October 2014


One of the benefits of being a Women’s Health magazine Action Hero is that from time to time I get assignments to test drive various products. I was excited to try Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid; it was Don’t Go To The Makeup Counter Without Me!, Paula’s Choice founder Paula Begoun’s book, that first taught me about cosmetic ingredients and how to best allocate my makeup and skin care dollars. The book, now in the ninth edition, led Paula to create her own line of skincare products. As the Paula states on the website, “In 1995, at the request of thousands of my readers, I decided to use my years of research on skin-care ingredients to create my own skin-care line, Paula’s Choice. I use only proven ingredients that can truly make your skin look younger and radiant as well as reduce wrinkles, lessen or eliminate acne, and work perfectly for those with sensitive skin. All my products are 100% guaranteed.” 100% guaranteed?  Bring it!

Photo from 4 oz. bottle, $26. Smaller size and sample also available.

The Skin Perfecting liquid—which is clinically tested to be non-irritating, has no added dye or fragrance, and is not tested on animals—seemed like it could be a great product for me. I’ll admit I was skeptical about the claims, as I am for every product I try. I come by this skepticism from years of disappointing skin care products. As a teenager the popular media (and particularly advertising aimed at women) gave me the false impression that some time when I was older, my skin would stop spewing oil like a well of Texas crude, and I wouldn’t have to worry about “aging skin” until I was, you know, OLD. So I dutifully tried every NEW! AND IMPROVED! product for oily skin, problem skin, combination skin, sensitive skin. As my 20s passed, I wondered if there was a way to get a pore transplant (because if that existed and I could put just half of my facial pores on my legs, I’d never have to buy body butter again). For those of you who haven’t yet lived through those decades, you can keep wishing for even just ONE day between zits and wrinkles—but it’s probably not coming. (Unless you were born with perfect skin, in which case I kinda hate you…but hey, I’m going to get carded until I’m at least 55.)

Since I started using the Clarisonic Mia and a rotating menu of cleansers and moisturizers (for various climates and seasons) I’ve narrowed my skin problems to: (1) the bumps under my eyes (hoping they won’t inflate and begin colonizing more territory, as they have with some of my relatives), and (2) my nose (which on bad days looks like I am part Dalmation, no matter what kind of anti-acne lotion and potion I slather on, so thank the gods for CC cream!). Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting liquid makes three claims on the label, under the heading “what it does”: (1) Creates radiant, even-toned skin; (2) Reduces redness & builds collagen; and (3) Unclogs & diminishes enlarged pores.

I planned to spend at least a month using the product before I wrote this review (which I did), but after just a few days I checked in with the other Action Heroes to let them know this stuff is the bomb! In just a few days, my nose went from spotty to nearly clear (I decided to forego the before and after shots, because there are certain pictures I just don’t need to put on the internet!). The product is a very thin liquid, almost like water, that the bottle dispenses in drops. To use it, you clean and dry your skin, and then apply the liquid with a cotton ball. I’ve been applying it twice a day, or just once a day if my skin felt dry or I’d applied another product (like the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion or Anti-Acne Serum, which I use on blemishes). Women’s Health sent me a full-sized 4 oz. bottle. While I can’t tell exactly how full it is now–the bottle isn’t translucent–it still feels about 3/4 full (or more), and sounds nearly full when I shake it.  I estimate this bottle will last another 2-3 months at my current rate of usage.

Back to the product claims. Again, holy cow, no more nose spots! Given my skin’s youthful propensities, I was already pretty radiant and have always had mostly even-toned skin, so I can’t speak to the first claim (other than to say my skin is still quite even-toned). I did notice a reduction in redness, in that when any part of my face got irritated or broke out, the redness seemed to disappear more rapidly.

As for the “builds collagen” claim, this jury is out. I’m not sure how I would be able to observe this personally, so I don’t have an observation to share. While my search of PubMed turned up at least one article reviewing three studies of sodium salicylate and anti-aging benefits, it seems sodium salicylate is the sodium salt of salicylic acid (and therefore not identical to the compound in this product). (See PubMed citation below.) According to the Paula’s Choice website (which breaks out ingredients for each of their products): “It is also well documented that salicylic acid can improve skin thickness, barrier functions, and collagen production (Sources:Dermatology, 1999, volume 199, number 1, pages 50–53; and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, volume 175, issue 1, pages 76–82).”

