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Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Gel Exfoliant

Breakouts, you’re not welcome here anymore. This water-based BHA gel absorbs quickly into skin, unclogging and shrinking pores, dissolving blackheads.
Item #: 202
  • Acne Breakouts, Anti-Aging, Blackheads, Enlarged Pores, Extra Sensitive Skin, Redness, Rosacea, Wrinkles
  • Combination, Oily Skin
  • Reduces redness, evens out skin tone

Please Note: Do not use if you are allergic to aspirin or its derivatives.

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Customer Ratings:

82 out of 100
(Based on 93 Reviews)
« Prev Page of 4 Next »
  1. Barbara
    Reviewed on Thursday, June 16, 2011
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Finally Uncongested
    • Exfoliating 1% BHA Gel is the first product to actually loosen and empty the clogged pores I've battled my whole life. It's utterly amazing to use it before bed and then, when I'm doing my A.M. skin care regime, WOW! The clogs (blackheads)are actually loose and bits of them are hanging out! Makes them easier to remove and remain clear.Thanks, Paula.

  2. Siobhan
    Reviewed on Sunday, June 05, 2011
    60 out of 100
    • Rating
      Neutral / 4
    tacky
    • I got the gel as part of the skin balancing pack and I found it gentle and effective. However I found the texture of the product tacky, and I had to wait a little while after applying my toner before using this gel as otherwise the gel would slightly lather/foam. I did not find this effective with my mild blackheads and have had greater success with the 2% liquid.

  3. Andrea B.
    Reviewed on Tuesday, May 17, 2011
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Problem Eliminated
    • My nose and surrounding area has large pores that fill up daily. I am constantly fighting blackheads even at 45 and with a dermatologist's help. Within 3 days, no exaggerating, this product has almost completely eliminated this problem that has plagued me for years. I just put in my order for the entire sensitive line (Skin Balancing System) and can't wait to see if I love all the products as much as this one.

  4. Kimberley
    Reviewed on Wednesday, April 27, 2011
    60 out of 100
    • Rating
      Neutral / 4
    Good and Bad
    • Used on its own this product is wonderful. It really does make your pores look smaller and even out skin tone dramatically. However, trying to blend a moisturizer or foundation over top of it is impossible. The product starts to ball up and clump and just made me want to wash it off so I just use it before I go to bed.

  5. Steph
    Reviewed on Thursday, February 17, 2011
    20 out of 100
    • Rating
      Worst / 4
    One of the unlucky...
    • After almost 3 months of use, I figured out that unfortunately, I'm one of the unlucky rosacea sufferers that can't use this product. It did not improve my skin, in fact I think it made it worse. I developed dryness in places I never had it before and I also developed several itchy, small red bumps on all areas of my face. I'm not allergic to aspirin so I don't know why this happened. I'm happy it's helping others though cause having this awful skin condition really sucks.:( Customer Care Response: We are sorry to hear that this product didn't work out for you Steph. Please contact Customer Service if you would like help selecting an alternate product.

  6. Christina
    Reviewed on Wednesday, December 15, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Great product
    • I am 24, and have always had skin problems. Normally it is under control but I flared up again 6 months ago with cystic acne on my chin. I also have problems with flakiness. However I started using this product 5 weeks ago and my skin is great. I have gotten a few blemishes, but they have all been small and have gone away quickly. No more cysts on my chin! This formula does not dry my skin up, and the gel is non-greasy and dries within a minute. I use it with Paula's Skin balancing toner, Skin balancing moisturizer, and Extra Strength acne cream, and am very pleased.

  7. Sarah
    Reviewed on Monday, November 29, 2010
    60 out of 100
    • Rating
      Neutral / 4
    Just okay
    • I used this after trying the 2% and getting irritation from it. While this was very gentle on my skin I didn't see any improvement in my mild acne from it. For those looking for tighter pores it may be great for you. Overall, Paula's Choice is the best BHA and AHA lines I've ever used in terms of irritation so I would still recommend them to others.

  8. Nina
    Reviewed on Thursday, October 28, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    LOVE IT!!!
    • Absolutely LOVE this product. I use it at night for about a week and my skin is smoother and blackheads reduced. The only issue is I will not wear this item during the day because its slightly 'tacky' texture makes my foundation not blend as well as it should. But using it at night solves this problem. I LOVE IT!!!

