Friday, November 18, 2016

REVIEW: Glossier Super Serums


Rarely has a product prompted so many tweets and emails from my readers than Glossier's recently-launched serums, The Supers. It's no wonder, though, because serums have become all the rage in the beauty community. (Skincare aficionados will tell you they've been using them for years, you slackers.) The company really amped up the marketing for these puppies as well, loading their Instagram story with shots of employees in pink capes and bringing on their model-esque team to rave about the serums in Get Ready With Me-type advertisements.

So do these live up to the hype? Are they truly super and worth a purchase, or should you take a pass?

To find out, I used my store credit to purchase a full set of the serums for myself and my best friend, and we both spent about a month and a half trying them out, one by one. My skin is dry, dehydrated, and reactive; I'm prone to hives and itching. His skin is normal-combination and basically made out of Teflon.


The Glossier Super Serums are $28 for each 0.5oz bottle, or you can buy all three at once in a "Super Pack" for $65. Unlike a lot of other Glossier kits, you do get a substantial savings of $19 when you buy these as a set. They come in clear or slightly-frosted glass bottles with a pastel pink and white dropper. I'm leery of glass and I hate having my actives/oils in clear containers, but I haven't had a problem with these breaking or spoiling, so I'm assuming they're decently tough stuff. Also, Glossier promises that the formulations are not light-sensitive. I'm trusting them half-way and keeping them out of the fridge, but away from direct sunlight. As always, you can cover these in stickers, and I actually tried it this time.

Now, serums tend to be very pricey, so $28 strikes a lot of people as a great deal. Bear in mind, however, that these are only a half ounce each. The standard serum is a full ounce. This means that the Glossier Supers are $56/ounce, putting them on par with a number of mid-end serums:


A lot of the videos from Glossier show their models running the actual dropper across their face. That gives me the ickies, so I just hold the dropper a few inches away from my hand and dispense the drops on to clean fingers. I'm sure either method works.

Before we get in to the nitty gritty, let me remind you that I am not a cosmetologist or dermatologist. I am simply an enthusiast. If I have gotten any of my information about the individual ingredients wrong, please let me know in the comments.

Super Bounce


Super Bounce is a hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 serum designed to add the "bounce" back in to your skin by locking on to moisture. Notice that I said it "locks on," not that it actually moisturizes, because hyaluronic acid really won't add moisture to a dry face. Rather, it's meant to hold on to any moisture you already have and prevent dehydration. In other words, you'll want to use it under a moisturizer. (Update: our friend at Brutally Honest Beauty has let us know that hyaluronic acid should, ideally, draw moisture from your environment. I live in the Land of Forced Air, so that doesn't work in my world, but maybe you'll have better luck!) Super Bounce actually contains sodium hyaluronate, which is salt derived from the pure acid, but most sources I've read suggest that the ingredients are equally useful. Sodium hyaluronate is just cheaper. Vitamin B5 is a form of panthenol with a similar function: it attracts moisture. I also noticed that the formula contains glycerin, a basic moisturizer that works well with most skin types. This serum is very slippery and feels slightly thicker than water. Unlike many hyaluronic acid-based serums, it is not sticky.

This is the serum my friend and I were most excited for, me because I love anything that promises to prevent dehydration, him because he's obsessed with products that promise a "bounce." But our experiences were far from pleasant: we both experienced some form of irritation.


I used Super Bounce four times, and on two of those occasions, I experienced some form of irritation. The picture above was my attempt to document the horribly red, inflamed, itchy rash it gave me one Saturday afternoon, though it's not very clear. Trust me, it was worse in real life. A few weeks later, my friend texted me and said, "I'm stopping Super Bounce. It broke me out horribly." The man rarely gets a pimple, let alone a breakout, so I was a little shocked. It turns out he actually experienced some clogged pores, not a full-blown cystic breakout. Still, it was not a good experience for him.

Beyond the irritation, Super Bounce didn't do much for me. I did notice that it made my makeup slide on a bit smoother, but I'm thinking that's the silicone in the formula, not the moisture-grabbing ingredients. My friend noticed zero benefits and couldn't wait to get back to his regular First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum. All-in-all, this one was a total dud.

Super Pure


Super Pure is advertised as a serum for "break-out prone skin and redness." The redness I can understand, since it contains ingredients I've noticed in a lot of skincare for rosacea sufferers. Zinc is often used to calm irritated, rashy skin. Niacinamide (or Vitamin B3) abounds in many anti-aging products, since it improves skin texture and tone. This serum is clear and has a very thin, watery texture.

