The first time I met board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD, in 2016, she was lasering off my acne scarring in her Manhattan office. I hadn't started writing about beauty yet, and it would be another two years before she filmed the first of the "PillowtalkDerm" videos that have turned her into an internet superstar (or "dermfluencer," as they're called in the biz). It felt like kismet when our paths crossed again this week to chat about the launch of her upcoming skin-care line, which is specifically designed to treat the type of discoloration that brought us together in the first place.
This pigment-fading serum offers both immediate and long-term results. Post-application, it will make skin look instantly brighter, and over time, its combination of alpha arbutin, kojic acid, and niacinamide will even the appearance of discoloration. Just know that it may make skin more sensitive to the sun, so if you use it in the morning, be sure to follow it up with plenty of SPF.
Because this moisturizer is packed with antioxidants, it works to fade existing hyperpigmentation while also protecting your skin from the UV damage that can make future discoloration occur. Vitamin C plays a starring role on that front, while peptides add additional skin-firming benefits.
Dr. Idriss started creating content on Instagram in 2018 after her 10th patient in a week walked into her office and asked if jade rollers really worked. "I was so sick of hearing the same BS questions over and over," she says. So she got into bed one night and filmed herself venting—literally, pillow-talk style—as a way to debunk the skin-care misconceptions that run rampant on social media. By 2020, her following had grown to the hundreds of thousands (as of this writing, it sits squarely at 468,000), and when she put out a poll asking if she should start a skin-care brand of her own, 98 percent of respondents said "yes." Thus, the PillowtalkDerm product line was born.
"I thought there was something missing in the market that spoke to people from a place of authority," says Dr. Idriss. "I wanted to take what was out there and make it better."
The brand's "Major Fade" line—which launched on Monday and features an exfoliant, a serum, and a moisturizer—is solely focused on fading discoloration. "Discoloration can really play a huge part in people looking grubby, worn out, and tired, and evening out your skin tone is the easiest, biggest bang for your buck way to [change] your skin," says Dr. Idriss.
The formulas were inspired, in part, by her personal experience dealing with post-partum melasma after the birth of her son. "I remember looking at my face and feeling devastated—it literally came up overnight, and I looked like the crypt keeper," she says. "I went down this path of having this ridiculous 10-step routine... and I thought to myself, 'This is so obnoxiously long, there has to be another way.'"
Discoloration, particularly in darker skin tones, is notoriously hard to treat—which explains why Dr. Idriss initially needed 10 steps to manage hers. "The problem is, it has always been a single-ingredient story, but the reality is it should be a multi-ingredient story," she says. "When you're talking about hyperpigmentation and discoloration, we now understand how pigment is made and spread, and there's no one-size-fits-all. Vitamin C is part of the picture, but its' not going to be the whole answer. You definitely need to be using a combination of different ingredients in order to get the results."
According to Dr. Idriss, hyperpigmentation is created via a three-part process in our cells. First, the melanocyte cells makes the pigmentation (aka melanin); then, the melanin gets put into little parcels called melanosomes; and finally, those melanosomes are distributed into our keratinocytes (aka skin cells), which determines how the pigment appears on our skin. Using pigment-regulating actives like vitamin C, alpha arbutin, and a laundry list of exfoliating acids (glycolic, lactic, kojic, and tranexamic) PillowtalkDerm's formulas fight discoloration at every step.
"If you look at the products, each one hits it at a different level, and all of the ingredients target different points throughout the pathway," says Dr. Idriss. "The Flash Mask targets the melanocytes and also helps on the superficial level by getting rid of all of the dead skin cells living on the top of your skin, the serum minimizes melanin production, and the moisturizer works to slow down how [the melanin] is spread throughout your skin cells. Each one on its own is a hero product, but the trio is a powerhouse."
Before launching the line, Dr. Idriss conducted what she calls a "nerd study" with 100 of her followers. She asked them to quit their usual skin-care routines and use only the PillowtalkDerm products (and their SPF, of course) every day for a month. "I'm the founder, and I was genuinely shocked when they told me that they saw results within two weeks—I usually tell people they need to stay on a regimen for 6-8 weeks before they'll start to notice anything," she says. "I knew in theory how well it works, but I was surprised at how effective it was in the real world as people were using it."
I got my hands on the products just last week, which was perfectly timed to help me deal with the discoloration that showed up on my skin after a summer of too much sun and not enough SPF. The acne scars that had been lasered away all those years ago started to peek through (because discoloration is, apparently, relentless), and after using the serum and moisturizer every morning and night for seven days (and trying the mask three times), I can see a visible difference in my skin. Though there's still a ways to go, considering my complexion already looks brighter and more even, I have very high hopes for what it will look like in three more weeks.
Shop the products above to treat your skin to some "major fade" of its own.
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