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How to find a skin brightener that works: go to ZO Medical

The Zo Medical line by Dr. Zein Obagi includes the retinol-based skin brightener, Brightenex
The Zo Medical line by Dr. Zein Obagi includes the retinol-based skin brightener, Brightenex
ZO Medical

ZO Medical Brightenex Skin Brightener & Correcting Creme


For those who aren't skin care junkies or who don't have standing botox touch-up appointments etched in stone on their calendars, ZO Medical may not be a familiar name. But when it comes to skin brighteners, maybe it should be.

ZO Medical is the skin care company created by Dr. Zein Obagi (of Obagi Blue Peel fame). Dr. Obagi's practice is based in California--SoCal to be specific--so he's at ground zero for those trying to hold on to skin that keeps celebrating its 29th birthday--for real. And he knows it. According to his website, the Obagi Skin Health Institute is located in Beverly Hills, "home of the world’s most demanding skin care consumers." When that's your clientele, the pressure's on to deliver. And that includes coming up with an entry-level skin brightener that works.

Enter ZO Medical Brightenex Skin Brightener & Correcting Creme.

Brightenex is part of Obagi's OTC line--so no prescription necessary. (For those who want to ramp things up a bit, there are prescription-only products and in-office procedures as well.) Brightenex is formulated to target skin discoloration, mostly brought on by sun damage, as skin ages. It's a newer generation skin brightener in that it doesn't contain hydroquinone, once the only game in town for OTC skin lighteners (remember Porcelana? it's still around btw...)

ZO Medical Brightenex contains retinol--the non-prescription version of retinoic acid (found in Renova et al). While retinol is a milder form of retinoic acid and, in truth, pales in comparison to it, it can still be effective in helping to reduce skin discoloration. Plus, it's not as mild as derivative forms retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate which can seemingly be found in just about every skin care product at your local grocery store. The beauty of the retinol in Brightenex? It's listed in the top third (!!) of the formula's ingredients--so it's not just some end-of-list, useless, minuscule amount that's only listed to help make promotional claims.

According to the product info, Brightenex is "a blend of potent retinol, melanin inhibitors and antioxidants are released to rapidly brighten and even skin tone quality" that also contains "bio-active levels of vitamins E, and C, and antioxidants".

The company recommends starting slow--just twice a week--and building gradually to every other day, then to daily use. If you start out at the highest level, there is a good chance you'll experience some skin irritation--so best to follow the directions.

What's great about Brightenex, too, is that there aren't any over-zealous promises about seeing "results in 2 weeks!"--that's the beauty of using a product developed by an actual doctor--you get the real deal and in this case, that means that as with other OTC brighteners, you've got to use it consistently for a while to begin to see results. You can probably expect to use Brightenex for at least 4-6 weeks before you really see results--though I started to see improved skin clarity in literally the first week. Also, keep in mind, if you're out in the sun--even if you're wearing sunscreen--you're sort of defeating the purpose. So it's important to keep sun exposure to a minimum during and after Brightenex.

ZO Medical Brightenex retails for $115 for 2.5 fl. oz.