Unfortunately, this is not a product I can use all over my face because Glossier refuses to announce the percentage of actives in their formulas. I'm sensitive to high amounts of niacinamide--it makes me break out in tiny whiteheads--and there are absolutely serums on the market that contain 10% of the ingredient. Instead, I would use a drop of this on one of the "special" pimples I sometimes get. These spots are red, itchy, and inflamed, but I can tell they're not hives because:

1. there's only one bump at a time, and
2. there's a tiny whitehead somewhere in the midst of the redness.

When I used Super Pure on one of these inflamed pimples, I noticed that the redness would fade away a bit quicker and it'd handle some of the itching. It's not a miracle product, though; it only seems to speed up the process by an hour or two. My friend said he found this one the most useful of the three Supers, though he doesn't use it often: it helps blemishes and irritation heal a bit quicker.

Honestly, I doubt how well this product could fight acne. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that, while some dermatologists think zinc can reduce sebum production, the science still puts it a ways from other anti-acne ingredients like salicylic acid. Most of the websites I'm seeing that contain anecdotes about niacinamide impacting acne describe niacin pills, not topical treatments. Furthermore, Super Pure contains silicone, which can cause clogging in some breakout-prone people. I could be completely off-base here, so again, feel free to tell me more in the comments.

Super Glow


Super Glow is Glossier's Vitamin C and magnesium serum. This form of vitamin C, aminopropyl ascorbyl phosphate, is relatively new and apparently more stable than many other forms of vitamin C. It can brighten and even out the skin, particularly if you deal with hyper-pigmentation. Magnesium is a humectant, most likely included to help with vitamin C's tendency to make skin feel dry and tight. (Definitely use this one under a moisturizer!) This serum has an extremely thin, watery texture, and it absorbs quickly, so I got in to the habit of rubbing it between my fingers and patting it in to my skin. Unlike many vitamin C products, you do not have to refrigerate Super Glow. Oh, and there's no smell! A lot of vitamin Cs reek, let me tell you; it's like rubbing a hot dog on your face.

Out of all of the serums, this was the one I was most happy with. It soaked in to my skin almost instantly and, after two or three weeks of use, gave me a bit more glow and evenness. Alas, it is a bit too drying for me right now, even with moisturizer on top, so I'm retiring it for the moment. My friend said he didn't notice a difference with this one, but he blames this more on his routine and his skin, since he's used to potent products that give a mega-watt glow after each use.

The Verdict

Perhaps you've noticed that I'm not particularly enthused in this review. That's because my friend and I were both let down by these serums.

For starters, there is nothing special about these formulations. They are not revolutionary or complex. All of these serums contain basic ingredients that have been around for some time and are either available much cheaper from other brands (see Deciem's The Ordinary range), or are available in products that contain other beneficial ingredients and have better textures (see Drunk Elephant's range). Unless you're producing products with the absolute best-feeling and most-effective formulas on the market, it's ridiculous to charge $56 an ounce for something so run-of-the-mill.

Speaking of how basic these formulas are, is anybody else a miffed by Glossier's cheerful refusal to release percentages for the Supers because the formulas are "top secret?" One, let me repeat that there's nothing special or secret about the ingredients in these formulas, so acting like they're "TEE-HEE SOOOO UNIQUE!" grates on me. Two, a lot of people can only use X percentage of certain ingredients. If Super Pure does contain 10% niacinamide, for instance, then somebody like me could experience a major reaction after a few days of use. Third, plenty of more established brands openly state the percentage of actives in their products, or will tell you if asked. Fourth, let's not pretend that duping a product is as easy as knowing the percentage of a certain active in its formula. Fifth, it doesn't matter if you can dupe these easily, because a big part of Glossier is the experience. Many people will repurchase their stuff just because of the pink pouches and snappy marketing, even if they can find a cheaper alternative.

Lastly, while I am not a member of the "Silicone is the Devil" team, I am disappointed that two of the three serums contain silicone. Silicone gives beauty products a bit more slip, but it contains no actual skincare benefits. It's been my experience, actually, that silicone is often added to skincare products to make them seem more emollient than they really are. And again, silicone can be a potential irritant or clogger for some people.

In the end, we both agreed that we would not purchase these serums with our own money. In fact, I wouldn't even use store credit to get them again, and neither would my friend. There are just better and/or more affordable products on the market. Glossier has made some solid skincare basics, like the Milky Jelly Cleanser, but the Super Serums are a definite pass.

RATING: 2 out of 5
These serums were purchased from Glossier.com using store credit earned through referrals.

24 comments:

  1. Love this review! Impressively thorough!

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  2. Thanks so much for this very detailed review! It sounds like there are much better options out there for that price range. By the way, hyaluronic acid is a humectant, so it should actually add moisture to your skin by attracting it from the environment, ideally. But that's not much use if the serum is messing up your skin in the process! I do like silicone in serums, personally, because I find very watery formulas too difficult to spread evenly on my skin. But I understand that they are a problem for some people.