While I can’t substantiate the collagen claim via my own limited research, I did find information that salicylic acid is a pore-declogger, in conformity with the “unclogs & diminishes pores” claim as well as my personal experience. Wikipedia cites three sources for the proposition that “Salicylic acid works as a keratolytic, comedolytic, and bacteriostatic agent, causing the cells of the epidermis to shed more readily, opening clogged pores and neutralizing bacteria within, preventing pores from clogging up again by constricting pore diameter, and allowing room for new cell growth.” (See citations below.)

My bottom line: if clogged pores or adult blackheads are one of your skincare concerns, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting liquid is worth a test-drive. (The website has a sample size available for less than $1 and right now there is a free shipping deal, so you might as well try a bunch of samples–my next move!–or at least go for the small bottle so you can use it for at least a week before making a decision. If you order a full-sized product, you can choose 5 samples for free.) Note that if you are allergic to aspirin, you should not use products with salicylic acid. If you use any products with salicylic acid, you should wear SPF as that ingredient can make your skin more sun-sensitive.

Have you tried Paula’s Choice? I just ordered the Skin Balancing Cleanser!  If you’re thinking about giving it a shot, click here (affiliate link) to check out the entire Paula’s Choice line: Order at least $15, and you will get $10 off!


PubMed citation: Merinville E1, Byrne AJ, Rawlings AV, Muggleton AJ, Laloeuf AC (September 2010). “Three clinical studies showing the anti-aging benefits of sodium salicylate in human skin.”J Cosmet Dermatol. 9(3):174-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2010.00506.x.

Wikipedia citations: Madan RK, Levitt J (April 2014). “A review of toxicity from topical salicylic acid preparations”. J Am Acad Dermatol 70 (4): 788–92. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2013.12.005. PMID 24472429;
“Salicylic Acid.”; and Bosund, I., I. Erichsen, and N. Molin. “The Bacteriostatic Action of Benzoic and Salicylic Acids.. VI. Influence of Amino Acids and Related Substances on the Growth Inhibition.” Physiologia Plantarum 13.4 (1960): 800-11.

Come join me for my next two runs: Run 10 Feed 10 (Sunday, October 26 in San Francisco) and the Berkeley Half Marathon (Sunday, November 9)!

Run 10 Feed 10 San Francisco is one of the three races in the Run 10 Feed 10 series.  There are also a series of fun runs and the option to “run your own” as a virtual 10k. The series, presented by Women’s Health Magazine, raises funds to solve the world’s most solvable problem: childhood hunger. Children who come to school hungry have a hard time focusing and fall behind in school.  Some researchers are exploring the connection between childhood food insecurity and adult obesity–because how your nourish your body as a child affects your body’s systems as an adult. Kids can’t help themselves, but we can help kids; and the FEED Foundation’s partnerships with locally-rooted non-profit organizations stretch your dollars even more than you could.  Every registration automatically pays for 10 meals.  You can also fundraise or make a donation. (Both are optional, but every dollar counts.) You can donate to my fundraiser here (click): Run 10 Feed 10 Registration; and use promo code WHBAIN

If you’re not registered to run the Berkeley Half Marathon, why not? Go register! You can even save a few bucks using my ambassador code BHM2014ELIZABETH All of the details are at The Berkeley Half Marathon home page;  This year (the race’s second) the course will go through the UC Berkeley campus (or “the Cal campus,” for those of you who grew up around here). The course map is online, along with the elevation profile (two mini hills and then a nice flat piece). It’s a back-of-the-packer-friendly race, with four hours to finish (that a pace of over 18 minutes per mile–much more generous than the Disney runs). A portion of your entry fee supports the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, and if last year was any indication, it’s going to be a great run! Last year we had gorgeous weather, and seriously who doesn’t love a race that ends in a beer garden?  (Right, I know, I don’t drink beer.  But still, it’s the idea!)

