5 Dupes For The Cult-Favorite Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting Toner

That you can snag for less.

5 dupes for the cult-favorite Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Liquid that cost less.
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If you’re the type of beauty devotee that scours Reddit threads and pages of product reviews to find the most game-changing skin care elixirs for your routine, chances are you know about the famous beta-hydroxy acid (BHA)-based exfoliant by Paula’s Choice. The toner is renowned for effectively combatting breakouts — but you can also turn to a number of Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Liquid dupes for the same effect... at a smaller price tag.

People love the cult-favorite liquid exfoliant — which costs about $29 — because of its potent pore-clearing powers. The magic’s in the formula: salicylic acid (a BHA) stars as its MVP, which is one of the most dermatologist-recommended acne fighters you can get. “Salicylic acid works as a keratolytic agent, meaning it dissolves keratin — the protein dead skin cells are primarily made of,” says Dr. Rachel E. Maiman, MD, a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist. So the salicylic in the toner “prevents pores from getting clogged,” she explains. Translation: Those prone to comedonal acne — whiteheads and blackheads — will benefit from the product.

While some acid-based exfoliants can be irritating or drying for some skin types, the Paula’s Choice formula balances the BHA with more nourishing ingredients. “It mitigates [irritation and dryness] since it contains green tea, an antioxidant that soothes and minimizes irritation,” says Maiman. Dr. Muneeb Shah, MD, a dermatology resident physician, adds that green tea also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties — which basically means the exfoliant in the toner has a slim chance of causing any adverse reactions.

That said, you don’t necessarily have to snag the fan-favorite product to reap these skin-clearing benefits. Below are five Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Liquid dupes that’ll bestow you with a glowing, breakout-free glow for less.


The Glow Giver

A few swipes of this salicylic acid-based toner will bring you similar results as the Paula’s Choice product. It’s super gentle thanks to its microencapsulated form of the BHA — which is an effective way to deliver the ingredient deep into the skin — while keeping your complexion (and microbiome) pH-balanced, and the hydrating glycerin within the formula restores moisture.


The Extra-Hydrating Option

This baby is a cult-fave K-Beauty product for a reason: It contains the skin-boosting trifecta of willow bark extract (a natural form of salicylic acid), niacinamide (which calms and banishes redness), and betaine salicylate (another salicylic acid-adjacent ingredient that quashes acne-causing bacteria), all of which work to unclog congested pores.


The Drugstore Buy

All you have to do is stroll into a drugstore to snag this Paula’s Choice dupe, which delivers a just-as-good-radiance to breakout-prone skin. Besides the star salicylic acid, this toner-serum hybrid also has cica, an ingredient renowned for its inflammation-quelling prowess. The zinc PCA in the formula balances oil production, and the niacinamide helps keep acne at bay.


The Soothing Option

Though the other dupes have a soothing effect, this one contains marshmallow extract — an anti-inflammatory all-star that helps reduce puffiness, redness, irritation, and other skin woes. So if you’re dealing with a particularly inflamed complexion, this BHA tonic is for you.


The Multitasking Buy

According to one person’s review of this Clarity Tonic, it’s “magic in a bottle.” Use it as a toner and reap the benefits of pore-clearing salicylic acid (of course), soothing aloe vera, skin-balancing probiotics, and moisturizing sodium hyaluronate. You also get extra exfoliation, since it contains lactic and glycolic acids, so the end result will be a brighter, more even glow.

Studies referenced:

Bylka, W. (2013). Centella asiatica in cosmetology. Advancements in Dermatology and Allergology.

Kim, H.K. (2012). Human Skin Safety Test of Green Tea Cell Extracts in Condition of Allergic Contact Dermatitis. Toxicol Res.

Shalita, A.R. (1981). Treatment of mild and moderate acne vulgaris with salicylic acid in an alcohol-detergent vehicle. Cutis.

Tang, S-C. (2018). Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules.

Woo, J. (2014). Development of a Controlled Release of Salicylic Acid Loaded Stearic Acid-Oleic Acid Nanoparticles in Cream for Topical Delivery. The Scientific World Journal.