Pigment Regulator Daily High Potency Brightening Treatment (Discontinued)
1 fl. oz. for $85
Category:Skin Care > Retinol Products > Lighteners Without Hydroquinone
Last Updated:09.25.2013
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

SkinCeuticals’ claim that this skin-lightening product is proven to be as effective “as the leading medical standard for treating hyperpigmentation” must be in reference to hydroquinone. Long considered the gold standard for treating sun- or hormone-induced skin discolorations, hydroquinone has a controversial reputation, despite years of safe use when properly formulated and used as directed. Nevertheless, lots of cosmetics lines are offering alternatives to this skin-lightening staple. Is Pigment Regulator a viable option for treating your discolorations? Maybe, but it’s a long shot, and for the money you may want to make sure SkinCeuticals has a generous return policy.

According to SkinCeuticals (who didn’t publish their clinical research), Pigment Regulator is as effective as hydroquinone. It supposedly works due to its combination of 2% kojic acid, 2% emblica, and a 10% blend of exfoliating agents. A quick look at the ingredient list reveals that these percentages don’t add up. Think about buying a chocolate cake and the chocolate is way down on the ingredient list.

Emblica, also known as Indian gooseberry, has no research supporting its ability to lighten skin discolorations. Like most plants, it has antioxidant ability and also appears to be anti-mutagenic and antimicrobial. We found one study that compared emblica with an extract from cashew leaves. The outcome was that cashew not only reduced melanin (skin pigment) activity in skin, but also had a greater antioxidant capacity than emblica (Sources: The Medical Journal of Malaysia, July 2008, pages 100–101; and www.naturaldatabase.com). Although emblica isn’t an ingredient to bank on for skin lightening, it has antiwrinkle potential because of its ability to inhibit collagen breakdown while promoting healthy collagen production (Source: Journal of Cosmetic Science, July-August 2009, pages 395–403), but there are dozens of ingredients that provide this benefit and more.

As for kojic acid, there is research showing it has skin-lightening properties (Sources: International Journal of Molecular Sciences, May 2009, pages 2440–2775; Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, August 2002, pages 1045–1048; Analytical Biochemistry, June 2002, pages 260–268; and Cellular Signaling, September 2002, pages 779–785). There also is some controversial research that has shown kojic acid to have carcinogenic properties (Sources: Mutation Research, Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, June 2005, pages 133–145; and Toxicological Sciences, September 2004, pages 43–49).

Also lacking is research showing that kojic acid is superior to hydroquinone. Although we know kojic acid is one of many potential alternatives to hydroquinone, it is neither the best nor any more effective than many others, and it has its own risks.

All things considered, this is an expensive way to see if SkinCeuticals’ cocktail of ingredients will improve your discolorations. The amount of glycolic acid, while not 10%, is likely enough for exfoliation to occur, and this product’s pH of 4 allows that to happen. However, unless you’re opposed to using hydroquinone, there are less expensive over-the-counter products to consider. Please see our list of the Best Skin-Lightening Products on this site for our top-rated options with and without hydroquinone.


Proven as effective as the leading medical standard for treating hyperpigmentation, Pigment Regulator lightens and reduces existing hyperpigmentation, improves overall skin tone, and protects skin from future discolorations without the potentially harmful side-effects of harsh bleaching agents.


Water, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, PPG-2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Kojic Acid, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Isopropyl Palmitate, Isostearyl Neopentanoate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Steareth-20, EDTA, Ceteth-20, Argilla/Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Ammonium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, BHT, Tocopheryl Acetate, Methylparaben, Sodium Metabisulfite, Propylparaben

Brand Overview

SkinCeuticals At-A-Glance

Strengths: Great line to shop if you're looking for well-formulated vitamin C and retinol products; some outstanding sunscreens (including for sensitive skin), and every one provides sufficient UVA protection; one effective AHA product; good self-tanner; several fragrance-free products.

Weaknesses: Mostly problematic cleansers and toners; fruit and sugar extracts trying to substitute for AHA products when the real deal is much better; ineffective BHA products; jar packaging; several overpriced products touting one superstar ingredient when skin does best with a cocktail of beneficial ingredients.

With a strong presence in the professional (meaning spa and aesthetics) skin-care market, SkinCeuticals has a mostly well-deserved reputation for producing serious-minded, research-driven products, several of which are centered on L-ascorbic acid. Company founder Dr. Sheldon Pinnell began the line after a falling out with the folks behind Cellex-C, a company for which Dr. Pinnell once served as spokesperson. The falling out had to do with both Cellex-C and Dr. Pinnell holding patents on L-ascorbic acid; Cellex-C held the patent on a formula with L-ascorbic acid (the original Cellex-C serum) while Dr. Pinnell's patent (now conspicuously absent from SkinCeuticals products) was only for the ingredient. The drama continued as, years later, the doctor who joined Pinnell to work on SkinCeuticals' vitamin C products began his own company, also selling products with vitamin C. Who needs Desperate Housewives when we have desperate doctors racing to be the authoritative word on the anti-aging properties of vitamin C?

The good news is that copious research has demonstrated that L-ascorbic acid (despite its stability issues, which, formula-wise, SkinCeuticals products do address) is a good, potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It has also been shown to provide photoprotective benefits when skin is exposed to UV light and is capable of stimulating collagen production - though don't take that to mean it is a cure for wrinkles (Sources: International Journal of Toxicology, 2005, supplement, pages 51–111; Experimental Dermatology, June 2003, pages 237–244; Dermatologic Surgery, March 2002, pages 231–236; Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics, May 1999, pages 453–461; and International Journal of Radiation Biology, June 1999, pages 747–755). Of course, other forms of vitamin C have equally impressive research, and some forms, such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, have better stability profiles (Source: Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, March 1997, pages 795–801).

As we've mentioned before, vitamin C is but one of many good antioxidants, and it's not the best approach to select any one or two antioxidants and bank on them alone to provide every conceivable skin-rejuvenating benefit. Instead, go for products that offer a cocktail of antioxidants because you'll get a greater range of benefits. Plus, some antioxidants in combination have a synergistic effect that surpasses what occurs when any of the ingredients are used alone. SkinCeuticals clearly knows this, because their vitamin C products also contain the antioxidant ferulic acid, and some add vitamin E to the mix as well. Above all, remember that as multifunctional as antioxidants are, they cannot stop aging, they won't eliminate wrinkles, and they do not replace the need for daily sun protection.

L'Oreal purchased SkinCeuticals in May 2005, and, for the time being, seems to be letting them stay on their course. That's a good thing, because despite L'Oreal’s considerable financial reserves and global R&D team, the skin-care products their brands produce consistently lag behind what current research indicates are state-of-the-art options. As long as they continue to let SkinCeuticals retain its stature, there are many good reasons to shop this line; however, that said, this line is far from perfect in terms of being able to assemble a complete skin-care routine. Focusing on what they do best (which is serums, sunscreens, and specialty products) will be money well spent for visible results. Those who find the SkinCeuticals price tags to be a deal-breaker need to know that despite several notable products, they're hardly the only game in town; you can find equally superior products for less money, though not all of them follow the impressive concentration protocols of SkinCeuticals.

For more information about SkinCeuticals, call 1-800-771-9489 or visit www.skinceuticals.com.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia 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 Begoun herself.

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