Of all the skin issues I’ve experienced in my life — eczema, inflammation, hormonal acne — the one I’ve been struggling with the longest is hyperpigmentation. My sensitive skin usually reacts horribly to chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid and my medium skin tone resists more invasive treatments; an intense pulsed light (or IPL), which uses light therapy to target areas of hyperpigmentation, scabbed and scarred my skin. And because of my ongoing eczema, my skin doesn’t scar well. All of this to say, whenever I get a zit, I’m left with a dark mark on my skin that resembles a sun spot.
But when I incorporated the Restorative Routine from Restorative Elements into my nighttime regimen, everything I thought I knew about hyperpigmentation treatment completely turned on its head. The three-step regimen, which features a cleanser, exfoliating pads, and a moisturizer, not only helped reduce the appearance of my existing acne scars, but brightened my overall skin tone and left me with glowy, radiant skin.
The routine starts with the Brightening Gel Cleanser, which can be used both day and night (though I typically only cleanse my skin at nighttime). It has a thick gel texture that foams up beautifully as it’s mixed with water. I take between a nickel- and quarter-sized amount and a splash of warm water onto my palm, rub my hands together until it foams, and apply it all over my face in gentle, circular motions for about 60 seconds. I like that it foams up nicely without drying out my already-dry skin, and the thicker consistency of the cleanser offers a more luxurious experience than I’m typically used to with cleansers.
It contains the Restorative Routine’s signature cocktail of brightening and protective ingredients, including niacinamide, Centella asiatica (a.k.a. cica), and licorice root.
“Niacinamide is a holy grail skin-care ingredient,” explains Jeannette Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “It aids in the production of ceramides, which make up about half the lipids found in our skin cells. Healthy skin cells are crucial for helping the skin look and feel its best — hydrated, bright, and non-irritated.”
It works together with cica, which cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson notes “is a plant that is known to have soothing, calming, and protective benefits for the skin,” and licorice root, which “has been used in skin care to help even out skin tone given it helps remove excess melanin.” Robinson also notes that the presence of Kakadu plum, which is a fruit native to Australia, in the cleanser is rich in vitamin C. “Topically, it works as an antioxidant and can help brighten the skin,” he says.
After cleansing, I pat my skin dry with a towel and use one of the AHA Resurfacing Pads all over my forehead, cheeks, chin, and neck. The pads are pre-soaked cotton rounds that simultaneously physically and chemically exfoliate the skin. The physical exfoliation from the texture of the pads removes dead cells from the surface of the skin, while the chemical exfoliation from the glycolic acid works to resurface and brighten the skin from the inside out. The solution contains the same brightening ingredients as the cleanser, including niacinamide, cica, and licorice root, and in place of Kakadu plum, it contains a 6 percent concentration of glycolic acid.
“Glycolic acid is a key ingredient to look for when you’re searching for an exfoliator,” says Dr. Graf. “Exfoliating the skin helps get rid of dead skin cells and replenish the skin with healthy cells. This helps the overall appearance of our skin.”
My sensitive, eczema-prone skin doesn’t typically respond well to glycolic acid, but the low concentration of AHA in the pads is light enough to prevent inflammation. I also like that the pads leave my skin feeling baby-soft and visibly brighter even after one use. Due to my sensitivity, I only use the pads once a day during my nighttime routine, but for more resilient skin types, the pads can be used up to twice a day (both in the morning and at night).
After using the pad, I let the AHA serum sink into my skin and follow up with the Dark Mark Corrector. Of the three products in the Restorative Routine, this one is my favorite because it can be used as both an all-over moisturizer and spot treatment. It has a super lightweight cream texture, which is actually a bit different than what I typically look for in a moisturizer (I tend to gravitate toward more emollient formulas), but to my surprise, my skin really loves it.
Like the other products in this regimen, the moisturizer is made with the core combination of niacinamide, cica, and licorice root, and also adds in the hydrating benefits of squalane, which, Dr. Graf says “helps our body and skin naturally retain moisture,” and hyaluronic acid to help attract and retain moisture to “keep our skin refreshed and plump.” I use two to three pumps to cover my whole face, and when I’m using the cream as a spot treatment, I dot a heavy layer onto the affected spots. This is best followed by SPF 30 or higher during the day.
The Restorative Routine has made a world of difference for my skin. Long-lasting acne scars around my cheekbone have decreased in visibility, my skin looks and feels glowy and radiant, and the texture of my skin has smoothed out despite the quick shift to colder weather. I’m so happy to have found a set of exfoliating products that not only brightens my skin, but doesn’t inflame my eczema or sensitivity. It’s a regimen I know I’ll be incorporating into my skin-care routine for years to come.