Dr. Shereene Idriss was tired of all the BS in beauty. That’s why the founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York City started posting educational videos from her bed to her PillowtalkDerm account four years ago, racking up more than 800k followers along the way while busting beauty myths. Similarly, she was over all the product launches with false promises based on misinformation, so she decided to create her own line, PillowtalkDerm Skincare, launching today, with products available for sale exclusively on PillowtalkDerm.com on September 27.
“This skincare line came about because I was sick of all the bullshit when it came to marketing and products claiming to deliver something,” Dr. Idriss says. “I went online and polled my followers on should we put up a skincare line and it was overwhelmingly yes. I said it’s now or never that we really have to do this and become a trusted source and transparent source, which is what I brought from my practice into the world of skincare.”
Two years in the making, PillowtalkDerm Skincare was designed to fill three areas of white space that Dr. Idriss saw in the beauty product world. First, she saw many brands launching from a place of fear. Second, there wasn’t a solution-focused line that could easily be incorporated into an existing skincare routine. And third, many doctor-founded brands were coming from a different place. “I didn’t recognize myself in the doctor brands,” Dr. Idriss says. “Some of them are not actually real doctors and the other ones were older people from another time and place, and it was very much an authoritarian voice—it wasn’t a conversation. That’s not how I lead my practice and that’s not how I treat my patients. I felt like I could be that connective tissue that connects all of those three different spots while keeping it relatable for people, and people can actually go into it feeling empowered and excited rather than scared knowing it’s a trusted, honest source and it’s very transparent.”
Dr. Idriss took her time to search the market as a whole to ensure she wasn’t launching something that already existed—that’s why she didn’t lead with sunscreen. “If I can’t do it better than what it is currently available to us in the US, there’s no point in going in there yet,” she says. “How can I simplify the routine and make it more comprehensible?”
As a result, PillowtalkDerm Skincare is launching with a trio of products that are all focused on treating hyperpigmentation. Years of clinical experience in her practice taught Dr. Idriss that it’s not fine lines and wrinkles that seemingly age people the most, as is frequently assumed, but uneven skin tone. “The biggest problem that I’ve noticed in my patients is that their skin tone is so uneven that they can get the biggest bang for their buck by evening it out and that’s why I started with hyperpigmentation,” she says. “From a personal standpoint, my routine ended up becoming a 20-step skincare routine and it was just not realistic or conducive to life, it’s not sustainable. So, I thought to myself, how can I basically meld the best of all of these things into a really simplified solution for people to use on a daily basis that they can use consistently, and they can afford all three.”
One of the key elements of fighting hyperpigmentation is preventing it in the first place, so even those who don’t have obvious signs of it yet will benefit from the products. “If you’re living and breathing on planet Earth in 2022, you most likely have been exposed to the sun and have some elements of sun damage,” Dr. Idriss says. “With that being said, I formulated these to be usable among all skin types. Whether they’re oily, dry or combination, they can still have the same problem.” The collection addresses all types of hyperpigmentation, from sun damage to freckles to acne scars. “Scarring is not just textural, it’s also pigmentary,” Dr. Idriss notes. “Anyone who’s looking for an overall brightening effect is going to get that from the products as well.”
The fragrance-free trio includes the Major Fade Flash Mask, an acid-based resurfacing wash off mask with glycolic acid, lactic acid, tranexamic acid and glycerin that gently dissolves dead skin cells to exfoliate, leaving a brighter and smoother complexion over time and allowing other skincare products to absorb better. Meant to be used up to three times a week at night for 10 to 15 minutes as the first step in your skincare routine, it brings a gentle tingling sensation. The second step is the Major Fade Hyper Serum, a daily hydrating serum designed to be applied twice a day with alpha arbutin, kojic acid, diglucosyl gallic acid, niacinamide and glycerin that treats and fades existing hyperpigmentation. Finally, the Major Fade Active Seal is a hydrating gel-cream moisturizer that seals in all the actives from the previous products to prevent future hyperpigmentation with a potent combination of brightening actives, including vitamin C ester, 4-butylresorcinol, hexapeptide-2, hydrolyzed brassica napus seedcake extract and glycerin. “It’s not a single ingredient story because skin is too complex to be a single ingredient story,” Dr. Idriss says.
Though together all three products are a powerhouse, the line was designed so that the products could be used as a three-step solution but also deliver results when used individually. “Each one alone is a rock star hero product that I can stand by,” Dr. Idriss says. “If you can only pick and choose, I’ll explain to you how you can incorporate each one into your routine. Each one alone is a little hero product on its own.” To prove their efficacy, all three products underwent independent clinical testing. The results found that all of the products worked well with any type of routine and nearly all participants saw a significant difference in their skin, with a scan backing up the claims on decreased spots in their skin tone after eight weeks. Additionally, Dr. Idriss sent lab samples to her followers, whom she calls “Skin Nerds,” to test them, and they all took before and after photos. “I wanted to hear their feedback and how they felt using the product so we can get it in real words from real people,” she says.
Having that kind of direct communication with her Skin Nerd community is why Dr. Idriss went the direct-to-consumer route with PillowtalkDerm Skincare. “It was a no-brainer for me,” she says. “I started online in this world and so I literally speak to people every day between patients, whether it’s a DM, a text message or a comment. I’m always communicating directly with the PillowtalkDerm community, so I felt it would be a disservice if I didn’t do it direct-to-consumer at first, because I also want to make sure that I am dictating the experience that people are getting when they’re buying this. In my practice, I say all the time that I’m only as good as my last patient experience. I want to be making sure that every person who is interacting with the site is being taken care of. I can hear firsthand how they felt, any positives, any negatives, what they think we should do better, all in real time.”
The next PillowtalkDerm Skincare drop will also be in a solution-themed family, with its own new color scheme. “I wanted them to be very, very visible from afar, and I wanted the price points to be more accessible because doctor brands are kind of in the inaccessible range,” Dr. Idriss says. “And I wanted people to really feel like I’m on their side, by [creating packaging that ensures you can] get all the goop out to the last drop.”
PillowtalkDerm Skincare won’t just help consumers get better skin—it will also help girls pursue STEM careers. Dr. Idriss’s family fled Lebanon and she was the only person in her family to be born in the US. “I’ve always been at that crossroad of being part of this displaced population where I could feel cultural biases and you have a lack of access in that sense,” she says. “I feel like my sisters and I are examples of if you have a career in STEM, you can really propel yourself up.” For that reason, a portion of sales from PillowtalkDerm Skincare will benefit STEM for Her, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that helps girls and young women pursue STEM-related careers through education and opportunities.
Ultimately, Dr. Idriss sees PillowtalkDerm Skincare as a means to educate people. “The whole point of PillowtalkDerm Skincare is I want it to be a form of empowerment for people,” she says. “I want it to be more than just a skincare brand; I want to be a resource where people can turn to for information. Every single time I have a product launch, we’re going to have deep dives on ingredient stories and how it was formulated. You’re going to be able to scroll through every ingredient on the website to see exactly what it does. It’s all going to be fact-based, but I really want to empower you to feel like you’re taking control of yourself so you’re seeing the difference and feeling better in the process.”