I tried TikTok’s viral exfoliator to see if it would change my skin




There came a point in my shamelessly crippling TikTok addiction where I ended up on the self-improvement side of the app. It felt good – because basically any form of self-care is inherently productive and anything is better than the weirdly specific side of Mormon TikTok I was on (don’t ask).

It also meant a portion of my spending was going towards items like a jawline exerciser, Cerave cleanser and the beloved miracle exfoliant from Paula’s Choice (yes, I’m that easily influenced – an algorithmic dream). User Amelia Olivia popped up on my ‘for you page’ (FYP, as the youths say) with her wildly glowing skin and claimed the BHA exfoliant ‘changed her life’. Blame my FOMO – I had to try it.

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Upon further investigation, it looked promising. The Paula’s Choice 2 per cent BHA liquid exfoliant is decorated with a slew of ‘best beauty’ awards and five-star reviews. It’s available in two sizes, recommended for all skin types and – my favourite part – comes in at a reasonable $38 for the larger size. I’m a skincare junkie, but the cheap kind.

The nitty-gritty

The key ingredient is salicylic acid, which is behind the app’s favourite cleanser, too. As old and jaded as I may be, I must say – there’s a lot of glowing skin on my FYP. I’m taking notes.

Paula claims the BHA liquid ‘gently exfoliates built-up layers of dead skin… effectively unclogs pores, optimises skin renewal and clarity’. To apply, you pop it on a cotton pad, smooth all over the face and neck and leave it to dry. You can start by incorporating it into your routine every second day and build up usage, which is what I chose.


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A post shared by Amelia Olivia 🤍 (@amelia0livia)

My skin

As I approach my mid-twenties, my skin has dried out significantly. I get hormonal breakouts on my chin around my period (which annoy me to no end) and I could use some of that aforementioned glow. I’ve also got a series of tiny little bumps on my forehead that never seem to go away.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve also got a pretty chronic squeezing/picking/touching my face habit. I’m fully aware of how terrible it is for my skin, but it’s a weird anxiety relief for me and I’m trying my best to break the habit. It’s been okay recently, but there are some scars. In summary: my skin’s not perfect, but not overly problematic.

The two-week test

I ordered from Adore Beauty because its shipping is always efficient; I got the big bottle because I have a lot of faith. For maximum exfoliation, I used textured cotton pads to apply (I wouldn’t recommend this for sensitive skin – mine just needed the extra help). The product has a watery consistency and feels pleasantly cooling on the skin. There’s a very faint chemical smell, but it’s not obnoxious.

I dropped a little on a cotton pad and applied it all over my face. It has that wonderful Bioderma-like effect where it grabs onto all the leftover bits of makeup and dirt on the skin, leaving you feeling cleaner than you ever have before. There’s something so satisfying about wiping stubborn mascara smudges away.

So far, so good. It’s not giving me that nasty post-exfoliant tightness or irritation (*cough* St Ives *cough*), but I’m also not instantly glowing. I know it was unlikely to happen, but a girl can dream.


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A post shared by Paulas Choice (@paulaschoiceau)

To scrub or not to scrub?

While I did not attain an instant glow, I did get an eventual glow build-up – pretty quickly, too. It scrubbed away the dry skin my foundation would occasionally cling to (never a good look) and those mystery bumps have miraculously left my forehead. Sans the scars that seem to be sticking around, I have the FYP-worthy skin I’ve always wanted.

Parting wisdom? Buy the exfoliator, skip the jawline exerciser and always invest in the glow.

Find more tried-and-tested TikTok-approved beauty products here.

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