I know my skin type very well – that’s because my skin yells at me if it doesn’t like something. This is also known as having sensitive skin.
Sensitive/dry is my skin type, so I’m always on the lookout for hydrating serums/moisturizers/cleansers – just products in general. I can always use an extra layer of hydration…provided it’s a good kind of hydration.
However: I also like brightening & clarifying products; I crave a smooth-skinned, highlighted glow without having to put any highlight on. Sometimes, this gets me into trouble. Not all brightening products are sensitive skin-friendly – same goes for clarifying products. That’s why I love Glossier Super Pure Serum so much (check out the #MiniReview of that here). It’s hydrating yet clarifying, reduces inflammation & redness but sinks into the skin without leaving me feeling as though I’m weighed down with too much hydration: the wrong kind.
Hyaluronic acid is a staple for most people with solid skin care routines, no matter your skin type; that’s because it’s lightweight but locks in moisture & protects the skin’s barrier throughout the day. It works for dry skin (layered with something else, of course) just as well as it does for oily, combo, or normal skin. Basically, hyaluronic acid is the girl who walks into the party that everyone knows; the one no one has anything bad to say about.
I love hyaluronic acid…when it’s the right kind. Let me expand: Glossier’s Super Bounce Serum was probably the first hyaluronic acid product I’d ever tried; I really liked it, but since I use another hydrating serum at night (& use Super Pure Serum in the morning) I couldn’t really juggle yet another Super, especially when I loved Super Pure so much – that’s because Glossier recommends you only use one Super at a time (for example: use Super Pure in the morning, Super Glow at night, etc.).
So – I set out on a hunt for a good hyaluronic acid serum that wouldn’t break my bank account. It’s not a secret that hyaluronic acid is affordable; that’s why I first reached for the cheapest option out there: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 serum. It’s less than $7, & claims to plumpen, protect, & hydrate the skin – not just on the surface, but a deep hydration that lasts throughout the day. Needless to say, I was excited by the positive reviews I’d seen & heard, & encouraged by the product description. I bought it, started using it…& I was (sadly) underwhelmed.
Here’s my issue with The Ordinary’s serums: most of them are very tacky. Some of them aren’t as bad as others; some work so well that I don’t mind the tackiness. This one, however, was tacky – & it just wasn’t a good fit for my skin, for whatever reason. No matter whether I applied it in the morning or evening, it would always pill once I applied a moisturizer over top (& yes, I waited a good amount of time to ensure everything sank in properly). I got that tacky feeling with no benefits…so really, what was the point of continuing to use a product that didn’t work well on my skin? I sadly set it aside, & started looking for richer hydrating serums – but not so rich that they’d weigh heavy on my skin.
There are countless options to choose from – but most are over $30, if we’re talking good quality stuff. I go through hyaluronic acid serums quickly, thanks to my dry skin – so I knew that I would be spending a lot of money if I bought & continued to refill a $30+ hydrating serum. Maybe my skin would love it, but I know that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the refills.
So – I turned to the beauty community for help (on Instagram). I got various suggestions, but one brand in particular stood out to me: the Valjean Labs Facial Serums.
You can find these Valjean serums on Urban Outfitters’ website, & you can find them hiding in various corners of the skin care section at TJ Maxx. I’ve had friends pick them up there for only $5; they’re $15 on Urban Outfitters’ site, so there’s a clear difference…but still – $15 for a serum isn’t bad at all, especially when you consider the fact that the Valjean serums are 2 fluid oz. each, as opposed to the Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid serum, which is about 1 fluid oz. When comparing price per ounce, they end up being about the same – which is good! More product, longer-lasting…same price.
There are three of these facial serums: HYDRATE, GLOW, & RESTORE. I ended up buying HYDRATE (the one I was most interested in) & GLOW, as well. Let’s start with HYDRATE, since it’s the one I’m most excited/impressed by.
HYDRATE is a serum that, just like The Ordinary’s version, contains Hyaluronic Acid & B5. Same key ingredients, but a world’s difference when comparing consistencies – in the best way possible.
HYDRATE has a very watery texture; it’s extremely lightweight. I was a bit skeptical when first applying it because of the watery texture; it made me wonder just how hydrating this diluted serum would be. Turns out: very hydrating. Very hydrating indeed!
I use HYDRATE morning & night – the dropper is very long & is tapered, which makes it easy to drop directly onto my face. You can put some in your palms & gently press the product into your skin, of course, but I personally prefer the first method for this particular serum. Since it’s so lightweight, rubbing it between the palms would get rid of some of the product…at least, that’s how I see it.
It’s extremely cooling; I’d compare the initial sensation to the sensation I get when applying Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra. It’s like a splash of refreshing water all over the face; it’s a great wake-me-up kind of product because of this.
The serum sinks right in. I give it about two minutes before moving on – that’s plenty enough time. There is no scent (not that I can detect, at least), no burning/tingling, & no tackiness…God bless! There is absolutely zero tackiness. This was a key thing that I was watching for; when I saw (& felt) that the serum sinks in without leaving any sticky sensation at all, I knew that I’d be buying it over & over & over again. I also love how well it works on my extra dry areas, which are mostly around & under my nose. This serum sinks in, provides a good amount of hydration, but doesn’t burn my skin, like The Ordinary’s hyaluronic serum did.
Valjean says their serums can be used twice a day; I most certainly use HYDRATE twice a day. It works well under makeup; it works well under an overnight sleeping mask, too. It’s perfect at any time of the day. It has no flaws – at least, not to me. If you’ve been following my socials these past few weeks, you’ve seeen me rave about this serum quite a bit. That’s because I get incredibly excited when I see a product giving me the instant results – the exact ones that I was looking for. HYDRATE met all my criteria for a hyaluronic acid serum: affordable, hydrating, lightweight, cooling, & plumping. It’s something I’ll continue reaching for twice a day until I run out. When I do, I’ll get another – no two ways about it!
Onwards & forwards: meet GLOW, a lightweight Vitamin C & magnesium serum. Like all Vitamin C serums, this one brightens, tightens, & makes the skin…glow. The consistency is a bit heavier than that of HYDRATE – it’s also opaque; this milky grey color that’s thick enough to drop onto your palms, if you wish. Personally, I still use the direct method: dropper to face, because the droppers on these serums are truly incredible – they work well.
I’ve used GLOW much less than I have HYDRATE; I have yet to decide whether or not I’ll repurchase GLOW. It does seem to tighten & brighten the skin without parching it; I think the water-gel texture helps out with that potential problem. It has a slight smell – hard to describe, but it’s a bit…”chemical-y.” It’s not bad at all. I’d say it fades within a few seconds of applying it – definitely not something that would bother you all day, but also something worth noting if you really can’t stand any scents in your skin care products.
I don’t think this one retexturizes as well as some other exfoliating/brightening serums that I have, but it’s a very lightweight serum that wears well under other product, just like its sister, HYDRATE. I’ve come to find that heavier Vitamin C serums really weigh my skin down, especially during the day (for lack of a better term). This is one perfect for daytime use. I can apply it without worrying about blemishes, clogged pores, or overloaded skin. I’m not sure how intense the brightening effects are, but this one might just take a little more time. We will see!
To sum it up: all’s well that ends well. I found an incredible – & cheap – hydrating serum; a new holy grail! I may have uncovered gold with the GLOW serum, too. I’ll give that one a bit more time. Remember: sometimes, results take more than a day or two to show.
Have any of you tried a Valjean serum? Let me know if you have – & which one’s your favorite! If you haven’t, I strongly recommend running to your local TJ Maxx to see if you can cop one for $5; if not, online shopping is waiting for you.