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!
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: http://goo.gl/zxAip4 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20883290
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.” http://www.kaviskin.com/info/salicylicacid.html; 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. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1399-3054.1960.tb08103.x/abstract
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