A human face in a popcorn ceiling, a cat's nose and whiskers in the strands of hair splayed out on your shower wall, Madonna and Child in a tree stump: Stare at anything long enough, and it's bound to take on an image beyond itself, patterns forming and un-forming before your eyes. Spend enough time examining your own skin problems, and you might start to experience the phenomenon there, too: little constellations in the hardened bumps, an unholy asterism of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Hey, is that Orion's belt in that breakout?
If I spent half as much time philosophizing about the inscrutable machinations of the human mind as I do fussing over my skin, I suspect I'd be unstoppable, a kind of 21st-century Bergson with boobs. Or maybe I'd just spend my newfound free time evangelizing Tatcha's new Violet-C Brightening Serum, the product that finally got me there — more missionary work than a life of science and rationality, if you will.
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At first pump, the clear, non-sticky serum, which launched last week, is hardly recognizable as a vitamin C serum. The ubiquitous "gold standard" of brightening ingredients appears in many popular formulas, nearly all of which smell like your fingers after you fish loose change out of the bottom of your purse and turn bright, rancid orange within a few months after opening; this formula does neither of those things. It smells like nothing. It is the color of nothing. It goes on smooth, and sinks in with zero residue.
Again, not what a seasoned vitamin C user would expect from a vitamin C serum — it's a much better experience, and quite possibly better-formulated, too. "Vitamin C is a beloved ingredient, but can be difficult to formulate with because it can be an unstable ingredient," says Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai. "Our challenge was to create a formula that is gentle but effective enough to smooth skin instantly and brighten over time, while staying stable." The key, Tsai says, is pairing it with an antioxidant-rich ingredient called Japanese beautyberry (yes, that's its real name), which supports the stabilization of vitamin C.
After six weeks of regular use, applied every other night (with my usual retinoid in between) on clean skin before moisturizer, my skin is clearer, glowier, and more balanced. My pores seem less clogged and I break out less, which I credit to an additional 10% of fruit acids that somehow do not irritate my absurdly sensitive skin — a concept I don't fully understand, but am not about to question. Question authority, question the subjective experience, question morality's place in politics, question the significance of rationalism over intuition — but when it comes to matters of better, brighter skin, I'll just sit down, shut up, and take a big swig of that beautyberry-flavored Kool-Aid.