Never have I been as excited to review a product as I am about the Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Kit. (And nope, no sponsorship here!)
As a five-year devotee of Clarisonic's original skin-cleansing device, and as someone for whom hyperpigmentation is a number one skin enemy, I basically begged Michelle to let me test the brand's newest offering: a full regimen targeted at dark spots and uneven skin tone.
The kit is comprised of three topical brightening products, a Clarisonic Aria and a unique brush head, all designed to work together to reduce hyperpigmentation. Let me tell you... it works (!!!!!).
My Battle With Hyperpigmentation
Before we get into the review, allow me to get a little science-y on you. Hyperpigmentation is an excess of melanin (the pigment that gives your hair, eyes, and skin their colour), which can show up as dark spots on your skin or nails.
Breakouts can leave these marks, thanks to inflammation (the phenomenon is known as post-inflammatory pigmentation). But they're just one possible cause. Others include sun exposure, genetics and certain medical conditions.
Although I'm happy with my skin's overall health*, I tend to get one or two hormonal breakouts per month, which, annoyingly, will leave behind some unwanted souvenirs. Hence, I am constantly fighting a face full of dark marks—they're not just bad in 'Harry Potter'!
You probably know that I'm on a constant quest to find a great foundation to cover them. But I’m always trying to address the dark spots themselves, as well. So when I heard about this brightening kit, I just had to get my hands on it. On to the review!
* I credit my Clarisonic Mia as THE miracle fix for my acne-prone, combination skin. After trying what felt like every drugstore blemish gel, celebrity-endorsed face wash, and even Accutane (which worked but has a lot of scary side-effects) to no long-term effect, I picked up a Mia back in 2010 and haven’t looked back. In addition to removing every drop of makeup, I've found that daily use allows my products to absorb more efficiently, reduces my blackheads, and has helped minimize pore visibility and breakouts.
The Clarisonic Brightening Kit
So the Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Kit comes with a Radiance Brush Head and matching Aria body (also known as Mia 3) in the same mermaid-pink colour, plus three products: a Skin Illuminating Cleanser, a Skin Renewing Peel Wash and a Brightening Activator Serum.
The Radiance Brush Head
The Radiance Brush Head has extra-long bristles that feel super-soft on the skin. It's noticeably more gentle than the Deep Pore Brush Head I'd been using before. A few stray bristles came loose the first time I used it, but it hasn't shed since.
I use the brush every evening, after an initial cleanse with Bioderma on a cotton pad. I move the brush head in slow circles around each "zone" of my face (forehead, cheeks, nose and chin—beware, the nose tickles!) and let the sonic oscillation work its magic.
Like all Clarisonic brush heads I've tried, it does a fantastic job of removing all the leftover makeup on my skin. The amount of makeup that comes off is ridiculous! If your makeup stains the bristles, I find that a pump of hand soap does the trick.
This is the Clarisonic Aria—which also goes by the name Mia 3—with the standard Aria Brush Head, which means it's a three-speed brush that has a T-zone timer (it beeps when you should switch zones). I always run mine on the normal (middle) setting for cleansing, but the gentle (low) setting is great for a quick once-over in the morning, or if my skin is feeling sensitive.
The brush handle itself has a glossy seashell-pink finish, and it looks so chic alongside the matching products. Compared to my original Mia, I find the body very lightweight and the slightly longer handle much easier to hold. I particularly love the stand, so the Aria always has a place on my tiny bathroom countertop instead of trying to cram it into my product tray.
This baby holds a charge for so long that I can't even remember the last time I had to charge it. The magnetic charger is a "USB-enabled p-Link® charger," which means you can plug it into the wall adapter OR charge it via USB (win!).
The Skin Illuminating Cleanser (AM)
The Skin Illuminating Cleanser is a creamy cleanser designed to "brighten and removes impurities." I pour a pea-sized amount on the wet bristles of the Clarisonic, and run it along my face each morning.
While I haven't noticed a particular brightening effect from this product alone, I do like that it washes away any residue from my nighttime skincare products and that greasy morning sheen (does that just happen to me?). Plus, the moisturizing formula never leaves my face feeling tight or dry, which makes for easy makeup application.
Here are the ingredients:
Aqua/Water, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Coco-Betaine, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Triethanolamine, Ci 77891/Titanium Dioxide, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Peg-14m, Glycol Distearate, Parfum/Fragrance, Salicylic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Polyquaternium-39, Limonene, Geraniol, Ginkgo Biloba Extract/Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Linalool, Mentha Piperita Extract/Peppermint Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Extract/Licorice Root Extract.