    And I agree that the top secret thing is completely nonsense. It just makes it seem like the active ingredients are at useless levels and they don't want consumers to find out.

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    1. Ah, see, outside of the summer, I tend to be in very dry environments: offices with forced air. That's what's getting me. Thanks!

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    2. Yes, if the environment is dry, it's possible that it could attract moisture out of your skin instead, so that could be part of the problem! I've had that experience with glycerin hand cream (also a humectant) in a dry, overheated apartment in the winter.

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  3. I was interested in Super Bounce for about a minute, but your review has totally killed that interest, so thanks for saving me some money. I like the look of that FAB Ultra Repair serum, though! I've never used a serum (I'm actually working on a skincare post right now), but I do like FAB's Ultra Repair moisturizer.

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    1. I'm pretty sure my friend uses that FAB moisturizer in tandem with the serum. It's really good stuff, and the price is wonderful as far as serums go. If you want a hyaluronic acid serum, it's worth a shot!

      And I'm excited for your skincare post!

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  4. Glad I didn't get on the hypetrain!

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    1. Ha! Yes, they've made some nice skincare products, but these aren't worth it.

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  5. Great, thorough review. I was a bit curious about these, but now I'm no longer sad that I can't get them shipped here! The fact that they won't release the percentages is really annoying. I'm actually surprised that's legal.

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    1. Have you checked out The Ordinaries? I'm pretty sure they ship to Canada.

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  6. Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough review (as always). I wasn't remotely interested in these but I'm glad to know I'm not missing out. I've ordered a bunch of stuff from The Ordinary (have been a fan of Deciem for years) and so far so good. Would love to see a review on their products from you! (Also I think you'd like them).

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    1. Hey, let me know what you're liking so far!

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  7. Hi Renee, is there any chance you could review some of the products from The Ordinary, you got me really curious about the brand but I don't even know where to begin.

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    1. There's a chance, but they have to restock what I want! :)

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  8. Something about the packaging and your nail polish makes for beautiful, aesthetically pleasing pictures. If I didn't know better I would think they were from the ad campaign.

    It's too bad they didn't work, but I'm generally skeptical of Glossier and particularly of their skincare line. Frankly, I don't know why anyone would want to spend hard-earned money on (expensive) skincare from a brand that was originally an editorial blog when there's companies which are long established actual skincare specialists. I am guilty of taking skincare a little too seriously though :)

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    1. Wow, how many times can I say 'skincare' in one paragraph??

      Also, please don't judge me too harshly if I totally butchered the difference between 'which' and 'that....'

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    2. No judgment. ;)

      I spend my hard-earned money on my LRP cleanser, which is $24 a bottle. But it works better for me than any other cleanser I've tried; it's incredibly gentle and doesn't dry out my skin. So to me, that's worth it. And I do think Glossier has some good products, like the Milky Jelly Cleanser and Haloscope. But of course there are duds, including these serums, which are easily duped by better formulated or cheaper products. I think these MIGHT attract people who are new to serums, because the formulas are very basic and what they're meant to do is easy to understand, but I'd still tell those people that there are better options on the market.

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  9. Oh, just to be clear, I think expensive skincare is often fantastic and I'm a total junkie. I wanted to differentiate between Glossier and companies with more expertise in a field as finicky as skincare. Honestly, I'm probably unfairly biased. I guess in my mind Glossier can't create good cleansers and serums while simultaneously catering to the hype machine. I think of them as a company that can make fun products like highlighters well, but not something I take more seriously like my moisturizer.

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    1. I think Milky Jelly is pretty solid, and sold at a decent price. But beyond that, yeah, I don't really agree with their "skin first, makeup second" slogan. They're trying to be a chic beauty brand with dummy-proof basics, not create innovative products--just stick to that!

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  10. Never wanted the glossier serums because I didn't trust Glossiers ability to formulate something balanced with good actives. I think their base formulas are good and I love anyone who takes the time to go ahead and redo emulate a base instead of reusing something outdated. (Side note, I too have sensitive extra pale NC10 skin that is dry as all hell, and a product that has really helped me is NIOD Hydration Vaccine. I tried 3 other NIOD products from them and the HV was the only one I will repurchase. It has a fuck ton of silicone in it but, it's like crosspolymer fancy silicone to SEAL IN any serum below it. I've never gotten so many skin compliments as in the last month of using it.)

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  11. I tried Super Glow. Despite using it under moisturizer only once a day, it dramatically changed the texture of my skin for the worse in a matter of days. It's like I've lost a layer of skin cells- it's all rough and patchy.

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    1. I'm so sorry it didn't work for you! Vitamin C can definitely be drying as all get-out.

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