I Tried the Trendiest New Serums to See If They Live Up to the Buzz

The Ordinary and Glossier may be "cool," but do their serums, like, do anything?
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The Ordinary and Glossier may be "cool," but do their serums, like, do anything?

Skincare has categorically been one of the more money beauty categories. Duh. You know this. I guess I get it — you can't take off your skin, so you really need to take care of it because it's the only skin you got

OK, whoa, didn't mean to get macabre there. 

Anyway, when it comes to things making the most difference in the least invasive way, serums are where it's at. They are basically science goo. They come in all forms to cure all ailments, and the market is just about to pop right now with serum this and serum that. 

"The Supers"

"The Supers"

As luck would have it, Cool Girl™ apothecary, Glossier, just dropped their Supers — a set of three interchangeable serums for whatever bad behavior your skin can pull (or just to tweak/perfect your already well-behaved face). They are pared down formulas with specific intent: Super Bounce with hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 (for moisture/plump-face), Super Glow with vitamin C (aminopropyl ascorbyl Phosphate, which is a super-stable form of vitamin C) and magnesium (PCA), and Super Pure which has niacinamide and zinc (PCA). So you've got your hydration, brightening, and breakout fronts covered. 

THE-ORDINARY-SERUMS.jpg

Looking up serums in general, because that's what I do in my spare time, I came across a wacky nu-wave "abnormal beauty company," (their words) Deciem, which has a sub-brand called The Ordinary

The Ordinary are a bunch of no-frills serums that contain pretty much all actives — none of the expensive marketing and frou-frou plant extracts that don't really do anything. They've been getting some really good lip service from the skincare-obsessed corners of the internet, praised for their high-quality formulations and downright cheap, near-non-profit prices. 

What you see here is the Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2%, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc, and the "Buffet" (a highly concentrated peptide formula with one my top fave ingredients, lactococcus ferment lysate). 

But how does one use enough serums on her face to actually suss out a difference? For an experienced skincare slut like me, honestly, there's just no way to try them all in under a month, sorry. BUT there is that first-time kind of impression you get with a new skincare product that tells you if you will hate it or not. 

As they say in the vlogger world, here are my first impressions! 

For hydration: Super Bounce and Buffet — both pretty good for hydration! Super Bounce does have dimethicone in it, though, so if your skin hates silicones... you've been warned. It does give it a nice, smooth texture and glide (great under makeup), but if you're a diehard HA junkie, honestly — WILDCARD — Pestle & Mortar's Pure Hyaluronic Serum is the shit. It's pricey (sorry) but I've been using it for about a week and a half after an aesthetician remarked upon my dehydrated under-eye area (evidenced by the fine taut lines when I smile), and I went into a moisturizing frenzy to that one isolated area. Not just dry — dehydrated. I was aghast. And by George, if those fine lines weren't plumped right and proper. I had just considered them a sign of aging and maybe physical stress from when I rub my eyes, but nope — turns out they were just too fucking thirsty. 

But let me talk about The Ordinary's Buffet serum. Other than lactococcus ferment lysate, what caught my eye was Syn-Ake peptide complex (it's made with a peptid found in snake venom, people!), and that 11 amino acid wave pool. There are lots of other complicated ingredients in there, but they must be too trendy for me to have heard of them yet — yet! Like the Matrixyl 3000 peptide complex. What the hell are you about? (OK, actually it's a patented peptide that prompts your skin to produce more collagen by mimicking broken collagen, AKA trickery!). This serum is basically anti-aging at its most deceitful. It doesn't feel heavy, though, and absorbs pretty quickly. 

The Lactic Acid one smells atrocious — like carbon paper, if you remember such a thing (printer toner is a close second). But I definitely noticed a difference overnight with this one re: glowy, radiant skin. There is a stronger 10% version, and granted, my skin isn't super-reactive and it does play nicely with mild acids, but I was surprised that the 5% one was so instantaneous. The HA in it makes it also hydrating while it's at it. According to the company, the reason this is special is: "This pH of this formula is approximately 3.8. Lactic Acid has a pKa of 3.8 and pKa is the most important aspect to consider in formulating with acids. pKa implies acid availability. When pKa is close to pH, there is an ideal balance between salt and acidity, maximizing effectiveness of the acid and reducing irritation."

For skin-clearing/brightening: With a tag-team of niacinamide and zinc, I was hoping that either the self-titled one or Super Pure would help diminish a cyst on my chin that had become a tender and painful ant-hill. No, apparently zinc doesn't precisely work that way and I feel lied to, but whatever. I vote these two duds... but then again, go ahead and try it if you're acne-prone and you tell me. I do happen to like niacinamide for its brightening, so it's not a total loss.  

I've had words about vitamin C before, and as science would have it, some flesh just ain't about that juice. Maybe mine isn't about the particular kind of aminopropyl ascorbyl phosphate in Glossier's Super Glow, but I've found much more noticeable results with my beloved Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum and Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum than two week's worth of Super Glow, sadly. But then again, it really does take a month to see results. It's possible that my skin is so vitamin C tolerant that it takes higher concentrations to, like, do anything to it. Skincare is tricky, man! But I like the bottle...

Just hanging out, doing serum things...

Just hanging out, doing serum things...

Bottom line: serums are great, but definitely not necessarily superheroes all the time for everyone. Try them out from a place with a really good return policy, especially if it's a pricey one. But don't be a snob like me — give the newbies a chance because they could be totally awesome, do their job, and not cost all your acorns. None of these here are all that expensive, really (save for Pestle & Mortar but at least it does its job, and how!).

  • What's the most you've dropped/would drop on a skincare serum? 
  • What serums should I slather on my face next? Also, does it work if you put it in your food? (JK, don't do that).