My Chemical Romance- Serums, Acids, and the Frontier of Antiaging

About a year ago, I decided to get a little more serious about skincare.  And by that I mean I detected a couple thin creases on my forehead, glared at myself in the mirror, and calmly, resolutely stated, “Negotiation’s over. Sentence is death.”

Okay, not really.  I mean, I haven’t exactly unleashed the wrath of Valhalla on my face since then, but I have done the following within this past year: purchased (and finished!) my first vitamin C serum, purchased my first chemical exfoliant, purchased my first night moisturizer specifically for its antiaging and brightening properties, and purchased my first retinol serum.

Now, you may think this all sounds like ten levels of Joan Crawford insanity but trust me- it’s not.  You should see the skincare routines people have out there.  I’ve seen bathroom shelves that look like a Pfizer lab, with upwards of ten products used both morning and night.  And I know comparing our own shortcomings to those of others is no way to properly gauge where we stand morally, but believe me when I say that this foray of mine into antiaging is really no big deal.  My main motivation for all this is the hope for beautiful skin when I’m 60+, so I’m playing a long game here.  I’m not toiling over today’s skin problems as much as looking to prevent the next decade’s.

So what exactly have I done and what exactly have I used?  And how do I use it?  Peek away, and learn a thing or two about acids while you’re at it:

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Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment – Remember this time last year when I wrote a post on dipping my toes in the antiaging pool and I mentioned receiving ExfoliKate as a gift?  And how I was scared to use it?  Well let me tell ya, I tried it, and that stuff is a game changer.  I’ve never seen such instant results from a single product.  The full size costs $175 for a reason (and I’ll probably continue purchasing the mini for $24 and just use it sparingly).

This is a physical exfoliant in that it has tiny granules that physically rub off dirt and dead skin cells from your face, but it is also a chemical exfoliant.  ExfoliKate contains lactic acid and fruit enzymes (pumpkin, in this case).  These are acids – also known as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) – that naturally, chemically exfoliate your face, revealing a brighter, smoother complexion with improved dark spots and skin tone.  One site described such acid exfoliants as capable of “removing the glue that holds dead skin cells together.”  Most exfoliants either are just physical (think St. Ives scrub) or just chemical/acid (think peel pads).  ExfoliKate is both physical and chemical in its exfoliating properties, and it’s incredible.  My face glows after using this stuff.

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster – This is the first vitamin C serum that I’ve purchased.  It’s known for its great reviews and a yummy citrus scent.  Truth Serum is marketed as being able to brighten, help restore elasticity and firmness, and improve skin’s texture against hyperpigmentation and sun damage.

However, I have to admit that I didn’t really see noticeable results.  The serum hydrated my skin well, but I didn’t notice much of a reduction in small scars or dark spots on my face.  This may be partly my fault, however.  Vitamin C in skincare is sensitive to light and basically loses its effectiveness upon exposure, and I left my bottle of it in the car on a sunny day last summer.  There are a lot of biochemical factors that go into making an effective vitamin C serum, from the pH balance to environmental exposure to the serum’s ability to actually “deliver” the vitamin C into the skin.  Science, people!  It’s important to do your research and take proper care of your skincare products.  I have another vitamin C serum I’m using now so we’ll see how that goes.  It definitely hasn’t seen the light of day, you can be sure of that.

Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial – Wow.  Wowowowowowowow.  This, by far, was my favorite skincare purchase of last year.  This night cream has a variety of rose extracts and oils in it so it may not be for everyone (some are sensitive to rose), but this cream has been like a big whoosh for my skin.  I love seeing my complexion in the morning after having worn it to bed; my skin always looks fantastic!  Everything from dullness, dryness, dark spots, and even fine lines seems to improve after wearing this overnight.  Of course, I believe the effects of most skincare routines are rather temporary so you have to keep using it, but this is one product I’ll probably continue to repurchase.

