Paula’s Choice Acne Kit Review, CLEAR Regular Strength: Goodbye, Acne!

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Most people think acne is something you grow out of, along with your poor choice in music and skimpy clothes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, around 85% of teens experience mild or severe acne until the age of 24. Surprisingly, acne occurrence in adults is on the rise, with 15% of women reporting outbreaks in their 30s, 40s, and beyond.

Acne care is a huge industry, with over five million Americans getting medical treatment for the condition in 2013. Since there’s such a big demand for acne treatments, beauty companies conduct a lot of research and spend a lot of money to develop effective acne treatments.

There are so many different products to choose from, and it can be challenging to find a clearing treatment that works. Different skin types react differently to products, with some being too harsh for sensitive skin.

If you’ve ever struggled with problem skin, you’re probably familiar with the cycle of trying out new products that promise instant results.

Only to find that they don’t work, and you’ve just wasted weeks of time and plenty of money.

That’s why it’s so important to stick to proven, evidence-based formulations. As research into acne continues, companies are starting to determine which ingredients work without causing excess damage to your skin.

Paula’s Choice acne kit promises great results without drying out your skin. But how effective is the product? We did some digging to find out whether this kit is worth your time. Read our Paula’s Choice Acne Kit review and learn what we’ve discovered.

A Little Bit About the Brand

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The company started up in 1995 as one of the world’s first online beauty brands.

The founder, Paula Begoun, struggled with eczema and acne, and her struggles as a consumer informed her decision to start a brand that would offer high-end, effective products for all skin types.

The brand has expanded into over 20 countries worldwide, including Taiwan, Australia, Europe, Taiwan, Singapore, and India.

The company’s dedication to researching and finding science-backed solutions to formulate products with compounds that work is what sets them apart.

The company doesn’t just focus on researching and making skincare products that work; it’s also committed to cruelty-free and environmentally conscious production.

The brand is Leaping Bunny certified and continues to reduce its carbon footprint by finding sustainable ingredients.

In 2019, Paula’s Choice also partnered with Terracycle to offer free recycling options for 100% of packaging.

In addition to Paula’s Choice for acne, the brand has plenty of other award-winning products including:

  • Omega + Complex Serum which won the 2017 Allure Best of Beauty Award
  • The UnScrub which won the 2018 Allure Best of Beauty Award
  • The CALM collection for sensitive, redness-prone skin
  • The DEFENSE collection for maintaining your skin’s youthful glow
  • The industry-first Niacinamide 20% treatment


Notable Ingredients

The Paula Choice acne treatment kit only uses proven compounds that have been tested in the lab to help clear acne and reduce redness.

The two main compounds are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, both of which are an excellent choice to reduce the causes of acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide has two main acne-fighting abilities: it kills bacteria in pores and helps pores shed dead skin and excess sebum.

Acne is often a result of pores getting clogged with sebum, after which they become infected by bacteria, leading to pimples and whiteheads.

As with any other skincare ingredients, benzoyl peroxide does have some limitations and potential side effects. The two most common side effects include irritated and red skin and stained clothing and hair.

Some people also experience allergic reactions, and it may not be the best choice if you suffer from eczema.

Salicylic Acid

BHA, or salicylic acid, is an organic compound found in willow bark. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory and antibiotic. Skincare companies have started using BHA as one of their main ingredients in pore-cleansing formulations.

Salicylic acid is the choice ingredient against acne and other skin conditions because it’s an oil-soluble compound. It can get deep into your skin and break down excess oil and dead skin that may trigger an acne outbreak.

The main drawback of regular BHA use is that it’s an acid that can dry out and irritate your skin. That’s why it’s so important to have other compounds that can combat this effect.

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Other Compounds

While the two products above represent the most important ingredients in the CLEAR line, they don’t work alone.

Since both the active compounds are quite harsh on the skin, it’s essentialto have other compounds that counteract thisnegativeeffect.

Many of the soothing compounds found in the CALM line of products are plant-based and include:

  • Bisabolol, a soothing and moisturizing oil found in German chamomile
  • Allantoin, a moisturizing found in comfrey and chamomile
  • Dipotassium glycyrrhizate, an anti-inflammatory found in licorice

Advantages of Bisabolol:

Bisabolol is a natural monocyclic sesquiterpene alcohol extracted from the essential oil of chamomile flowers. Bisabolol is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of skincare products to help improve the health and appearance of the skin.

