My Complete Review of PCA Skin After Trying 15+ Products

As a skin care junkie always on the hunt for products that live up to their promises, I was keen to give the supposedly miracle-working PCA Skin line a try. Read on for my unfiltered and comprehensive review after using their products for over 6 months now.

A Quick Primer on PCA Skin

Before we get into the product nitty gritty, let‘s start with some background. Here‘s an overview of the company and what they‘re all about:

The Origins

  • Founded in 1990 by an aesthetician and dermatologist duo
  • Acquired by skincare giant Colgate-Palmolive Company in 2017

Their Mission

  • Create intense, transformative products for regular (non-medical) skincare routines
  • Focus specifically on chemical peels and anti-aging cosmeceuticals
  • Inspire people through excellence in product innovation, education and customer care

Some Key Facts

  • Flagship product is their Jessner peel formula, with over 1 million performed annually across the globe
  • An in-house PhD chemist spearheads their product R&D
  • 25+ years specializing in clinical skincare concerns like hyperpigmentation and acne reduction
  • Used and recommended by dermatologists, aestheticians and skincare pros

So in summary, this is a brand clearly committed to serious skincare concerns with the expertise to back it up. But does the proof lie in the actual products? Let‘s investigate…

My Experience With 12+ PCA Skin Products

I‘ve incorporated a wide range of PCA Skin‘s offerings into my regular routine for over 6 months now. I tried some individual products for potency first, then created a full routine.

Here‘s my in-depth review of 13 different serums, cleansers and moisturizers:

1. Pigment Gel

The Rundown: This newly formulated dark spot and acne scar serum combines proven brighteners like lactic acid and azelaic acid to reduce pigmentation without hydroquinone. My aesthetician recommended it to combat pregnancy melasma.

The Experience: The lightweight gel texture absorbs quickly without any residue or smell. I noticed some immediate brightness and saw fading pigmentation after 1 month of diligent use. Haven‘t experienced irritation but I don‘t have sensitive skin.

The Cost: $71 for 1oz, putting it firmly in the "professional" price range

The Verdict: A very solid brightening serum that delivers noticeable results with minimal risk of irritation. Pricey but you only need a little each day.

When to Use: After cleansing, before moisturizer/SPF both morning and evening

2. Smoothing Toner

The Rundown: This alcohol-free facial mist claims to clarify skin, remove impurities and condition using antioxidants, amino acids and aloe. Suitable for all skin types.

The Experience: Love the ultra-fine nebulizer sprayer and perfect slipperiness of the liquid as I massage it into my face. Leaves skin with a balanced, fresh feel but no tight dryness. Saw reduced appearance of pores and more even tone over 2 weeks.

The Cost: $40 for 6oz, very good value

When to Use: Spritz onto face after cleansing morning and night before serum and moisturizer

3. Intensive Eye Treatment

The Rundown: This concentrated cream claims to target fine lines, puffiness, dark circles and sagging thanks to peptides, arnica and green tea. Love the airless pump dispenser for optimum potency.

The Experience: It has an immediate cooling and depuffing effect upon application. The texture feels thicker and richer than my previous eye creams without migrating into eyes (key!). I did notice slightly firmer, brighter undereye skin but not enough to justify repurchasing at $100 price tag.

Tip: Use sparingly! About half a pump is plenty for both eyes. Too much product builds up in creases.

The Cost: $100 for 0.5oz – that‘s $200 per ounce! Save your money and look into prescription retinol eye creams instead.

The Verdict: Provides an instant refreshing, hydrating effect but not superior to cheaper options for long term anti-aging of eyes.

4. Anti-Redness Serum

The Rundown: Designed to soothe and calm sensitive, irritated complexions and post-procedure skin using oat extract, caffeine and green tea. Claims to reduce appearance of redness and blotchiness.

My Skin Concerns: Some intermittent redness around my nose and cheeks, with type 1 rosacea

The Experience: Felt immediately soothing upon application without any irritation. Nice hydrating gel. I do feel like it decreased my general facial redness over time and irritated skin calmed down faster when using this twice daily. A keeper!

Tip: Works beautifully layered over Pigment Gel to combat any dryness or irritation it can cause while getting all the brightening benefits.

The Cost: $100 for 1oz but you need only a pea sized amount so it‘s lasting me awhile!

The Verdict: Well worth investment if you deal with facial redness, irritation or sensitive skin prone to inflammation. Soothing superhero!

5. ReBalance Hydrating Complex

The Rundown: Moisturizer and barrier support cream that uses tried and true hydrators like glycerin and ceramides alongside antioxidants. Designed to attract, bind and seal in moisture without clogging pores.

My Skin Type: Combo, leaning dry in winter with monthly breakouts

The Experience: Love the velvety texture that blends effortlessly without any greasy residue. Skin feels velvet-smooth, supple and hydrated all day long with no midday dryness or oiliness even after acid use.