  9. Allison
    Reviewed on Tuesday, August 31, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Thanks
    • I'm 24, and I purchased this product a few weeks ago. I already see marked improvements in my skin's texture. I have been able to skip my tented moisturizer, in favor of a simple under-eye concealer. This is a big deal for me, because my skin is very sensitive--downright snobby! I think that products I had tried previously were perhaps too strong or too harsh. Thank you for keeping it simple. Though I am on a tight budget, I will continue to buy this product.

  10. Esther
    Reviewed on Saturday, July 31, 2010
    40 out of 100
    • Rating
      Poor / 4
    Does not work for me
    • After using this product twice a day, I see no improvement in the blackheads on my nose. Only bigger pores.Customer Care Response: We are sorry to hear that you are unhappy with this item. Please contact our Customer Service Team for further assistance.

  11. Kaline
    Reviewed on Tuesday, June 15, 2010
    60 out of 100
    • Rating
      Neutral / 4
    So so
    • I've given this product 2 weeks, and so far I can only say it's so so. I actually got a lot more blackheads and even a zit since using this product. I can't tell if this is some sort of initial phase you have to go through before getting to the greener pastures. From the reviews I've read so far it looks like I'm the only one who got worse with this product instead of better. I'll give it a month and see if any clearing occurs. The nice thing is that it doesn't irritate my super sensitive skin. This is pretty much the only exfoliant I can tolerate.Customer Service Response: Thank you for your review! Please contact Customer Service to discuss ways to optiminze the effectiveness of the 1% BHA Gel in your skin care routine.

  12. Erica
    Reviewed on Wednesday, April 21, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Great!
    • My skin is getting better and better! I have been using this twice a day for about a week, and I can see that my blackheads are beginning to disappear and my skin is so soft and smooth!

  13. robyne
    Reviewed on Tuesday, March 02, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    1% BHA gel
    • For 2 months i have been afflicted with a dermatitis on my face that itched and even hydrocortisone would not heal. I had dry rough patches on the right side of my face. After 1 application of the 1% bha gel my face itched pretty badly and i almost washed it off, but in the am my face has not itched at all and there for the first time ni months feels soft and I can see signs of healing after only 2 applications. Great product!

  14. chloe
    Reviewed on Sunday, February 21, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    yeah!
    • when I first tried this i didnt really like it because of the smell and the texture. But when I came home from a vacation loaded with acne, i decided to try it. In two days...my skin has never...i repeat never been clearer. FINALLY!

  15. Margaret
    Reviewed on Tuesday, February 02, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Works, but takes getting used to
    • When I first started using this my skin burned a little. But then that went away. But I have to use this every day---if I stop using it the stinging will return. It makes my sensitive skin look flawless, all of Paula's Choice skin-care products have been wonderful!

  16. Dinah
    Reviewed on Thursday, January 21, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Leaves my skin smooth
    • I love how smooth my skin is after using this product. It helps maintain my skin clear of breakouts. My tip for it not balling up is to allow it to completely dry on its own. Don't keep rubbing it in after it starts to dry and your moisturizer and makeup just glides on perfectly.

  17. CNo64
    Reviewed on Tuesday, January 19, 2010
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Can't Live Without It!
    • I've been using this product for years now, and it is an absolute staple for me.I apply it nightly to my extremely oily, breakout-prone 45-year-old face, and it really helps to smooth and decongest my oily skin, without the slightest hint of irritation or dryness.I regularly have people guess me to be 10 years younger than I am, and my friends make wistful remarks about my creamy skin.Some of it is genetic, I'm positive, but this product certainly helps!I'll keep buying it as long as it's on the market.

  18. C.G.
    Reviewed on Thursday, December 17, 2009
    40 out of 100
    • Rating
      Poor / 4
    Disappointed
    • The consistency of this product makes it ball up after I apply it and impossible for me to wear it during the day.Customer Care Response: We are sorry to hear of your experience with this product. Please contact Customer Service via email, Live Chat, or phone for return assistance.

  19. Hannah
    Reviewed on Thursday, December 03, 2009
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    WONDERFUL!!!!!
    • I thought this was the best. The first time I tryed it I didn't believe how wonderful my face felt and how small the pore on my nose were. Thank you Paula!

  20. Denise H.
    Reviewed on Monday, November 23, 2009
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    love this product
    • At first when I tried this it was sticky, but you have to give it time to absorb and I had no problem putting my moisturizer. After only 2 weeks of using it at night I notice how smooth my skin was. I'm hooked on this product. Will try the 2% one next order.

  21. Shelby
    Reviewed on Tuesday, November 17, 2009
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Best Product Hands Down
    • I have been using the Exfoliating 1% BHA Gel for half a year now. I am a 19 year old female with persistent acne due to good ole hormones but, this gel has at least removed every blackhead on my face, particularly my nose. It's wonderful!

