If you’ve recently had a chemical peel at a dermatologist’s office or medical spa, there’s a good chance your skin professional used a PCA peel. PCA Skin has been a leader in chemical peels for more than 25 years. In fact, more than one million PCA Skin peels are performed globally each year.
What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2023?
Since it launched, PCA Skin has expanded to offer an entire range of skin care products, including everything from cleansers to toners to serums and more.
It’s clear that this brand knows their stuff when it comes to chemical peels. But how well do the rest of the products in the PCA Skin collection perform?
To answer that question, we’ll have to review the PCA Skin products through a scientific lens. That means we’ll dive deep into the formulation details, discussing the key ingredients in PCA Skin products and the research that supports (or doesn’t support) their use in skin care.
We’ll also share some PCA Skin reviews so that you can get an idea of what customers really think of these products.
Is PCA Skincare Worth The Money?
A common question about this brand is if the products are worth the cost. PCA Skincare products are expensive, for example, the Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum 3oz is $299.
In our opinion, PCA Skincare products aren’t worth the money, simply because there are other skincare brands that offer similar products that are less expensive.
One brand is Carrot & Stick, a clean skincare brand that perfectly balances the gentle nurturing of plants with the powerful results of innovative science.
Carrot & Stick intro bundles deliver great value for money because you can bundle 3 full-size products worth up to
$240 for $88.
What’s Inside PCA Skin Care Products?
Here’s a closer look at the active ingredients commonly used in PCA Skin products. Vitamin C, peptides, and retinol make up the core ingredients for the PCA Skin line. These ingredients should all be part of your skincare routine.
We’ve been hearing for years that Vitamin C is the best anti-aging ingredient. It’s a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.
Vitamin C also helps fade dark spots, evens out skin tone, and increases radiance. As if that wasn’t enough, research suggests that when vitamin C is applied to the skin, it significantly reverses aging-related structural changes by influencing collagen and elastin synthesis.
It’s in PCA C&E Advanced, a high potency antioxidant serum combines 20% L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and 5% tocopherol (vitamin E) into a base of silicones, giving you a silky serum that protects against environmental free radical damage.
But our favorite Vitamin C serum is Carrot & Stick The Defence Serum. It contains 3 distinct types of Vitamin C that work together to help fight free radical damage. We recommend using it every morning.
As you age, your body’s production of collagen and elastin slows down. These two proteins are responsible for your skin’s structural support. As a result, the skin loses its natural plumpness and smoothness.
While collagen is necessary for maintaining youthful-looking skin, the collagen protein is too large to absorb into the skin topically. That’s why applying skin care products that contain collagen won’t provide the anti-aging benefits you’re looking for.
This is where peptides come into action. Peptides are the building blocks of protein, and they are easily absorbed into the deeper layers of skin due to their smaller size.
PCA Ideal Complex Revitalizing Eye Gel contains the peptide myristoyl nonapeptide-3, which provides similar benefits as vitamin A (retinol) without irritation, such as reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and making the skin smoother and brighter.
If you’re looking for a peptide serum, we recommend Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum. It contains 7 plant-based peptides to promote plumper and smoother-looking skin. It also has skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.
Retinol is the go-to anti-aging ingredient recommended by dermatologists and skin experts. It’s clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores.
The only downside? Retinol can often lead to side effects like skin dryness, peeling, and irritation.
It’s in PCA Skin Intensive Clarity Treatment 0.5% Pure Retinol.
Use retinoids at night. We recommend this retinoid oil serum. It contains Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, an ingredient that provides similar benefits with less irritation.
The brand combines these key ingredients with plenty of soothing botanicals, such as chamomile and cucumber extract, as well as safe synthetics, such as silicones and humectants.
What Are The Top 10 Best PCA Skin Care Products?
PCA offers everything you need to create a complete skin care routine, including cleansers, toners, masks, moisturizers, treatments, serums, exfoliants, and more. Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 best PCA skin care products.
PCA Skin Pigment Gel HQ Free
You’ll find a blend of three powerful dark-spot fading ingredients in this hydroquinone-free spot treatment: phenylethyl resorcinol, azelaic acid, and kojic acid.
The antioxidant phenylethyl resorcinol provides protection against free radicals. It also inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase, which in turn helps to reduce the formation of dark spots.
