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Our Skincare Experts Tested & Compared the Best of the Best to Find:
These pricey serums claim to smooth wrinkles, fade dark spots, and give your skin that gorgeous glow. But which one is really worth it?
What is a Serum?
A face serum is a lightweight yet concentrated elixir of active skin-beautifying ingredients. If moisturizers are like lemonade (mostly water + a little lemon juice), serums are like pure lemon juice.
However, if you’ve already been investing in face serums and feeling disappointed with lackluster results, those serums might be missing these 3 MUST-have ingredients for hydrated and radiant skin without makeup.
Personally, last year was stressful to say the least and it showed. As you may already know, stress affects our health, and our health shows on our skin (the largest organ of our body). I struggled with fine lines, large pores, and age spots more than ever this year.
Although I was feeling desperate, I didn’t want to do a chemical peel or risky laser treatments.
Chemical peels can make your skin become sensitive, thin, and more vulnerable to more age spots and wrinkles in the future.
But these serums saved my skin!
My team and I saw the biggest improvements from our #1 choice and current all-time favorite (it just has the perfect formula).
In my quest for the holy grail of specifically multi-tasking serums, I’ve become quite a serum aficionado.
In this year alone, my team of skincare experts and I have tested and compared over 10 different luxury serums from newly- launched to best-selling cult favorites, all priced from at least $150 all the way to $805(!!).
Although last year was a challenging year to say the least, today we're at the leading edge of skincare science and technology.
Skincare has never been so powerful and gentle as it is today. With the right serum, anyone can look years younger than their actual age.
We’ve only reviewed serums that are dermatologist approved as safe for sensitive skin, and are suitable for all skin tones and skin types.
In fact, with the lack of regulation in the skincare industry, I’ll also share 2 common potentially skin irritating ingredients found in many face serums and other skincare products that you should avoid or at least keep to a minimum.
As a professional in the skincare industry, let me honestly say that you do get what you pay for.
All 3 anti-aging super serums that I’m about to recommend really are the best out there; they are all under $250 and do a much better job than some of the over $500 serums we've tested.
However, our #1 choice for this year’s most worth it luxury serum, surprisingly, is the lowest priced super serum of the top 3 and comes in the biggest bottle I’ve ever seen a serum packaged in—I would definitely buy again.
These 3 gentle yet transformative ingredients are safe to use twice daily on all skin types—even sensitive skin, pregnant, and nursing women.
Hyaluronic Acid /
A tall glass of pure water and a spa day for your skin. Sodium hyaluronate is a smaller, more deeply absorbed form of hyaluronic acid that is more powerful for smoothing deeper wrinkles. Keeping your skin’s hydration levels at 100% not only immediately plumps up and wards off wrinkles, but also keeps skin clear and lifted.
These are the building blocks of proteins, especially collagen, which is the main protein in our skin that keeps it looking youthful. In our 30s, our bodies stop making collagen and slowly start losing it. However, with a peptide-rich serum, you’ll start to see and feel smoother, firmer, and tighter skin.
Fermented Natural Extracts
Although not as popular as vitamin C, fermented extracts not only help effectively brighten dark spots and uneven skin tone but also strengthen the skin barrier against wrinkles. Just as milk becomes more nutritious and the nutrients become easier to absorb when processed into yogurt, the same goes for natural extracts when fermented.
Most luxury anti-aging serums feature these 2 popular ingredients: glycolic acid and retinols.
These powerful exfoliating ingredients reveal brighter skin by sloughing off the top layer of your skin. If you’re in your 20s or 30s and have rougher textured skin and clogged pores, this exfoliating is beneficial and immediately refreshes your skin to boost radiance.
However, these ingredients can be too harsh for sensitive skin types.
Moreover, these ingredients are unsuitable for pregnant and nursing women, and can cause skin thinning on more mature skin types when used too frequently.
Skin thinning makes your skin much more vulnerable to future wrinkles and age spots. These 2 exfoliating ingredients aren’t all bad but should be used sparingly as they give short term results with potential long term consequences.
If you're still in your glorious twenties and you only have 1or 2 minor skin issues to worry about, this article may not be for you... This is for those of us out there (myself included), who are struggling with:
- fine lines & wrinkles around the eyes,
- large, visible pores around the nose,
- dark spots, age spots, and sun spots
more or less, all. at. the. same. time!
Even as a professional esthetician, I've grown tired of multi-step skincare routines, the cluttered shelf of skincare products each specializing in their own single benefit, and just spending too much $$$ on a variety of skincare products.
Let's say goodbye to those exhausting skincare trends of 2020 and upgrade to simpler yet more powerful skincare products in 2021!
Starting with the one skincare product that does all the heavy-lifting in our daily skincare routines: the face serum.
This one step in your skincare routine may seem minimal but it’s the key to seeing improvements in your skin day after day.
