Review: Skinceuticals – Discoloration defense Serum

Where to purchase: Available at LINK / Dermstore: LINK / Skin Store: LINK

Price: £85

Volume: 30ml

Made in: The USA

What is it?: A ”High-Potency” Serum meant to reduce skin discolouration to improve the skin’s tone and brighten it. This does not contain Vitamin C but Niacinamide and Tranexamic Acid.

Aims to: Lighten Brown Spots and help with Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation.

Supposedly Good for: Normal, Oily, Combination, Dry

What I think: I would agree! I have Oily-Combo Skin and this doesn’t make my face feel greasy. I also think sensitive skins could use this as it doesn’t seem to sting or feel acidic.


Vegan?: Unclear (Some Skinceuticals ingredients are Vegan but this hasn’t been specified to be).

Cruelty Free?: They sell in China, so not yet 😦

Packaging: Glass bottle with a dropper. The tip of this dropper is flat (doesn’t make a difference) .

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Directions: Apply x2 a day. Use 3-5 drops for the face and neck. Can be applied in the morning but make sure to apply sunblock on and limit sun exposure when wearing this product!

How I use it: I use this in the PM right after toning and after using a solution like the Geek and Gorgeous Cheer Up Solution or The Argireline Solution. I then wait for this to absorb fully before moving on to a moisturiser or a more emollient serum. I apply 3-4 drops for the face and neck. I use this every other day as I like to alternate with my Copper Amino Isolate Serum from Niod.

Key Ingredients: 1.8% Tranexamic Acid (Brightening) / 5% Niacinamide (Brightening + Skin-barrier Fortifying) / 5% HEPES (A stabiliser).

Does this combination work on Pigmentation?: A paper published (the product isn’t specified but I think it is the USA version of this product as it contains Tranexamic Acid, Niacinamide and Kojic AcidHERE. It was a 12 week study where they checked Brazilian Volunteer’s Melasma. (3% TXA, 1% Kojic acid and 5% Niacinamide). They assessed the skin using bio-instrumental measurements and used self-assessed questionnaires. Results after 12 week, daily use, showed a significant improvement of PIH, hyperpigmentation, melasma and skin texture. They guessed that TXA may inhibit(stop) PGE2 Melanocytes (these form brown spots). So it may seem that this combination does scientifically help with dark spots, scars etc.

Skinceuticals themselves published their results using this serum, and have posted pictures of before and afters using scientific imagery to show the improvements in skin discolouration, you can see them HERE.


NOTE: The Incidecoder have a full ingredient breakdown HERE

Allantoin is soothing so it’s a nice addition to this product!

Texture: This is a lightweight, watery serum! It has an almost oil-like effect when rubbing into the skin (like a light oil), but this is still watery in a way that the finish is not greasy. It feels hydrating to me as well, which is a plus. It’s smooth (doesn’t feel gritty) and absorbs nicely and doesn’t feel sticky or tacky.

As you can see this is a transparent liquid!


It almost feels oily but doesn’t get there.


As you can see this is already starting to absorb.


Very lightweight and comfortable to wear!

Video Swatch:

Hopefully you can see how lightweight this is and how it almost looks like an oil the way it sits on the skin and absorbs. But this doesn’t leave a greasy or oily finish.

Winter or Summer?: Due to how lightweight this is, it could be used in the summer. But the product itself shouldn’t really be used in the AM or when exposed to the sun. But this would work both in the PM of the Winter and the Summer months. However this is not very moisturising or thick or a creamy emulsion, so dry skins would need to layer a moisturising cream on top.

Does this sting if the skin is Irritated / Sensitised? (Either from shaving the face or heavy retinol use): Yes due to the Acid and Niacinamide. So this suits sensitive, but not sensitised skins.

Layerable?: Yes this is layerable (doesn’t ball up).


Fragrance?: No added Fragrance and/or Essential Oils. This smells of nothing either.

Good Under Makeup?: Yes this is fine.

How long have I been using this?: Until Completion (~4 months of almost daily PM use).

The Effect?: Of course the immediate effect from this is hydration, but in terms of Brightening the skin – In my experience, this has DEFINITELY helped lighten my Acne or Chemical Burn Scars albeit slowly but surely. A woman called Amy posted some lovely pictures on the Skinceuticals Website showing her before and after which is very similar to how this has worked on my skin! BEFORE and the AFTER.

And, if you would like to see an official before and after, using scientific, professional photography to get a real raw look at the skin lightening/ pigmentation improvement, then a great image is HERE: LINK.

I started seeing results about a month in (I used every other day) and did use in conjunction with a Vitamin C Serum (The Skin&Lab Brightening Serum – Review HERE) and my Granactive Retinoid Emulsion. Which altogether, have really helped brighten dark spots and dark marks. I think it’s this combination of Tranexamic Acid + Niacinamide (at % that give it potency) that has helped 🙂 However I wish this did contain Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) just to boost the effectiveness of this product (and I wouldn’t need to use a Vitamin C serum in conjunction in this) – that being said, perhaps Vitamin C was omitted to make this more tolerable to sensitive skins? (Or to…help you along possibly purchasing the C E Ferulic…).

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What I like:

  • No added Fragrance and/or EO
  • Didn’t sting or irritate my skin
  • Lightweight
  • Hydrating
  • Spreadable + absorbs fine
  • Actually has helped lighten hyperpigmentation

What I don’t like:

  • Expensive
  • I wish they added Ascorbic Acid, just to boost that pigmentation lightening (but I guess that’s where purchasing the C E Ferulic comes in…)

Overall Rating and Conclusion: 4/5 – Out of all the Skinceuticals products I’ve tried so far; this is one of the few I’d recommend (I’d also recommend the AOX Eye Gel). Of course I wouldn’t recommend to rely on this SOLELY to lighten hyperpigmentation (Hydroquinone is the ultimate skin lightening ingredient, however that is prescription). However I do think that this was made with sensitive skins in mind (especially as this is fragrance + EO free), and I think this is highly accessible to sensitive skins who want to lighten dark spots or scars. I would recommend using this in conjunction with a Retinol (Retinol works well with Niacinamide), I’m currently using the Inkey List Retinol Serum, and an Ascorbic Acid product (Like the Drunk Elephant C-Firma – Review HERE).

Would I repurchase?: Yes I would! I think this is quite a potent serum that has genuinely helped fade my post-acne marks. I think if this is paired with a Vitamin C serum then brightening the skin could really help!

Dupe?: I haven’t tried a product that contains both Tranexamic Acid and Niacinamide, HOWEVER I have found products that contain a similar combo, like the Beauty Bay Brightening Serum: LINK (It also has Niacinamide and Tranaxemic Acid + Alpha Arbutin). In terms of K-Beauty, the COSRX AC Blemish Clearing Serum: LINK (Contains Peptides and Niacinamide) is a decent choice but the Cos de Baha 5% Niacinamide and 5% Tranexamic Acid serum is very similar: LINK. In terms of J-Beauty, the Hada Labo Premium Lotion contains Tranexamic Acid and Alpha Arbutin): LINK.

My Skin Type: I am acne prone and have slightly dehydrated combo skin. My skin is usually tight where the cheeks and eye area is and the outer parts of my face. My T zone is oily. My skin isn’t a fan of thick/heavy formulas so I opt for lightweight formulas to prevent it from clogging up. My skin doesn’t like essential oils either and I try to avoid fragrance when I can.

Disclaimer: I am a skincare enthusiast and not a skin expert. I am not qualified to give out dermatological advice. This type of advice should only be given by a medical practitioner. Upon trying / using any of the reviewed products on the blog, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings and please seek medical advice if needed.

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