this thing's incredible

It’s Painfully Expensive, But This Toner Actually Made My Hyperpigmentation History

Photo: Christine Ochefu

For most of my life, dealing with hyperpigmentation had been an endless struggle. For darker skin tones like my own, even the tiniest spot can leave irritating reminders of what was once there, long after acne has disappeared. Going to uni, my well-budgeted student-loan money allowed me freedom to try out new products to rid my face of any marks. But researching online, where I pored over YouTube videos and endless Reddit threads, led me to some ill-advised solutions for leaving my face clear. Using the less-than-scientific method of copying routines from whichever user’s skin I thought looked nicest, I’d alternate among slathering on vitamin C serums, glycolic-acid toners, and (dermatologists look away now) undiluted apple-cider vinegar prior to moisturising. Most were either too harsh or only mildly effective in clearing things up, and I soon grew used to expertly covering the marks with minimal makeup.

What led me to the exfoliant I use now was, in all honesty, an accident. I came across the Biologique Recherche brand in early 2019; I’d been absent-mindedly scrolling on Facebook, looking through the continuous recommendations of groups the app suggested I join. I came across a private group pertaining to skin care specifically for skin of colour. Browsing for a while, I couldn’t understand why post after post kept raving about a brand I’d never heard of with a name I couldn’t pronounce. Most of the praise was directed towards a new exfoliant: the Biologique Recherche PIGM 400 toner. According to posters, it wasn’t actually a toner but a liquid chemical exfoliant with the viscosity of water, primed with strange ingredients like wasabi extract and red algae to give glowing, even-toned skin.

Always a skeptic, hardened by years of unsatisfactory products, and brought up short by the glaring £75 price point, I took my time searching for reasons it wouldn’t work. But I quickly found it was famed; beauty sites like Into the Gloss spoke of its effectiveness, and models like Paloma Elsesser raved about it; it was even recommended by writers on this site, like Rio Viera-Newton. I finally purchased it three months later from the brand’s U.K. web store. At first, I was impatient as it worked rather slowly — it’s meant to exfoliate over the course of two skin cycles, a painstaking fifty days — but I did see my dark spots lifting bit by bit. After a while, friends and family were constantly complimenting me on my skin’s glowiness, and there was a huge difference to my skin clarity.

[Editor’s note: Embassy of Beauty is Biologique Recherche’s UK retailer. You need to create a profile to purchase, but membership is free.]

Nowadays, I always have to have a bottle as part of my routine. I mainly use in the evenings; after washing my face with a gentle cream cleanser like La Roche Posay’s Toleraine Caring Wash, I dry my face and splash a little toner onto a gauzelike cotton pad from White Rabbit (they don’t soak up much product, so you get far more toner for your money). You have to apply it differently than a regular toner, though; I follow beauty blogger Gothamista’s advice on how to put it on. I press — never drag — the toner onto my skin to absorb, then apply Hada Labo hyaluronic-acid serum and Cerave moisturiser to seal. It’s far too strong for everyday use, so I only apply it a couple of times a week, yet I just can’t get the same dewy glow without it. Luckily, the price point no longer leaves me smarting — it lasts absolutely ages, so I’m only on my fourth bottle in about two years.

The other items in my evening routine

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The Toner that Made My Hyperpigmentation History