Paula's Choice defense hydrating gel-to-cream cleanser review

Can a cleanser fight pollution?

Paula’s Choice Defense Hydrating Gel-To-Cream Cleanser promises to neutralise its damage thanks to a superfood antioxidant complex.

Does it deliver? Let’s find out:

What’s In Paula’s Choice Defense Hydrating Gel-To-Cream Cleanser?


Paula’s Choice Defense Hydrating Gel-To Cream Cleanser hits that perfect spot between effective and gentle.

Thank its gentle surfactants (ingredients that help oils mix with water, so they can easily be rinsed away) for it:

  • Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate
  • Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine
  • Sodium Lauroamphoacetate
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Decyl Glucoside
  • Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate
  • Lauric Acid
  • Sorbitan Laurate
  • Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate

Why so many when the average cleanser contains 3/4?

Every surfactant in here is so gentle, you need a generous bunch to up the cleansing power enough to remove every last trace of dirt, pollution, and makeup.

Related: Should You Avoid Sulfates In Skincare Products?


Paula’s Choice Defense Hydrating Gel-To Cream Cleanser has its fair share of antioxidants to fight pollution.

It works like this: pollution generates free radicals, the nasty molecules that give you wrinkles, dark spots, and all kinds of skin woes.

Antioxidants, like green tea and liquorice, neutralise free radicals before they can wreak their damage on your skin.

IF they’re left on your skin. In a cleanser, they end up down the drain and do nothing to fight pollution. Bummer!

Related: Common Antioxidants In Skincare Products: Which Ones Are Best For You?

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):


A clear gel, it turns into a semi-creamy lather as it mixes with water.


It’s fragrance-free.

How To Use It

It’s the first step of your skincare routine, both in the morning and at night.

Performance & Personal Opinion

I’m obsessed with Paula’s Choice Defense Hydrating Gel-To Cream Cleanser. It’s true the gel texture never fully turns into a cream, but it’s gentle enough even slightly dry and sensitive skin can use it.

It does a great job at removing EVERYTHING from my skin:

Makeup, including long-lasting foundation? Check.

Sunscreen? Check.

Dirt and grime? Check.

Pollutants? Check.

The best part? It doesn’t leave my skin a tight and flaky mess afterwards. After every cleanse, my skin is both soft and clean.

Paula's Choice Defense Hydrating Gel-To-Cream Cleanser

Who Is This For?

It’s suitable for all skin types, especially combination.

Who Is This NOT For?

If your skin is very dry, an oil cleanser may be better for you.


A sleek coral bottle with a big opening.

Does Paula’s Choice Defense Hydrating Gel-To-Cream Cleanser Live Up To Its Claims?

This gentle gel-to-cream cleanser removes dirt, oil and makeup, and rinses away skin-damaging pollutants that can cause premature signs of aging. True.
Superfood complex leaves skin looking fresh and radiant.It just ends up down the drain, doing nothing for your skin.
Unique texture transforms from soothing gel to skin-softening cream.It never turns fully into a cream, but it does get creamier than a gel.

Price & Availability

$18.00/£20.00 at Cult Beauty, Nordstrom, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges

Do You Need It?

If you’re curious to try it, and your skin isn’t terribly dry, you’ll like this.

Dupes & Alternatives


Aqua, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate (cleansing agent), Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine (cleansing agent), Sodium Lauroamphoacetate (cleansing agent), Cocamidopropyl Betaine (cleansing/lather agent), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Sorbeth-230 Tetraoleate (texture enhancer/emulsifier), Decyl Glucoside (cleansing agent), Pentylene Glycol (hydration), Sodium Chloride (stabilizer/texture enhancer), Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate (cleansing agent), Lauric Acid (cleansing agent), Lactic Acid (hydration), Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acids (skin-soothing), Sorbitan Laurate (cleansing agent/emulsifier), Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (cleansing agent), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (hydration), Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (antioxidant), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Linoleic Acid (skin-restoring), Phospholipids (skin-restoring), Glycine (amino acid/hydration), Alanine (amino acid/hydration), Serine (amino acid/hydration), Valine (amino acid/hydration), Isoleucine (amino acid/hydration), Proline (amino acid/hydration), Threonine (amino acid/hydration), Cocoyl Proline (hydration), Sodium Citrate (pH adjuster), Sodium PCA (skin-replenishing), Sodium Lactate (hydration), Arginine (amino acid/hydration), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (antioxidant/hydration), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing), PCA (amino acid/hydration), Histidine (amino acid/hydration), Phenylalanine (amino acid/hydration), Lactoperoxidase (hydration), Glucose Oxidase (hydration), Aspartic Acid (amino acid/hydration), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative).