Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness 2% BHA Exfoliant

Everyone’s raving about Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant like’s the best thing for oily skin.

But, it’s not even the best exfoliant the brand makes. That honour goes to Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness 2% BHA Exfoliant.

Here’s why:

What’s In Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness 2% BHA Exfoliant?


Salicylic acid is an exfoliant on steroids. It helps treat acne in three ways:

  1. Surface exfoliation: Salicylic acid dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together so they can slough off. Once they’re off your skin, they won’t accidentally fall into your pores and clog them up.
  2. Pore exfoliation: Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, so it easily penetrates the skin’s lipid barrier and gets inside the pores, removing all the gunk that’s clogging them up and giving you blackheads and pimples.
  3. Soothing: Salicylic Acid has anti-inflammatory properties that reduces the redness that always comes along with pimples.

Forget glycolic acid. If you’re dealing with blackheads, whiteheads or pimples, this is the exfoliant to use.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin


Sodium Hyaluronate is a form of Hyaluronic Acid.

Hyaluronic Acid is a moisture magnet: it attracts moisture from the environment into the skin, helping to keep it hydrated for longer. It’s so powerful, it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water!

All that moisture makes skin plumper, softer and brighter. (Moisture is the secret behind Korean skincare, remember?)

P.S. Sodium Hyaluronate isn’t the only moisture magnet here. This exfoliant also contains glycerin: it does the same thing, but on a smaller scale.

Related: The Complete Guide To Hyaluronic Acid In Skincare


Allantoin comes from the roots of the Comfrey herb. But the type used in skincare is often made in a lab.

Allantoin has anti-inflammatory properties that calm down irritated skin, soothe redness and reduce itching. It works by helping skin repair itself.

Research shows it treats minor wounds, diaper rash, small burns and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

The best part? It’s super gentle. Everyone can use it – yes, even super sensitive skin (heck, this thing is made for YOU).

Related: 9 Ingredients That Soothe Irritated, Sensitive Skin

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that banishes shine, pimples, and blackheads? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Oily Skin” cheatsheet to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):


Runny and liquidy, it sinks in immediately. It doesn’t leave a shiny, tacky residue behind like Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant does.


It’s fragrance-free.

How To Use It

  • For best results, apply it with a cotton pad.
  • Every other night, after cleansing. If you have very resistant skin and severe acne, you can use it every night.
  • Don’t use it on the same nights as retinoids (unless you have resultant skin that has built tolerance to this combination).

Performance & Personal Opinion

Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness 2% BHA Exfoliant looks and feels just like water… but it’s a lot more powerful than that.

My skin is getting drier as I get older, but it still pumps out a bit too much oil on my t-zone. Cue blackheads all over my nose and pimples the size of mushrooms on my chin during that time of the month.

Using this exfoliant regularly – even when my skin is clear – keeps both at bay. But if, for some kind of reason, I find myself out of a bottle and don’t use it for a few days, those nasty blackheads come back with a vengeance. I add it back into my routine and, within a few days, they’re gone again.

On those rare occasions when I get a pimple, I use this exfoliant twice a day on that area alone. It takes a few days to get rid of it completely, but hey nothing works overnight.

The best part? It doesn’t irritate or sting my skin. On the contrary, it has anti-inflammatory properties that calm down the redness that always comes along with acne.

There’s just one thing it can’t do. If your blackheads are really, really old, the gunk inside has hardened so much, topical products can’t melt it. You’ll need manual extraction for them. But do grab a bottle of this to keep new ones from forming.

Paula's Choice Clear Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution 2% BHA

Who Is This For?

  • Oily skin
  • Acne-prone skin (even if it’s dry)
  • Anyone who wants to get rid of whiteheads and blackheads
  • Sensitive skin

Who Is This NOT For?

If you don’t have blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples, this isn’t for you.


It comes in a blue bottle that’s both sleek and practical.

P.S. The pictures in this post show the travel-size version. I’ve never without this when I travel (not that I do that much these days. Covid and all that…).

Does Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness 2% BHA Exfoliant Live Up To Its Claims?

This gentle leave-on exfoliant with salicylic acid clears breakouts, unclogs and minimizes pores and fades red marks from past breakouts. True.
For mild to moderate acne. True.
Water-light yet potent formula produces fast results. True.
Use up to twice daily after cleansing skin. This is way too irritating for most people. Every other night is more than enough to see results.

Price & Availability

$29.50 at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Nordstrom, and Paula’s Choice

Do You Need It?

If you have oily skin or are dealing with any type of acne (including blackheads), this is a MUST-HAVE (and I don’t say that lightly).

Dupes & Alternatives


Active: Salicylic Acid 2% 
Inactive: Water (Aqua), Dipropylene Glycol (hydration), Pentylene Glycol (hydration), Polysorbate 20 (stabilizer), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Glycerin (skin replenishing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Panthenol (hydration), PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer (texture-enhancing), Methyl Gluceth-20 (hydration), Glycereth-26 (texture-enhancing), Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane (hydration), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizer), Sodium Metabisulfite (stabilizer).