I actually managed to get the Paula's Choice review post done earlier than expected. And fair warning. This one is long, so get comfortable.
Another disclaimer - this post is in no way sponsored by the makers of the products I’m about to share with you. Paid for each and every one of them myself.
And a bit about the woman behind the Paula’s Choice brand, Paula Begoun.
Paula has written several books about skincare and makeup. I own a couple of them and refer to them quite often. Her most recent book, The Best Skin of Your Life Begins Here: Busting Beauty Myths So You Know What To Use and Why, is loaded with information mostly about skincare and some of the special concerns we can have, as well as makeup secrets and a cosmetic ingredient dictionary, which I have found to be invaluable when evaluating skincare products.
Paula has designed her skincare lines based on her extensive knowledge and experience, both personal and professional, as well as her preference for quality ingredients that are beneficial to the skin and the best way to package those ingredients to maximize their effectiveness and longevity.
Her skincare line is so diverse, there is something for every possible situation from acne to aging skin. The products are formulated in such a way that they will work together even if mixed and matched between the various lines. For me, as we all know, in addition to aging skin, I have the redness and irritation of sensitive skin with rosacea symptoms. While I have never been officially diagnosed with rosacea, I recognize many of the indicators and prefer to treat my skin appropriately.
Also, Paula's Choice products are formulated to be non-irritating and fragrance free and they are never tested on animals. There's also a 100% money back guarantee so there's really nothing to lose.
For the last couple of weeks, right here is all I've been using. The only product missing from this picture is the cleanser.
My skin has improved so much in the last couple of weeks - smoother, softer and the redness, while not completely gone, has definitely diminished. I think it's the combination of good quality skincare products combined with a device that really works to deep clean and exfoliate and perhaps even firm up my skin. I have noticed that the skin of my neck is definitely much more firm and showing less of that crepey look that older skin can sometimes get.
To start the cleansing process, I use the silicone brush head on the sonic along with the Paula's Choice Calm Redness Relief Cleanser.
The Ulta Sonic Advanced Facial Cleansing System has the same high frequency sonic technology as that more well known, more expensive brand but at a much reduced price of $58. It has three speeds - normal, high and pulsating. It came with three different brush heads - a normal, a gentle and a silicone. I chose to use the silicone because it seems much easier on my skin and it's easier to clean, which I do using an anti-bacterial hand soap after each use. It shuts off after a minute but I usually go a second minute to make sure I've covered all areas, including my neck. My skin doesn't seem to mind the extra minute so why not?
The cleanser is a very low sudsing lotion formula of the kind that I prefer. I find high sudsing cleansers to be drying on my skin so the less suds, the better. This cleanser has ingredients that not only cleans but also help to reduce redness and rehydrate skin.
My next step is to apply an eye cream. I prefer to do this first so that anything else I put on my face doesn't accidentally migrate onto the more sensitive and delicate skin around my eyes. There is only one product available at Paula's Choice that is labeled as an eye cream. The idea is that what is used as moisturizer for the face is also suitable for the eye area. However, because many of us have been convinced by the beauty industry that we must have something special for that part of our face, she created this eye cream.
The cream is very thick and rich, a little bit goes a long way. But first it needs some manipulation to soften up. I put a small bead on the tip of one ring finger then use both to warm the product then apply using a patting motion. Because it's so thick, it stays right where you put it and doesn't even try to migrate into the eyes. It hydrates like no nobody's business .
Once the eye cream is in place, it's time for toner. My skin still doesn't feel all that tight by this time but if it did, this toner definitely soothes that problem on contact.
Unlike watery toners, the consistency here is more like a thin lotion. Instead of squeezing the bottle, I shake several drops onto a cotton pad then dab it over the more red areas before smoothing the remaining toner over the rest of my face. A few drops really is all that is needed. This stuff soothes and begins the hydration process.
The first two ingredients here is water and glycerin. I also contains anti-inflammatory as well as skin conditioning ingredients. If my skin wasn't so very dry, this might be all I'd need. But as it is...
The next step in the process is to apply an exfoliant. I normally prefer some kind of scrub for this but I'm open to other options. This particular exfoliant is definitely not the rinse off kind.
Don’t let the fact that this is chemical rather than manual concern you. With only 1% BHA (salicylic acid) as well as ingredients to calm, repair and sooth, this product is perfectly safe for everyone except persons with an allergy to aspirin - which I am not, thankfully.
There is no sting with this product. At least, none that I've noticed. Paula's Choice offers several products with a higher percentage of BHA as well as products with AHA (glycolic acid). Percentages range from 1% all the way up to a weekly 10% AHA resurfacing treatment.
And while we're talking about treatments, I have also gotten samples of three of the booster products Paula's choice offers. One of which is a vitamin C booster that I add to the BHA to help boost it's performance.
This serum contains a 15% vitamin C ingredient meant to fade brown spots, firm and brighten the complexion. I add 2-3 drops of this booster to the BHA lotion to give it a little more punch, both morning and night.
Vitamin C is also supposed to help boost the production of collagen, which tends to slack off in aging skin. That would be great but I'm just happy with the fact that it helps to heal and even out skin tone.
With exfoliation out of the way, time for a serum.
