I hated many things about puberty: periods, body hair, and sweat – oddly smelly sweat. But one thing I remember hating more than all the others was how much my skin was changing. My previously baby-soft face was now ridden with bumps, whiteheads, gaping pores, and pimples on every corner. In addition, my skin used to be a uniform shade, with my forehead a bit darker from all the days I walked and played in the sun; but puberty had caused the skin around my mouth, jaw, and temples to be more pigmented than the rest of my face.
I am now 21 years old, having escaped puberty and all its confusion, but my acne, hyperpigmentation, and dull-looking skin persist. As such, I’m always on the lookout for skincare products and procedures that promise me much healthier and better-looking skin, and luckily, I’ve found one my skin loves. Here at 21 Magazine, one thing we do not do is gatekeep, so let me introduce you to Otse Noire Cosmetics, my latest solution (and obsession) to most of my skin concerns.
A Little on the Brand: Otse Noire Cosmetics
Otse Noire Cosmetics is a Nigerian beauty brand that prioritizes skincare products for better skin health. Being an eco-conscious brand, they take their cruelty-free tag pretty seriously and do not use certain ingredients of controversy, like phthalates, parabens, and animal derivatives.
The brand currently boasts of six skincare products:
- A gel-to-milk cleanser
- A dual-action hydrating and exfoliating toner
- An overnight gel
- Two serums
- A cream
Now I’m not one for overkill, so I tried four products that were best suited to my skin concerns: the Peach & Lactic Acid Toner for hydration, the B3 & Azelaic Acid Serum for my acne-prone skin, the Plum-C & Tranexamic Acid Serum for my dark spots, and lastly the Arbutin & Watermelon Cream to tackle my hyperpigmentation.
After three weeks of testing, here are my unfiltered, honest thoughts on the four products I tried and why a specific serum on here needs to be on your vanity straight away.
My Otse Noire Routine
While active ingredients are no stranger to my skin, I must ensure I’m not using too many or too often to avoid damaging my barrier (eyes on you, over-exfoliators). To do this, I employed skin cycling tips from one of my favourite skincare creators, Peju Adesanya, A.K.A Thee Skin Friend, to keep my routine barrier-friendly. I eventually settled for using the Plum-C & Tranexamic Acid serum and Arbutin cream before moisturizing sunscreen on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I also used the lactic acid toner and azelaic acid only at night on different days throughout the week. I also had occasional moisturizer-only nights to help my skin breathe and take a break because while I’m on a journey to better-looking skin, that’s only possible with a healthy moisture barrier. Now, for my thoughts.
The Peach & Lactic Acid Toner
Toners are deemed unnecessary by many skincare experts, but to be quite frank, I enjoy a good toner. They hydrate and soothe my skin, and they make me feel a little extra. But while I’ll vouch for a hydrating toner anywhere, anytime, I’m not the biggest fan of exfoliating toners. However, Otse Noire’s peach & lactic acid toner has made me a convert. With an ingredient list featuring glycerin and sodium hyaluronate for hydration, niacinamide for texture improvement, and lactic acid for gentle exfoliation, the toner left my skin feeling fresh and revitalized.
At 100ml of product for roughly NGN10,000, it’s cost-effective as I only needed two pumps for my face and neck. My combination skin means I have different skin concerns in other areas, and I love how this toner contains ingredients that tackle a good number at once.
However, my main issue with this is the scent and a few ingredients in the formulation. And yes, this gripe persists across the entire line. The toner has a strong peachy scent, strong in the way that your roommates on the other end of the room can tell when you have two pumps of it on your palm. The ton of seed oils and plant extracts in this, too, raise my concerns about an allergy or irritation. My skin loves this, but my product development side does not. So please carry out a patch test before use. If you do not like strong scents or do not want a list of extracts, albeit beneficial, taking up space in your skincare, this may not be for you.
Overall, it’s genuinely hydrating, exfoliating, and soothing, and it’s worth picking up if you’re in the market for a multitasking toner.
The Plum-C & Tranexamic Acid Serum
One thing we love here at 21 Magazine is a good skincare combo, particularly Otse Noire’s mix of vitamin C from Kakadu plums and tranexamic acid. With my hyperpigmentation and acne scars, I’m always on the lookout for effective yet affordable depigmenting skincare products. And at NGN16,000 for 30ml of product, I might just have found an enduring fave.