Kojic acid is another type of tyrosinase inhibitor that is proven to treat hyperpigmentation.
And azelaic acid is a gentle leave-on exfoliant that helps to unclog pores and improve skin texture.
The brand uses a high concentration of denatured alcohol in this formula in order to enhance the penetration of these key ingredients. Typically we don’t recommend products with high concentrations of denatured alcohol since this type of alcohol can cause dryness and even disruption of the skin barrier.
However, since PCA Skin Pigment Gel is meant to be used as a spot treatment, the benefits of the denatured alcohol in this formula may outweigh the risks.
Bottom Line: PCA Skin Pigment Gel HQ Free is a hydroquinone-free spot treatment that helps to fade dark spots and promote a more even skin tone.
PCA Clear Skin Moisturizer
This nourishing, light moisturizer is formulated for those with normal, oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin. The formula absorbs into the skin quickly leaving it feeling soft and hydrated, not greasy or sticky.
We love that the formula contains 4% niacinamide. Why? In our opinion, niacinamide is one of the best skin care ingredients. And there’s research to back it up.
For example, a publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling. Pretty impressive, right?
There’s also quite a few botanical extracts in the PCA Clear Skin Moisturizer, such as marigold flower oil, lemongrass extract, cucumber extract, and bisabolol. These ingredients calm and soothe the skin while attracting and retaining moisture.
Bottom Line: PCA Clear Skin Moisturizer combines niacinamide with plant extracts in a lightweight cream that’s ideal for those with normal, oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin.
PCA Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum
This hydrating serum combines sodium hyaluronate, the sodium salt form of hyaluronic acid, with hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, a low molecular weight version of hyaluronic acid.
Both of these ingredients will help to attract moisture to the skin. In fact, hyaluronic acid is able to hold more water than any other natural substance — up to 1,000 times its weight in water!
Applying these various molecular weights of hyaluronic acid will result in smoother, softer skin with decreased wrinkles and a more plump appearance.
The serum also includes HA-Pro Complex, a proprietary blend that stimulates the production of the skin’s own hyaluronic acid and delivers 24-hour hydration. According to the brand, the HA-Pro Complex leads to long-term hydration and anti-aging effects.
You’ll also reap the benefits of the multitasking ingredient niacinamide, as well as ceramides that help strengthen the skin’s barrier.
Bottom Line: PCA Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum combines sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, and the HA-Pro Complex in order to hydrate skin and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
PCA Skin Intensive Clarity Treatment 0.5% Pure Retinol
If you’re trying to prevent or reduce signs of skin aging, then you’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to add a retinol cream into your nightly routine. Retinol is one of the gold standard anti-aging ingredients because it provides numerous benefits to the skin.
According to a publication in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, retinol is clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and unclog pores.
Plus, the brand has also included bakuchiol — the plant-based retinol alternative — in this formula. Bakuchiol has been shown to produce many of the same effects of using retinol, but without causing as much irritation.
You’ll also find 2% salicylic acid in the PCA Skin Retinol Cream, which is an excellent ingredient for clearing dead skin cells and unclogging pores.
Bottom Line: PCA Retinol Cream combines pure retinol with bakuchiol and 2% salicylic acid to help decrease signs of aging while also unclogging pores and clearing away dead skin cells.
PCA Pigment Bar
PCA Pigment Bar is a cleansing bar that can be used on both your face and body in order to calm skin and promote an even skin tone, making this bar ideal for those with discoloration.
It’s also a great product for those with dry skin because the highest concentration ingredient is glycerin. Glycerin is a humectant that attracts moisture to the skin, thereby leaving it supple and moisturized.
The cleansing bar also includes several different plant-derived oils, such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and castor seed oil. When you use oil to remove oily makeup and sebum, you’re employing the chemical principle called “like dissolves like.” Basically, oils will dissolve other materials that have a similar chemical structure.
And let’s not forget about the dark-spot fading ingredients niacinamide, azelaic acid, and kojic acid, which help to promote a brighter, more even complexion.
Bottom Line: A glycerin-based soap that hydrates, cleans, and also helps to correct discoloration.
