This New $16 Serum Replaced My $245 One, and My Skin Looked Better in One Week

"Look how good my skin looks!" I practically screamed at my dad the second he slid into the passenger seat of my car. It was fall, right around Thanksgiving, and my dad was in L.A. helping me pack up my apartment before the holidays, after which I'd be moving into a new place across town. It'd been about three months since I'd last seen my family, and after years of trying to get my hormonal acne under control (and constantly tweaking my skincare routine and lifestyle habits), my skin was finally, miraculously, completely clear. Heck, it was glowing! For the first time almost ever, I felt confident walking outside without a stitch of makeup, and even more astounding, whenever I did so, I'd accrue compliments (sometimes from complete strangers) on my skin—an experience that was completely foreign to me. 

My family, obviously, has become intimately attuned to my skin woes, and my parents have a keen awareness as to how much my acne-prone skin has impacted my self-confidence over the years. But as I mentioned, I'd been working diligently to hone my skincare routine to best serve my finicky complexion and was also working with a naturopathic doctor to balance my hormones with a few key supplements and lifestyle changes. The work had paid off, and my skin had, slowly but surely, undergone quite the transformation. Until, of course, everything went to shit. 

It hadn't been but three days after I'd so superfluously bragged to my dad about the status of my skin, that I noticed a few new bumps around the corners of my mouth, most of which (at the time) were exclusive to the left side. Huh, that's weird, I thought to myself, not overly concerned and chalking it up to hormones since my period was looming. Fast-forward a few weeks, however, and I was in total panic mode. What had started as a few bumps had morphed into a full-blown breakout, and I was experiencing an ever-increasing flush of red inflammation all around my nose, chin, and mouth that looked more like some kind of crazy rash—hardly the hormonal pimples I was accustomed to. 

Long story short (and fear not—there will be another in-depth story about my experience coming soon to Who What Wear), after getting in to see a derm while home for the holidays, I found out I was dealing with perioral dermatitis and some acne. My skin was a true melting pot of everything that can happen to one's skin at this point: flaking, scales, bumps, redness, pimples, itchiness… You name it, I had it! I was prescribed a special breed of antibiotics to help clear the flare-up (although my doctor told me it could definitely recur), I went back on spironolactone (a prescription medication that has helped clear my skin in the past), and I began taking neem (more on that below). Last but not least, I was forced to replace my old skin-improving product routine with an entirely new one devoid of any and all actives and exfoliating agents and in favor of barrier-friendly hydrators and lightweight, non-irritating formulas. 

Luckily for me, my need for an overhauled product regimen perfectly aligned with the launch of a brand-new, low-priced skincare brand called Byoma (exclusively sold at Target), which prioritizes practically every single thing I was looking for in new, dermatitis-friendly products: clean, noncomedogenic, dermatologist-approved ingredients specifically designed to improve and repair the skin's barrier function while simultaneously hydrating, balancing, and brightening. A proprietary Tri-Ceramide Complex is touted as the line's MVP, and all seven formulas (one cleanser, one toner/face mist, two moisturizers, and three serums) are mix-and-match compatible and boast complementary key ingredients to boost skin health.


One Week After Using Byoma
(Image credit: @erin_jahns)


One Week After Wearing Makeup
(Image credit: @erin_jahns)

Although I'm excited to eventually try all seven of Byoma's formulas, I started out with the Hydrating Serum, which seemed the most benign and thus the safest. Due to the state of my skin, I'd gone without anything other than a cleanser, eye cream, face cream, and SPF for weeks, and I couldn't wait to see how the $16 formula, which is enriched with moisturizing squalene and glycerin along with the signature Tri-Ceramide Complex, would impact my skin. Fun fact: One of the many things I love about the brand is that it lists every single ingredient on the side of the product and explains what, exactly, each ingredient does—the transparency is beyond cool.

Keeping my fingers crossed that nothing in the serum would aggravate my skin, I followed the package's instruction and squeezed about six drops into my palms before massaging and patting them into my complexion. The serum has a milky, more viscous consistency than the other (far pricier) hydrating serums I'd used pre-dermatitis, and at first, I was skeptical. It almost felt more like a milky face cream than a serum! Of course, the second I saw how plump, glowy, and dewy, my skin looked, all worry was erased. Not to mention I noticed that regular morning and evening application—just after a few days—made a noticeable difference in both the look, feel, and texture of my skin. Yep, miracles do exist, and apparently, they come in aesthetically pleasing periwinkle packaging, they'll only set you back $16, and they are available at Target. 

After becoming increasingly obsessed with Byoma's Hydrating Serum and being able to ensure it wouldn't worsen or excite my dermatitis in any way, I decided to get really crazy and added another Byoma product into the mix: the Balancing Face Mist. (This is especially bizarre considering I am not a face-mist person. In fact, I'm the complete opposite of a face-mist person!) That said, here I am regretting every despicable thing I've ever uttered in regard to the product category because this balancing elixir from Byoma is brilliant. Like, it's exceptional, and I'm pretty sure spritzing my face with this superfine mist and following it up with the Hydrating Serum played a very large hand in my dermatitis healing and practically disappearing after just one week. 

Although the causes of perioral dermatitis are diverse and not entirely clear, one of the biggest potential offenders is a broken skin barrier, which is what Byoma specifically seeks to remedy. Just like the serum, the face mist features the brand's signature Tri-Ceramide Complex to support barrier health, but it's also fortified with probiotic ferment and allantoin to soothe, calm, and re-feed the skin's microbiome. 

As a self-proclaimed skincare snob (who, before, almost exclusively used super-expensive product staples), I could not be more surprised—and thrilled—by Byoma. To me, everything about the brand is genius, accessible, and bar-setting. I never thought I'd be here saying my most treasured skincare possessions clock in at under $20, but here I am screaming it from the rooftops, and I highly recommend you try the brand yourself.

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Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.