I’m not sure about the vitamin C in it though because as I mentioned earlier vitamin C has to remain fully shut away from air and, ideally, light.  This cream is in a jar so it’s constantly being exposed to air.  I’ve learned to be skeptical of vitamin C creams in jars because they just can’t be that effective with so much air exposure.  But aside from that, everything else in this cream has been doing wonders for me.

Glossier The Supers – I was gifted these three serums last September by Glossier and they have been lovely additions to my routine.  How timely!  You can read my early, full review of them here.

I have loved Super Bounce (and have since repurchased!) for its healthy dose of hyaluronic acid.  Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that is excellent at retaining moisture within the skin, giving it that youthful plumpness that we naturally lose with age.  Super Bounce is great before makeup because it smooths and hydrates the skin so well.  I’ve also loved Super Glow as a stable vitamin C serum (using it now after having finished Truth Serum), and Super Pure has been great for any breakouts coupled with a blemish lotion like Mario Badescu’s.  And yes, I still get breakouts and have learned that most of us will continue to throughout adulthood.  The idea that you somehow graduate from them once you turn 21 is absolute crap.

I should also add that I consumed hyaluronic acid in supplements for about a month and had noticeably excellent skin for about 1-2 months thereafter.  No really, I got compliments in the dead of winter!  I took Olly’s Vibrant Skin Plump Berry Gummies with hyaluronic acid, collagen, and sea buckthorn.  My face was plump as a baby’s!

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Pixi Glow Peel Pads – These, sold at Target and much hyped all over social media, are little cotton pads soaked in glycolic acid and rose water.  They’re another example of a chemical exfoliant (or acid peel- the terms can be used interchangeably here), and they’ve been a good, quick solution for tackling dark spots, dullness, pore size, fine lines, and acne.  They are actually great for acne.  I had a breakout last week in a couple spots on my face and used these along with my Super Pure serum; I was zit free about 48 hours later.

Using an acid peel isn’t as intimidating as it sounds.  What I do is wipe my face and jawline with one or two pads and then wait three minutes; I then neutralize the peel with tepid water (as the instructions will tell you) and then continue with a regular facewash.  Your face will tingle a bit from the acid, and that’s normal.  And no, nothing physically peels off your face that you can see.  No Raiders of the Lost Ark reenactments here.

I love that these have been a nice one-step solution for tackling blemishes.  I don’t struggle with acne as much as I struggle with dryness and dullness, but there are millions out there who’ve battled acne as their complexion enemy-number-one.  If you’re looking for a whole systematic routine to combat acne that’s been plaguing you for a while, Reviews.com published an extensive, excellent research study on the best and most effective acne kits with their favorite four out of forty-two contenders.  I wasn’t too surprised at their choice for number one; I’ve yet to try anything from this brand but have heard nothing but rave reviews.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum – This retinol serum is the newest addition to my lineup, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to include it in my routine.  Retinol is really just a science-y term for vitamin A, and while it can come in different forms (retinyl palmitate, etc), pure retinol is a powerhouse for minimizing wrinkles and fine lines, reducing the size of pores, and rebuilding firmness that has been lost.  Like vitamin C, retinol is also sensitive to air and light, so be skeptical of any clear packaging or jars that you have to open up.  Now, many with sensitive skin will find that they may peel a bit when using a retinol and that’s normal.  There are retinols of varying strengths out there so it’s important to gauge what’s right for your skin and start slowly and modestly.

Things get really tricky, however, when you try and determine where exactly to fit a retinol into your routine.  Can you pair it with a vitamin C serum?  Is it safe to use an AHA exfoliant with a retinol, too?  You always think of mixing chemicals and making things go boom, and your face isn’t the ideal place for that.  You want to use things the right way!  However, I’ve found that wading into the deep waters of advanced skincare is not unlike mathematics and the interpretation of the law- the theories are endless.  I washed my face in the evening and applied this retinol serum on top of my vitamin C serum for a few nights.  I noticed no results, and actually developed red blemishes in the exact spots where I’d applied the retinol.  One authority I consulted advised not using the two together, though paulaschoice.com states that you can for extra benefits.  I’m going to try alternating my vitamin C serum and retinol now and see how that works and if the blemishes continue.  Most sources I consulted did say that you need to be patient and consistent with retinol.  I’ll also add that most quality retinols are expensive- $100+.  Mine cost eighteen bucks.  Only time will tell if these fine lines on my forehead demand a greater investment.

