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Product Review - Cosmelan for Skin Hyperpigmentation

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My review of the Cosmelan mask.

My review of the Cosmelan mask.

Cosmelan and Cosmelan 2 Review

Zero Hour

The aesthetician cleansed my face and neck (the treatment area) with a neutral pH unscented cleanser, then wiped the blue "oil removing solution" over the treatment area. The solution smelled vaguely like nail polish remover, which was just a bit unsettling. It didn't sting or cause any discomfort, however. (I later read the ingredients of the blue solution—acetone.)

After the treatment area was thoroughly cleansed and dried, the aesthetician applied the Cosmelan Mask, about 3/4 of the jar, avoiding my eye area but getting as close as possible to my lip line. Almost immediately, the treatment area began to tingle.

Examining my face in the mirror, I could see that she applied the mask in a thin, even manner, with extra "dots" of Cosmelan over my sunspots and melasma. The enlarged pores on my t-zone also got an extra layer of Cosmelan.

I am sent home with a tube of Hydra-Vital Factor K cream and a jar of Cosmelan 2 maintenance cream. My instructions are to leave the mask on for 10 hours (appropriate time for my skin type; other skin types leave the mask on for less time.)

I go to bed when I get home and set my alarm, just in case. I am aware of a constant tingling all over my face and neck, as well as a certain smell that reminds me of... barbecue sauce. Should I be worried?

My blotchy, pigmented face before Cosmelan.

My blotchy, pigmented face before Cosmelan.

Ten Hours Later

In the morning, ten hours post-Cosmelan 1 application, I wash my face and neck with mild soap and water, removing the mask completely. My face hurts. As expected, it is bright pink, as if I stayed out in the sun for far too long. It isn't hideous or anything, just kind of amusing.

I apply the Cosmelan 2. The formulation is quite dark, and difficult to blend in. With my pink face, I end up looking like I have applied a very bad bronzer. I am definitely not fit for public view. About 15 minutes later, I am aware of that tingling sensation again, which progresses to a burning feeling. I apply the Hydra-vital Factor K cream, which helps somewhat, but my face basically feels like it is badly sunburned.

Later that day, about 18 hours post-Cosmelan 1, I go to a movie. Nobody looked startled to see my now bright red-bronze face. It's a good thing I live in a sunny tourist town. I look like a tourist who has stayed in the sun too long.

Will It Ever Get Better?

I'm still red, 28 hours later, and my face hurts.

It's now 36 hours post-Cosmelan 1, and my face is bright red, itchy, taut, and feeling like it's been badly burned. I'm starting to worry that it will stay this color forever. I'm applying the Comelan 2 cream in the morning, midday and evening, followed by liberal globs of the K cream. My instructions are to apply the Cosmelan 2 cream 3x per day for the first 4 weeks, then 2x per day for weeks 5-12, then 1x per evening for weeks 13-36.

One bright note: I'm seeing the beginnings of the promised peeling. Will my skin be normal-colored underneath? Or bright red forever?

At hour 40, my skin is peeling, peeling, peeling. I am hideous, but in a good way. The itching seems better. I hope?

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48 Hours Plus

I'm itching like crazy, and it is about 50 hours post-Cosmelan 1. If left to my own devices, I could easily stand in front of the mirror 24/7, peeling my face off in bits and pieces. It's become very clear to me that I can't continue the 3x daily Cosmelan 2 applications; it's too much, too painful really, and my skin virtually recoils when I look at the jar. My neck and face still look lobster red. I'm beginning to believe that I'm not a Fitzpatrick Type IV at all. The aesthetician must have gotten it wrong. I apply the Hydra-vital Factor K cream every hour or two, but it doesn't help the itching.

Hour 54: Benadryl is my friend. Nite-nite.

I'm up from my little coma, groggy, but less itchy. My face is bronze in color, tight and dry. Still peeling like a demon. I've skipped my Cosmelan 2 application, and will only apply one time tonight.

Saw some friends, who claim they "didn't even notice" my red-bronze face with hunks of skin peeling off. Friendship tip: your true friends will have a meal with you, even when your skin falls off and lands in the salad.

My face doesn't hurt so much, 60 hours post-Cosmelan 1. It is still bright red, but blotchy, as if my real face is fighting to breakthrough.

At 68 hours, my face seems less red. A lot less red. Is it my imagination? Wishful thinking? Hmmm...

Red face, about 72 hours post Cosmelan 1 application

Red face, about 72 hours post Cosmelan 1 application

72 Hours Plus

No, I'm not getting less red, I'm still red, very red. My skin is still tight and dry, but it doesn't itch anymore. I've stopped using the Cosmelan 2 because of the unpleasant burning and tingling. My neck looks raw and red. I am worried that I'll never get my face back.