The Skin Renewing Peel Wash (PM)
I'm convinced that this acid-infused nighttime cleanser, the Skin Renewing Peel Wash, lives up to its exfoliation claims. The clear liquid impeccably removes every trace of my makeup, and leaves it feeling slightly tingly—as if my cells are being instantly turned over (I know, I know, it actually doesn't work that way).
I find this wash really brightens up my skin when it's looking dull after a long day, which is probably a combination of the active AHA (glycolic acid) and BHA (salicylic acid) ingredients, plus the physical exfoliation of the brush head.
One caveat: the packaging explicitly states to keep these products away from your eyes, so be make sure you use a separate, non-greasy product to remove your eye makeup. Not worth the stinging!
You'll see the acids listed in the ingredients:
Aqua/Water, Coco-Betaine, Propylene Glycol, Peg-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Sorbitol, Glycerin, Glycolic Acid, Triethanolamine, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Disteareth-100 IPDI, Parfum/Fragrance, Salicylic Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Disodium Edta, Limonene, Steareth-100, Geraniol, Linalool.
The Brightening Activator Serum
I saved the best for last: the Brightening Activator Serum is the true gem of this collection. It promises to "fade and combat" dark spots, age spots and acne-induced discolouration, while providing intense hydration... AND IT ACTUALLY DOES!
After my night cleanse, I use a half-pump (which amounts to a small bead) on my trouble areas, namely, on both sides of my mouth and on my forehead. My skin is left feeling normal, neither dried out nor heavily moisturized.
I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical of seeing results after a decade of trying disappointing products. (Including but not even close to a complete list: Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, Estée Lauder Enlighten Dark Spot Correcting Night Serum, Lustra 4% Hydroquinone Cream, Paula's Choice Resist Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser 7% AHA Lotion, Olay Pro-X Even Skin Tone Spot Fading Treatment, Murad Rapid Age Spot & Pigment Lightening Serum, La Roche-Posay Mela-D Pigment Control Concentrated Dark-Spot Correcting Serum, Alpha Hydrox Spot Light Targeted Skin Lightener, Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Day and Night Moisturizers, and Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector!) Although I read tons of glowing reviews of these products, I used each one for at least 10 weeks without any visible improvement. In the case of Clinique, it started to fade old marks, but made no difference with newer dark spots.
So imagine my surprise when after just two weeks on the Clarisonic regimen, I started to see my older hyperpigmentation starting to fade. Then, after four weeks, I realized that dark spots weren't appearing after recent zits! Do you know how amazing that is?!?!
Now that I've been using the Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Kit for just over six weeks, I think the significant improvement in my skin's tone is a culmination of these products working together, but I credit the serum in particular for the progress in spot-treated areas. To put it in beauty editor terms: when my bottle of Brightening Activator Serum runs out, I will 100 percent be purchasing another one.
Of the active ingredients, I think the major player in here is the lactic acid, which follows a number of moisturizers and skin lubricants (hence the hydration claim).
Aqua/Water, Glycerin, Isocetyl Stearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Butylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polyacrylamide, Ellagic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Phenylethyl Resorcinol, Cetyl Alcohol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Peg-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Laureth-7, Disodium Edta, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Poloxamer 184, Lactic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide.
Of course, I didn't think I could get away without a before/after photo, so here it is. Be nice!
As you can see, my skin remains acne-prone and my hyperpigmentation is not completely eliminated from my lower jaw area. It would probably take a laser to blast the spots out of my skin. That said, the Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Kit has made me less anxious about the dreaded dark spots that normally would take months and (sometimes even years!) to fade.
The Bottom Line
If you've got similar skin issues to me (especially so if you're also of Asian heritage, since hyperpigmentation is a common ethnic skin issue for us), I truly recommend this skincare system as a solution to the awful acne-dark spot cycle.
Of course, the price (C$265 / US$249) is a deterrent, but I'm living proof of the emotional and financial headaches of not investing in great skincare. Your skin is always worth more effort, time and money than your makeup.
I know that skin is just an organ that looks different for everyone, but metaphorically, feeling comfortable in your skin is the biggest boost to self-confidence out there. Thanks to these products, I might even go sans foundation to the gym!
Where To Buy
Find the Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Kit at:
Have Your Say
Do you get hyperpigmentation? What has worked for you? Have you tried the Clarisonic—or this kit?