Kiehl’s Photo-Age High Potency Spot Treatment: Melasma Eraser for the Win!

Kiehl's Photo-Age High Potency Spot Treatment, review
Just read this product description from

Our Photo-Age High-Potency Spot Treatment powerfully reverses UV Damage three ways: provides instant luminosity & radiance, reverses visible damage on skin surface, and inhibits invisible damage from rising to the surface.

Doesn’t that sound great? Who doesn’t want improved luminosity and radiance??

But, the real reason that I was excited about this product is on the box.

This intensive, targeted treatment is formulated with brightening actives to reduce irregularities such as brown age spots which can be caused by sun damage and darkness from scarring.

You had me at brightening.

So, I thought a picture would really tell you about my experience with this product. The January 6th pic is really my “before” for my melasma. Nice little brown spot, I had this on both sides of my face. It was visible through makeup, I can’t tell you how many people told me I had dirt on my face. Yes, I felt awesome.

I started using this treatment about 2 weeks postpartum, so somewhere around February 10th-ish. It is a light lotion consistency, sinks in quickly, I can’t tell that it is on my skin. Due to the nature of the ingredients (see below), this product really is decreasing melanocyte number and melanin production. It isn’t “bleaching” your skin. So, results will take a little longer to see, but you’re much less likely to get the dreaded rings of whiter skin around an area of treated hyperpigmentation.

At about ~4 weeks you don’t see much change in my hyperpigmentation, but 6 weeks later (at ~10 weeks of treatment) you can barely see the area.

A few things about hyperpigmentation like mine:
• This was hormonally driven. Having my baby helps a lot, but won’t necessarily take care of the issue 100%.
• Sunscreen is super important here. Yes, the hormones are ramped up and that makes me respond to the sun like crazy (I developed this despite wearing SPF 15 every day of my pregnancy). However, it is counterintuitive to be treating an area of hyperpigmentation and not be using sunscreen. Wear your sunscreen!
• Results will be slow to come, and you likely won’t really notice them yourself as you are looking in the mirror every day. Snap a few pics to help keep you motivated and be prepared to wait 3-4 months before you really see a difference.
• Exfoliation should help with this as well. Cell turnover increases, some of that excess melanin goes bu-bye… it’s a good thing. That doesn’t mean you can scrub this off of your face (it’s much too deep for that to work), but it does mean you should keep up with your exfoliation.

So, what exactly is in this stuff that made it work for me? Quite a few things that have some activity against melanin and melanocytes.

Ellagic Acid: A Polyphenol with anti-oxidant activity. This ingredient is found in Pomegranates and has a few really interesting studies about its use in fighting hyperpigmentation and loss of luminosity. Basically, it has been found to improve luminosity and decrease amount of hyperpigmentation gained in response to UV exposure. It is thought to decrease melanocyte proliferation and melanin production.

Vitamin E: More anti-oxidant activity, though both Vitamin C and E have been found to decrease the spread of hyperpigmentation in hairless mice. Yes, we are not hairless mice. But, interesting, isn’t it?

Calcium Pantetheine Sulfonate: Also inhibits melanin

Salicylic Acid: Hydroxy acid to increase cell turnover

Licorice Root Extract: Inhibits tyrosinase activity and therefore melanin production. Also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

So, this stuff definitely helped me. I’m certain that it was not 100% responsible for getting rid of my hyperpigmentation (having the baby certainly helped), but I do think that it sped things up. I debated about using it on just one side of my face and letting the other side be left alone to see what happened. Then I decided that this wasn’t a science experiment, it was a beauty blog. I didn’t want strangers telling me I had dirt on my face any more! So, I used it on both spots.

I’m hoarding this in my skin care drawer for any future spots, just FYI.



  1. Anonymous
    September 28, 2011 / 1:33 pm

    Hi Christine! Thanks for all the posts on skin-care. They are very informative and helpful.

    Do you know if this product is like the Clinique dark spot corrector? I'm Indian with a medium dark complexion, so the slightest blemish leaves a grayish mark on my skin. I've been using Clinique and I've definitely noticed an improvement, but I'm open to trying new products.

    Thanks for sharing pictures of how this worked for you.

    – Ruchita

  2. September 28, 2011 / 1:57 pm

    Hi Ruchita!
    I'm not sure. I used to have a sample of the Clinique product in my beauty stash, but I think I must have given it away to someone that had that issue because I can't seem to find it anywhere (that was last year, it looks like they've updated it recently anyways since it is "now even better"). So, I don't know what the Clinique ingredients are.

    What I can tell you is that since you're not the super melanin challenged girl that I am (which means, I'm so pale that if I forget blush or a bit of bronzer people ask me if I'm feeling ok), you definitely need to be careful with this kind of product. Use this as a spot treatment very carefully, since the surrounding area will also be treated, you can end up with a ring of lighter skin which will make everything stand out even more. 🙁 Not cool.

    There are a couple of good posts by Dr. Cynthia Bailey over on her skincare blog:
    Stop Summer Darkening of Age Spots
    Derm tricks to control uneven pigmentation

    Yes, she talks about age spots, but those hyperpigmented areas you talk about, in response to inflammation, are pretty much the same. If you read what she says about controlling/getting rid of the spots, of course she recommends sunscreen, but she also discusses use of retinoids, skin lightening creams and hydroxy acids.

    Your better bet, since you have a darker complexion than me, might be to just go the hydroxy acid route. (Dr. Bailey also has a great post about hydroxy acid use) Then you'll be treating everything evenly, increasing cell turnover and hopefully getting rid of those spots faster. I'd try that route first, and then after a few months slowly add in a lightening product like this one.

    I'm in the process of writing a review, but I'm a big fan of the Alpha Hydrox line of Glycolic Acid products. You can find them at drug stores or order them on-line. They tell you what % they are and come in different forms like lotion, cream and even those saturated pads like Oxy makes. So, super easy, and cheaper than the Kiehl's or Clinique products.

    I hope that helps some. Let me know what you end up doing and how it works for you!

  3. Anonymous
    September 29, 2011 / 6:24 pm

    Thanks so much for the detailed response! I will definitely check out the links you mentioned. It sounds like hydroxy acids may be the way to go.

    I just turned 34, so I want to look at re-vamping my skin care routine to include more anti-aging products.

    I really appreciate your posts b/c they are informative and easy to understand. That's very helpful when there are so many products out there to choose from. Thanks again!

    – Ruchita

  4. September 29, 2011 / 6:57 pm

    I'm so glad that helped! I turned 34 in August, so I definitely understand wanting to add in anti-aging products!

    Skin Care can be insanely confusing. That's why I try to break it down into product/ingredient categories, and then I look at the ingredients in a product to know where something will "fit" in my skin care routine. It makes the most sense to me this way, I think it might be the only way to wade through the hundreds of products out on the market now.

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