After cleansing, I use this serum before going in with the Arbutin & Watermelon Cream (more on this in a sec) and sunscreen (hyperlink 21 mag sunscreens article). Doing this allows me to target my patchy hyperpigmented areas and the dark spots along my jaw, further brightening my skin tone. Besides its vitamin C content, the serum has other antioxidant-filled ingredients like pomegranate and calendula oil. After two weeks of use, I noticed my dark spots getting lighter, and while they’re still present, my skin has gotten noticeably better.
I, however, am still not a fan of its heavy scent. It took me a while to get used to it, but I wish I didn’t have to in the first place. But, again, if fragrances or rich scents in cosmetics are not a deal-breaker for you, I wholeheartedly recommend this for a brighter skin tone.
The B3 & Azelaic Acid Serum
If I had to convince you to buy one product out of everything I tried from this brand, it would be this skin-saver serum in a bottle. I love skincare acids, from AHAs and BHAs to sensitive skin-loving PHAs. But I’d never tried azelaic acid until this review, and I have to say, I have been missing out. It’s likely that you are too.
At 30ml of product for NGN16,000, this serum is my current skincare holy grail. As you already know, because I’ve said so for an insufferable amount of time, I have acne-prone skin, especially around my cheeks and jaw. This is also why most of my acne scars are concentrated around those areas. At first, I used the serum twice a week and at night time only. I eventually worked up to three times a week, reserving it for my nighttime routine. After five days of use, something interesting happened, and by that, I mean my skin underwent the much anticipated purging process.
If you don’t know what that means, purging is when your skin reacts to a new skincare ingredient by increasing cell turnover, causing all the gunk and bad skincare decisions you’ve made to come up to your skin’s surface. And no, they are very different from regular breakouts. These tiny bumps around my jaw and cheeks were annoying to look at and tempting to pick at, but they slowly cleared out after about two weeks of use, leaving me with smoother, healthier skin. Thanks to the azelaic acid serum and the joint daytime effort of the tranexamic acid serum and arbutin cream, I also noticed fewer dark spots.
Now, I probably sound like a broken record at this point but conduct a patch test before use. In true Otse Noire fashion, this serum also has a heavy plant-like fragrance and contains seed oils and plant extracts in its formula, which you can be sensitive to.
In any case, I love love love this serum, and I will be repurchasing (and sad) once I’ve exhausted my current bottle.
The Arbutin & Watermelon Cream
First, I’d like to thank Otse Noire and every other skincare brand that’s swapping moisturizers in jars for airless pump packaging. Secondly, this cream is a hyperpigmentation-eliminating baddie. At 50ml of product for NGN18,000, the arbutin and watermelon cream is a lightweight cream that contains three-star ingredients: alpha-arbutin to tackle hyperpigmentation, vitamin C for brightening up your skin tone, and watermelon oil for hydration and sebum control.
With allantoin and glycerin in the formula, this moisturizing cream sinks into my skin quickly and keeps my skin soft for long. The pump also squeezes out a good amount of product in one go, making my early morning rush hour skincare routine much faster. I also use this with the tranexamic acid serum and sunscreen for an excellent skin-clearing combo, and so far, it has not failed me.
Unsurprising, but I have a slight issue with the cream: I’m not a big fan of watermelons. The scent of this one was not as evident as the other products, probably due to its cream format, but the watermelon fragrance took a while to get used to. This, of course, is a personal dislike, so if you like the fruit or are indifferent to it, you and this arbutin cream will get along just fine.
I might not be repurchasing this for the scent problem, but my roommates have tried and loved it, so it’s definitely worth a spot in your hyperpigmentation-focused routine.
My Final Thoughts
Otse Noire’s line of actives is the perfect mix of ingredient-based functionality and fruity fun like The Ordinary meets Glow Recipe. The B3 & Azelaic Acid serum was my favorite, and I’ll spread its gospel anywhere. Next are the Plum-C & Tranexamic Acid serum, the Peach & Lactic Acid Serum, and the Arbutin & Watermelon cream.
I love how practical the formulas are and how the products’ ecosystem does different things but has the same goal of smoother, even-toned skin. But if you do not like heavily-scented skincare like me, be prepared to get used to it or skip this one. I also would have appreciated knowing the percentages and concentrations of the acids in the formula, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Regardless, I’m a big fan of the brand’s simple, cruelty-free, ingredient-focused ethos. I think you would be too.
ALL PRODUCTS ARE AVAILABLE ON OTSENOIRE.COM