On trial: Obagi Nu-Derm Starter Kit, which promised to be a great solution for my pigmentation

September 1, 2017

Acne scarring, blemishes and pigmentation. This pretty much sums up my skin, which is why my face is seldom without a heavy’ish hand of MAC foundation.

A few months ago, my cosmetic and anti-ageing knight in shining armour, Dr Alek Nikolic of SkinMiles (you can read more about SkinMiles in my blog post here) contacted me to see how he could help. I sent a bare-faced pictured of myself to him – eeek! I think it would have been less painful sending him my bank account balance.

After seeing my picture, Dr Alek recommended the Obagi Nu-Derm Starter Kit for me, which helps reduce the signs of pigmentation, brown marks, fine lines and wrinkles. The starter kit comprises:


•            Obagi Nu-Derm Foaming Gel


•            Obagi Nu-Derm Toner


•            Obagi Nu-Derm Clear Fx


•            Obagi Nu-Derm Exfoderm Forte


•            Obagi Nu-Derm Blend Fx


•            Obagi Hydrate Moisturiser


•            Obagi Sun Shield SPF 50

Since I’m breastfeeding, Dr Alek didn’t prescribe anything with retinol, a form of vitamin A, which is often considered the gold standard ingredient of anti-ageing products. Retinol has been shown to potentiate the effect of Arbutin so if you are not breast feeding or pregnant then you may want to add retinol to your regime. Dr Alek recommends the Dermaceutic Activ Retinol or SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3.

However, Obagi Nu-Derm contains the potent Arbutin, a key ingredient for treating hyperpigmentation, which works by blocking the process in the skin that leads to discolouration. Arbutin in the Obagi Clear Fx and Blend Fx is a natural derivative of hydroquinone and has been shown to have similar effects as hydroquinone but without the risk of negative responses or skin reactions that one may get from using hydroquinone on its own.

Key ingredients among the Obagi Nu-Derm line include arbutin, effective for minimising dark spots; glycolic acid and lactic acid to remove dead skin cells; vitamins E and C that act as anti-oxidants, stimulate collagen and elastin, and help to reduce pigmentation; and zinc oxide in the sunscreen, which provides physical and broad-spectrum UVA and UVB sun protection.

And so I started… but I wasn’t thrilled

I started using the products, and I had high hopes. It’s a fairly pricy starter kit (around R5 600), the reviews were good, PLUS I had an expert recommendation from Dr Alek.

The products were fairly quick and easy to use, I followed strict morning and night time cleansing, moisturising, treatment and sunscreen routines as per the direction (it sounds laborious, but it was actually quick), and yet after a month my skin looked worse, not better.

I know that it’s not fair to judge a product after a few days of usage, since the skin needs 28 days to renew itself, but I was impatient, and I had given it just more than 28 days. So, I emailed Dr Alek, asking for advice, and he contact the good people at Obagi, who came back with this feedback:

Nu-Derm does cause a build-up of keratinization on the surface so please advise her to come to you for a superficial peel to remove that first layer of dead dull cells.

In terms of pigmentation this is going to depend on how deep it’s lying. Nu-Derm also makes the pigment come up to the surface so she might start seeing that in fact it’s getting darker but this is a good sign.

She must please continue using the system for the full 16 weeks course.

Thanks for sending through her feedback – patience is needed, and she will get a great result.

So for the next few weeks, I exercised patience

I hate being patient, can you tell? I wanted results NOW. But I also wanted to give it a good shot, and see it through. I went for a facial to remove the dead layer of skin cells, and continued using the products. I still have a few weeks left of full trial left, but looking at the before and after pics (no filters or an ounce of makeup, which you can probably tell), I can see a difference – my skin looks brighter, and there’s slightly less pigmentation on my forehead and under my eyes.

Is my skin perfect? Hardly. Am I ready to ditch my foundation? Nope. Am I happy with the improvement? For sure.

From trying out new products and treatments, my theory, based on no science, medical school or beauty school trading (so don’t take it as gospel), is that good skin is a mix of genes, what you put in, what you put on, how much you’re in the sun, and what treatments (like facials, laser) you’re doing too. I don’t think that one product or range is the fix-all, but rather, it forms a big part of all the other stuff.

If you’re looking for good advice, products or more on the Obagi range, chat to Dr Alek. You can also watch his video below for more insight:


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