96 Hours

I'm starting to get better! My face is definitely less red. The itching is gone. My skin, though, is still dry and starting to crack all over. It looks like a cracked desert wasteland, and it is hard to open my mouth to eat. I'm going to put something more hydrating on my face, maybe with a higher oil content.

I'm also still peeling like a demon. I'm going back to twice-per-day applications of Cosmelan 2. I'm noticing my dark patches and sun damage more today. It seems like they are getting darker, or coming up to the surface more.

My face and neck are also feeling bruised, or at least tender to the touch. It's an odd sensation.

The other thing I'm noticing is an improvement in my skin's texture. My skin feels softer even though it is peeling, peeling, peeling.

Day 5, Post Zero Hour

I'm less red, but blotchy. My neck looks especially bad and the skin feels bruised and tender. I've made a discovery - Clinique Comfort On Call moisturizer. It's like butter and feels terrific, cool and soothing. I want to ice my face with it. I goop it on in liberal dollops every half hour or so.

I meet with friends who tell me that my skin texture looks "better" and "dewey." I tell them I've been slathering on the Clinique Comfort on Call product, even though I'm supposed to stick to the Hydro-Vital Factor K moisturizer. The Comfort on Call soothes more, and lasts longer. I also tell them that I still have lots of sun damage, but they think it is much less than before. It is hard to tell with my still peeling skin, though.

About Day 7

With the exception of one patch, the redness in my face is gone; my neck remains blotchy. My neck also itches like crazy, but my face feels normal. The texture of my skin (on my face) is remarkably smooth. I'm still applying the Comfort On Call every couple of hours, on top of the Cosmelon 2.

I've noticed that the Cosmelon 2 stings quite a bit when I apply it. I'm not sure what exactly it's doing, but I'm considering stopping it completely. There were a couple of days early on when I couldn't apply it at all because my face and neck were in so much discomfort (pain) but now it seems like it's a nuisance to apply. The sun damage on my face isn't getting any better. Will the Cosmelon 2 fade the brown spots at this point?

One side of my face has improved dramatically. The skin is clear and fresh, the pores seem a bit smaller (or at least, less noticeable) and the sun damage is nearly undetectable. Unfortunately, the rest of my face has not improved that much (yet.) I remain hopeful.

My biggest concern today is my neck. Seven days in, my neck is still red and itchy. It looks like I've got chemical burns on my neck. I'm going to apply hydrocortisone cream to see if I get any relief from the itchiness.

Day 9

Just when I thought it might be over, the peeling has taken on a life of its own. A small patch of sun-damaged skin all-of-a-sudden peeled away today, leaving me hopeful.

I think what is most frustrating about Cosmelan, for me, are the swings between hope and despair. I've had chemical peels before, but nothing really can compare to Cosmelan. I often feel that nothing is happening, then when something does happen, that thrill goes through me, the feeling that maybe my skin will finally transform. When it doesn't, or when the transformation is merely a small change, the worry kicks in again.

About fifteen years ago, I did a series of light peels with a product called BioMedic. It worked quite well, reducing my sun damage dramatically over time. But I'm not good with sticking to a regime. I'm reminded of that as I go through the Cosmelan process.

Day 10. Cosmelan didn't shrink my enlarged pores, but my skin texture is improved. The hyperpigmentation is better, not perfect

Day 10. Cosmelan didn't shrink my enlarged pores, but my skin texture is improved. The hyperpigmentation is better, not perfect

Day 10, I Think I Understand

Cosmelan is all about expectation. The aesthetician never promised me perfect skin. She in fact said "Cosmelan is not laser" meaning I should not expect that a topical cream could give me the same results as, say, Fraxel. What Comelan can do is bring about improvements. I think, overall, my skin texture is much improved. Some areas of hyperpigmentation on my face are much improved but still visible.

The redness is gone, and friends say my skin looks "so smooooth!"

The redness is gone, and friends say my skin looks "so smooooth!"

Day 16

I went to bed with red blotchy skin and woke up with a calm, happy face. Finally! Friends tell me that my skin looks "remarkably smooth and clear." I don't see it myself, even when I look at before and after pictures. I think that some areas of hyperpigmentation are definitely gone, while other spots have gotten darker. I do think that the overall texture of my skin is improved. It feels very smooth to the touch.

Since doing the Cosmelan treatment, I've found that there is a new and improved formula called Cosmelan MD which contains hydroquinone and retinoic acid and is believed to provide superior results. This product wasn't offered to me or was not available when I had my Cosmelan treatment.

