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The Serum & Clay Mask Combo That Helped My Acne Scars

Introducing Get Into It, assistant editor Nadia Ebrahim’s monthly beauty column where she guides us through the sometimes-overwhelming-but-always-exciting maze of hair, skin-care, and makeup launches. This week, she reviews a serum and clay mask to help with hyperpigmentation.
What we're getting into: SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF, $190 and Après Pacific Glow Clay Mask, $59.99
Why we're getting into it: My skin and I, like most relationships, have had our ups and downs. For years, my acne was manageable thanks to birth control, but because of constant mask-wearing, it’s been spotty. My acne scars have been living rent-free and persistent maskne means the lease is constantly being renewed.
Because I struggle with blemishes, I’m quite hesitant to try new skincare routines. Recently, though, I decided to switch it up and add two new products to my regimen to target my hyperpigmentation: SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF and Toronto-based skincare brand Après Pacific’s Glow Clay Mask.
SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF, the newish sibling to beauty editor favourite CE Ferulic serum, is an antioxidant serum created for people with oily, acne-prone skin. It’s formulated with 15% l-ascorbic acid (the purest form of vitamin C, the same concentration of which is in CE Ferulic).
Vitamin C, of course, has been one of the buzziest skincare ingredients for a few years now — and for good reason. It boosts collagen production, repairs signs of sun and pollution damage from free radicals, and has brightening effects. Continued use of vitamin C at concentrations between 10 to 20%, according to experts, helps to protect the skin and reduce inflammation that can lead to an increase of an enzyme known as tyrosinase, which is responsible for the melanin production that leads to hyperpigmentation. But it can also be hard on the skin, particularly for those with sensitive or reactive skin types. (Starting with a lower concentration or alternating the days you use it until your skin acclimates is highly recommended.)
As someone who’s reacted poorly to vitamin C before, I was pleasantly surprised by how well my skin tolerated this formula. What really stood out to me — and spoke to my inner bio nerd — is that the formula has 0.5% silymarin, which is extracted from the milk thistle plant, to protect the skin. “It’s proven to reduce the lipid peroxidation,” says Selma Damen, SkinCeuticals medical educator.
Think of how a cut apple turns brown. The same thing happens to the sebum in our skin, which can lead to damage and inflammation causing breakouts. Those with oily complexions like me have lower antioxidant levels, so this is where the serum comes in as a preventative measure, which according to brand studies, can reduce oil oxidation by up to 76%. Plus, it’s also formulated with 0.5% ferulic acid to help decrease the progression of dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles while 0.5% salicylic acid gently exfoliates to clear sebum and reduce oil production. 
Remember all vitamin Cs are not created equal — in addition to a certain concentration to see results, experts suggest looking for a formula with a low pH of 3 to 3.5 for optimal absorption (Silymarin CF has a pH of 3.2; those with sensitive skin should opt for a formula that has a pH of 5 to 6 to avoid possible irritation.) Also, you can’t expect to see results if you use it only when you feel like it. “The role of vitamin C is really prevention when used consistently,” says Toronto-based dermatologist and founder of DermAtelier on Avenue, Dr. Renée A. Beach. 
And that, I certainly have been. For the past month, my morning routine has started with CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. If my skin is feeling dehydrated, I use Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner before following up with SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF, CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion, and Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50. After three weeks of consistent use of Silymarin CF, I started using Damen’s recommendation of SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense, a corrective serum to reduce the formation of adult acne at night to round out my routine. Then, once a week, I use the Après Pacific Glow Clay Mask.
Not going to lie, I was completely put off of clay masks for a long time. I wasn’t a fan of the skin-pulling sensation that often comes with the territory, but this mask changed my mind. It’s made with kaolin clay, which works to soak up excess sebum that causes breakouts and has aloe vera for added hydration so I wasn’t running for face cream after using it.
Après Pacific is inspired by Indian beauty secrets and the family recipe founder Neel Patel’s mother passed down to treat dark spots. It contains turmeric, which is said to even out skin tone and prevent inflammation, and amla berry to boost cell turnover to brighten the skin. (Editor’s note: based on available academic literature, amla berry is an antioxidant with many similar merits of vitamin C and whether or not it contains vitamin C has been debated.) “Turmeric is in everything in India. People are drinking turmeric shots and lattes in North America now but this has been tried and tested for years,” he says. 

Using this mask (in combination with daily Silymarian CF use) has helped  my acne scars fade a lot faster than they usually would. The mask can be used on all skin types on freshly washed skin. Dr. Beach recommends a single cleanse rather than a double before applying to avoid stripping the skin of too many lubricants. She also suggests not using retinol or retinoid for one to two days after masking to avoid triggering skin dryness or irritation. Also, follow instructions! Don’t put on the mask and clean the whole house (keeping masks on too long can lead to dryness, tightness, or itchiness.) Keep it on for 10 minutes and wash it off immediately. 
Bottom Line: Everyone’s skin is different, but these products have proved their worth for me in a short amount of time. My breakouts are significantly smaller and easier to manage, which gives my skin time to fade old acne scars. At $190, Silymarin CF is undoubtedly expensive, but in my opinion, it’s worth the price if you can drop that much money on skin care. (I also included a couple more wallet-friendly options below.) A little really goes a long way —  only four to five drops are needed and each bottle lasts about three months, maybe longer, with daily use. The bottle is dark to minimize oxidation (vitamin C is most commonly delivered in the form of a serum to keep the ingredient stable and optimize penetration through the skin) but pay attention to the expiration date and look out for any colour changes. The Après Pacific Glow Clay Mask is currently on sale for $49.99 (regular price is $59.99) and provides 25 treatments and lasts up to 12 months after opening. 
For other alternatives, below are some antioxidant boosting and hyaluronic serums Dr. Beach currently has on rotation:
For those looking for some wallet-friendly options:
Après Pacific is also available to shop at Hudson’s Bay
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