The Cost: $50 for 2oz which is pricier than drugstore but delivers notable results.

The Verdict: New holy grail daily moisturizer that perfectly hydrates while keeping skin balanced. Worth every penny for me! No breakouts so far.

When to Use: Day and night after watery serums. Can layer with oil if extra moisture is needed.

6. Cleansing Oil

Onto some cleansers…let‘s start with their cult classic daily cleansing oil designed to gently remove all traces of dirt, oil and makeup without stripping skin‘s natural barrier.

I love how thick and luxurious this feels instantly transforming into a light hydrating milk as you massage it into skin. Melts away stubborn waterproof mascara without any burning or residue left behind. Rinses clean without second cleanser but I always double cleanse anyway.

The biggest benefit in my opinion is how plump and smooth my skin looks and feels after use. Zero tightness. Just perfectly prepped for serum absorption without disrupting my moisture barrier.

The Cost: $39 for 5oz which seems expensive for an oil cleanser but a little goes a very long way so it‘s lasted me 5 months of nightly double cleansing!

The Verdict: Indispensible for all skin types but especially beneficial for dry or mature skin.Transformative texture and cleanses perfectly without stripping.

7. Hydrating Toner

Whereas most toners simply remove last traces of cleanser, this alcohol-free hydrating toner infuses skin with antioxidant actives to nourish while gently exfoliating. Key ingredients are lactic acid, vitamin E, ginger root, licorice root and bisabolol.

I find this gives my skin some extra clarity and radiance without any irritation. The slip and hydration make it perfect prep step for optimal absorption of my prescription retinol at night.

I also love misting it over makeup as a hydrating spritz when skin is feeling tight or dull halfway through the day. Brightens right up!

At $40 for a huge 6oz bottle, it feels like a good value compared to other treatment toners with such nice ingredients. A keeper for the long haul!

Suggested Use: After cleansing morning and night, mist all over face before applying serums and creams. Can use midday too.

Good For: All skin types needing extra glow. Retinol users will appreciate the extra barrier support as well!

8. Daily Cleansing Cloths

I‘ll be honest – I‘m always skeptical about pre-soaked cleansing cloths feeling like lazy shortcuts. But I stand corrected with these daily cleansing cloths!

The liquid extracted from one cloth rivals my entire usual routine of oil THEN foaming cleanser in terms of dirt and makeup melting away effortlessly. My skin looks immaculate, clean and glowing…with no irritation or flaky dryness around my nose as I tend to battle in winter.

These are saturated with a whole cocktail of glycerin, chamomile extract, provitamin B5, vitamin E and more – leaving my skin utterly quenched and happy post-cleansing.

The Cost: $30 for a pack of 30 which feels indulgent but I‘m hooked! Perfect for travel too.

Suggested Use: Massage one cloth gently all over dry face for 30 seconds then rinse off with warm washcloth. Follow with serum and moisturizer. Can be used morning OR night.

Good For: All skin types, especially reactive, dry or sensitive skin that hates most cleansers! Also perfect for lazy mornings and on-the-go travel.

9. Vitamin C Serum

No cutting edge skincare line would be complete without a home run vitamin C formulation – so I had high hopes for this serum with 20% ultra-stable absorbic glucoside vitamin C.

At $130 this lightweight serum should provide incredible brightening, smoothing and firming based on that hefty dose along with supporting antioxidants like vitamin E, ferulic acid and grapeseed extract.

I used this in place of my prescription retinol for about 3 months so as not to overload my skin too much. And while I did notice some glowing hydration and brighter tone, I sadly can‘t say this gave me anywhere NEAR the smoothing, firming and spot fading I see from properly formulated prescription vitamin C serums.

While not a total fail, I won‘t repurchase this given the staggering price tag. Instead I would highly recommend asking your dermatologist about compounded vitamin C serums which give you much more potent, fresher and stabilized batches of this tricky antioxidant!

10. Skin Perfecting Acids Exfoliator 3-in-1 Treatment

With regular acid use being keys to maintaining my porcelain glow and keeping breakouts at bay, I was so curious to try this potent AHA/BHA liquid exfoliant.

It contains glycolic acid to unlock surface radiance along with salicylic and lactic acids to keep pores clear prevent future congestion…plus builtin humectants and soothing agents like bisabolol. Love seeing a good cocktail of actives!

I incorporated this treatment 1-2 times weekly after cleansing and wow – my skin looks remarkably smooth, even-textured and radiant the next day every single time. No irritation, dryness or redness either. Just gorgeously glowy, clear skin that plays beautifully with my beloved retinol routine too.

It‘s pretty concentrated at 30ml for $36 so you need just a few drops to cover your face avoiding eye area. I find this bottle lasts me over 6 months with that amount of use.

