Paula's Choice Products, Skin Balancing Toner, BHA Regular Strength, Calm REdness Moisturizer, Azelaic Acid, Skin Balancing Serum

Right before the summer I went and ordered a bunch of sample packs from Paula’s Choice. I’ve heard of the brand before, but it was just recently I felt like everyone was either talking about or recommending the brand to me. My interest got sparked even more when Paula’s Choice Expert Advice site always came up when I did ingredient searches. I started to binge their information and now I know their Beautypedia like the back of my hand!


While I don’t agree with the information 100% percent, it did open my eyes to understand why natural products hasn’t always agreed with me, even more so than conventional products when I think about it. While many people can get away with their essential oil abuse (they are practically in every natural product), I’ve experienced first hand in developing irritation from my usage. They are still perfume. But the thought of the research pointing essential oils to be aging is enough for me to start avoiding them in my skincare!

I’ve been deeming silicons as pore clogging for a long time now, but only because everyone else was saying so. I have recently been converted back after using silicon-products for the past 3 months without a pore clogged. Not from the products at least. So whatever was causing pimples for me in the past from a product can’t have been the silicons, but may have just been some active ingredient or perfume.
Eventually I have learned that anything can be pore clogging, that’s why it’s so important to wash your face! Surely, and hopefully, everyone does that at the end of their day?
For example, I’ve realized that it’s not that sunscreens doesn’t agree with my skin per say, it’s that they are difficult to remove. (both mineral and chemical) And with daily usage they are bound to build up and start breaking me out. I’ve started to double cleanse with micellar water, and seen huge improvement on the number of blemishes I get from clogged pores!

You may or may not agree with Paula’s advice on sensitive skin and the way her team rate products, but I’ve been following the guidelines and seen quite an improvement in my complexion. It’s the best I’ve ever seen it in since Accutane and my teens. However, note that no product can hinder the cause of hormonal imbalance, but by using the right products you can be sure to not aggravate it more at least.

With that said, not all of Paula’s Choice products agreed with my skin. Like, I really wanted and thought the Resist-line for oily skin would work wonders for me but something felt just way off with it. Too many actives my skin can’t handle right now? All I know is that some seem to love that line though. I won’t go through every product I’ve tried, what’s important is the products I ended up purchasing!

I was hoping to find a moisturizer, but it was really hard to find one for just plain ol’ normal skin. They were either too dry or too moisturizing, or just didn’t feel good at all on my skin. I’ve talked with others who had a similar experience. Many products has also had to been ignored because they contain animal-derived ingredients. In short, there aren’t really many vegan moisturizers from Paula’s Choice (some include: whey protein, tallow, lactose, lanolin) and only half of the products containing cholesterol are of plant source. But at least Paula’s Choice products are cruelty-free. However, do note that the EU-version of Paula’s products may differ! Some US-products that contain animal derivatives, does not in the EU-formula.

OBS! I’ll be reviewing the EU-version of Paula’s Choice products. The ingredient list may vary a bit from product to product. For eg. both the Skin Balancing and Recovery serum contains Astaxanthin in the EU-version, but in the US-version only the Skin Balancing antioxidant serum contains it. Sorry that was untrue, but certain items do differ from each continental version.

Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Toner Pore Reducing Toner

Paula’s Choice | Skin Balancing Toner Pore Reducing Toner

I still don’t know if a toner is really necessary, but they seem to carry a bunch of good skin ingredients. To test out further if a toner really can make a difference I had to take the plunge and buy a full size. It was hard spotting a difference or even a need with those small sample packages.

In many ways any toner would’ve worked, I mainly went for the Skin Balancing Toner because it contained niacinamide; An ingredient that’s been pretty hyped recently in the community and that I wanted to experiment further with. And from the information I was given from Paula’s Choice, the cholesterol used in this particular product is NOT from lanolin; and in contrast to the US-formulation, does NOT contain sodium chondroitin sulfate. I’m trusting them that this information is correct. But at the same time they’ve forgotten to include on their page that Calm Redness Relief moisturizer for dry skin contains whey protein :/

I’ve been using it for the past 2-3 months and can’t say that I notice any huge difference. I don’t have large or many visible pores, and if there’s something that’s managed to make them even smaller it feels like it’s the BHA. My boyfriend however has the large pore-syndrome most men have, so maybe I can perused him to use it for a week?… It doesn’t either feel like the niacinamide (or this toner in general) has any effect on my hormonal breakouts, but because it’s supposed to “communicate with the skin” to build collagen, I keep using it in belief that it will help my skin leave less scars behind when a pimple decides to burst.

The Skin Balancing Toner is Paula’s own moisturizer. According to her this is the only moisturizer she uses on her face under an SPF or when she goes to bed. If you got oily skin, the idea is just brilliant, as these alcohol-free toners carry practically the same ingredients as most well-formulated moisturizers.
For me personally, it’s not enough and leaves my skin feeling a bit sticky and not really smooth. But when the humidity level has been at its worse, this toner has almost worked okay on it’s own. But I would perhaps like the Skin Recovery Toner more for this purpose.

