Specific Beauty Review: Is It Worth It?

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff
Published on: Mar 27, 2018

The Specific Beauty product line consists of a collection of daily-use skincare products that are specially formulated for women of color.

Within 14 days of use, the company claims you will experience ‘brighter, smoother, and more even-toned skin’ and that your dark darks will lighten after four weeks of consistent use. While the products were designed with darker skin in mind, the Specific Beauty website states that everyone can benefit from using them, even men.

At the time of writing, Specific Beauty sells two beauty regimens: the Daily Brightening Essentials kit and the Day and Night Deluxe Collection.

Within the Daily Brightening Kit is a gentle cleanser, skin brightening serum, daily moisture cream, dark spot corrector pads, and dark spot corrector. The Deluxe Collection includes these products, as well as a specially formulated evening product collection that consists of an eye cream and night treatment.

Who Is the Creator of Specific Beauty?

The Specific Beauty Product line is the creation of dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D., a graduate of the University of Miami School of Medicine. There, she was appointed the head of the first ethnic skin care department at a major university in the United States.

Since then, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd has become a nationally recognized voice for ethnic skin care. She sits on several dermatology boards and frequently gives lectures at the Skin of Color Seminar Series.

Fifteen years of treating multi-ethnic patients at her Miami clinic showed her that there were few options for women of color to reduce hyperpigmentation on her skin. In this way, the Specific Beauty product line is Dr. Woolery-Lloyd’s solution for solving uneven skin tone, texture, and hyperpigmentation in melanin-rich skin types.

But is Specific Beauty the skincare solution it claims to be? Let’s dig into the facts behind skin damage to find out.

What Causes Dark Spots, Uneven Skin, and Dryness?

Healthline and the Mayo Clinic tell us that dark spots are flat black, brown, or gray spots on the skin that can result because of different melanin levels. Also called age spots, liver spots, or sun spots, these distinctive marks typically occur on sun-exposed areas like the face, hands, and shoulders.

The Mayo Clinic states that dark spots are caused by overactive pigment cells, which can be triggered by dark spots, it seems that aging skin, pollution, unbalanced hormones and sun damage are likely causes. Though the spots themselves are harmless, Healthline mentions that they can be the result or an indicator of an illness. Nonetheless, most people who work to reduce them do so for purely cosmetic reasons.

Age spots are most often treated with prescription strength bleaching creams. The active ingredient in these products is usually hydroquinone, which WebMD told us works by chemically blocking the process that leads to skin discoloration.

Several medical procedures can also permanently remove age spots, including chemical peels, dermabrasion, and cryosurgery. Over-the-counter skin products (like Specific Beauty) also are used to remove age spots, but they tend to be less potent than prescription products.

If you want to rely on these products, Healthline recommends that you choose ones that contain hydroquinone, deoxyarbutin, glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, or kojic acid. Without any of these active ingredients, the website states, the product can only temporarily camouflage the age spots.

How Do Specific Beauty Products Claim to Combat Dark Spots?

According to the company website, Specific Beauty products target the causes of hyperpigmentation through a ‘breakthrough system’ with a formula that’s tailored to stop the skin from overproducing melanin. This lessens the appearance of dark spots and creates brighter, more even, and youthful looking skin.

These products rely on Specific Beauty’s proprietary process of MelaTone Therapy, which the company website states is an approach to skincare that “fuses potent scientific and natural ingredients” together to lessen hyperpigmentation. This therapy is designed to reduce the appearance of existing dark spots while protecting skin from the environmental stressors that cause them.

According to Specific Beauty, MelaTone Therapy works to fight uneven skin tone through a ‘1-2-3 punch’ that diminishes the appearance of dark spots, exfoliates skin to even out its texture, and calms skin down while fighting free radical damage to prevent future dark spots.

Regarding clinical research, the Specific Beauty website references a company-funded clinical trial of 55 participants that showed a noticeable difference within two weeks of use. After four weeks, the website states, 84 percent participants found that their dark spots were reduced in visibility by over 71 percent.

At the time of our research, we weren’t able to locate this clinical study on the company website. We reached out to the Specific Health via email to receive a copy of it, as well as clarification behind the specifics of MelaTone Therapy.

What Products Are in Specific Beauty Kits?

There are five main products in the Specific Beauty product line:

  • Advanced Daily Gentle Cleanser
  • Intensive Skin Brightening Serum
  • Advanced Dark Spot Corrector Pads
  • Lightening and Brightening Eye Cream
  • Radiance Repair Night Treatment.

Also included with each initial kit purchase are two bonus products, the Active Radiance Day Moisture and Accelerated Dark Spot Corrector.

