Paula’s Choice: 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

overall rating:



Taylor Ford
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Paula’s Choice defines sustainability as “an ongoing commitment to be a good neighbor, support our team and do our part to protect the planet for future generations.” Overall, I appreciate that the company does have sustainability in mind and that they include some information on what steps they are taking to actually become more sustainable. They have eliminated unnecessary packaging, partnered with a recycling program, and ensured transparency with their customers about ingredients. However, they could do much better. These steps are relatively easy for the company to make as they are basically passing the responsibility onto other companies and consumers and I have not seen any true, hard efforts to be more sustainable. With this in mind, these products are also relatively expensive with this exfoliant being about 30 USD, so I would expect some of that money to be going towards sustainability initiatives. Ultimately, Paula’s Choice makes really amazing products for a wide range of skin problems, but in terms of sustainability, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

What it's made of:


Looking through the Paula’s Choice website, there is a lot of transparency about the ingredients used in their products. I really like that they explain the purpose of each ingredient in their ingredient list. For example, this exfoliant uses sodium hydroxide, and right next to it says that it is used as a pH balancer. This helps to foster trust between the brand and the consumer as this exfoliant is a face product, and it is nice to know exactly what ingredients they use and what they are used for when you are putting something on your face. However, they only do this on their website and not on the product itself. I would like to see them put the purpose of each ingredient on the actual product so people don’t have to go onto the website to know what the ingredients do. Looking up all the ingredients on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website, they all have a decent score (between 1 and 3) and aren’t egregiously harmful for the environment. I also appreciate that Paula’s Choice has a section on their website where they state every product of theirs that is not vegan and what exactly the animal ingredient is. This allows consumers to make an educated choice on what products they buy and what aligns with their beliefs. As for the packaging, Paula’s Choice claims they are “working to significantly reduce [their] use of plastic,” however I have yet to see this translate into action. This product and most of their other products are in plastic packaging. However, they have made an effort to eliminate “all outer cartons except where needed for regulatory reasons or to protect the product inside.” I admire the push to get rid of unnecessary packaging, as I have noticed this to be a problem with beauty brands due to the creative nature of the industry, but I would still like to see more of a push for different packaging. Paula’s Choice has partnered with TerraCycle (a recycling program that I will go into more detail about in the How it’s Made section) in order to ensure that their products get properly recycled, but I would like to see the brand do their own sustainability work by looking into already recycled plastic for their packaging.

How it's made:


Unfortunately, as is the case with a lot of beauty brands, the transparency that is seen with their ingredients does not translate over to transparency about their supply chain. With their packaging, Paula’s Choice has partnered with TerraCycle, a social enterprise with the goal of collecting typically non-recycled or hard-to-recycle items and turning them into new products. It is very simple for a consumer to sign up for this program as all they have to do is make an account with TerraCycle, and they will receive a free shipping label to send in their empty Paula’s Choice products. In the Paula’s Choice FAQ section on TerraCycle, the process seems pretty fool-proof as there is no need for the consumer to remove any stickers, labels or residual product still inside the bottle. Along with ensuring the products get properly recycled and reused, for every item a consumer sends in, they can receive points that can then be donated to an environmental organization of their choosing. I admire Paula’s Choice initiative to partner with this company as it seems like a great way to ensure no plastic ends up in landfills or the ocean. However, it seems that Paula’s Choice is passing on the responsibility of sustainability onto other companies and consumers, rather than doing the work themselves. Besides the packaging, Paula’s Choice claims to "opt for ingredients from sustainable sources" whenever possible, citing the palm oil used in their Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate. They claim that the palm oil is sourced from a Malaysian-based company that is certified for sustainable production but give no proof of these claims. In an FAQ question about their ingredient origin, Paula’s Choice states “as we source a spectrum of raw materials and equipment from different suppliers during the formulation process, we are unable to confirm whether our products are free of trace amounts of nut or gluten-derived ingredients.” I definitely appreciate this honesty and transparency, but it does make me wonder what else they don’t know about their suppliers. Overall, I’m not impressed with the transparency here and I would like them to give more information on their supply chain.

Who makes it:


Once again, Paula’s Choice does not provide any information on who makes their products. On their website, they claim that all finished goods are manufactured in the US, but do not state anything else about their supply chain. In the sustainability section of their website, Paula’s Choice states that they offer their employees benefits such as stipends for public transport, paid time off, and good healthcare, but these are the bare minimum and nothing the company should be applauded for. They have no initiatives related to improving their supply chain or being more transparent about it with their consumers. I would really like to see this become an initiative in the near future in order to truly fulfill their definition of sustainability as being "an ongoing commitment to be a good neighbor."

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