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Paula Begoun is one of the OG beauty gods and I've been reading her websites for years. She infamously dragged those old school brands with their expensive perfume creams with very basic ingredients to filth before anyone was really talking about what was in our products. Even now I refer to her glossary a lot if I want to know what a skincare ingredient is meant to do, if it's effective, whether it's harmful and to find studies and research on them. It's unsurprising that Paula eventually launched her own skincare line and, well, the rest is history! Even looking at this range; when you read the ingredient list it actually tells you why each individual element is included in the formula and the purpose it serves. Paula's Choice recently arrived on Cult Beauty and they kindly sent me over some products to try. Given everything I just said; it's fair to say my expectations were high. Keep reading to hear my thoughts on the products I tried...
Let's start with the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant* | £28. Spoiler alert: I really like this stuff! BHAs are oil-soluble chemical exfoliators, meaning they can penetrate deeply into your pores to clear dead skin cells. This contains salicylic acid, which is amazing for spot-prone skin or even just for reducing the appearance of post-breakout scarring. I don't find this abrasive or irritating on my skin and the ingredients list is pretty minimal and of course fragrance-free, which means it's unlikely cause the majority of people any problems. If you know someone with oily skin who suffers from breakouts and they're scrubbing their skin off with Clean and Clear; please point them towards this! It has been amazing for dealing with my occasional hormonal breakouts, it's helped clarify my skin, my spots haven't been scarring as badly and my skin is just so much softer and smoother. I've been using this every other day for around the past two months.
Next, let's talk about the Hyaluronic Acid Booster* | £34. This is a serum or a mixer for your moisturiser formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and Vitamin B5. Hyaluronic acid is one of my essential skincare ingredients - it's a humectant so draws water from the atmosphere into your skin. A variety of molecule sizes is preferable so the hydration is evenly distributed throughout the layers of your skin. Like hyaluronic acid, ceramides naturally occur in the skin, however as we age we experience a depletion of these supplies. It's a lipid molecule that provides incredible hydration and helps keep the protective layer of your skin strong and healthy. It's usually found in opaque packaging to keep the formula stable. The other key ingredient here is Vitamin B5 (panthenol); an emollient that locks hydration into the skin. This booster comes out like a gel, it's fast-absorbing and non-tacky when used alone and won't massively alter the consistency of your moisturiser if you're using this as a mixer. I really liked the results I got from using this product; my skin looked and felt plump and hydrated with dehydration lines less visible and my overall complexion looking healthier. I really have nothing negative to say about it! I think the hyaluronic acid and ceramide combination really is brilliant as we head into the colder months.
On to the Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Moisturiser* | £55. This is pretty much a skincare cocktail! Not only does it contain five forms of the magical ceramides we just talked about but it's also formulated with four gentle, effective (but more expensive) forms of Vitamin C and 0.1% retinol. Vitamin C can have amazing skin evening and brightening properties, but it's very unstable (hence the opaque packaging to protect it from light degradation). At the very least; it's a nice antioxidant and promotes healthy skin. I don't often see Vitamin C and retinol combined, however this formulation does just that; I wouldn't recommend mixing different products containing these ingredients together, as they can be too harsh or cancel each other out to an extent, however in a product created for that purpose with the right balance; it's totally fine. I like the inclusion of a tiny amount of retinol in general; from the research I've done, you'll get the best results taking a 'little and often' approach to this ingredient. Retinol (Vitamin A) is another ingredient that needs cool and dark surroundings to preserve the integrity of the formula. It's one of the few proven anti-ageing ingredients out there that has amazing smoothing properties and can even help get rid of post-acne scarring and dark spots (however you can't use this if you're on accutane). The moisturiser as a whole has quite a fluid, almost lotion-like texture that I really like because it isn't rich or heavy once applied. Having said that, I still find this product deeply nourishing. It has an amazing smoothing and softening effect and I think my skin has been in fantastic condition since I started using this product. It looks healthy, it feels moisturised and plump, as well as smooth and clear. If you struggle with texture, dry skin or scarring / hyperpigmentation; this could be a game-changer.
Finally, let's talk about the Defence Hydrating Gel-to-Cream Cleanser* | £20. I have to say that this is my least-favourite product of the bunch because, although it does the job, I just don't love it and I wouldn't replace my oil-based cleansing balms or oils with this. It would be a good option for a first cleanse though if you don't like the feel of oils on your skin; it comes out like a normal gel cleanser but turns creamy once you add water. It works on waterproof black eye makeup too, it just takes a little more time and work. It doesn't sting my eyes or strip my skin, which is all good. It contains various amino acids, such as soothing oat, antioxidants like soybean, glycerin and lactic acid (an AHA exfoliator that's great for dry skin - I don't imagine there's a lot in here because this doesn't act like a very exfoliating cleanser for me, but it can help with overall smoothness. This is a milk-derived ingredient so be aware that it's not vegan.) I guess it just didn't wow me; I find it easier and more efficient to use an oil in my personal routine.
Have you tried anything from Paula's Choice?