PCA C&E Advanced
This high potency antioxidant serum combines 20% L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and 5% tocopherol (vitamin E) into a base of silicones, giving you a silky serum that protects against environmental free radical damage.
Using vitamins C and E together in one formula is great since the antioxidant activity of vitamin E can actually become more powerful when combined with vitamin C. For this reason, vitamins C and E are referred to as “network antioxidants”.
A publication in the journal
Dermatologic Therapy explains, “because vitamin C regenerates oxidized vitamin E, the combination in a cosmeceutical formulation is synergistic – particularly in UV protection.”
PCA C&E Advanced also includes 1% hexylresorcinol and 1% silymarin to brighten the complexion, fight free radical damage, and calm the skin.
Bottom Line: A high potency antioxidant serum with vitamins C and E, along with hexylresorcinol and silymarin, to help brighten and protect skin.
PCA Nutrient Toner
PCA Nutrient Toner is one of the more unique product formulations we’ve seen. Why? Well, the key ingredient in this formula is “pumpkin wine”, which isn’t an ingredient you see every day.
Pumpkin wine is produced by fermenting the whole pumpkin, leading to an extract rich in nutrients, like beta carotene and vitamin C.
This toner also includes a high concentration of lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that promotes gentle exfoliation by breaking down a skin protein called keratin while also increasing cell turnover rates in the upper layers of skin. Ultimately, lactic acid leaves the skin looking brighter with a more even tone.
Unfortunately, PCA Nutrient Toner includes a pretty high concentration of fragrance, which may lead to skin sensitivity.
Bottom Line: PCA Nutrient Toner includes pumpkin wine and lactic acid as key ingredients, but the inclusion of fragrance in this formula prevents us from recommending it.
PCA Sheer Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 45
This is a mineral sunscreen that combines zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide broad spectrum SPF 45 protection. Also known as physical sunscreens, these ingredients protect your skin by using physical UV filters to block or deflect UV light.
While mineral sunscreens often get a bad rep for being thick and leaving a white cast, this sunscreen won’t cause either of those problems. It has a silky texture that feels weightless thanks to several different types of silicones in the formula.
Plus, it offers a universal tint, and based on the PCA Skin reviews for this product, the tint is very sheer.
Bottom Line: A mineral sunscreen with a universal tint that provides broad spectrum SPF 45 protection.
PCA Ideal Complex Revitalizing Eye Gel
The formula for this lightweight eye gel is filled to the brim with beneficial ingredients. For example, the peptide myristoyl nonapeptide-3 is one of the key ingredients. This peptide provides similar benefits as vitamin A (retinol) without irritation, such as reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and making the skin smoother and brighter.
Plus, there’s also a blend of niacinamide, fraxinus excelsior bark extract, and silanetriol. This combination of ingredients reduces eye puffiness, dark circles and under-eye bags while providing antioxidant protection.
Bottom Line: PCA Ideal Complex Revitalizing Eye Gel combines an anti-aging peptide with plant extracts to reduce signs of aging around the eyes.
PCA Hydraluxe moisturizer definitely feels luxurious with its rich, silky texture that leaves skin feeling soft and supple, not greasy or sticky. It’s an excellent moisturizer for all skin types thanks to a combination of quite a few beneficial ingredients.
For instance, there’s a high concentration of niacinamide in this formula. As we mentioned earlier, niacinamide can help tackle everything from uneven skin tone to dryness to wrinkles and more.
There’s also plenty of skin-softening emollients in the formula, such as coconut-derived caprylic/capric triglyceride, shea butter, and squalane. The silicone dimethicone contributes to the silky texture while also helping to lock moisture into the skin.
A few of the botanical extracts in PCA Hydraluxe moisturizer include snow algae, chicory leaf, and peony. These ingredients strengthen and hydrate skin while also reducing the visible signs of aging.
The only thing we don’t love about this moisturizer is the inclusion of fragrance, which may lead to skin sensitivity.
Bottom Line: A rich, silky moisturizer that we’d love to recommend for all skin types if the formula was fragrance-free.
Is PCA Skin Pigment Gel Right For You?
PCA Skin Pigment Gel HQ Free is the brand’s most popular product, but is it right for you? Before trying this product, here’s a summary of the most important factors to consider:
- Key ingredients? Phenylethyl resorcinol, azelaic acid, and kojic acid.