Let's face the truth: women are the beauty industry's most important customers but we're not getting the VIP treatment we deserve.
Due to the lack of regulation, there are certain chemicals present in many skin care products can interfere with our hormonal health.
Our experts only review products that are safe for use on pregnant and nursing women and mothers.
Healthy is beautiful; and beauty should never cost us our health.
Rebecca always had an eye for aesthetics and glam. She is a licensed master cosmetologist from Atlanta who enjoys teaching others about natural skincare and the power of makeup.
Stephanie is a former Esthetician turned freelance beauty and wellness educator. Although a busy mom to two teenage boys, she still keeps up her active lifestyle with yoga and 10k runs.
Mrinalini is a skincare enthusiast who loves to try new products to share her honest views. After her battle with hormonal acne, she is an expert on choosing natural products that keep breakouts at bay.
Lover of all things Kbeauty, Michelle believes that beauty is health. With news of her first pregnancy, she began learning about natural skincare and finding new products that fit her standards.
Skin Care Expert Tested for Over a Month and Approved for Mature Sensitive Skin
EGF, Nourishing Nine Peptides™,
Arbutin, Sodium Hyaluronate
Sodium Hyaluronate, Miracle Broth™, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8
Sodium Hyaluronate, Purslane Ferment Extract, Poria Cocos Extract
Overall Rating: (5/5)
Wrinkle Smoothing (5/5)
Senstive, Aging, Dry and Oily Skin Types
EGF, Nourishing 9 Peptides™, Arbutin, Sodium Hyaluronate
"Shockingly effective, the Forté Serum is a hard-working formula that instantly plumps up fine lines and gives you plumped up, radiant skin day after day.
Cell Forté is a revolutionary new Korean skincare brand that brings us the next level of skincare with leading edge medical-grade ingredients and technology.
And it really, really works."
+ 9 peptides with medical-grade sodium hyaluronate plump deep wrinkles
+ High concentration of EGF renews skin and boost collagen growth
+ Nanoliposomal technology keep the active ingredients fresh
+ Arbutin and 25 rejuvenating herbal extracts brighten dark spots quickly
- Limited stock, made in small batches and imported from South Korea
Originally founded to help rejuvenate the prematurely aged complexion of a cancer survivor, Cell Forté only uses the most effective ingredients and safest formulations. So much so the brand only makes two products: the serum and serum-infused cream.
That's how well it works.
The lightweight, non-sticky formula delivers instant results and absorbs quickly. The deep hydration helps makeup go on smoothly and beautifully.
After two layers of the Forté Serum my skin was so hydrated as if I had just done a sheet mask. In three days, the fine lines around my eyes had nearly disappeared.
After 2 weeks, stubborn sun spots looked much lighter and deeper forehead wrinkles and smile lines were plumped up.
Safe enough to use twice a day, even for sensitive skin the Forté Serum is free from potentially irritating alcohols, silicones, parabens, and more.
The Cell Forté Serum is enriched with the ultimate collagen boosting ingredient in the skincare industry: vegan sourced medical-grade EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor also known as sh-oligopeptide-1).
Although your body naturally loses collagen in your 30s, EGF revitalizes collagen production to turn that clock back.
By boosting collagen levels: stubborn wrinkles are smoothed, age spots and acne scars fade away, pores look smaller, and your skin gets a natural lift all over.
I was impressed to see that EGF was rather early in the ingredient list, which means that there is a high concentration of EGF in each drop. Most EGF serums only feature cheaper, filler ingredients alongside EGF and still charge over $300 for a tiny (usually 30mL) bottle.
At $180 for 50mL, the Forté Serum was our most affordable and largest sized option among the 3 super serums.
This bigger and better bottle was our winner and #1 choice for best face serum of 2021 for sensitive, mature skin. And if you take advantage of their limited time fall celebration sale, subscribers save 35% off your entire cart. That's $117 ($63 off) for almost 2 months—day and night. For best results and to take advantage of their sale, get the serum-infused Forte Cream too.
Overall Rating: (4.3/5)
Wrinkle Smoothing (5/5)
Sensitive, Mature, and Dry Skin Types
Sodium Hyaluronate, Acetyl-Hexapeptide-8, Miracle Broth™
La Mer is one of the most famous luxury skincare brands in the world. The world “la mer” means the sea in French; and all of La Mer’s serums feature soothing seaweed extract and a combination of 22 natural extracts to nourish parched skin.
+ Sodium hyaluronate and acetyl hexapeptide-8 smooths fine lines
+ Fermented extracts of Miracle Broth™ soothe and repair sensitive skin
+ Milky lotion-like texture is very moisturizing on dry skin
- Contains dimethicone, which can clog pores and trigger breakouts
- May not be suitable for oily, acne-prone skin types
In 1991 after La Mer original founder Dr. Huber’s death, Estee Lauder purchased the brand from his daughter and we began to see La Mer in many luxury department stores. The brand’s story is about Dr. Huber’s discovery of a combination of 22 natural skin care ingredients that helped him recover from chemical burns, referred to as Miracle Broth™.