  22. Lori
    Reviewed on Wednesday, October 14, 2009
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Can't stop touching my newly smooth skin!
    • Thank you Paula! Not even through a sample packet, and already noticing great change in texture, and without a doubt smaller pores. Completely amazing product!

  23. Cristina
    Reviewed on Tuesday, October 13, 2009
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    wow!
    • Tried this once with the skin balancing system. No improvement. Stopped, now trying it again along with presciption Retin-A. One day I look in the mirror and my blackheads are GONE. I am amazed and happy.

  24. Diane
    Reviewed on Friday, October 02, 2009
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Excellent product
    • I have used Clinique products for over 20 years, including their exfoliating toners. Tried the 1% BHA Gel 6 weeks ago - the difference was immediate. My pores are much smaller, blackheads on my nose hardly noticeable any more.

  25. Erika
    Reviewed on Wednesday, September 23, 2009
    100 out of 100
    • Rating
      Best / 4
    Keeps rosacea bumps at bay
    • This stuff is great for my 40+ rosacea skin. I keeps my rosacea papules under control while calming redness and smoothing the flaky skin my rosacea also causes. I only use a small amount to do the job and the gel formula is the best for me (the liquid and lotion did not work as well). Thank you Paula for this winner :)

« Prev Page of 4 Next »

What makes this product unique?
Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Gel Exfoliant exfoliates both the skin's surface and inside the pore, reshaping the pore lining to unclog pores and improving skin cell turnover rate. This creates a dramatic improvement in the skin's appearance, feel, and function and overall leads to healthier skin. There is a great deal of research indicating that BHA (beta hydroxy acid) increases collagen production and drastically smooths the surface of skin. Additionally, BHA has antibacterial properties that attack blemish-causing bacteria. The silky gel consistency is a great option for oily to very oily skin and also provides light hydration.

This product is 100% fragrance and colorant-free with a pH range of 3.2-3.8 for superior exfoliating properties. Every Paula's Choice BHA product is formulated with additional soothing agents.

Who is this product for?
1% BHA Gel works well on all skin types, but the texture is especially suited for those with normal to very oily skin.

NOTE: Those allergic to aspirin (acetylsalicylate) should not use products containing salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid).

Sources to support the claims made for SKIN PERFECTING 1% BHA Gel EXFOLIANT

International Immunopharmacology, August 2009, pages 1,126–1,130; Chemical Research in Toxicology, January 2008, pages 53–69; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2007, pages 124-135; The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, February 2006, pages 416–421;Journal of Cosmetic Science, November-December 2004, pages 519-531; Archives of Internal Medicine, July 2002, pages 1531–1532; Annals of Dermatology and Venereology, January 2002, pages 137–142; Archives of Dermatology, November 2000, pages 1390–1395; Dermatology, 1999, volume 199, number 1, pages 50–53; and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, volume 175, issue 1, pages 76–82.

Key Ingredients: green tea, willow herb, salicylic acid, BHA (beta hydroxy acid), bisabolol

Product Ingredients:

Water, Methylpropanediol (slip agent/water-binding agent), Xanthan Gum (thickener), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Polysorbate-20 (emulsifier), PEG-12 Dimethicone (silicone thickener), Butylene Glycol (slip agent), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, (anti-irritant/antioxidant), Epilobium Angustifolium (Willow Herb) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (anti-irritant), Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant), Portulaca Oleracea Extract (antioxidant), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizing agent), Bisabolol (anti-irritant), Chlorphenesin (preservative), Sodium Benzoate (stabilizer), Sodium Hydroxide.

DIRECTIONS: 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 1% BHA Gel Exfoliant compare to the Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Lotion Exfoliant?

The main difference lies with each product's texture. The 1% BHA Lotion has a light lotion base with a touch of moisture. Our 1% BHA Gel has a water-light base that also has hydration benefits. Those with oily to very oily skin may prefer the gel's texture.

Is Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Gel Exfoliant stronger than the Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Lotion Exfoliant?

From a percentage of active ingredient standpoint, no. However, because the 1% BHA Gel has a glycol base, it is better able to penetrate the skin, which may produce faster (but not necessarily better) results.

I tried Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Lotion Exfoliant and did not care for the texture, and Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant was too strong for my skin. Will the Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Gel work for me?

Quite possibly, yes. If you're looking for a BHA exfoliant whose texture is lighter than our 1% BHA Lotion but not as strong as our 2% BHA Liquid, the 1% BHA Gel should be an ideal "happy medium" for your skin.

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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