The Verdict: My new holy grail gentle but highly effective resurfacing acid for maintaining porcelain perfection without overdoing it. Staple status achieved!

11. Retinol Treatment for Sensitive Skin

What good is a skincare line without an entry level OTC retinol? While I stick to my prescriptions for the real deal, I suggested by aesthetician mom give this a go for some gentle retinization benefits.

The Rundown: A lightweight 0.1% microencapsulated retinol formula combining retinol with soothing bisabolol and vitamins A, C and E. Claims to gently resurface skin, stimulate collagen and stop early aging signs without redness or dryness.

The Experience: My mom struggled with most OTC retinols stinging and causing flaky patches but enjoyed solid results from this version within weeks in terms of firmer skin texture, smaller looking pores, reduced fine lines and more even tone. No irritation to report either.

The Cost: $110 for 1oz but she only uses 2 pumps for face and neck area so it‘s lasting a few months already. Very solid buy!

The Verdict: Excellent option for retinol newbies given the micro delivery system and calming ingredients that prevent dryness. Can‘t beat the price either for such a high percentage formula.

12. ReBalance Day Oil-Free Moisturizer

My last product experiment was this oil-free day cream. I don‘t tend to love oil-free moisturizers with my slightly drier skin but gave it a go knowing PCA Skin uses great hydrators like hyaluronic acid in their base alongisde antioxidants and oil regulators.

Pleasantly surprised by the silky whipped texture upon smoothing onto skin! Absorbs fast without any greasy look or feel. Provides just hydration my skin craves without emphasizing pores around my nose as thicker creams tend to do on me lately.

I also love how beautifully makeup applies over this – no pilling or oxidation breakdown on me halfway through day like with some lotions. Just unbelievably soft, supple skin and perfectly primed base for BB cream, bronzer and blush all day.

For $50 you get a solid 2oz squeeze tube too. I use just a nickel sized amount so expecting this to last over 6 months even with twice daily application.

My Skin Type: Combo, clog-prone, battling new dryness around nose lately in winter climate

Good For: Absolutely anyone wanting oil-free hydration without sacrificing moisture, especially oily and acneprone skin types. Makeup wearers rejoice over the perfect priming element too!

Suggested Use: Smooth over clean skin morning and/or night before makeup/SPF.

When PCA Skin Falls Short + Great Alternatives

While the majority of products absolutely deliver, I think PCA Skin definitely has some room for improvement and options where I‘ve since found better performing alternatives:

Gentle Exfoliants

The Pore Refining Gel felt too harsh, drying out my skin. Instead I love Dermalogica‘s $59 Daily Microfoliant Rice Bran Polish which resurfaces so gently.

Soothing Masks

Rather than their $62 hydrating mask, I prefer First Aid Beauty‘s Ultra Repair Cannabis & Oat Dry Oil for irritation which is half the price.


Innisfree‘s $19 Apple Seed Cleansing Oil removes my long wearing makeup and sunscreen just as well as the more expensive PCA version.

The Takeaway: I suggest looking into K-beauty brands like Innisfree and CosRx for cheaper clean formulation alternatives before paying PCA Skin‘s luxury brand prices across the board.

Who Should Buy PCA Skin?

In summary after trying basically their whole line, I suggest PCA Skin MOST for those struggling with:

  • Acne scarring/hyperpigmentation (where their peels and serums really transform)
  • Fine lines and loss of firmness
  • Oily, clogged skin and enlarged pores

However those with sensitive or very dry skin may be better off exploring gentler alternatives mentioned above. Their formulas lean potent.

The Verdict: Worth The Investment?

While not 100% perfect across the board, I can confidently say the majority of PCA Skin‘s products provide incredible and visible results to back up the luxury price tags.

Where they excel is truly smoothing skin texture, refining pores, fading dark spots/scars and ramping up collagen production for anti-aging benefits.

What holds them back slightly is the lack of affordable, gentler options for dry/sensitive skin types. But with the proper perusal of ingredients, education from their top notch customer service team and advice from your dermatologist or aesthetician, most consumers can build a stellar routine incorporating multiple PCA offerings.

Some of my ride-or-die forever staples from the brand include:

  • Smoothing Toner
  • Cleansing Oil
  • Hydrating Toner
  • ReBalance Cream
  • Anti-Redness Serum
  • Perfecting AHA/BHA Acid Treatment

The Final Word

I appreciate PCA Skin‘s no-holds-barred commitment to real clinical results for common skincare woes backed by expertise and research.

That said, the premium pricing and lack of clean/natural options leaves plenty of room for more affordable drugstore alternatives.

Hope this thorough and unbiased review gave you the full picture to decide which products may be right for your needs! Let me know any other questions.

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