Evens out the complexion
Cleanses the skin without stripping it
Offers gentle manual exfoliation
Clean, fragrance-free, and cruelty-free formula
Slightly drying when used as a mask
Urban Skin Rx Even Tone Cleansing Bar
We put Urban Skin Rx’s Even Tone Cleansing Bar to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.
Whether you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation, sun damage, or general dullness, brightening cleansers are an effective way to boost radiance and even out your complexion all while washing away the day’s makeup, dirt, and other impurities. Dealing with some pigmentation issues of my own, I put the famed Even Tone Cleansing Bar by Urban Skin RX to the test. This three-in-one cleanser, exfoliator, and formulated to target dark spots and uneven skin tone, thanks to quadruple threat ingredients, like niacinamide and kojic acid. A favorite over at Byrdie HQ that earned itself the title of the best overall solution for dark spots, I had pretty high hopes for this unique cleansing “bar.”
Would it live up to the hype? Read on to find out.
Rachel Nazarian, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. She specializes in cosmetic treatments, skin cancer, and dermatologic surgery.
Best For: Combination, acne-prone, oily, normal, and dry skin types
Uses: Enhances the complexion while improving uneven skin tone and the appearance of dark spots, cleanses and gently exfoliates the skin
Potential Allergens: Witch hazel
Active Ingredients: Kojic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide, licorice root
About the Brand: Urban Skin RX launched with a mission to create clinical strength skincare that was inclusive of darker skin tones. Its lineup of cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and tools targets an array of skin concerns such as uneven skin tone, dark spots, and blemishes.
About My Skin: Slightly dull and sun-damaged
My skin tends to get really dull and rough this time of year, which is why I rely on formulas with vitamin C or chemical exfoliants to bring it back to life. While I wouldn’t say I have intense hyperpigmentation or a super uneven skin tone, I do have some noticeable sun damage from my younger, SPF-free years (eek!) that I’d love to address.
"Hyperpigmentation describes a change in the skin where there is increased color or darkening," explains board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian. "Typically melanin, or another pigment, is found in increasing amounts in or around skin cells."
Most recently, I’ve noticed a faint dark spot—larger than my usual freckles—forming under my left eye. Not long before starting this review, I got a “medium” medical-grade chemical peel for the first time, and even though it left me nice and smooth, I’m still seeking some more support in the sun damage department. Post-peel, I noticed that the dark spot by my eye didn’t budge at all, and I’m still hoping to fade it before it gets any darker.
That said, I was excited to take the Even Tone Cleansing Bar for a spin, especially as I had yet to incorporate a cleanser like this into my skincare routine. I used it to wash my face twice a day over the course of two weeks. Since it can also be used as a mask, I left it on for three to five minutes twice a week but stopped when I noticed it started to dry me out. (More on that, below.)
Ingredients: ClearTone Advanced Technology and licorice root correct uneven skin tone and fight blemishes
Urban Skin RX lists four key ingredients for the Even Tone Cleansing Bar: kojic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide, and licorice root.
Which active ingredients one should look for ultimately depend on the course and etiology behind the hyperpigmentation, according to Nazarian. "The majority of the time, ingredients like licorice root extract, hydroquinone, kojic acid, retinol, vitamin C, azelaic acid, glycolic acid, and many other ingredients can help decrease hyperpigmentation by their own unique mechanisms," she says.
Niacinamide is beloved for its skin-enhancing and acne-fighting benefits, while kojic acid is also a natural skin cleanser that helps to fade dark spots and discoloration. Azelaic acid can correct pigmentation issues and treat rosacea and acne, and licorice root is great for fading dark spots and boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Kojic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide all appear towards the middle of the ingredient list, indicating they’re present in effective concentrations. However, on my particular product, licorice root is listed as the very last ingredient (unlike its online ingredient list, where it appears more towards the middle), so I can’t speak to how effective this concentration is (though, you can definitely smell it).
The Even Tone Cleansing Bar incorporates the brand’s ClearTone Advanced Technology, a proprietary blend of six ingredients that work together to improve uneven skin tone and blemishes. It’s made up of three of the product’s key ingredients (kojic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide) as well as alpha arbutin, vitamin A (in the form of retinyl palmitate), and L-glutathione. It’s also considered clean by Byrdie’s standards and is fragrance- and cruelty-free.
