Last time I reviewed Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol, which is my new favourite retinol product. I also tried out Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing range recently, which is formulated for normal/oily combination skin – my skin type, which also happens to be Paula Begoun’s skin type. No one quite understands Oily Life like another Oily Lifer, so I had high hopes for this range!
I tried out 4 products from the Skin Balancing range: Oil-Reducing Cleanser, Pore-Reducing Toner, Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense and Oil-Absorbing Mask.
Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser
This is a straightforward lightly-foaming cleanser, that almost resembles a cream cleanser. I really like the texture and the non-stripping gentleness, and it’s pretty good value – it spreads nicely so you don’t have to use a lot. It’s fragrance-free, which is good for sensitive skin, and has some moisturisers in it (such as humectants glycerin and aloe vera, and emollient sunflower seed oil), but no other really notable ingredients – which is fine with me, since I don’t think cleansers sit long enough on the skin to really have much effect. I’d rather save my expensive potent active ingredients for treatments that stay on my face!
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Glycol Distearate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Acrylates Copolymer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol.
Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner
I really like the idea of this toner – it’s got niacinamide, which is good for treating ageing and pigmentation, as well as some good moisturisers (glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, ceramides) and soothing chamomile extract. I don’t use toner much though, and I tend to use Paula’s Choice 2% BHA straight on my skin after cleansing, so I found that I simply forgot to use this most of the time. If you’re a toner person though, this is a good option.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Adenosine Triphosphate, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Sodium PCA, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 1, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Oleth-10, DEA-Oleth-10 Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Polysorbate-20, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Citrate, Xanthan Gum, Trisodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol.
Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 15
This moisturiser contains chemical sunscreens oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate and octocrylene. Interestingly, this is the same formula as the US version, but whereas the US one is labelled SPF30, this is only labelled SPF15, which at first glance appears pretty lame given the harshness of the Australian sun. This is because it’s still undergoing certification with the TGA – chances are it’ll be relabelled SPF30 soon (or rather, the SPF15 sticker will come off). There’s no word on UVA protection except for the fact it’s labelled “broad spectrum.”
The moisturiser is slightly beige in colour with a fluid texture, and doesn’t leave a white cast. While this was a lot less oily than most other sunscreens I’ve tried, I found it a bit too sticky, and the stickiness would seep back out through translucent powder during the day. It might work better in less humid climates. It does sink in easily though, and doesn’t roll up.
Sunscreen ingredients: Oxybenzone 4%; Avobenzone 3%; Homosalate 7%; and Octocrylene 2%
Ingredients: Water, Homosalate, Oxybenzone, Butylene Glycol, Avobenzone, Silica, Octocrylene, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Phospholipids, Superoxide Dismutase, Adenosine, Tocopherol, Bisabolol, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal, Panthenol, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract , Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Cetyl Dimethicone, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Titanium Dioxide, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Steareth-21, Steareth-2, Polysorbate-20, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol.
Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask
This was my least favourite product of the bunch. It’s a kaolin clay-based mask with a bunch of actives added. The main actives are willow bark extract, which contains naturally-occurring salicylic acid, the pimple-clearing oil-soluble BHA exfoliant; there’s also a bunch of anti-irritants (colloidal oatmeal, sea whip extract, aloe versa powder) and antioxidants (ascorbyl palmitate/vitamin C, tocopheryl acetate/vitamin E, retinyl palmitate/vitamin A).
The mask claims to absorb oil, uproot blackheads and reduce irritation, claiming not to include “irritating, skin-damaging ingredients such as menthol, peppermint or alcohol” (perhaps a dig at Queen Helene’s very popular Mint Julep Mask?). This sounds good in theory, but ironically, this is one of the few clay masks I’ve ever tried that itched, to the point where I had to rinse it off after 2 minutes instead of the recommended 10. I suspect it may be the willow bark extract. I found quite a few other reviews online which also complained about irritation, so I’m not alone – if you have sensitive skin, I wouldn’t recommend trying this product.
Ingredients: Water, Kaolin, Bentonite, Glycerin, Salix Alba (Willow Bark) Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Sea Whip Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal, Bisabolol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phospholipids, Panthenol, Retinyl Palmitate, Stearic Acid, Steareth-2, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol.
Here are the US vs the Australian prices (using the current conversion rate of AUD 1 = USD 0.78. I’m using the full price from the US site – keep in mind that there are frequent 20-25% off sales on the US site that (from what’s happened so far) aren’t as common for Aussies:
|Product Name||Price||Size||Price per mL||US Price||Markup|
|Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser||$28||237 mL||$0.118||USD 17 (AUD 21.79)||$6.21 = 28%|
|Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner||$27.01||190 mL||$0.142||USD 20 (AUD 25.64)||$1.37 = 5.3%|
|Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense||$31||60 mL||$0.517||USD 26 (AUD 33.33)||-$2.33 = -7%|
|Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask||$30||118 mL||$0.254||USD 19 (AUD 24.36)||$5.64 = 23%|
The mark-ups are surprisingly reasonable! The sunscreen actually works out to be cheaper than on the US site, which is very unexpected, but compared to Australian moisturisers with SPF, it’s pretty pricey (we’re really spoilt here for reasonably priced sunscreen!).
Paula’s Choice have relaunched their Australian distribution after shipping directly from the US for a while, since they broke ties with their old distributors.
The revamped Australian Paula’s Choice site has also gotten a bit more like the US site – there are similar promotions, and wonder of wonders, there’s free shipping until March 4th. Shipping price was my biggest gripe about the old site, so I’m glad they’ve sorted out a more cost-effective solution.
There’s now also a Refer-a-Friend program, where using someone’s referral link gives you $15 towards your first order (provided it’s over $30) AND gives your “friend” $15 too. If you’d like to use my link and enable my skincare obsession, click here (if you’d rather not, the Paula’s Choice Australia site without the referral link is here).
I’m really looking forward to trying out more Paula’s Choice products, especially with the free shipping! I have my eye on the Resist Weekly Retexturizing Foaming Treatment 4% BHA, and I’m looking to pick up a new bottle of 2% BHA Liquid too!
These products were provided for review, which did not affect my opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.