PillowtalkDerm — Dr. Shereene Idriss’ new skin care line years in the making — almost turned out very differently. In 2019, Idriss was approached by a brand incubator that wanted her to create a skin care line under its portfolio. “They gave me a PowerPoint presentation with my face and name on all these products, and I was very impressed,” she recalls. “Then I asked, ‘What do I do?’ They said, ‘You show up.’” Alarm bells went off. After she politely declined the offer, the company warned her about the costly road ahead if she chose to create a line on her own, without the backing of an incubator or a team of investors. But Idriss’ mind was made up — if she was going to create a skin care line, it would be on her terms. “I'm not going to [create a line] just for the sake of having my name on something,” she says.
Three years and many labored lab meetings later, PillowtalkDerm’s first collection, Major Fade, has arrived, featuring three streamlined products to help people achieve brighter, more even-toned skin. According to Idriss, it’s the one thing that she finds makes the biggest difference for her patients — “Evening out your skin tone will get you the biggest bang for your buck,” she says — and was inspired by her own personal experience dealing with melasma after giving birth. “I never understood the mental toll [melasma] could take on a person until then,” she says. “I didn’t recognize myself.” Her own melasma journey consisted of an intense trial-and-error process of endless product testing and ingredient hunting, culminating in an 11-step skin care routine that left her feeling exhausted. A lightbulb moment struck. “That's when I was like, ‘How can I get all of this goodness into one product?’" she says.
Major Fade features just three key products — the Flash Mask, Hyper Serum, and Active Seal — all painstakingly formulated with ingredients handpicked by Idriss, in concentrations that are scientifically proven to leave your skin looking brighter, smoother, and clearer. Before you eye roll at yet another new skin care brand, know that Idriss formulated her products in a way that’s practically unheard of. These days, most skin care products get created the same way you’d bake a cake: There’s a base formula the lab offers, and then you can request that the chemists add in sprinklings of buzzy ingredients, like vitamin C or retinol. Brands create products this way because it’s cost-effective and they assume that consumers will see these buzzwords and equate them with efficacy — when in reality, they’re rarely included in concentrations high enough to make a difference. Idriss knew that her followers — all 439,000 of them, to be exact — would demand more of her. And so she began an arduous process of formulating products with key ingredients first, eventually hiring her own in-house chemist to “speak the language” and communicate with her labs after they couldn’t understand her desire to build a product with ingredient efficacy as the priority.
When it came to selecting active ingredients, Idriss took a no-B.S. approach. “I left out certain ingredients on purpose, because I think that you need to know the percentage exactly of what you're using to titrate,” she says. “And honestly, you need prescription level [formulations] for certain ingredients to be effective.” In other words — no ingredient sprinkling here. It’s why she chose not to include retinol in the line, because in reality, its concentration should be adjusted for your skin’s unique tolerance. She didn’t like that including a certain percentage of retinol — the amount actually needed for it to be active — might not be tolerable for certain people, and thus prevent them from getting any of the benefits from the other active ingredients. Hydroquinone, another proven skin-brightening ingredient, was left out because OTC formulas only allow 2% in the formula; Idriss says that 4 to 8% is needed to really see results. The sensorial aspect was important to her, too, which is why the common skin brightening ingredient azelaic acid was left out — at the 10% potency needed to actually be effective, it can pill.
Instead, she chose a whopping 15% glycolic acid, lactic acid, and tranexamic acid mixture for the Major Fade Flash Mask, which she recommends using up to three times a week at night for best results. (Though tested on sensitive skin, she still recommends you patch test first if you’re nervous about your skin reacting.) For the Major Fade Hyper Serum, she chose kojic acid, arbutin, licorice root, and niacinamide in a glycerin base — all non-irritating, all scientifically proven to brighten and improve skin texture. Finally, she added ceramides and a vitamin C ester into the Major Fade Active Seal, a moisturizer she describes as “if a gel moisturizer and cream moisturizer had a baby.” All of the products are backed with clinical, as well as real-life feedback from her followers, or Skin Nerds, as they refer to themselves; Idriss selected 100 of her followers to test the line exclusively for 30 days and give honest feedback, ending with a celebratory Zoom party in true PillowtalkDerm community fashion.
Idriss has big plans for PillowtalkDerm — she hopes to launch more hero products and refillable components in the future, which is why all the current packaging can be easily taken disassembled — but for now, she’s already launched something revolutionary in the overcrowded skin care space: a science-backed, thoughtfully-formulated brand based on transparency, community, trust — and a little sprinkling of fun.
PillowtalkDerm Major Fade Review
Patience is not one of my virtues, which is why this acid-based mask is perfect for me. Made with glycolic, lactic, and tranexamic acid, it’s an instant skin reset in a bottle — er, squeezy soft pump. I applied a thin layer at night, waited 10 minutes, then rinsed it off. Immediately, my skin felt softer and smoother, and had a slight sheen akin to a freshly-peeled egg. It felt gentler than other acid-based masks I’ve used, even though it’s just as powerful, but still definitely has a slight sting — just not in an unbearable, my-face-is-burning-off way.
This is my favorite product in the collection. First of all, the packaging is, quite frankly, adorable. You push down on the end of the airtight pump so it dispenses the perfect amount of product — I was using four pumps, but then Idriss told me she uses up to six, so I upped my game. This mechanical pencil serum dispenses a light, soothing milky serum that sinks in instantly. I noticed an actual difference in my skin after using this for about two weeks morning and night — and so did my boyfriend, who commented that my skin looked “smooth and clean” one morning, which I will equate to “stunningly beautiful.”
This is a great gel moisturizer for anyone with oily or combination skin. It’s the perfect last step to seal everything in after using the Flash Mask and Hyper Serum, and instantly soothes any spiciness your skin might have experienced before. I like to think of it as a gentle hug for my face that I can use morning and night with zero pilling or greasiness.