Paula’s Choice 6% Mandelic Acid + 2% Lactic Acid Liquid Exfoliant

Paula's Choice new Mandelic and Lactic Acid exfoliant PR. mailer.

Nothing makes me happier than kicking off the new year with a skincare launch that brings joy. Today, Paula’s Choice expands its lineup of micro-exfoliating potions with the addition of the Skin Perfecting 6% Mandelic Acid + 2% Lactic Acid Liquid Exfoliant. For well over two decades, I’ve dipped in and out of the brand’s famed BHA solutions (finally discovering that I only liked the RESIST one because my skin did not like the oily/silky finish of the original), but I never took to the daily AHA treatments with Glycolic Acid. Which is why I was apprehensive at first. It’s only been a week, but first impressions are important so here goes!

New Paula's Choice AHA acid toner with Mandelic Acid.

What is it?

The new Skin Perfecting 6% Mandelic Acid + 2% Lactic Acid Liquid Exfoliant is a resurfacing solution powered by Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). Safe to use for all skin types and tones, this toner-slash-essence micro exfoliates the upper most layer of skin, which helps with issues such as uneven tone, rough texture, hyperpigmentation, or fine lines. In short, it smoothes and brightens the skin. It is also extremely gentle and will slot into your existing routine quite easily. 

What is in this new exfoliant?

The star Alpha Hydroxies here are Mandelic and Lactic Acids in concentrations of 6% and 2% respectively. Unlike Glycolic Acid, which is the most commonly used AHA in skincare, these are of larger molecular weight, which means they can’t penetrate as deeply. It’s important to remember that AHAs are water-soluble. This allows them to work only on the skin’s surface since they cannot get past its natural oil barrier. When formulated correctly, AHAs can deliver impressive brightening results without causing irritation. Keep in mind, this is not a quick fix kind or an overnight miracle. When it comes to leave-on exfoliators, these gentle products take a few weeks of consistent use before your results begin to appear.

Ingredient list of the new Paula's Choice AHA exfoliant.

In addition to its resurfacing agents, the new Liquid Exfoliant includes Yarrow Root Extract, known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. And since the goal here is to address existing imperfections while trying to prevent future new developments, the formula also includes a fusion of antioxidants. It is the blend of Cherry Blossom, Chocolate Vine, and Chinese Strawberry (Yumberry) that guards against free radical damage and oxidative stress. As always, Paula’s Choice keeps this newness completely fragrance-free.

Daytime skincare routine using Paula's Choice AHA liquid exfoliant.

How to use it? What to avoid?

If you’re new to leave-on liquid exfoliants, start out slowly. Build up your tolerance from 2-3 nights a week to everyday use. Eventually, if you’re not using other acids, you can use this Paula’s Choice formula twice a day. A week in, my combination skin has done great with this AHA treatment, which I’ve used both morning and night. 

Nighttime skincare routine using Paula's Choice AHA and retinol.

With that said, I have a stronger preference for my daytime use. Here’s why: I avoid layering AHA with Vitamin C since both have specific pH environments. I’m not a fan of waiting 10 minutes between steps. My AM routine includes a hydrating serum, followed by Vitamin C, and topped off with SPF (I can use it during the day if I skip Vit C). At night, I reach for an acid toner followed by my Retinoid of choice (yes, it’s totally safe and actually boosts the performance of Vitamin A), and a richer moisturizer as my last step. Another perk of this Paula’s Choice AHA toner is how quickly it sinks into the skin. If you are worried about tingling or redness, no need to be. I have experienced neither. As a reminder, daily use of broad-spectrum sunscreen is non-negotiable when using resurfacing toners, no matter how gentle the formula. 

Using Paula's Choice AHA exfoliant with cotton rounds.

How to apply this Liquid Exfoliant?

You can apply liquid steps (toner or essence), by swiping a saturated cotton pad or by splashing some product into the palm of your hand and pressing it directly into the skin. A cotton round wastes a lot of product (but if you must, opt for a thin, disposable one vs. washable cotton which is highly absorbent). Also, the bottle is not that big. Personally, I press it into cleansed skin. So far, I’m impressed. 

Make sure to check out my post on the Paula’s Choice 25% Vitamin C + Glutathione Clinical Serum from October. It’s excellent.

$37 (3 oz) at or

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