Advanced Dual Complex Fade Gel Sensitive Skin Formula (Discontinued)

by Black Opal  
$15.95 - 1 fl. oz.
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Skin Care > Retinol Products > Lighteners Without Hydroquinone
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This affordable skin-lightening gel contains several ingredients with research supporting their potential efficacy to fade brown skin discolorations. Chief among them is undecylenoyl phenylalanine. This white powder is composed of amino acids and appears to work by interfering with the pathways in skin that cause excess melanin production (melanin is what these spots are made of). Concentrations of at least 2% are needed for noticeable results, and based on the ingredient list we suspect Black Opal is using at least that much.

Other research has shown that this ingredient works even better when combined with niacinamide, yet that’s not the case here (Sources: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2011, pages 189–196 and December 2009, pages 260–266; and Clinical Experiments in Dermatology, July 2010, pages 473–476). Still, you could add niacinamide to your routine with a product such as Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Toner, and potentially see greater benefits than using this skin-lightening gel alone.

As a cosmetic bonus, this product contains mineral pigments (titanium dioxide and mica) to give your complexion a brighter, more radiant look. That’s nice and can help make an ashen complexion look better (a plus for women of color), but in terms of skin-lightening, those ingredients aren’t doing the work.

Overall, this is an intriguing, lightweight treatment product best for normal to oily skin, yet is suitable for all skin types. It’s fragrance-free and an option for sensitive skin, too. As with any skin-lightening product, you must commit to daily use of a well-formulated sunscreen rated SPF 15 or greater (and greater is better). Daily sun protection, even on cloudy days, is the only way to prevent more brown spots from appearing.


  • Inexpensive.
  • Lightweight gel texture contains intriguing skin-lightening ingredients.
  • Fragrance-free formula suitable for all skin types.


  • None.

Hydroquinone-free night gel. Renew your skin's radiance with our breakthrough formula featuring Bio-Affinity Skin Complex™, an exclusive blend of gentle fading actives expertly fused with natural ingredients to help even your skin tone, as it brightens and soothes your complexion. For sensitive skin. Helps treat uneven, discolored skin.

Water (Aqua), Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Mitacarpus Scaber Extract, Sodium Palmitoyl Proline, Nymphaea Alba Flower Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Disodium EDTA, Trisodium EDTA, Benzophenone-4, Sodium Hydroxide, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Mica, Titanium Dioxide

If Black Opal believes their skin-care products are "what looking beautiful is all about," then this is not a line to be trusted. Creating cosmetics that cater to the needs of African-American women doesn't have to involve a profusion of seriously irritating or, in the case of the sunscreens, seriously incomplete, products. In fact, aside from the name and the somewhat minimal use of African botanicals, nothing about these products is unique to the needs of African-American skin tones. Moreover, no matter what your skin color may be, the basic and enhanced needs of skin remain the same: a gentle cleanser, effective exfoliant, sunscreen, and where and if needed, a moisturizer, all in stable packaging so the products can be effectively loaded with antioxidants and ingredients that mimic the structure and function of healthy skin.

African-American skin tones are not without their unique problems, which mostly have to do with pigmentation. But other skin tones, whether related to people of Asian, Latin-American, Caucasian, or other descent, also have to deal with pigmentation problems and uneven skin tones. Even supposing that African-American skin tones do have distinctive needs not shared by any other skin tone, Black Opal isn't the answer, especially considering that the research agrees that is not the case for day-to-day cosmetic care (Sources: Cutis, December 2006, pages 2–19 Supplemental; and Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, June 2003, pages 139–142 Supplemental). In fact, this line has so many problematic or shortsighted products they raise more questions than they have answers for!

Surprisingly, Black Opal was developed with the consultation of the African-American dermatologist Dr. Cheryl Burgess. Either the formulators behind this line didn't heed her advice or Dr. Burgess isn't informed about how cosmetic ingredients, particularly irritating ones, work on skin, not to mention the need for reliable UVA protection—fundamental information every dermatologist should not only be preaching but also practicing themselves.

For more information about Black Opal, call BioCosmetic Research Labs at 1-800-774-3477 or visit

Black Opal Makeup

Black Opal's makeup has seen its prominence dwindle in comparison to other, seemingly lesser-known makeup lines catering to African-American skin tones. The fact that Beyoncé Knowles is a spokeswoman for L'Oreal, Halle Berry represents Revlon, and Queen Latifah appears in ads for Cover Girl, probably has something to do with the smaller market share for this once respectable line. Celebrities selling products is big business, and there is no doubt the aforementioned women are admired by women of all ethnicities. Although the major players' ads have increased awareness of these lines for African-American women, Black Opal has continued to offer the same basic assortment of products reviewed in a previous edition of Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. Almost without exception, their newer items are disappointing, particularly for eyeshadows, pencils, and lip gloss (really).

The one area where Black Opal makes the grade is with its foundations and powders. The foundations offer some authentic shades suitable for women of color, though the formulas tend to be lackluster or, at the very least, not as elegant as what competing lines offer. There's still reason to seek out and shop this line, but based on an overview of the current Black Opal lineup, we think Beyoncé, Halle, and Queen Latifah made smart decisions!

Member Comments

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  1. Anonymous
    Reviewed on Wednesday, February 06, 2013
    • Results
      3 / 4
    • Recommend
      3 / 4
    • Value
      3 / 4
    Not fragrance-free!
    • This product contains citrus unshiu peel extract which is a fragrant volatile oil...why is this product categorized as fragrance-free? Will this ingredient pose irritation to someone with sensitive skin?

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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