Skin Perfecting 2% BHA (Salicylic Acid) Gel

What It Does:
  • Removes old skin cells on the skin’s surface & inside the pore
  • Unclogs & Shrinks Enlarged Pores
  • Reshapes Pore Lining
  • Softens the appearance of wrinkles
  • Improve Skin Cell Turnover Rate
  • Smooths Wrinkles & Skin Surface
  • Increases Collagen Production

Who This Product Is For

All skin types may use this product, but the texture is especially suited for those with normal to oily or combination skin, stubborn blackheads, and blemish-prone skin. It can also be used regularly to eliminate calluses on feet, elbows and knees. This exfoliant has a pH range of 3.2–3.8 and is formulated with additional soothing agents.

How It Compares
  • SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant is a leave-on, water-light, hydrating formula that gently and naturally exfoliates dead skin, just like your skin did when you were younger.
  • Good choice for stubborn clogged pores or blackheads.
  • Additionally, BHA has antibacterial properties that attack blemish-causing bacteria. That makes it a good complement to any benzoyl-peroxide based acne treatment.
  • 2% is commonly the right strength, unless you have sensitive skin.
  • Our Pore Refining Treatment 2% BHA is formulated with a richer blend of antioxidants, but has a lower volume at a higher price point.
  • 1% Calm BHA Exfoliant offers nearly similar benefits for a more sensitive friendly dose.
  • The 2% BHA Gel absorbs faster than the 2% BHA Lotion, but slower than the liquid, as it was made to be ideal for very oily skin.
  • 4% BHA Exfoliant offers a stronger dose in a foaming liquid texture.
  • The Skin Perfecting Range offers a Liquid (Normal to Combination skin) or Lotion (Dry Skin) variant.
  • RESIST Pore Refining 2% BHA is a liquid, which is slightly runnier.
  • The RESIST Pore Refining 2% BHA is formulated with a richer blend of antioxidants

Key Ingredients

  • Function
    Skin Types
    Normal to Combination / Very Oily
    Skincare Routine
    After Toner, Before Serum
    Allergy Information
  • Water, Methylpropanediol, Butylene Glycol, (hydration), Polysorbate 20 (texture-enhancing), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Phytosphingosine (skin-renewing), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Vitis Vinifera Seed Extract (grape extract/antioxidant), Camellia Sinensis Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (green tea/antioxidant) Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (willow herb/skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Sodium Hydroxide (pH-adjusting), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizer)


    Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology, September 2016, issue 9, pages 1480-1490 Archives of Dermatology, August 2000, issue 8, pages 989-94 General Physiology and Biophysics, September 2013, issue 3, pages 347-59 Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2015, volume 8, pages 455-461 Cosmetics, 2015, issue 3, pages 259-276

  • Apply once or twice daily after cleansing and toning. Apply a dime-sized amount over the entire face, including the eyes (avoid the lower lash line and eyelids). Do not rinse. For daytime, follow with a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 25 or greater. Detailed instructions on how/when to apply your Paula's Choice products can be found in our How to Put Together Your Own Skincare Routine article
  • What's the difference between AHA and BHA Exfoliants? Do I need both?

    When properly formulated, both AHAs and BHA are brilliant options for exfoliating the surface of skin. Both AHA and BHA work to reduce wrinkles, stimulate collagen, and firm skin but each has its special qualities you'll want to consider when deciding which one to use: AHAs are preferred for sun-damaged and dry skin because they exfoliate on the surface of skin and have the added benefit of also improving moisture content. BHA is preferred for oily, acne-prone skin and for treating blackheads and white bumps because BHA can get through the oil that's clogging your pores, normalizing the lining of the misshapen pore that contributes to acne. BHA has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial action. Those are two more reasons to use a BHA exfoliant if you have acne or sensitive, reddened skin. BHA is preferred for those struggling with rosacea. Not everyone with rosacea can tolerate an exfoliant, but it is wise to experiment with a BHA product to see how your rosacea responds. If your skin is sun-damaged and you're also struggling with acne or clogged pores, add a BHA product to your routine. If you'd like to use an AHA and BHA at the same time, that is an option, though not really necessary. Some people find they work well when they're applied at the same time, but if you want to give this a try it is best to apply them separately, one during the day and one in the evening.

    How do I use an AHA or BHA exfoliant?

    You can apply an AHA or BHA product once or twice a day. You can also apply either of these around the eye area but not on the eyelid or directly under the eye. Apply the AHA or BHA product after your face is cleansed and after your toner has dried. Once the AHA or BHA has been absorbed, you can apply any other product in your routine, such as moisturizer, serum, eye cream, sunscreen, and/or foundation. If you're using a topical prescription product such as Renova, other retinoids, or any of the topical prescription products for rosacea, apply the BHA or AHA first.

    Your AHA (glycolic acid) products have a higher percentage than your BHA (salicylic acid) products. Does this mean AHA is a stronger exfoliant?

    AHA products are most effective at a 5% to 10% concentration and BHA at 1% to 2% concentration. Think about it like making bread, the amount of yeast you need is tiny in comparison to the amount of flour you use but equally important to get the results you want. The percentage of effectiveness varies depending on the ingredient. Rest assured that the BHA products are not any less effective due to lower concentrations of the exfoliant.

    How does Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant compare to the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant?

    The main difference lies with each product's texture. The 2% BHA Liquid has a toner-like consistency. The 2% BHA Gel features a water-light base. Both products are also appropriate for all skin types.

    I currently use Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion Exfoliant. Should I switch to the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant? Is it all right to use both?

    It is entirely a matter of personal preference. It is completely acceptable to use more than one of our 2% BHA products, though use only one at a time. A typical regimen would be to apply the 2% BHA Gel in the morning under makeup and the 2% BHA Lotion in the evening.

    I have tried Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion Exfoliant and Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant and did not care for the texture. Will the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant work for me?

    Quite possibly, yes. It's worth trying because your skin may prefer the feel of a gel to a lotion or the slip of the liquid.

    At what point after my laser and/or peel procedure can I begin using my BHA exfoliant again?

    First, we urge you to follow the post-procedure instructions your doctor or nurse provided. If nothing was mentioned about when to resume use of a BHA exfoliant, please contact the doctor's office where you had the procedure done. Otherwise, our general advice is to begin using your BHA again as soon as possible. Or, if your skin seems extra-sensitive, you may want to wait and apply the BHA exfoliant a few days post-procedure. Salicylic acid is an excellent anti-inflammatory ingredient that can enhance skin's natural healing process as it works to reduce post-procedure redness.

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