The Packaging: It’s not really a “bar”
Maybe it’s just me, but I think the product name is a little misleading. I was expecting to unbox a traditional bar soap product rather than a solid product stored inside of a plastic jar that can’t be removed. I don’t mind this packaging at all, but I do prefer traditional cleansing bars for the sustainability factor.
The product comes with two exfoliating sponges that are to be moistened and rubbed across the solid cleanser to create a creamy lather and then massaged onto the face. These offer physical exfoliation while still being extremely gentle, which I love!
Irritation: Some ingredients can potentially cause dryness and irritation
One of the key ingredients in this formula is kojic acid, an ingredient that helps to fade dark spots and discoloration that can potentially be drying or irritating when used with other exfoliating ingredients. It also contains witch hazel, which can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. With that in mind, those with sensitive skin should definitely patch test before using this product on their entire face and pay attention to the ingredients in the other products they pair it with—it may just require giving your skin some time to acclimate.
While this product didn’t irritate me at all, I did experience some dryness after using it as a mask, so I went back to strictly using it as a cleanser (which solved the problem).
The Feel & Scent: Lathers nicely and smells like licorice
Before it’s moistened, the cleansing bar is solid with a slightly sticky feel. As soon as you add a bit of water and rub it with the sponge, it lathers really nicely into creamy, soft suds. The sponge itself is pretty soft, and though it does physically exfoliate your skin, it’s gentle and non-irritating.
Once it’s rinsed off, the face feels clean with no residue left behind—just soft, smooth skin.
The product doesn’t contain any added fragrance, but it does smell pretty strongly of licorice due to the licorice extract in the formula.
The Results: Smoother skin, but product is slightly drying
As a cleanser, I really loved this product.
After using it the first time, my skin felt very clean—not stripped—and the physical exfoliation from the sponge left me so soft and smooth.
I decided to use it as a mask twice a week, as the brand recommends, but throughout the testing period, I noticed that it was a bit too drying for me and left my cheeks slightly flaky. After that, I decided to just stick to using it as a cleanser and scaled back on my usual AHA products, which helped calm my skin down and allowed it to go back to looking its best.
After using consistently for two weeks, my skin looks clearer and more radiant, save one hormonal pimple on my chin cropping up during the testing period. While the product didn’t prevent it from forming, it did keep it from growing into an enormous zit like I’m used to. My complexion is much glowier, and it looks like some of my sun damage and freckles have slightly faded. The results aren’t dramatic, but given that I only tested it for two weeks, I’m pretty impressed with what I see so far. I’ll definitely be continuing to use this as my twice-daily cleanser.
The Value: A good price for a great product
At $24 for a 3.7 oz tub, I think this product is appropriately priced, given its unique formula that acts as a cleanser, exfoliator, and mask. Plus, it uses all clean, potent ingredients. You can also snag a 2 oz tub for $15, which I would recommend for anyone new to these ingredients or the brand itself.
Similar Products: You've got options
Acure Cleansing Gel ($10): Not only is this drugstore cleansing gel a favorite, but it's also packed with antioxidant-rich pomegranate, blackberry, and acai. It contains radiance-boosting lemon to combat discoloration and uneven skin tone—all while it washes away dirt, makeup, and other impurities. We also love that it’s super gentle and can be used by all skin types.
La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Brightening Foaming Cream Cleanser ($25): This luscious foaming cleanser is great for targeting dark spots and hyperpigmentation, thanks to its combination of chemical exfoliants, such as salicylic acid and stearic acid. It’s definitely effective, but still gentle enough to use both day and night—which we love.
Overall, I think the Even Tone Cleansing Bar is a great cleanser and its glow-boosting claims are the real deal. I think true glowing and dark spot fading effects will take some time, but I definitely see a difference after just two weeks. Just be aware that it can be slightly drying, especially when used as a mask, so proceed with caution!
- Product Name Even Tone Cleansing Bar
- Product Brand Urban Skin Rx
- UPC 852820007642
- Price $15
- Ingredients Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide Lye, d-Glucitol, Propylene Glycol, Sorbitan Oleate, Witch Hazel, Black Tea, Azelaic Acid, Camphor, Kojic Acid, Niacinamide, Tannins, Glucosamine HCL, Glutathione, Urea, Sodium Lactate, Calcium Ascorbate, Retinyl Palmitate, Alpha Arbutin, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Extract