Who doesn’t love a good serum? Immediately absorbed, deeply penetrating, results-driven. I see my serum as the single product in my routine which can bring about the most noticeable and measurable, positive change. I’ve used brightening serums to fade dark spots (the sadly discontinued Orico, which was 100% organic, was my number one), deeply hydrating serums to top up my skin’s reserves and replenishing serums to bolster the strength of my barrier function (particularly important if, like me, you’re prone to redness, or have rosacea). Ten years ago I remember searching high and low for a silky, non-greasy, immediately absorbed formula, and found that everything came up short. Oftentimes oil-based, too heavy, too fragranced (rose essential oil seemed ubiquitous), the market was not there yet. Today, it’s another story. Nature girls will find themselves spoiled for chemical-free choice – this neat winner’s list features the products that have delivered their promises unfailingly – joy to use, pleasant scent, and of course, efficacious.
- 1) Elethea Youth Capture Serum, £126
Pricey pricey! Here’s why: science- and clinical-backed research is the mainstay of this entirely natural brand, founded by a female biochemist, that also uses some lesser known powerhouse naturals, such as Tamarind extract, sourced from East Africa. The star of the show is Elethea’s exclusive Rift Valley Algae Complex – like an essential multi-vit for skin, it contains all 8 essential fatty acids, B vits, beta-carotene, and skin-health-boosting minerals in bioavailable form, including copper, magnesium, zinc and potassium. I’ve quizzed the brand on its occasionally prohibitive price-points and it’s very much a case of you get what you pay for… that includes a huge amount of research and development, and the money for the clinical trials which showed that wrinkle depth was reduced by 22% after 28 days, in, wait for it, 100% of users. Impressive stuff.
2) Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Revitalise and Glow Serum, £47
First comes the scent – jasmine, tuberose, mandarin – I can’t imagine it being divisive (it smells like heaven to me!), but all initial contact with this lovely product is fuelled by the fragrance. If you don’t like it, it’s probably not the product for you! Which is a shame, as it’s a smart all-natural formula, featuring Aurelia’s proprietary probiotic blend (they use bifida ferment and milk proteins), omega 3, 6 and 9-rich baobab oil, and a series of natural peptides to boost skin’s health and radiance. In a lightweight base of aloe leaf extract, it feels refreshing and ‘thin’ – immediately absorbed, always a good thing.
3) Elemental Herbology Cell Food Radiance and Vitality Serum, £45
There are some gems in this all-natural results-driven line, and this is one of them. It was one of the first natural serums I tried, and it’s one I go back to often. Some unusual ingredients in the formula, and some patented bioactives – these are all-natural formulas or single ingredients that have been developed and tested in a lab, blending the nouse of nature with the savviest science. Many leading organic and natural brands use these next generation naturals now, and they do help to deliver efficacy in a way that first generation naturals were unable to (with many being simply too large in molecule-size, or just not bioavailable enough to be recognised by our skin). This serum contains kombuchka, a patented formula that is a mix of fermented black tea and two other microorganisms. Sounds scary, but it’s present in half a dozen of the EH line – simply because it makes a noticeable difference to skin texture and reduction in pigmentation (I’ve felt and seen it!).
4) Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum, £120
Ouch, pricey! But this is such glorious stuff! I’ve only repeat purchased once (and even with a generous press discount, it was painful), but it has a special place in my heart (or the nucleus of my skin’s cells at least). Some very cool ingredients sit among the 100% natural formula – Narcissus Bulb Extract boosts firmness, elasticity and cell resilience, while Date Palm Extract decreases wrinkle depth and inhibit muscle fibre contractions. (which cause lines to appear more prominent). You’ve also got your plumping sodium hyaluronate, and nutrient-packed alfalfa extract. My skin always glows after a week of use – and the smell (as with all the TH line) is DIVINE – think rose water, lavender and calendula.
5) Oskia Renaissance Super 16 Serum, £80
I just LOVE this one. I’ve had many a cuppa with Oskia founder Georgie Cleeve and she is, hands down, the most knowledgable formulator I’ve met. Her father owns one of the largest nutritional supplement companies in Europe which doubtless helps her nail the sound science behind each and every ingredient that she champions – but she is tireless in her research and development of the very best, most effective, and most pioneering new natural actives. Oskia have their own labs, factory and production facilities – this is very rare in natural world! – but it means that they are not reliant on using whatever is for sale on the market at any one time (although, of course, they do still have to buy in their raw ingredients) – but when it comes to developing new, results-driven bio-actives, this is where Oskia excels. This wonder serum, which as the name suggests contains 16 ‘super-nutrients’ sticks to the Oskia philosophy of only using things that the skin reads and body recognises. Cleeve knows a TON about why certain products just won’t work (however much you want them to), and focuses on ingredients with outstanding trials, and pushes to get as many complementary actives into a single formula as she can, for results that have given Oskia the faithful following it deserves. Proof in pudding and all that… an extract from Indian Babchi seeds – which rivals retinol in it’s skin-renewing effects, but WITHOUT the irritation, is the lifeblood of this wonderful serum, while sea fennel counters oxidation, hyaluronic plumps, rose otto soothes and hydrates (and smells divine while it’s at it), and the brand’s signature collagen-boosting MSM unite to make this a best-selling natural knockout.
I’ve been trialling Eminence Calm Skin Arnica Booster-Serum, £38 for three weeks, and am very, very impressed. There’s no tackiness on application, it’s beautifully absorbed and leaves a rose-petal soft-velvet finish behind (not visible, but you can really feel it with your hands). I was told last year that I had to be careful with my skin as it can be prone to redness and sensitisation – which may in time lead to rosacea. I’ve stopped over-exfoliating and upped my omega 3 intake, and have just taken a very gentle approach to my skin since that point. But I can still see red patches if I’m tired, stressed, or my skin is overly dehydrated. This lovely little serum has an immediate soothing and nourishing feel – it’s viscous, but easily absorbed – not a lightweight water-feel, which is common with the simple hyaluronic acid serums on the market. It was my staple at a recent summer festival I attended, and when my skin would ordinarily be irritated by all the sunshine and pollen, it remained very calm and clear. I’m using it day and night at present (and, by the by, the entire Calm Skin Arnica range has impressed too – the day cream, cleanser and mask come in a fantastic travel pack, so it’s been my festival kit of choice! I’ll be trialling the new Chamomile Peel later on today and shall be running a post on the very best natural AND gentle exfoliants next month).