If you ran the San Francisco Half as well, you have special bling waiting for you at the finish line:

Berkeley half medal

Would you like to run the Berkeley Half Marathon?  I’ve got ONE race entry.  The prize is ONE half marathon entry only (no travel, no lodging, no other promises). The winner will receive a code to register for the race for free!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To some extent, fitness conventions meet your stereotypical expectations: lots of spandex, fit bodies, water bottles, and health food. Most people there are into fitness, even if they don’t embody the public’s perception of what a regular gym-go-er looks like, so they are pretty comfortable.  The people who usually look the most ill-at-ease are staffing booths inside the expo area. If the Las Vegas tech conventions are famous for beautiful, outgoing “booth bunnies” whose extroverted nature and interesting outfits draw you into their booths but don’t actually use the tech they are promoting, the LA fitness conventions have their analogue: introverted engineering geek types who create the software and tech devices fitness people use, but don’t understand. IDEA was no exception. Most of the tech-related booths had a semi-shy programmer guy who looked like he’d jump out of his skin if one more fit female approached.

Arya Farzin was not one of those guys. Mr. Farzin is fit and friendly, and was eager to show me the app he and his partner Joseph Phillips created, The Fitness Games.  He explained to me that you can use the app to create challenges, including a running challenge where you complete in real time.  It is immediately available in the App Store and on Google Play. After a quick demo, I immediately downloaded the free version and started to play with it. After IDEA, I was lucky enough to be selected to receive the expanded premium version for free in exchange for this review.  (I already knew I’d like it, so I applied to review it as soon as I saw the announcement.)  You can start with the free version, and then select the upgrades that you find most worthwhile, from individual workouts to packages.  A few features make this app unique and definitely worth owning.

Pre-made workouts, with instruction. From the home screen, you can choose a workout category (strength, full body, cardiovascular, or cross training). Then you choose a workout (there appear to be hundreds, but I did not actually count, and the app tells me there are really sixteen workouts, but over 250 exercises).  Each workout has a list of moves, and each move is broken down into multiple photos and includes a video.  For example, the “squat jack” move includes a photo of both phases of the move (the standing phase and the squat phase), much like you would find it printed in a magazine, but there is also a brief video showing a few repetitions of the move.  If you are new to working out, or want to learn some new exercises, this app is a great resource. If you are intermediate or more experienced, you can skip the tutorials but rely on the app for a balanced workout with a variety of movements.

Challenges! After you select a workout, you can chose to challenge yourself (just do the workout) or turn it into a little competition between you and a friend (or other nearby users, or even a worldwide challenge!). Starting a workout begins the timer, and challenges are based on time.  If you are a competitive person by nature, the challenge option is for you! If you don’t have friends who are using the app, go get some!

Community.  Can’t talk any of your friends into joining The Fitness Games? (Seriously, the Platinum version is like $2–way less expensive than a personal trainer, single class, or fitness DVD!) Head over to the app’s Facebook page and make some new friends! To make and keep a habit, you need positive reinforcement. Creating a healthy lifestyle can be really difficult if no one in your immediate social circle supports you. (Need a friend? I’m TrainWithBain.) You can upload gym selfies and videos, and post comments on your workouts.

Workout creation option. Have a specific goal in mind? Want to work on a specific body part only? Create your own workout! Select exercises, put them in order, and you’re on the way to creating your own custom challenge. I’m sure the app’s creators didn’t intend this, but it is a great resource for group ex instructors. Recently I subbed a class at my club called “BodyWorx,” which is a full-body multi-modality workout. I used the app’s “Create Own Workout” option to organize the exercises and design my class.  (Sneaky, no?)

Flexibility. You can do the pre-set workouts in any gym. Many of the exercises are bodyweight or can be done with free weights, others require a pull-up bar. Remember you can modify any workout with the “Create Own Workout” option.

I’ve got a few dozen fitness, workout, and running apps on my iPhone. This is the only app that combines instruction with social media and a competition.

Ready to Play?? The Fitness Games website
Have you tried The Fitness Games? What is your favorite aspect?