Welcome to the blog’s first vitamin C product review! I hope you will enjoy your stay, as this is most likely the last vitamin C review to appear in a very, very long while….
My chin suffers from hormonal acne: red, painful pimples that thankfully remain small and usually die down quickly. The problem is not the pimples, but the month-long red spots they leave, which in turn become seemingly permanent blue-brown marks. My chin looked perpetually bruised, which annoyed me to no end because I love wearing lipsticks, and lipsticks inevitably highlight my chin area.
In the Asian Beauty subreddit, vitamin C is one of the oft-recommended ingredients for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. So off I went to the neighbourhood store for some vitamin C shopping. The most obvious vitamin C serum choices in a Japanese pharmacy are Obagi (approx. JPY 4,000 and above) and Mentholatum Melano CC (JPY 988). The Obagi display had a very bombastic display of a rotting vanilla bean in water and a preserved vanilla bean in what is supposedly Obagi vitamin C serum. The Melano CC had a sad, rolled up tester tube, its exterior encrusted with brown, rust-like crud — a clear sign of oxidation. I squeezed some out warily, but I did not have to worry: the dispensed liquid was as clear as water, with a lightly oily texture. At the very least, this cheap product clearly has anti-oxidative properties and awesome packaging to protect that ability. I made appreciative noises at the metallic squeeze tube and the nozzle all the way to the cashier¹.
Mentholatum Melano CC Serum has a much longer name that makes me despair every time I try to translate it. JPY 988 gets you 18 g of product. Mentholatum is produced by Rohto.
As seen on the packaging:
Active Ingredients: Ascorbic acid (vitamin C variant), tocopherol acetate (vitamin E variant), dipotassium glycyrrhizinate (licorice root extract), isopropylmethyl phenol (thymol).
Melano CC is an oil-based serum. It has the appearance of a clear liquid, with a viscosity marginally higher than water. It has the distinctive scent of yuzu. Upon application, the oil seems to sit on the skin for a few minutes, before being absorbed completely; you can see how, immediately upon application, the oil leaves a thin film of residue on my hand.
I usually apply Melano CC straight after cleansing, on dry face, and I give it 15 minutes or so before moving on to the next step in my routine. Although some people have reported using it for their entire face, I mostly stick to spot-treating with the Melano CC, applying it on the under-eye regions, the chin, and any active acne. Since my cheeks are rather sensitive, too many days of Melano CC in a row do cause redness; therefore, I have limited myself to about twice a week of full-face application.
For me, here is the thing about Melano CC: it works. In fact, it works so well that I am unable to justify the time, effort, and money required to search for another vitamin C product. I generally do not like to settle on a certain product before trying at least two or three competing products, but my skin’s success with Melano CC leaves me stumped. Maybe I could have found something that my cheeks would tolerate better, but maybe not — Melano CC is one of the gentler formulations of vitamin C out there.
Here is a list of the magic that Melano CC has worked on my face:
- The old PIH on my chin has mostly disappeared, after a month of daily use.
- Active pimples do not stay red for a month; it packs up after a week or so.
- New PIH spots are not stark blue-brown bruises; instead, they are pale brown, and disappear after one or two weeks.
- Regarding my under-eye regions, there has been significant reduction in my dark circles.
All for JPY 988. Also, even though I have been using it daily for more than a month, twice a day, I still have more than half of a tube.
I love trying new products; I like designing their testing layouts and schedules, I like observing their effects on my skin, and I like changing the parameters to optimise my routine. It appeals to the researcher in me. If we use a research analogy, Melano CC‘s effects can be represented by a single bright PCR band: it is as clear as the day. And, just like any experiment, although it is difficult to close an inquiry, one should know when to close the case; sometimes, a positive result is a positive result.
¹ Working in a biology lab, it is hard to not be happy at good packaging techniques.
²Pinnell SR et al. Topical L-ascorbic acid: percutaneous absorption studies. Dermatologic Surgery 2001;27:137-142