then moved on to the Buffering Lotion, which I use on ALL of my spots as soon as I notice that they're starting to come up. None of them smell too terrible, and I'm on my third bottle of Buffering Lotion (here)– it's that good! I've used salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and tea tree oil in the past, and none of them really worked for me, but these ones definitely do. My skin is all about the sulfur and hydrolyzed yeast proteins, apparently! :P

          For what it's worth, I think you always look beautiful, acne or no :) I know you don't have your face on Beaumiroir all that often, but it makes me smile whenever it does pop up. I would kill for your eyes/brows/cheekbones!!!

          • My brows? Oh wow I never thought anyone would ever compliment me on my brows… I'm not a fan of them myself, lol! Thank you for your kind words ^_^

            Yeah my routine sounds a little intensive, and I even wondered if it was maybe too much and causing some irritation that was making the acne worse. But then I decided to do less for a few days when I went on a Thanksgiving trip, and boom, 3 new cysts… :/
            So I'm sticking to it, the Clinique Lotion + that clearing serum I have work really well together, I use them at night and my zits are a lot less inflamed and swollen in the morning.

            I've heard a lot of positive things about Badescu's drying lotion and I was considering trying it if the breakouts don't get better soon. For the price it seems worth trying!
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          • Aww, but they're lovely!!

            I know that my skin freaks out if I do too much to it, but everyone's is different — I think at least part of it has to do with what your skin is used to, so it would definitely make sense that it would freak out if your routine changed really suddenly! I hope you get it sorted out soon :(

            But yeah, definitely give the Mario Badescu a go!! I actually found that the Buffering Lotion helped my skin more than the Drying Lotion, but both are great! :)

  • felice

    i have been using paula's choice since 2008. the 2% bha liquid is holy grail for me. it makes my skin feels soft and supple. and when i put on the retinol serum at night, i wake up with plumper skin. i have turned my mum, aunt, cousin and friends as pc users too. i'm really glad you decided to give them a try and liking some of them. i honestly cant live without my pc regimen.

    • Ahh, that's like six million skincare years!! Nice ;) I'm really glad that you found a line that worked for you and were able to stick with it, Felice — that's awesome!

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