- Skin type? Normal, dry, oily, combination; ideal for those with hyperpigmentation
- Texture? Gel-like serum
- Fragrance? No
- Cruelty free? Yes
- Cost? $64 USD for 1 fl oz
How Much Do PCA Skin Care Products Cost?
PCA skin care products are priced at a mid to high range, for example, the PCA Skin Pigment Gel HQ Free costs $64 USD for 1 fl oz, while the PCA Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum costs $117 for 1 fl oz.
Where to Buy PCA Skin Care Products?
PCA Skin products are sold on the brand’s website, as well as several third party online retailers, such as Dermstore.com, Skinstore.com, LovelySkin.com, and more. The brand has a list of authorized online retailers on their website.
What is The PCA Return Policy?
The PCA return policy states, “Your full satisfaction is important to us. Any product purchased directly from PCASkin.com may be returned within 30 days of purchase for a refund minus shipping costs.”
Is PCA Skin Cruelty Free?
Yes, PCA Skin is cruelty free. The brand’s animal testing statement on their website says, “PCA SKIN does not perform or condone animal testing at any point during the formulary process. We use ingredients with decades of research proving their safety on human skin.”
Is PCA Skin Vegan?
While PCA Skin may offer some products that are suitable for vegans, this is not a 100% vegan brand.
PCA Skin Reviews
PCA Skin reviews on the brand’s website are a mix of positive and negative. For example, the PCA Skin Pigment Gel HQ Free has received an average rating of only 3.8 out of 5 stars.
The positive reviews for the PCA Skin Pigment Gel HQ Free are from customers who were pleased to see results — such as less visible dark spots and brighter complexion — in a pretty short amount of time, typically less than one month.
For example, one review says, “I bought this a month ago. I have had sun damage on my face for a couple years. I’ve tried a lot of products, spent a lot of money. This was recommended to me by my doctor. After 3 weeks spots are barely visible! I feel confident they will completely disappear. I’m looking forward to trying more PCA skin! I’m very happy with the results!”
And another 5-star review says, “I have been using this product for approximately one month. From the first use, my skin began to glow. After some time the pigmentation on my skin has begun to fade. I am very pleased. Best of all, someone came up to me and said ‘I want your skin’.”
However, there are a handful of negative reviews for the PCA Skin Pigment Gel HQ Free from customers who experienced side effects from this gel, such as redness, irritation, and burning.
For example, one review says, “This HQ free pigment gel was recommended to me by my esthetician to treat sun damage and melasma spots that showed up during my pregnancies. I had to stop using it after about a week as it was just making my skin red, and blistered and it burned. I was hoping after a few days it would stop hurting but I feel it did more damage than good!”
Other negative reviews are from customers who didn’t see the results they were hoping for after using this serum.
For example, one review says, “I have been using this for about 2 weeks and haven’t noticed any change in my pigment spots. I will return it in another week if I continue to see no change.”
Overall, we think that PCA skin care products are formulated well with evidence-based ingredients, but we wish the brand would formulate all of their products without fragrance.
- Formulas include evidence-based ingredients (vitamins C and E, hyaluronic acid, azelaic acid, kojic acid, etc.)
- Many positive PCA Skin reviews
- PCA Skin is cruelty free
- High cost
- Some PCA Skin reviews mention side effects, such as redness and irritation
- Some PCA Skin products contain fragrance
What Are Some Alternatives to PCA Skin Care Products?
If you’re looking for skincare products to address the signs of aging, we recommend Carrot & Stick. Carrot & Stick maximizes the use of powerful ingredients and minimizes the use of superficial ones, resulting in advanced skincare solutions that help promote healthy, more youthful-looking skin. We recommend The Defence Serum, followed by The Moisturizer.
Br J Dermatol. 2019 Feb;180(2):289-296.
J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2001;15 Suppl 3:31-6.
EWG “What Are Parabens, And Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?” April 2019.
Jody Original review: Mar 23, 2021.
I got the chemical peel at a massage/ facial spa and the 5 piece PCA set. This was on a Tuesday evening and on Friday my face was so bad from the chemicals in the serum that I ened up in the ER. I am 62.
Please be careful if you have sensitive skin
as this stuff is very strong.