Advanced Daily Gentle Cleanser

This fragrance-free, sulfate-free formula is designed to gently remove dirt and oil from skin to leave it smooth and moisture balanced.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Peg-100 Stearate, Decyl Glucoside, Propylheptyl Caprylate, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Stearyl Alcohol, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA

Intensive Skin Brightening Serum

This treatment is designed to fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation through antioxidant-infused ingredients like ginger root extract.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Niacinamide, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate, Phenylethyl Resorcinol, Retinol, Phospholipids, Linoleic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Bisabolol, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 60, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA

Advanced Dark Spot Corrector Pads

These pads work to fade dark spots by brightening your skin tone, calming it down, and protecting against environmental damage.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Ethoxydiglycol, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Arctostaphylos Uva¬ Ursi (Bearberry) Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Glycerin, Ascorbic Acid, Silybin, Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA

Lightening and Brightening Eye Cream

Filled with antioxidants and hyaluronic acid to diminish the appearance of dark circles, this eye cream is designed to reduce puffiness and enhance elasticity.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Glyceryl Dilaurate, Acrylates Copolymer, Acrylates/Steareth-20 Methacrylate Copolymer, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Myristyl Myristate, Myristyl Laurate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium PCA, Phospholipids, Niacinamide, Ubiquinone, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Polyacrylamide, Butylated PVP, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA

Radiance Repair Night Treatment

Designed to work on your face while you sleep, this professional-strength product relies on retinol to diminish fine lines and wrinkles.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Squalane, Butylrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Sodium PCA, Phospholipids, Linoleic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Panthenol, Retinol, Batyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-40 Stearate, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Sodium Polyacrylate, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Methicone, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA

Active Radiance Day Moisture

This daily oil-free moisturizer contains broad spectrum SPF-30 to maintain an even tone and hydrated skin.

Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 5.0%, Octisalate 5.0%, Oxybenzone 5.0%, Avobenzone 3.0%, Octocrylene 2.4%.

Other Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Caprylyl Methicone, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Niacinamide, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Steareth-21, Mica, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene, Titanium Dioxide, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Phospholipids, Linoleic Acid, Arachidyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside Cetearyl Glucoside, Boron Nitride, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Xanthan Gum, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Disodium EDTA

Accelerated Dark Spot Corrector

Containing 2% hydroquinone, this potent formula is designed to fade dark spots and marks. For safety, the company recommends using it just 14 days out of every two to three months.

Active Ingredient: Hydroquinone 2.0%

Other Ingredients: Water (Aqua), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Butylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Stearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Allantoin, Dimethicone, Squalane, Steareth-21, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysorbate 60, Steareth-2, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Bisulfite, Sorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA

What Can We Learn from the Main Ingredients in Specific Beauty Products?

Specific Beauty’s website claims that their product formulas are free of fragrances, parabens, synthetic dyes, and lanolin. Does this ring true? Let’s dig deeper into what the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database reveals about the ingredients lists to find out.

Hydroquinone is the active ingredient in Specific Beauty’s Accelerated Dark Spot Corrector. As a natural bleaching agent, WebMD states that hydroquinone can be dangerous at levels above a 2% concentration. This puts the Dark Spot Corrector within the safe zone.

Many of the ingredients within Specific Beauty Products are classified as skin conditioning agents. Glycyrrhiza glabra root (licorice) extract, kojic acid, phyllanthus emblica fruit extract, arbutin, and C12-15 alkyl benzoate are all antioxidants that are known to improve skin texture. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) and tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E) are also commonly used as conditioning agents in personal care products.

Several of the formulas also contain the naturally occurring alcohols glycerin and butylene glycol to improve skin texture. Sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate are common preservatives that don’t have any known harmful side effects.

Rounding out the list of skin-nourishing ingredients, the product formulas also contain naturally occurring cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol as emulsifying ingredients, and aluminum starch and disodium EDTA to control viscosity.

Though the website states that its products are fragrance-free, most of the formulas include phenoxyethanol, a preservative and fragrance agent. According to the Dermatology Review, however, phenoxyethanol is a colorless liquid that enhances existing fragrances, rather than adding them to the product itself.

That being said, there are some other troubling properties with this ingredient that might lead to adverse side effects.

Are There Potential Side Effects Associated with Specific Beauty Products?

Some ingredients in Specific Beauty products might cause problems for your skin.

According to Healthline, kojic acid is an antioxidant with the potential to mess with hormone levels as an endocrine disrupter at concentrations above one percent. While we aren’t sure what the concentration of kojic acid is in Specific Beauty products, the ingredient is low enough on the ingredients lists that it likely isn’t high enough to warrant concern.

Likewise, the Dermatology Review states that butylene glycol can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs if you have sensitive skin.

Let’s discuss the ingredient Phenoxyethanol next, which is listed as one of the last ingredients in Specific Beauty’s products. Found in every product besides the Advanced Daily Gentle Cleanser, this preservative is known to cause skin irritation, and it can be toxic if ingested, especially for infants.

Because of this concern, the Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety recommends that nursing mothers avoid wearing products that contain more than one percent phenoxyethanol to prevent possible transmission to their child.

The Active Radiance Day Moisture contains a collection of UV absorber ingredients (octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene) which the EWG database states have potentially dangerous side effects at any concentration. Many can create changes to your skin on a cellular level, and they tend to build up in the environment to toxic levels. Because of these concerns, EWG states that consumers should specifically avoid sunscreen products that contain oxybenzone.

