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If I were to describe my relationship with my skin, I would say it was turbulent at best. An obligatory smattering of whiteheads in my teens was followed by the fury of severe hormonal acne that my post-contraceptive pill years unleashed on my face in my mid-20s. Now that I’ve progressed to the stage of rare monthly breakouts amid pitted scars and hyperpigmentation, let's just say that the exasperation I felt towards my skin has settled into a low-level distrust.
Today, if a product is even a smidge too harsh or laden with ingredients, I’ll erupt. Even K-beauty, which I once thought could be my salvation, has upset my very sensitive skin in the past. This often leaves me in a bind when it comes to treating acne scarring and dark spots, which Asian skin is more prone to, and where a hyperpigmentation-fighting active ingredient usually comes in handy.
I’ve tried at-home microneedling (don’t judge me), a slew of vitamin C serums (every brand from cheaper alternatives from Amazon to pricier offerings such as Drunk Elephant), retinol and azelaic acid (both of which caused me to break out), all to no avail. Until one day, something caught my eye on TikTok.
In a short video, young Asian TikToker @jazlmao outlines: "I have these really stubborn marks on my face, I’m going to try the Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance serum to see if it can help." We see her skin on day one of using the product, then the video fast-forwards to her face after three weeks of daily usage and we see that her skin texture and acne scarring have visibly improved. I was shook to my core and instantly sold.
In honesty, I had never heard of the product but quickly discovered that it has cult status, with a bottle sold every 30 seconds around the world. At $100 for 30ml, it certainly isn’t cheap but more digging on TikTok reassured me that the bottle would go a long way. The key ingredient is viniferine, which I had never heard of before. Patented by the brand, it's derived from vine sap and is supposedly 62 times more effective than vitamin C at minimising dark spots. Sixty-two. I mean, obviously, I had to try it.
I started off using the serum at night to build up my tolerance and loved the pipette applicator. I’d release three drops of the milky formula (one each on my forehead and cheeks) and rub in before applying my nightly moisturiser, La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5. After one night there was no discernible difference but nor was there a bad reaction or breakout. That, in itself, was a victory. It was gentle and felt moisturising, likely due to the olive squalane (a deeply nourishing ingredient) in the formula.
And so I added it into my nightly routine and pretty much forgot about it until, around three weeks later (coincidentally around the same 'after' point as the original TikTok video that lured me in), a colleague turned to me in a meeting and remarked, unprompted: "Whatever you’re doing, it’s working — your skin is glowing!" I was gobsmacked. Not only had it been years since I received a compliment on my skin but the only change I could attribute it to was the Caudalie serum. What felt to me like a gradual and subtle improvement had seemingly been a complete 360 transformation.
When I got home I rushed to the mirror and pushed my face up to my reflection. True, my usually troubled hormonal areas around my mouth and chin had calmed down massively, little bumps on my forehead had flattened and much of my skin discolouration had evened out. My face had a calm, almost dewy appearance; a base level of 'normal' that I had craved all my life. I poked my boyfriend. "How does my skin look?" He narrowed his eyes in my direction and rubbed his chin, sensing some sort of trap. "It always looks nice..." he started with uncertainty. "No, no, like recently does it look better?" He leaned in close with comical effect, before pausing and saying: "I mean… It does really always look nice but it looks super glowy today." He peered again, now genuinely taken aback. "Have you done anything different?"
I’ve been using the serum for around two months now, still only at night as this is what suits my skin, and I am only halfway through the bottle so I can confirm that you do get bang for your buck. I went makeup-free for most of my holiday in Spain recently (unheard of for me) and felt confident. When I get a spot now, it usually dims to a faint brown smudge after four days. The instructions on the Caudalie website recommend day and night use so I have wondered whether I could intensify the progress I’ve made with my complexion but after years of so much uncertainty, I don’t want to jinx it. For now, I don’t want to upset the new thing I’ve got going with my skin: mutual happiness.