The day that my fifth-grade self became ashamed of the red bumpy clusters across my chin would change my life forever. You might be thinking that sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true. I’ve been on a journey to get clear skin since I was in middle school and now, at 24, I’m nearly acne-free. Although — trust me — I’m celebrating that victory, my next task has been to treat the texture and scarring the breakouts left behind. Enter: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Exfoliating Liquid.
There’s a chance you’ve heard of this skincare savior before — it’s a renowned cult favorite for beauty editors and skincare enthusiasts far and wide. If you’re just now being introduced to the brand’s BHA liquid, it’s essentially a clear liquid exfoliant containing two percent salicylic acid (the beta hydroxy acid or BHA), which unclogs pores, smooths wrinkles, and brightens skin tone. It’s the skincare market’s triple threat ingredient with a gentle-enough-for-daily-use cherry on top.
To buy: $36 ($59 value); nordstrom.com
After reading a bunch of reviews (64 percent of Amazon reviewers give it a perfect five stars), I was convinced that I needed to give it a shot. Plus, I was willing to try anything to eliminate the tiny, congested, closed comedones that revealed themselves when my acne faded away. Sure, they weren’t red and painful, but they still kept me from achieving smooth skin on my chin and forehead. And they were (are) so stubborn — no aggressive detox mask, scrub, or strip could make them budge.
The Paula’s Choice product showed me that I was just reaching for the wrong product the entire time. This mild and unassuming water-like substance was the one to remove the sword from my stone. After two weeks of use, I noticed a difference in my skin’s texture. Now, I’m over halfway through the bottle and those little bumps have smoothed over, my pores are visibly clearer, and I have an overall glow that I didn’t have before. And, during Nordstrom’s 2019 Anniversary Sale, you can pick up two bottles of the BHA gem for only a little more than the price one bottle normally goes for.
While the product can be used like a toner on a cotton pad over the skin after cleansing, I simply pour some in my hand and pat it onto my face like an essence to prevent waste. In the first few uses, the liquid left a slight sting-tingle, but that just meant it was working. The feeling went away after a while, and it never left my skin feeling dry or over-sensitive.
Sometimes, these cult-favorite skincare products are over-hyped, but Paula’s BHA exfoliating liquid isn’t one of them. It’s definitely not leaving my nightly regimen any time soon.