And, my expectation was at first unrealistic: I wanted porcelain skin and that may not be 100% possible with Cosmelan. It's basically a chemical peel plus pigment suppression agent in a jar that has a high degree of safety when administered properly. Since I've already had peels in the past, perhaps I wasn't the ideal Cosmelan candidate. Time will tell.

Going into the process, I was told that there were about 24-48 hours of expected downtime, but this wasn't true for me. The downtime for me was closer to 7-10 days. I couldn't imagine going to work with peeling skin and a tomato-red face that makeup couldn't cover. Had I known that the downtime was going to be so long for me, and that I would find it so hard to tolerate the Cosmelan 2 maintenance cream, I would have opted for a laser treatment instead.

There might be better treatments out there, chemical peels that are not so intense. Perhaps a series of micro peels might be better than one Cosmelan treatment. Everyone is different. The best thing to do would be to consult your dermatologist and ask for advice about the best option for you.

I will update my progress as my skin condition changes, but after sixteen days, I would have to say that I see about 25-35% improvement in the overall appearance of my skin. Had I been able to use the Cosmelan 2 three times per day as recommended, perhaps I would have seen more dramatic improvements.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: I’m just wondering if you stuck with the treatment using Cosmelan 2 for the whole 9 months and how does your skin look now?

Answer: I did continue to use Cosmelan 2 for a year and was happy with the results. I’d say that the smoothness that I got from the initial treatment was the first to go away and that the Cosmelan 2 kept the most stubborn dark spots from reappearing for several months after the first year. But, all the texture and sun damage started being an issue again. I’d say it was a good solution for about 2 years for me (your mileage may vary) and then I started using other treatments.

Question: So how long did it take for you to get away with red and bronze skin? It is the 12th day for me and I am currently experiencing that complexion.

Answer: The red blotchy skin lasted more than two weeks for me, maybe 16-18 days? The bronze skin lasted longer. I’d say I endured at least 3 months of discoloration. Then my face and neck suddenly became lighter in color and the bronzing went away. Non chemical sunscreen was a must once I was able to tolerate anything on my skin.

Question: It’s my 7th day of post-Cosmelan and my face looks black/red in color. I’m so scared as I don't think it will improve or go back to the normal, as I can see that the face after the peeling is still red, I was expecting that after the peeling it should be fair. Though I’m still peeling. Is peeling from Cosmelan normal?

Answer: I think that you should see your dermatologist as soon as you can, just to be safe. My face was never black in color, but it did get very, very red, like deep beet red. Out of an abundance of caution, please do consult your dermatologist, and best of luck to you!

Question: I was wondering if the Clinique moisturizer is oil free?

Answer: The moisturizer does contain olive oil, so it is not oil free.


Susiemmaker on February 16, 2013:

Thank you for your response! I called my doctor and she told me to use Mebo cream...however, I cannot get that in the US. So now that I hear you only used the hydrocortisone cream and moisturizer (i am using the vita-k recommended from the doctor), I feel better. I however stopped using the cosmelan cream on my neck...only my face. Thank you again...I hope my neck clears up soon.

KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on February 15, 2013:

Sorry to hear about your reaction! My neck ended up beautiful, but I endured a lot of itching and redness for quite awhile. I did not experience any permanent damage. I ended up not using anything except hydrocortisone cream and a Clinique moisturizer that has since been discontinued. Do call your doctor!

Susiemmaker on February 15, 2013:

I'm having the very same reaction on my neck. My face took well to the treatment but everything you've said about the neck area, I am experiencing. I've been using the vita-k and hydrocortisone. Will it work? It's not getting better and I'm wondering if the scratching and rubbing I did premenantely damaged my skin. I will call my doctor but wondering how your neck ended up.

KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on November 08, 2010:

It's been some time now since having the treatment, about 5 months, approximately, and I think that the Cosmelan II maintenance cream has worked to keep the dark spots from returning. After about the third month post-Cosmelan I treatment, I noticed that my skin is not so "bronzed" in color. The bronzing, I think, was due to sun damage, because now my skin appears more pale-white. So in terms of skin tone and dark spots, I think that Comelan has lasted. What did not last was the overall change in texture. The smoothness has gone away. Also, there was no long-lasting change in pore size, unfortunately. I do wear SPF 25 daily, which is a must. One day, I went without, and my nose turned dark (I tan easily.) Although it eventually faded, for many days, I looked as though I were wearing someone else's nose!

jordanfan2010 on November 06, 2010:

Are the results lasting? Do you have to wear SPF daily? Looks promising!

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