I’ve only been using it in the morning because in the evening I use the BHA, and for some reason it hasn’t worked as well as when I leave it out. I feel like my skin doesn’t like it when I layer too much, and so in the evening the BHA acts as my only toner.

Overall, you get quite much for your money, I still got about half left. However the packaging isn’t my favorite choice as it may leek a bit when traveling. I’d prefer a snap-cap of some sort. I’m still unsure if I’ll repurchase this one, or if I’m going to try something else like the Skin Recovery Toner, Earth Sourced Toner or the Calm Redness Relief Toner for normal to oily skin next time.


Note that the US version contains: Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate. Which is derived from sharks. Though they say non-endangered species of sharks, it’s still an animal and over fishing is a huge problem and should be left out from our selfish beauty routine. If they can formulate one without, why use it at all?!

Paula's Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturizer - Normal to Oily Skin

Paula’s Choice | Calm Redness Relief Moisturizer – Normal to Oily Skin

I said that I was having difficulty finding a moisturizer from Paula’s Choice, and still here I am using one. I bought this one without even trying a sample, so I was a bit nervous. But for me this was the best of the bunch, but it’s not completely perfect. It is silicon based and very much alike the Skin Balancing Moisturizer in its consistency and formula. But this one is niacinamide-free (which some people apparently react negatively too?). The Skin Balancing Moisturizer felt too dry for me, and everyone was saying in the reviews that this one was much more hydrating lotion-like.

It took me a while to adjust to the feeling of a silicon-based moisturizer. And while it says normal to oily skin, it’s generally only for oily skin. In many ways, I felt like this was exactly like the Skin Balancing Moisturizer. With continued use of using it alone, my skin got awfully dry. But I found a way to make it work for me – a little trick and idea I got from Paula – by blending it with a small pump of Jojoba Oil. That way my skin gets to be just normal and plump the way I want it to be.

Otherwise this moisturizer is a bit hard to blend into the skin as it sinks in very fast – you kind of end up taking more than you need. With some oil I just need a small dollop to cover my whole face and neck. Alone, this moisturizer makes my skin quite matte and gloomy looking. However, after a few hours and depending on the humidity levels of the season, some sebum will come through and making my skin feel normal. But I felt like it was just confusing my skin. Because like I said, it would eventually become drier and drier. So with the added oil this moisturizer becomes just perfect. And at night I add a few drops of Rosehip oil or Sasha Inchi oil. I will be moving to Argan oil during winter.

I would go and buy the Calm Redness Relief moisturizer for Normal to Dry skin if it didn’t contain whey protein, it also contains animal-derived cholesterol. Many of the heavier moisturizers are just not vegan. So this is basically my solution to making it stay vegan. However, I still think the Normal to Dry skin moisturizer would be better suited for me as I’ve heard that it hasn’t really been enough for people with dry skin which = perfect for normal skin. But would it really be too much to ask for Paula to just make a vegan moisturizer for normal skin?

Does it live up to its name and claim?

Compared to Estelle & Thild BioCalm moisturizer I feel like this one does a better job at calming my skin, mostly because it just lets my skin be skin. I don’t suffer from rosacea or hyper sensitive skin; my aim with this moisturizer is to add calming ingredient that won’t inflame my skin more when I have a hormonal break out. When my skin isn’t in an angry period, this moisturizer helps even out my skin from the redness that occurred.

Paula’s Choice Calm moisturizer for normal to oily skin is more of a gel and feather like, with gentle ingredients and it goes on like a serum or primer. Blended with some foundation it gives a flawless finish.
My only reason for weaning off from using only oils is because I want to add more antioxidants to my skin. I could absolutely just go with an antioxidant rich toner or serum to be under my oils, but I’ve kind of grown to like this moisturizer and its ingredients quite a lot.

Besides that I need to add jojoba oil to make it work for me, my second hiccup is that I seem to be close to the end of my tube only after using it twice daily for 2-3 months. I had hoped it to last about 4-6 months, but maybe I’m asking for too much?

It’s consistency makes me a bit worried of how it will work with my skin during winter. I’m leaning towards repurchasing another tube; as overall I’m very pleased with this product and the way I’ve been able to make it work for me. But it is in the price range where I really don’t feel like spending extra money on a complimentary moisturizer just because this one can’t hydrate enough. I’m all for having different moisturizers for different seasons and humidity levels, but I haven’t found my dry skin moisturizer just yet. If only the moisturizer for dry skin was vegan… Then I would just switch between these two. We’ll see what I’ll do…

EDIT: Since this review I went and repurchased the Calm Redness Moisturizer for Oily skin, and keep mixing it with Jojoba oil.

Products Mentioned

[show_shopthepost_widget id=”2054563″]

Where To Buy

USA & Canada | International (Free Worldwide Delivery) | Amazon


Because of massive word count, I had to divide this review into two parts.
Read part II: Paula’s Choice Products Review: Treatments

And as always, share your thoughts in the comments below!