Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant review

Glycolic acid is all the rage at the moment – and for a good reason.

This chemical exfoliant fades away dark spots, smooths out the texture of your skin, and makes your complexion glow.

One of my favourite exfoliants with Glycolic acid is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant. Here’s why:

What’s In Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant?


Glycolic acid is the smallest member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family, a group of exfoliants that dissolves the glue that holds on skin cells together, so they can slough off your skin faster.

Once they do, your complexion improves: its texture becomes softer to the touch; fine lines and dark spots look a little less obvious; and the whole complexion is brighter. Plus, glycolic acid is hydrating, too.

Its small size is its strength: Glycolic Acid penetrates deeper than other AHAs, so it works better and faster. The catch? That also makes it more irritating.

It’s a great option for dry skin that’s starting to show sun damage. But if yours is so sensitive that anything irritates it, try its cousin lactic acid instead.

Related: Glycolic Acid VS Lactic Acid: Which One Should You Use?


Doesn’t matter how gently you do it, the exfoliating process always has the potential to be a little irritating for skin.

Enter skin-soothers. They calm down inflammation, soothe redness, and even provide some antioxidant protection against free radicals (the main cause of wrinkles).

The main skin-soothers in Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant are:

Related: Is Green Tea The Most Powerful Antioxidant Of All?


Part of the glue that holds skin cells together, hyaluronic acid is a humectant.

That’s a fancy way of saying “moisture magnet”. This acid attracts and binds moisture from the environment into the skin, pumping up its hydration levels.

Other ingredients do this. Glycerin and Urea spring to mind immediately. But Hyaluronic Acid goes the extra mile: it can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water! That’s a waterfall of moisture!

When skin has all the moisture it needs, it his softer to the touch; it’s all plumped up, which in turn makes wrinkles look smaller; and has that beautiful dewy glow that makes it look like it’s lit from within.

Hydration is Hyaluronic Acid’s main job, but this superhero has other tricks up its sleeve. It also:

Related: What Are Humectants And Why Do You Need Them In Your Skincare Routine?

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):


It looks like water, but it’s thicker and feels a little slimy to the touch. It absorbs immediately into your skin.


It’s fragrance-free.

How To Use It

Two or three nights a week, right after cleansing. Paula’s Choice says once or twice a day, but NO ONE needs that much exfoliation. It may irritate your skin and dry it out.

Don’t use retinol on the same nights.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant leaves a shiny residue on the skin. I use it before going to bed (exfoliation makes skin more susceptible to sun damage), so I don’t mind that much.

It tingles a little when you first apply it, but it’s not irritating or painful in the slightest. I find the soothing botanical extracts + hyaluronic acid minimise any irritation Glycolic acid may give you – unless you have sensitive skin.

The exfoliant does a good job at smoothing out imperfections. With regular use, it fades away rough patches of skin and dark spots (even those left behind by pimples) and gives my skin a radiant glow.

Instead, it doesn’t really help with blackheads (you need salicylic acid for that). I’m also on the fence re wrinkles. Glycolic acid can smoothen out their appearance, but 8% is too low to get rid of them long-term.

Related: The Best Exfoliants With Salicylic Acid

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Who Is This For?

  • Dry skin
  • Normal skin
  • Dark spots and hyperpigmentation

Who Is This NOT For?

If you’re dealing with acne/blackheads, you’re better off with salicylic acid.

Related: The Best Exfoliants With Salicylic Acid


A white bottle with a pump dispenser. I have the travel version, which comes in a small white tube with a small opening you can easily carry with you everywhere.

Does Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant Live Up To Its Claims?

This ultra-light gel exfoliant gently dissolves built-up layers of dead skin to reveal a smoother, brighter, more radiant complexion. True.
Formulated with 8% AHA (glycolic acid), it helps to fade signs of sun damage and corrects uneven skin tone while improving the appearance of wrinkles. True.

Price & Availability

$29.50/£28.00 at Dermstore, Feel Unique, Paula’s Choice, and SpaceNK

Do You Need It?

If you’re looking for a glycolic acid exfoliant, this is hard to beat.

Dupes & Alternatives


Aqua, Glycolic Acid (Alpha Hydroxy Acid, exfoliant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (chamomile/skin-soothing), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (hydration), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant/skin-soothing), etanorulayH muidoS (skin replenishing), Panthenol (hydration), Sodium PCA (skin replenishing), Propylene Glycol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Polyquaternium-10 (texture-enhancing), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Sodium Benzoate (preservative).