It has many benefits that make it a popular ingredient in skincare products, including the following 

  • Bisabolol has anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it effective in soothing and calming irritated skin. It can also help to reduce redness and swelling. 
  • Bisabolol also has antibacterial properties, which makes it effective in fighting acne-causing bacteria. 
  • Additionally, it has moisturizing properties that help to hydrate the skin and keep it soft and supple. 
  • Bisabolol is also gentle on the skin, making it suitable for use on sensitive skin types. 

Advantages of Allantoin:

Allantoin is a natural ingredient that is found in several plants, including comfrey and chamomile. Allantoin is another versatile ingredient that can be used in skincare products to help improve the health and appearance of the skin.

Allantoin has many benefits, which include the following.

  • Allantoin has moisturizing properties. This makes it effective in hydrating the skin and preventing dryness. It can also help to soothe and calm irritated skin. 
  • Allantoin also has exfoliating properties, which makes it effective in removing dead skin cells and promoting cell regeneration. This can help to improve the texture and tone of the skin. 
  • Allantoin has healing properties that can help to speed up the healing process of wounds and skin irritations.

Allantoin has been extensively studied for its safety profile, and it has been found to be non-toxic when used in appropriate concentrations.

Advantages of Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate:

Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate is derived from licorice root and has several advantages that make it a popular ingredient in skincare products. 

Below are the advantages of dipotassium glycyrrhizinate in skin care.

  • Dipotassium glycyrrhizate is that it has anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it effective in soothing and calming irritated skin. It can also help to reduce redness and swelling.
  • Dipotassium glycyrrhizate also has skin-brightening properties, which makes it effective in reducing the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. 
  • Dipotassium glycyrrhizate has moisturizing properties that help to hydrate the skin and keep it soft and supple.
  • Dipotassium glycyrrhizate can also help to regulate the production of sebum, making it effective in treating oily skin.

Like the other ingredients, dipotassium glycyrrhizinate is also non-toxic. However, it is important to note that although these ingredients may not be toxic, they may potentially cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals.

Apart from beneficial ingredients, some compounds in the CLEAR line may cause some people concern.

The first one is glycol, which has received a bad reputation due to its use in manufacturing processes and as the main compound in antifreeze.

Glycol is a common chemical in the cosmetics industry, and, despite scaremongering, is safe for skincare use. It helps other compounds enter the skin and work their magic and keeps the formulation soft and smooth.

What’s in the Kit

paula's choice acne kit review

The Paula’s Choice Acne Kit contains three main products:

  • CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser
  • CLEAR Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution
  • CLEAR Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment

In addition to Paula’s Choice CLEAR regular strength line, you can also choose the extra strength anti-redness exfoliating solution and daily skin clearing treatment.

These extra-strength products contain higher concentrations of the main ingredients, making them more effective while still retaining their gentle skincare approach.

The main difference between the regular strength products and their extra strength variants is the concentration of active ingredients.

For instance, the regular strength one has 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, compared to 5% in the extra strength.

You can also combine the kit with other CLEAR Paula’s Choice products like an oil-free moisturizer, purifying clay mask, or SPF 30+ light hydrating fluid.

Doing so will provide you with a comprehensive skincare routine that addresses your acne issue while still taking care of your skin.

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What we like about this kit is its simplicity. Unlike many other skincare routines on the market, this kit only has three simple steps to follow: cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize.

If you’re one of those people who wants an effective routine that heals your skin without spending hours in the bathroom, this may be a perfect skincare kit for you.


Pore Normalizing Cleanser

The first step in the CLEAR skincare routine is the normalizing cleanser. It helps get rid of any accumulated oil and grime while also removing dead skin.

The cleanser contains salicylic acid as its active ingredient, which helps combat inflammation and redness.

The pore normalizing cleanser is relatively fluid, which helps it penetrate deep into the pores, helping neutralize bacteria while also minimizing pore sizes.

According to an independent clinical trial, over 96% of users found smaller post-acne marks after using the cleanser for several weeks.

We like this cleanser because it rinses off without leaving any residue, which may otherwise irritate or clog the skin.

Once you’ve cleansed your skin with the cleanser, your skin will feel refreshed, clean, and ready to receive the benefits of the products to follow.

Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution

This exfoliating solution comes in two strengths: regular strength or extra strength, depending on the severity of your acne. The main ingredient in this solution is BHA, which works to unclog pores and calm redness.

The solution also contains allantoin and dipotassium glycyrrhizate, which are lesser-known skin soothing agents. It even has glycerin and sodium hyaluronate, which replenish the skin, leaving it feeling plump and soft.

All of these ingredients combine into a leave-in exfoliator that reduces the occurrence of blackheads and white bumps.

Unlike many harsh exfoliating solutions, the CLEAR anti-redness solution is gentle enough to use, even on skin prone to cystic acne.

Daily Skin Clearing Treatment

Also available in regular strength and extra strength variants, the CLEAR skin-clearing treatment uses benzoyl peroxide to target the leadingcause of acne.

Benzoyl peroxide is a well-known antibacterial agent, and clinical studies have repeatedly shown that it helps clear up acne-producing bacteria.

The treatment also has several plant-based extracts that soothe and calm the skin and combat the harshness of benzoyl peroxide.

These extracts allow you to safely use the treatment twice a day, even if you’re prone to cystic acne.

The main difference between CLEAR regular strength and extra strength is the amount of benzoyl peroxide used. The CLEAR regular strength variant uses 2.5% of the active ingredient, while the extra strength doubles to 5%.

What Does This Kit Promise?

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Many acne treatments make huge promises and simply don’t deliver. Some use overly harsh ingredients that combat acne but will leave your skin worse than when you started.

Others are so gentle that they don’t even make a dent in your breakouts.

So what sets this brand and this particular kit apart? We’ve taken a look at some of the brand’s more appealing qualities that makes their promises more believable.


Most skincare companies will say what their products and ingredients do, but won’t follow it up with any evidence. Luckily, Paula’s Choice is different, with a strong focus on transparency and scientific research.

Every product on their website has a section that links to a set of articles backing their claims. They also use independent studies to test their products, further supporting their effectiveness.

If your eyes glaze over when reading over a list of ingredients, you’ll also appreciate that the company explains what every compound does.

If you’ve never heard of dipotassium glycyrrhizate before, the ingredient list will inform you that it’s a skin-soothing agent.

60-Day Product Guarantee

paulas choice fresh look

Product guarantees are a good way to find out if a company believes in their products.

Brands tend to offer 30-day guarantees, which isn’t long enough for you to experience their products’ full effect on your skin.

So what you may end up with is irritated skin, an empty wallet, and no way to get your money back.

Paula’s Choice has a refreshing 60-day, hassle-free guarantee, which states that you can get a full refund on any product returned within 60 days.

It goes a bit further than that as well, giving you a 180-day window to request store credit instead.

So instead of worrying if a skin care product is a right choice for you, you can try out Paula’s Choice products with peace of mind that you’ll get your money back if it doesn’t work.

Target Market

While many acne products for problem skin get targeted directly at teens, Paula’s Choice kit offers a refreshingly minimalist approach. Instead of focusing on age, it focuses on the problem it’s going to fix.

It’s suitable for most people struggling with acne-prone skin, no matter what age.


If you’re starting to think that this kit may be the one to solve your problem skin, you’ll be happy to know that you can find a range of Paula’s Choice products either online or in Nordstrom stores in the US.

We recommend buying through the Paula’s Choice website, which also offers free consultations and delivery to over 20 countries worldwide.

You can also take advantage of the regular sales to pick up the CLEAR kit at a more affordable price than in stores.

You can also subscribe to Paula’s Choice’s email list to gain access to exclusive offers and 15% off of your first order.


Paula’s Choice Acne Kit Review – Final Thoughts

So is Paula’s Choice good for acne? The short answer is: Yes. It contains two of the most well-researched compounds in skincare, namely benzoyl peroxide and BHA.

The kit also comes with a choice of regular strength and extra-strength formulations, which target different skin issues.

You can also adapt the kit with other products in the CLEAR line to customize the routine for your skin type.

One thing we would have liked to see in the CLEAR kit is a product that targets hyperpigmentation or scarring.

Unfortunately, none of the main ingredients in this kit address these issues, and if you have severe hyperpigmentation, you may want to find another product.

Overall, we found that these products did exactly what they said they would. We appreciate the brand’s transparency, the generous money-back guarantee, and their commitment to science-based skincare.

If you’re looking for a skin treatment that backs up its promises, this may be the one for you.

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Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.