Serums are extra intensive products applied before moisturizing that deliver a concentrated treatment to the skin. This particular one is chock full of anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant ingredients as well as those that help to repair and reinforce the skin's protective barrier. Starting to notice a trend? And the trend doesn't stop here.
The final step in this process is to apply moisturizer and here is where day and night really differs.
For day, there is a moisturizing sunscreen with an SPF of 30.
This is a broad spectrum mineral moisturizer versus the chemical variety. Much more skin friendly with one exception - for me, mineral sunscreens tend to be a bit drying. This one also leaves a bit of a white-ish cast on the skin. Not to worry. Foundation helps with that. Right now, I need something extra to help offset that little bit of dryness. Enter a moisturizer from one of those discontinued lines.
Because this is basically the same as the non-SPF moisturizer in the calm line, I'll use it for as long as it lasts then just use the moisturizer out of the line.
Speaking of night and that other moisturizer...
It's pretty awesome all by itself. It has all those lovely anti-redness, skin repairing ingredients but because I need just that little bit extra moisture right now, I also got this amazing product.
I cannot even begin to express how much this single product has changed my life.
Ok. That's a bit dramatic but seriously, this stuff is amazing. I know it's classified as a mask but it's more like a super rich cream moisturizer that makes my skin feel immediately hydrated the moment it goes on.
Initially, I tried using it underneath the non-SPF moisturizer but experienced an odd pilling of one or both products. It didn't seem to reduce the hydrating effects but was a bit annoying. So, I started using this as the last step and instead of smoothing it on, I'll pat and press it into my skin. Works much, much better. I even use this as a bedtime hand cream. A little bit goes a long way and with such a large tube, it's pretty economical. This is one I hope Paula's Choice continues to make.
There are two more boosters that come into play. These can be added to the non-SPF moisturizer to enhance its effectiveness.
The Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster contains 9 non-fragrant, anti-oxidant rich plant oils that help to hydrate and repair skin while reducing redness and repairing the skin's natural moisture barrier. As with the vitamin C booster, just 2 or 3 drops is enough to make any normal moisturizer that much more effective. I'm thinking I can also add a few drops to any foundation to make it go on smoother and also be more hydrating. I've yet to give that a try, though.
The third booster contains hyaluronic acid.
This one helps to visibly plump up the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It's also very hydrating and helps to prevent moisture loss and preserve that all important moisture barrier. It has more of a gel-like consistency, which makes it a little hard to get into and out of the dropper but so worth the effort.
I should probably tell you that I got the boosters in the trial sizes. The full size is .67 ounces while the trial sizes are .12 ounces.
Amazing results aside, notice anything about how all of these products are packaged? Not a jar in the bunch. You won't find jars of anything with the name Paula's Choice. Jars let in air and light that can diminish the effectiveness of air and light sensitive ingredients. Basically, from the moment you open that jar, the product inside begins to quickly deteriorate so that you lose all of the benefits for which you've paid good money. And if the container is clear or not opaque enough that light does get in? Same result.
With the exception of the three boosters, every single product Paula's choice makes is packaged in an opaque container that limits the amount of light and air the product receives. This, for me, was the deciding factor in giving this brand a try. If I'm going to shell out serious money for serious skin care, the results need to last until the last drop.
Speaking of serious money. Wondering how Paula's Choice compares price-wise to something you'd find in the drugstore or fancy department store? I'd say it's about mid-range - a little more than drugstore and lot less than fancy department store. Also, all of the collections are available in kits, which makes start-up a lot cheaper than buying each product separately.
I paid $129 for the Calm collection, which is normally $151. I'm assuming the reduction in cost is because this is a new line but even separately, the basic products in the Calm line range from $17 for the cleanser to $32 for the repairing serum. In fact, the most expensive, single product in any of the collections that I could find goes for $55.
In addition to what they call advanced kits, which contain most if not all products in a particular line, they offer essential kits for some of the lines as well as trial kits. There are also trial sizes that can be purchased on the cheap without that massive first investment. Even if you do fork over the cash and don't like what you've bought, that 100% money back guarantee kicks in and they'll help you find something you will like. Win-win for everybody.
As for the additional products I got - the full size of the boosters go from $35 for the oil to $48 for the C15. The hyaluronic acid is $45. I found the samples on sale, each for less than $10. Their normal prices, from $15 (the oil) to $20 (the C15), make the full-size cost sound almost economical.
The mask is $21. The Moisture Boost Hydrating Treatment Cream was on sale for $23.80, normally $28, but this line is being discontinued so that's probably behind the reduction in price. The eye cream is $32 but considering how little I use, that tube will last quite a while. When it does run out, I think I'll try using just the moisturizer to see how well that works.
If you would like to know more about Paula's Choice skin care, you can visit the site by clicking this link. Here you'll find tons of information about skin care as well as a community page with access to the Research Team for questions, archives of some of Paula's radio shows, the YouTube channel and lot more.
You might also be interested in the Beautypedia Reviews page where they post reviews of other brands in both skin care and makeup. I found some very interesting information there on some of the brands I've used in the past.
Whew! I know that was a lot of information and if you've stuck with me this long, you deserve a cookie.
In all seriousness, I hope you found this review helpful. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.