Now that we’re days away from the beginning of spring, at least I can say that I powered through winter with good skincare.  I didn’t feel nearly as dry this winter as I did the last!  Well, that may have something to do with the weirdly and freakishly warm winter we’ve had here and of course that may ultimately have to do with global warming and the possibility that the world is dying.  But for now, I’ll keep my anxiety at bay and just focus on that little wrinkle.  xo, MR

 

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The Supers Are Here!

It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader of famed beauty blog Into The Gloss.  I’ve been reading and commenting since its early days, and it still is probably one of the first four websites I hit up each day when I want to do a little leisurely browsing just to get the creative juices flowing.  It’s also no secret that out of Into The Gloss has come Glossier, a skincare and makeup brand inspired by what real girls (and guys, quite frankly) need in real life.  Glossier’s marketing is genius, their branding is fresh, and their products are BOMB.  You may have read my review for their brow product, Boy Brow, that I posted some time last year.  I’ll be going on my third tube of that stuff in maybe a month or so.

So when I was contacted by an editor at Into The Gloss asking if I would be interested in receiving Glossier’s newest product a week before it launches to try it out and spread the word, I very, very, very quickly said “GIMME”.

Just kidding. I said a very professional why-thank-you-I’d-be-glad-to-help kind of thing.  With probably too many exclamation points.

But it was in the response I received after that, that I knew I’d hit truly the jackpot- the new launch consisted of not one, not two, but three new serums.  And as a tribute to the original supermodels from the 1990’s days of yore, these new serums have been dubbed The Supers.  Because let’s face it- Kendall, Gigi, and Bella would be nowhere without the original Cindy, Naomi, and Linda.

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If you’ve never used a serum before, you may find that they’re a great way to level up your skincare routine as they can deliver very concentrated ingredients to target specific concerns.  Prior to receiving the Supers, I’d been using a vitamin C serum to treat dark spots and improve my skin’s texture.  However, it leaves sort of a film on my face that doesn’t make applying sunscreen or makeup very easy.  I can always tell when I’m not a huge fan of a product when I forget to use it everyday, or even every week.  I’ve had this serum for a while and I’m only halfway through- I can’t blend makeup very evenly on top of it and I can’t put moisturizer on top of it without it rubbing off.  Absorbency is key.

Now on to the Supers.  My first observation was one of relief- trying to meet the needs of every skin type in one kind of serum is incredibly hard, and I am so glad that Glossier really went for it and created three serums and not just one.  I mean, does everyone use the same kind of moisturizer?  Do even you use the same exact moisturizer every single day of the year, day and night?  Of course not.  So why would creating one type of serum make sense?  Everyone’s skin is different, and even our own skin’s needs change from season to season.  In the winter out here my skin becomes extremely dry and dull, whereas in the summer I’m exposed to the sun much more and my eating habits aren’t as great thanks to nights out and restaurant food, which typically means greater acne risk.  So, a combination of three different serums to meet a variety of needs is a dream to me.

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Here’s what each serum is meant for, according to the press release I received from Glossier and from left to right as pictured above:

Super Glow – Vitamin C brightens and Magnesium energizes for days when you didn’t get enough sleep or your skin looks sallow.  It evens skin tone and creates a light-reflective complexion.  The water-like texture immediately absorbs into skin without a trace.