At the time of writing, we couldn’t find information on the Specific Beauty website that addressed these ingredients. However, there’s no reason to believe that the Active Radiance Day Moisture is more dangerous than other forms of sunscreen.

How Much Do Specific Beauty Products Cost?

At the time of publishing, you can buy Specific Beauty Products in two ways.

The Daily Brightening Essentials Kit provides a thirty-day supply of the Gentle Daily Cleanser, Intensive Skin Brightening Serum, and Active Radiance Day Moisture SPF 30 for $29.95, and free shipping. The Day and Night Deluxe Collection contains the previously mentioned products as well as the Lighten and Brighten Eye Cream and Radiance Repair Night Treatment for $49.95.

Included in each purchase are free gifts, the Advanced Dark Spot Corrector Pads and Accelerated Dark Spot Corrector.

Specific Beauty products are sold as a subscription, meaning that you will receive refills in the mail one month after your first order, and then every three months after. Each shipment is charged to your credit card on file for $29.95 or $49.95 (depending on the kit you purchased), plus $3.33 for shipping.

What Is the Specific Beauty Refund Policy?

The company website makes it clear that there is no commitment to stay a subscriber and no minimum to buy. You can cancel your order at any time by calling their customer service at (888) 410-5711. Likewise, every order comes with a 60-day Money Back Guarantee for your purchase price, minus the cost of shipping and handling.

What Do Customer Reviews of Specific Beauty Products Say?

At the time of writing, the Specific Beauty website contains over 170 reviews of their products, 80 percent of which are five-star. The story on Amazon is a little different, as the three-piece Daily Brightening Essentials kit had just six reviews, averaging three stars overall.

Some reviewers commented that their complexion was brighter and more even after using the products and that the dark spot corrector succeeded in lightening their skin. Others mentioned that their results were insignificant and that they hoped for more after all the hype the products got.

On her blog, Consumer Queen posted a candid review of her experience with Specific Beauty products. She noted that the products had little to no scent and that they worked to keep her skin cleaner and more moisturized. After two weeks of use, she estimated that her acne was 90 percent gone and that her friends and family were commenting on the difference in her skin.

What Products Are Similar to Specific Beauty Products?

Removing dark spots is a common concern for women, so there are numerous beauty products available to tackle the task. To see how the Specific Beauty product line stands with the competition, we looked at two other products that purportedly help fade dark spots and improve overall skin tone: Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Dark Spot Corrector and Murad Rapid Lightening Regimen 30-Day Kit.

The Admire My Skin Dark Spot Corrector can be compared with Specific Beauty’s Accelerated Dark Spot Corrector. Both products contain 2% hydroquinone (the level WebMD reported as safe and effective for lightening age spots) and Admire My Skin includes ingredients like kojic acid that can be found in other Specific Beauty Products. This corrector is designed to be used continuously for four weeks, or twice as long as the Accelerated Dark Spot Corrector.

On Amazon, the product has over 1,200 reviews and average of four stars. A four-week supply costs $23.99, or roughly the price of the five-piece Daily Brightening Essentials kit.

Like the Specific Beauty Daily Brightening Essentials kit, the Murad Rapid Lightening Regimen 30-Day Kit is a collection of five products that are designed to improve skin health and lessen the appearance of dark spots. The three-step regimen is designed to treat skin discoloration from hyperpigmentation caused by sun, genetics, hormones, and inflammation; just like Specific Beauty.

The Murad Rapid Lightening Regimen includes products to cleanse, lighten, and protect skin from further damage, and the active ingredients are similar to Specific Beauty’s. On Amazon, a 30-day supply costs $44.99, or about the same as the Day and Night Deluxe Collection.

Which products are best for your skin? If you are looking to lighten dark spots without committing to a complete skin care regimen, a single item that contains 2% hydroquinone like Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Dark Spot Corrector might be all you need. If, however, you want to follow a more intensive skin regimen, a subscription service or 30-day kit like Specific Beauty and Murad offer might better suit your needs.

Our View: Who Can Benefit from Specific Beauty Products?

The product line from Specific Beauty claims to be a breakthrough in skincare for women of color. Our research into the causes of dark spots and the product ingredients lists revealed that these products utilize a wide range of natural ingredients to improve skin tone and texture.

We didn’t find much evidence that Specific Beauty products are extra useful for women of color, possibly because the company website makes it clear that they believe their products can improve skin tone for everyone.

As we discussed earlier in the article, some of the ingredients like butylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, and the UV absorbing agents are cause for concern, especially if you have sensitive skin or are a mother with young kids. However, most of the ingredients in these products are considered harmless and are known to have skin conditioning benefits.

Should you try Specific Beauty products for yourself? Our research shows that they may help you achieve brighter, smoother skin, and permanently fade your dark spots. If you try the products and aren’t satisfied with your results, Specific Beauty’s 60-day refund policy lets you receive a full refund.

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