Although I did not try the product on any burns, the serum did feel soothing on my dry eye area. However, the eucalyptus-like fragrance of this product is overwhelming. If you are sensitive to strong fragrances you may want to stick with the Forte Serum or the Sturm Serum.
The texture is oil-based and very rich like a lotion, which is great for dry and mature skin but not ideal for oily and acne-prone skin types.
In fact, we used this La Mer serum with the La Mer Moisturizing Soft Lotion and their textures were nearly identical. And surprisingly, the La Mer lotion was easier to spread throughout the face than this stiff serum. Use a gentle patting to apply the serum evenly.
After 2 weeks of use, my skin tone looked a bit more even overall but I did not really see any improvements in my dark spots or acne scars.
The main moisturizing ingredient in the Revitalizing Hydrating Serum that makes the serum more like a lotion seems to be meadowfoam seed oil.
This oil is similar to our skin’s natural oil, sebum, and provides natural vitamin E to help repair and moisturize dry skin. This La Mer serum also features acetyl hexapeptide-8 and sodium hyaluronate, two ingredients also in the Forté Serum that help the skin hold onto hydration.
At over $200 for a 30ml bottle, which lasted just under a month with daily use, I was left wishing for more miraculous results from Miracle Broth™.
The classic Revitalizing Hydrating Serum fell short in comparison to the Forté Serum as it is not suitable for all skin types (oily, acne-prone) and did not deliver many brightening benefits.
Research into the ingredients list La Mer’s serum shows Dimethicone as the 6th ingredient.
That silky smooth feeling we noticed when applying the serum was not only from meadowfoam seed oil, but probably also dimethicone. Dimethicone is a silicone based, skin protective ingredient that is generally safe for dry skin types and found in most moisturizers.
If you have a delicate skin barrier that has a hard time holding onto moisture throughout the day, a moisturizer with dimethicone can help. However, these silicones make serums less absorbable than serums that don’t have silicones.
Overall Rating: (4.1/5)
Wrinkle Smoothing (4/5)
Mature, Dry, and Oily Skin Types
Sodium Hyaluronate, Purslane Ferment Extract, Poria Cocos Extract
Dr. Barbara Sturm is a German professional esthetician who specializes in advanced non-surgical anti-aging procedures. She is the famed pioneer of the “vampire facial”, where the patient’s own blood is used to source natural growth factors that are applied to the patient’s face to stimulate collagen growth and repair (non-surgical, yes but a bit invasive to say the least).
+ Sodium hyaluronate and beta-glucan attracts hydration to smooth wrinkles
+ Purslane ferment extract strengthens the skin barrier against aging
+ Poria cocos mushroom extract soothes redness and helps clear acne
- May not be suitable for people with very sensitive skin
- Sometimes has a pilling effect
(product rubs off)
Although the Night Serum does not have any growth factors unlike the Forté Serum with vegan sourced EGF, this instantly hydrating serum also features medical-grade sodium hyaluronate. Sodium hyaluronate works faster and better than hyaluronic acid to hydrate all skin types from oily to very dry.
Another ingredient that the Night Serum shares with the Forté Serum is poria cocos mushroom extract. This mushroom is prized in Traditional Korean Medicine as a health food and now research shows its benefits as an anti-acne and anti-wrinkle ingredient for clear, youthful-looking skin.
After the first week of diligent use, I saw fine lines and dry patches smoothed away, which means that my skin’s hydration levels were replenished.
However, even after 2 weeks of daily use, I did not see too big of an improvement in my forehead wrinkles and smile lines, which is a measure of how well a product is boosting collagen levels.
A fellow skincare expert with oily, acne-prone skin put this product to the test.
Overnight, this serum helped soothe and shrink existing breakouts but also left the eye area nicely hydrated. The Night serum can be used morning and night time as it has no harsh exfoliating acids that make your skin sensitive to sunlight.
However, if you apply a bit too much of the serum you may experience a bit of pilling. Pilling is where after applying the product and allowing it to absorb, when you gently rub your skin small eraser dust-like particles rub off.
That’s because the formula may not be absorbing well into your skin. Just a nickel-sized portion is enough for the entire face; don’t forget your neck too!
I love how the lightweight gel texture of the Night Serum does not have any silicones or oils and just melts into the skin. After 2 weeks, our experts with more oily and acne-prone skin types saw the most improvements out of all of us.
On the other hand, those of us with dry skin types did not see much of a difference besides hydration. The 30ml bottle is luxurious but it’s small size and hefty price tag may be it’s most luxurious quality rather than performance.
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