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Facial serums: useful skin-care product or waste of money? Hard to say for sure. I’ve used several over the past couple of years, and it seems that none of them have made a noticeable impact on my skin. I do enjoy the extra hydration in the fall/winter/spring though, and a vitamin boost never hurts. Here’s a round-up of the ones I’ve used.

Chanel Le Blanc Serum Clarite

Chanel serumMy mom and I hired a Chanel makeup artist to do our makeup for my brother Matt’s wedding last month. As a test-drive, she gave us complimentary makeovers at the Chanel counter. I don’t normally buy Chanel because it’s expensive, it’s not cruelty-free, and the company is not forthcoming about its ingredients or environmental impact. That said, I did buy a lip stain and a mascara after the makeover because that’s kind of the understood quid pro quo. With my purchase I received a sample of their Le Blanc Serum Clarite.

My impression of the serum is a decided, “Meh.” The consistency is very thin (which I don’t like, but you might), and it absorbs quickly. It has a very pleasant, light fragrance, somewhat perfume-y. The sample lasted a surprisingly long time—I used it every day for several weeks. But in the end, I didn’t notice any improvement in how my skin looked or felt.

The product write-up says that it’s a brightening serum, meant to “diminish the look of dark spots, while evening, smoothing, and soothing skin.” Well I don’t have any dark spots, and my skin tone is pretty even to begin with. Maybe someone with dark spots would notice improvement upon using this serum regularly, but I’m always skeptical of skin-care product claims.

And here’s the real kicker: this serum costs $195 for 1.7 ounces! There is no way I would pay that much for a skin-care product. No way. I don’t care what it does.

Lanoliné Manuka Honey Skin Renew Firming Serum

Manuka Honey serumRegular readers know I’m a big fan of Marshalls. I pick up a lot of random beauty products there at discounted prices. It’s a little gray-market, but a good way to try new things. I’ve seen several items by this Lanoliné brand, which you can also find on Amazon. Their Manuka Honey Firming Serum is quite nice, and I’ve used and liked their Manuka Honey Eye Creme as well.

Lanoliné is a brand owned by New Zealand company Pearson & Craig, which uses a lot of native botanical ingredients. It’s unclear from their website what their stance is on environmentally friendly practices/animal testing. The serum has a consistency similar to hair gel and has no scent to speak of. It goes on fairly smoothly, but leaves my skin feeling slightly tacky. It’s infused with collagen, Vitamins C and E and botanical extracts, as well as honey (duh). The list price is $19 (which seems to be the price for all of Lanoliné’s products, weirdly), but I paid $9.99 for it at Marshalls. My skin doesn’t necessarily seem any firmer after using it, but it’s still a reasonably good serum.

Lumene Finland Time Freeze Instant Lift Serum

lumene-time-freeze-instant-lift-serumI reviewed this product a few weeks ago as part of a Beauty Grab-Bag post, but I figured I would include here again because it is a serum. Lumene is committed to sustainable practices and doesn’t test on animals. Lumene’s main claim to fame is that they use natural Arctic ingredients in their products. This one is touted as an “instant lift,” a claim I don’t put a lot of stock in.

That said, this is a pleasant product to use. It has a nice, light fragrance that is vaguely floral. Unlike the other serums listed here, it’s neither very thin nor very viscous—it’s basically the consistency of a daily moisturizer. It’s also not clear, unlike the other serums. It has a tan color to it, but as far as I could tell, that didn’t make a difference in how it appeared on my skin. It’s $22.99 for 1 oz. at Ulta.

Trader Joe’s Nourish Antioxidant Facial Serum

TJ's serumFinally, there’s my old friend, Trader Joe’s. Their skin care section is small, but they have some surprisingly good stuff, none of which is tested on animals. Their serum is highly similar to Lanoliné’s, but (spoiler alert) I actually prefer TJ’s.

The serum has a light, citrusy scent and a reasonably viscous consistency. It contains antioxidant Resveratrol and encapsulated Vitamin C beads, along with Vitamins A and E, and several botanical extracts. It glides easily onto bare skin and creates a smooth surface for moisturizer and foundation. Using it reminds me of applying gesso to a canvas before painting. It makes a good makeup primer in addition to the burst of vitamins for your skin. Best of all, it’s $9.99 for 1 oz. (Note, this product is sold on Amazon, but at a significant mark-up (double, from what I saw).

I didn’t dislike any of the serums I’ve tried, but I do have favorites. In order of preference, based on effectiveness and price, I rank them (1) Trader Joe’s, (2) Lanoliné, (3) Lumene, and (4) Chanel. Let me know if you have a favorite serum!