I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
I know a lot of you have expressed curiosity about serums. I was, too. The key word there is was, because I decided to take the leap and test out a few serums to see if they're worth all the hype.
I have very dry skin, so I looked for serums that promised to deliver intense hydration.
I took photos of each serum so you could see the color and consistency or whatever in case anybody needs that--are skincare swatches a thing?
Just please, no uncouth jokes. We're all mature grown ups here, right?
Ahava Dead Sea Osmoter Concentrate
I hadn't heard of Ahava before, and if you haven't either, here's the rundown: It's an Israeli company that uses mud and mineral-based compounds from the Dead Sea for their skincare products. They claim that their exclusive ingredient, the titular Osmoter in this serum, is "a perfectly balanced concentrate of Dead Sea minerals that replenishes, rehydrates and recharges the skin." Sounds good to me!
And seriously, I don't know about you, but I love it when skincare companies make up their own words--and I love it even more when it seems that the made-up ingredient actually has useful properties, as this Osmoter does.
This 2012 article on Elle.com has a lot of interesting information about Ahava and their Osmoter. Here's a summary: Scientists who have been studying Dead Sea minerals since 1988 discovered that "the mineral compounds improve cellular metabolism... stimulate circulation... protect against UV radiation... [and] moisturize the skin through osmosis." It's also worth noting that it's not just the scientists paid by Ahava who have found such positive results: "A number of independent studies also show that the Dead Sea minerals reduce roughness and inflammation, improving overall skin health."
Like every serum I've tried so far, the Ahava serum comes in a pretty bottle with a pump. I have to say that's one of my favorite parts about serums so far. No, not the pretty packaging (although that helps, because I like my beauty product collection to look nice), but the pumps. They are a total godsend, and I wish more moisturizers came with the same convenient setup instead of germ-harboring tubs.
It has a faint, pleasant scent. Despite the added fragrance, it did not irritate my skin at all. It was absorbed almost immediately, leaving behind zero shine (actually, this applies to all of the serums I tried).
The instructions recommend applying it generously before moisturizer in the AM and PM, so that's what I did. It made my skin very soft and silky to the touch.
Vichy LiftActiv Serum 10
Vichy LiftActiv Serum 10 is another serum that promises results via NATURE. It has a 10% concentration of rhamnose, which is "a naturally derived plant sugar clinically proven to improve skin rejuvination," and it's the second ingredient listed in this serum after water.
This serum promises to improve the appearance (key word there is appearance--they can't promise actual elimination because it's not a drug) of "wrinkles, pores and sagging while giving skin a boost of radiance." Since I'm only 23, I obviously don't have a lot of wrinkles or sagging (although I assume I have pores), but I've learned that anti-aging products are great if you have dry skin. They're usually concerned with boosting hydration, which is what I need.
This serum also has some really pretty packaging with a silver, futuristic-looking bottle. Unfortunately, this was the only one without a pump. Instead, it has a tear-dropper application which leads to me doing this:
I get that the point is to properly dispense the right amount of product, which is smart, but I think I can be trusted not to overwork a pump. OK, fine--that's a lie.
Still, I got tired of dribbling serum all over my face (seriously, stop snickering, you guys), and now I just dispense a few drops onto my fingers instead. I know, I'm a genius for figuring that out after a week. These are the hot tips that keep you coming back to me.
This serum also has a very faint fragrance, and it contains alcohol--something for those of us with sensitive skin to know. That said, it didn't irritate my skin and actually made it feel amazingly silky, as serums are wont to do.
Yon-Ka Hydra N1 Serum
Yon-Ka Hydra N1 Serum has the prettiest packaging and the strongest fragrance--a very strong floral smell. I don't dislike the scent at all, but it could easily be irritating for your skin or nose if you're prone to fragrance-related headaches.
That said, I quite like this serum. My favorite part is the cooling sensation that I get as soon as I put it on. These days it feels like my face is always slightly flushed and overheated, so this serum provides relief. It also makes my skin feel like--surprise!--silk. If you're tired of the silk analogy I can switch it out for "baby's bottom" instead. Just let me know.
Ingredients include glycerin, aloe vera, and hyaluronic acid.
L'Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense
L'Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense is an awesome budget choice if only because L'Oreal actually owns Vichy, as well as Lancome, which apparently has a very similar serum for a much higher price.
The packaging, honestly, isn't as aesthetically pleasing as some other serums but it has the convenient pump, which is all that really matters.
Once again, I noticed a fragrance. I'm not sure why serums seem hellbent on being fragranced--perhaps a large part of the demographic is positively crying out for flowery, slightly alcoholic scents. Not me, though.
The ingredients include water, glycerin, alcohol, dimethicone, and bifida ferment lysate, which is a form of yeast that L'Oreal claims fights aging by reducing cell turnover. I don't know about that, but it literally felt exactly the same on my skin as the more expensive serums that I tried, so there's that.
So, which serum should you get? Do you even need a serum?
Here's my opinion on serums, based on this experience (and some basic research): Since they often have a higher concentration of active ingredients, they can be a potent fix for a lot of skin issues such as dryness and aging. However, because they get absorbed into the skin much more quickly--and because of the annoying insistence on ingredients such as fragrance and alcohol--you could easily wind up with a serum that irritates your skin.
Look at the ingredients and beware of silly marketing claims. Test them out carefully, making sure your skin is completely dry if you cleanse it first (this reduces the chance of irritation), and if you find one that you really like then go for it.
Serums can be a great addition to moisturizer in the winter, and can even stand alone in the summer. They're actually a great option for summer or for those with oily skin, since they get absorbed so quickly and don't leave behind a sheen or greasiness (and because most are water-based, not oil-based).
For the record, I really enjoyed using these serums on my skin and plan to continue--especially the Yon-Ka serum because of the pretty packaging and the soothing, cooling effect, and the Ahava serum because of its lack of alcohol and (I'll admit it) the novelty of its Dead Sea ingredients.
And for what it's worth, look how bright and glowing my skin looks after several weeks of nightly serum treatment:
Have you tried any serums, and if so, what do you think of them?