Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Range Review

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How to cite: Wong M. Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Range Review. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. February 12, 2015. Accessed April 22, 2024.

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.


Price Comparison

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 NamePriceSizePrice per mLUS PriceMarkup
Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser$28237 mL$0.118USD 17 (AUD 21.79)$6.21 = 28%
Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner$27.01190 mL$0.142USD 20 (AUD 25.64)$1.37 = 5.3%
Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense$3160 mL$0.517USD 26 (AUD 33.33)-$2.33 = -7%
Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask$30118 mL$0.254USD 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!).


Relaunched Site

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 editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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10 thoughts on “Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Range Review”

  1. Hi Thanks for the review it was great, I also enjoyed your blog on sunscreens a while back a quick question I have oily skin as well and hate heavy sunscreens. What do you think about the sunscreens that come in the aerosol sprays? Just wondering if they have anything nasty for the skin in them.

    • Hello! There are two potential problems with aerosol sunscreens I can think of:

      1. They use more solvent than regular sunscreens. Solvents like ethyl alcohol are drying to skin, which could be bad if you’re prone to dehydration.

      2. Potentially inhaling droplets of sunscreen – I doubt this is all that bad for you, unless you’re asthmatic.

  2. I tried a lot of Paula’s products, but the only products my skin likes is the body lotion with 2% BHA (only BHA product my facial skin accepts), one of her sera, the retinol body treatment and a now discontinued sunscreen. But I’m curious about the 4% BHA treatment, so I’ll be watching your blog!
    One question: treatments like exfoliants are recommended to apply mainly during the evening-routine. As you being a scientist I wonder if you can explain why?

    • It’s based on a misunderstanding of the science – I did a post on chemical exfoliants and sun here. Basically, glycolic acid causes photosensitivity (increased chances of sun damage), but some people assumed that this meant that the effect is worst right after application, when in reality it probably isn’t. BHA/salicylic acid is also actually photoprotective, so there’s an advantage to using it in the morning! (I don’t think I explained it very well – it’s late here and my brain is dying – check out the full post and hopefully it makes more sense!)

      • I’ve read that post, which was very informative! But I meant more in a general way, most treatments (retinol, exfoliants, serums etc) are recommended applying during evening routine, morning routine is mostly very simple (treatment as an option in the morning, but as a must in the evening). Is there any scientific proove that these work better during the night? I mean, I understand why you should clean your face, remove make up etc, but a specific reason why using treatments before going to bed?

  3. When I first saw this post the Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask really interested me. Its a shame it was your least favourite. What do you think of the Glamglow mask range?

    • From the ingredients list, it doesn’t really sound like there’s anything special about the Glamglow range! I think it’s hype and post-purchase rationalisation, but I haven’t personally tried them yet. Have you tried Aztec Secret’s Indian Healing Clay mask? It’s my favourite at the moment!

  4. Haha, the dig at the mint julep mask, I was actually wondering about the skin balancing mask! Too bad it was irritating for you 🙁 . I will try a sample though, I have a feeling I’ll want to try ALL of the available samples… But first I need to get my hands on the healing clay mask, I got my ACV already XD


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