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:
Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $59.50/ounce
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Serum, $55/ounce
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 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.
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 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.
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.