I Have Pigmentation and I Swear By This New Serum for Even, Glowing Skin

If like me, you spent the best part of your teens struggling with acne and persistent breakouts, then you’ve probably also spent your twenties dealing with the lingering aftermath of a dull, uneven skin tone. You’ll also know that there’s truly nothing more buzzkill than patches of hyperpigmentation when all you want is to live out your dreams of going makeup-free and having naturally radiant, glowing skin.

Of course, I’m not alone. Post-acne pigmentation is an increasingly common concern, and it’s easy to see why. Dermatologists and skincare experts agree that approximately 95% of the population experience acne between the ages of 11 and 30. But what happens when the breakouts clear? Scarring and hyperpigmentation are the lingering aftermaths of breakout-prone skin. Typically manifesting as red, brown, purple or black marks (depending on your skin tone and the depth of discolouration), this pigmentation develops when the skin has become inflamed. Untreated, it can take anything between three and 24 months for these marks to heal.


(Image credit: @THATGRACEGIRL)

Like most, I’ve tried the holy trifecta of pigmentation-targeting ingredients—alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), retinoids and vitamin C—all to some varying degree of success. So when I heard that one of my favourite brands, Allies of Skin was launching a serum that claimed to boost glow without the use of AHAs, retinoids, or vitamin C, I was naturally intrigued. There’s certainly been a collective movement away from AHA-based products in the past year, as skin experts have educated on the dangers of over-exfoliation and the importance of strengthening the skin barrier to help skin heal. All of the aforementioned ingredients can be irritating (especially for sensitive skin) so aren’t a feasible option for many, but until now, the market has been short of products that work without them.

But that’s where Allies of Skin’s Tranexamic & Arbutin Advanced Brightening Serum comes into play. It might not contain exfoliating acids or retinoids, but according to Allies of Skin founder and skincare expert Nicholas Travis, that’s exactly what people were asking for. "We’re so used to products that strip and disrupt the skin barrier,” he says. "But I knew there had to be a way in which we could achieve a healthy glow without any acids, without any exfoliation and without any retinoids.”


(Image credit: @THATGRACEGIRL)

What makes this serum unique is this exact concept and the unique blend of innovative ingredients that it contains. "It has 3% tranexamic acid and 2% alpha arbutin—two brightening powerhouses that inhibit excess melanin production (which is responsible for pigmentation in the area of concern),” says Travis. "There’s also a 5% mushroom complex which not only strengthens the skin barrier but soothes and provides incredible antioxidant protection.” He was keen for the formula to feature adaptogenic mushrooms, after personally seeing amazing benefits when taking them as an oral supplement. "The mushrooms are a great natural source of kojic acid (which is another proven ingredient to brighten pigmentation),” he explains. "They work alongside 5% niacinamide, a great active ingredient which helps to regulate sebum production, restore the skin barrier and brighten pigmentation.”

Chances are you may not (yet) be familiar with all of those ingredients, but that doesn’t mean to say they’re not seriously effective. While acids work by exfoliating the top layers of the skin, tranexamic acid works quite differently. "It goes deeper into the skin to reduce inflammation, unlike acids which actually trigger inflammation,” Travis explains. 


(Image credit: @THATGRACEGIRL)

The serum may only just have launched but it already has big fans within the beauty community. "Previously, I was dealing with breakouts and acne but now I’ve passed that, my next goal was reducing discolouration and just generally brightening my skin,” says celebrity makeup artist and skin expert Nikki DeRoest. "I love that the serum can treat my pigmentation but also means I’m not stripping my skin and that it is still hydrated and healing.” DeRoest saw a difference within a matter of weeks. "After a week I thought I was seeing things but as I kept using it I could see it was truly brightening those spots,” she says. "Now I use it every morning and night. I’m obsessed.” After trying out the serum for the first time myself, I understood the obsession straight away. The serum has a lightweight but luxurious texture, it feels super soothing, and it doesn't trigger any redness or sensitivity in the slightest. What's more, because the skin is water-based, it gives skin an instant dewy glow.

Plus, Travis has ensured the serum can be used alongside other active ingredients without causing irritation. "You can use it on its own but you can also mix it,” he says. "For example with a vitamin C serum, or at night with a retinoid or acid-based serum.” 

Like DeRoest, I noticed a difference in my skin within a week of using the serum. First to my overall skin tone, which appears brighter and fresher, and then to my pigmentation—a recent spot that had left a red mark faded to nothing within just a couple of days. I'm confident that I'm now on the final countdown to makeup-free days ahead, so I can’t wait to see what the results are like after a few months of use. Yes, it is an investment, but for me, it is well worth it.

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Freelance Beauty Editor

Grace Day is a beauty editor and content creator. She has over 10 years of beauty-industry experience, spanning editorial, retail, and e-commerce, which gives her a unique understanding into how people shop for their beauty routines. While studying for a history degree (specialising in the history of beauty) and working as a beauty adviser in department stores, Grace started writing her own beauty blog in order to share the products she discovered while dealing with acne. After graduating, she moved to Beauty Bay as beauty editor and content manager. Grace is currently a beauty contributor to Who What Wear. She has also written for Hypebae and PopSugar and works as a brand consultant and copywriter.