My skin was my biggest beauty dilemma last year. Repeated series of breakouts led me to seek acne medication and left me with some depressing hyperpigmentation. Post-acne skin discoloration is an issue that I think primarily affects women of color, and in 2006 it became my plague. Inevitably after I have a breakout – especially if it’s the kind of zit that I can’t resist popping myself – I wind up with a dark spot on my face.
It got to the point where I didn’t leave the house without a mask of concealer and mineral powder in place. When I got to Trinidad, Mama Bella suggested Tri-Luma.
Could it possibly work for my spotty face?
Could I mentally reconcile buying another tube of fade cream, having read and written about what these products are doing to chronic users in other, less-informed countries?
Did using Tri-Luma make me a hypocrite, for promoting a proudly black-is-beautiful skin aesthetic, while applying a product designed to fade my own skin?
I thought long and hard about all of that before using Tri-Luma.
I do oppose the all-over concept of skin bleach, and I’m saddened by women and men who apply ointments all over their bodies in order to somehow become what they naturally aren’t. However, I don’t think using a fade cream to reduce the embarrassing effects of melasma or hyperpigmentation makes you a bad person, or means you’re struggling with self-acceptance.
I can’t begin to tell you how many Ask Afrobella questions I have gotten about hyperpigmentation issues, ranging from the typically distressing back-of-the-neck darkness, to readers afflicted with hairless mexistaches and unfortunate birthmarks.
I haven’t been able to answer these questions, and I am actively looking for a Miami-area ethnic dermatologist who can. So I figured I should give Tri-Luma a try to alleviate my own problems, and to be able to somehow answer these pressing, advanced Ask Afrobella questions. I’m your guinea-pig, bellas!
I used some of my mom’s tube for two nights, taking care to wash my face completely clean of makeup at night and then applying a thin layer of Tri-Luma to my “affected area,” i.e the right side of my face, both cheeks, and the lower part of my chin. The difference was noticeable by the second day! Seriously, my marks had effectively faded. Not completely, but at least 60%. My face had a brighter glow to it.
By the third night, I was convinced. I could tell that the cream was definitely not for sensitive skin – my face definitely felt increasingly sensitive by the second day. But I was already mentally writing this Afrobella post in my head – with the title “The Best Fade Cream in the West,” or something like that.
At Mama Bella’s behest and against the husband’s wishes, I bought my own Tri-Luma from a friendly neighborhood pharmacist. A 15 gram tube cost me close to $100! I was like whatever, my skin looks amazing. But I started to notice some side-effects.
Like I said, my skin felt more sensitive and I definitely noticed a drying effect. I had two large, painful zits coming up under the surface on my chin, and they rapidly dried up into flaky patches. When I used a tiny mirror to check my appearance on the plane ride back, my whole chin was peeling like I had a bad sunburn. I immediately asked Mama Bella what the deal was.
“You just need a good face scrub,” she said. So I used my facewash du jour (which warrants a lengthy upcoming review) and used good old Pond’s Cold Cream to give my drying skin some much needed moisture. Then I decided to do some additional research on this Tri-Luma stuff that I’d just spent so much money on.
First of all, Tri-Luma is apparently only available with a prescription in the States, and it is the only fade cream currently approved by the FDA. The FDA now labels hydroquinone a carcinogen, and is considering a ban on most products made with the stuff. Pregnant women are not advised to use Tri-Luma, or any other skin-bleaching product.
However, apparently Tri-Luma passed the more rigorous NDA safety tests. Heck, the cream even got a special shout-out on Oprah, which is as good a seal-of-approval as any in my book.
Secondly, some doctors don’t prescribe Tri-Luma because it contains a small percentage of a steroid that can cause some truly freaky side-effects like skin atrophy, folliculitis, and um, hypertrichosis, which is better known as Werewolf syndrome.
WTF?? My mom uses this stuff every day. I don’t want Mama Bella to turn into a werewolf! The last thing I would want is to recommend this product on my site, then have some pissed-off former Afrobella readers come after me by the light of the moon.
I haven’t used Tri-Luma for the past three days, and my skin is still pretty dry and flaky. I used a good, thick moisturizer today and my dark marks are hardly as noticeable as they used to be.
So overall, I’d recommend Tri-Luma with extreme reservations. If you have sensitive skin, or mild facial hyperpigmentation – steer clear. Get a good foundation or some Ambi instead.
I certainly don’t plan to use this stuff daily. At most, I’ll use this stuff on a weekly basis until my marks are completely gone, and I’m going to have a long talk with Mama Bella about her usage tomorrow.
But if you’re at the end of your rope with the marks on your face, then the very least you can do is set up an appointment with your local dermatologist to talk about possible solutions to your skin-care problems. And while you’re there, ask them what their views are on Tri-Luma, or if they have any free samples they can offer you. That’s my two cents and I hope it helps.