Super Pure – Niacinamide soothes redness and Zinc helps calm blemishes.  Junk food and stress are other skin-disrupting triggers that Super Pure helps counteract.  The light, water-gel formula quickly absorbs into skin.  It helps let go of irritation and flushes out impurities, including excess sebum that builds up inside pores.

Super Bounce – Hyaluronic Acid plumps skin up with moisture and Vitamin B5 brings elasticity back to tight skin for supple softness- the “bounce” you want.  Good for skin that’s depleted from blasting A/C or high high heat.  The smooth, milky texture soaks into skin without any stickiness or residue for instantly softer skin.

Here’s my very, very, very shorthand interpretation of each of these: Super Glow is for anti-aging and dullness, Super Pure is for acne and skin congestions, and Super Bounce is for dryness and roughness.  All three can be used to both prevent and tackle a variety of issues, or perhaps just one can be used daily to treat something specific.  It’s really up to you and what your skin needs.  Here’s what I did …

I chose to use Super Glow each night after removing my makeup, washing my face, and before applying my night cream.  Its consistency is just like water so I admit it’s not very “fun” to apply- no yummy texture.  Also, I’d place the dropper right on my skin and apply the serum directly, quickly patting it in.  Otherwise, if I placed it on my fingers first, it would absorb right into them and would never reach my face.  In the morning, my skin looked refreshed with a light glow.  A notable dark spot on my right cheek seemed to improve along its edges throughout the week, too (and I hadn’t used my previous Vitamin C serum consistently enough to track such changes).  Out of the past six nights, I’ve used Super Glow four nights.

In the morning, I chose to cleanse my face and then apply Super Pure right after applying toner.  Super Pure has that nice whoosh texture- it absorbs very fast and leaves skin ever so slightly mattified, from my perspective.  I liked using this in the mornings because I am always guilty of eating a bit of salty food late at night, and this week was no exception.  I’d hoped to counteract the havoc my popcorn consumption my wreak on my skin by using this, and it did seem to work.  I had no major blemishes throughout the week to track for effectiveness, but my pores were less visible after application and the little bumps I get on my cheeks (the telltale sign of my salty snacks) settled down after about two applications.    Out of the past six mornings, I used Super Pure on three of them.

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I chose to save Super Bounce for the weekend because I had a feeling it would be my very favorite of the Supers, and boy am I glad I did.  It’s definitely my favorite with the quickest payoff in terms of making your skin feel “yummy”, as I so love to say.  This is the most viscous of the three serums, and “bounce” is a completely appropriate term for describing its texture and affects on your skin.  I love using my favorite skincare products right before applying makeup, so I cleansed and then prepped my skin on Saturday and Sunday with Super Bounce.  Whew- my skin looked faboosh!  Glossier definitely delivered on the promise of improved elasticity with this one.  And in the winter out here, I know this stuff will not leave my side- soooo hydrating.  I’ll probably go through a whole bottle just getting through December and January alone.

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I’m going to continue to use all three of the Supers in tandem to see their long-term affects, but I’ll keep saving Super Bounce for weekend makeup prep because I know it’ll really be a lifesaver once the air gets drier.  My main focus will be on dark spots and anti-aging with Super Glow, and fighting little breakouts and pore clogging with Super Pure.  For long term results, I’m most excited to see what Super Glow will do with my dark spots.  For immediate results, I’m loving Super Bounce for its instant softness.

So there you go!  And if you’ve often thought about trying a serum but have been scared away by the expensive price tags, here’s some encouragement- each of the Supers only costs $28, and all three as a set costs just $65.  To put that into perspective, Caudalie’s least expensive serum costs $50.  Ole Henriksen’s least expensive serum costs $50.  The price tag for the Supers, I’ll admit, had me pleasantly surprised.

Let me know if you decide to pick one up, or perhaps try the whole set!  And I want to hear what they do for your skin over time.  The Supers go up for grabs on glossier.com Monday morning, probably at 6AM Eastern time.  So like, in four hours or so.  You’d better get some sleep.  xo, MR