Michelle Wong, PhD, has been steeped in the science of skin care for more than a decade. She started her blog, Lab Muffin Beauty Science, in 2011, got her doctorate in chemistry in 2013, and received her cosmetic chemist diploma in 2020. No matter how much she's learned or how many formulas she's tested, though, there's one product that's been a staple in her routine for the past 13 years: Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($11 to $32).
"I've tried lots of salicylic acid products, and this one has just always worked the best for me," says Dr. Wong, who is based in Sydney, Australia. "It reduces the appearance of pores, smooths out skin texture, and evens out skin tone. It's also really good if you are prone to blackheads, clogged pores, and acne. It helps with all of that. It's a really good chemical exfoliant."
The Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a leave-on product that's designed to be used once or twice a day. Just lightly soak a cotton pad to swipe it across your skin or use your fingertips to apply the liquid to your face and neck, including around your eyes. Follow up with any serums you use and moisturizer. And be sure to apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 for daytime use, as it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun's ultraviolet rays.
- Michelle Wong, PhD, Sydney, Australia-based cosmetic chemist
The star ingredient in this product is salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that gets into the pores to clear away blemish-causing build-up and dead skin. It's also made with green tea, a potent antioxidant that soothes irritated skin while improving visible signs of aging; and methyl propanediol, a synthetic ingredient that hydrates while visibly enhancing the skin’s glow and the formula’s penetration. All of these actives make it the best exfoliating treatment Dr. Wong has ever used—and it only costs $32.
"It's actually really budget-friendly," says Dr, Wong. "If you calculate per mil for the large size, it's very competitive. It's one of the cheapest on the market."
As Dr. Wong learned more about the science of skin care, she fell deeper and deeper in love with this treatment.
"I've developed a greater appreciation for it because if you look at the formula, it's really simple," she says. "There aren't that many ingredients, but it just works really well. I've used it for 13 years, and it's just a mystery why it's so great and no other product on the market seems to be able to compare to it."
Learn more about exfoliating your face:
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