I was recently asked by a reader to look into a beauty brand called Skin Authority. Since I am obsessing these days about dark spots and hyperpigmentation – and if our comments and my inbox are anything to go by, so are many of you – I took a look at two products that could fit the bill. They revealed that Skin Authority has something of a Jekyll & Hyde approach in making its skincare products.

Mr Hyde was lurking with intent during the formulating of Skin Authority’s Hyperpigmentation Treatment ($51.50), which has a 2% concentration of hydroquinone. As I explained in my recent 101 on treating age spots, most cosmetic companies these days try to find alternatives to hydroquinone as it has been linked to cancer and its use is restricted in Europe, Japan and, to a lesser extent, in the US.

As I have no intention of subjecting my skin to such an ingredient at a 2% concentration (or, if I can help it, any) concentration,  plus there’s really nothing to redeem Hyperpigmentation Treatment, I moved swiftly to Skin Authority’s Brightening Serum ($59)

Thankfully the good side of Dr Jekyll’s is at the fore here. The main active ingredient in Skin Authority’s Brightening Serum is oligopeptide-34. This is supposed to inhibit tyrosinase, which is the essential enzyme in the formation of melanin and works by converting DOPA to DOPAquinone. Therefore, reducing its activity is likely to prevent further pigmentation.  I have run into this before in Dermalogica’s Chroma White and concluded that, at least in that formulation. The problem is that outside of Dermalogica-land, there isn't much independent research about oligopeptide-34.

There is a company called Caregen that makes synthetic peptides and it’s tests (although obviously not independent) give results that are fairly impressive. Oligopeptide-34 decreases melanin synthesis, blocks the transfer of melanosome and is also an anti-inflammatory.

Giving this peptide a helping hand is alpha arbutin, a skin lightener that is more effective than hydroquinone and while being much less irritating to the skin at similar or even greater doses.

Since dark spot faders seem to work better with exfoliated skin, it seems intelligent of Skin Authority to have included BHA (its also in Hyperpigmentation Treatment). Beta hydroxy acid is either biosynthesized or comes from the bark of willow tree. BHAs don’t just exfoliate the surface of the skin but deep below.

The alcohol and tetrasodium EDTA may prove to be irritating, but otherwise this formulation seems benign. And, who knows, it may also be effective. I decided to give it a try and bought some. I’ll report back in a few weeks.

Ingredients in Brightening Serum: Deionized Water, SD Alcohol 40, Oligopeptide-34, Glycolic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, BHA, Allantoin, Polyquaternium-10, Tetrasodium EDTA, Hydroxyethylcellulose

Ingredients in Hyperpigmentation Treatment: Active Ingredient: Hydroquinone (2%) Other Ingredients: Water, SD Alcohol 40, Glycolic Acid, Polyquaternium-10, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Bisulfite, Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate, Allantoin, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, BHA.