We tried the $10 anti-wrinkle serum Kim Kardashian swears by, and it was a disaster
A few months ago, I wrote about an anti-ageing serum that glam queen Kim Kardashian said was the secret to her wrinkle-free and perfectly smooth face. The product was spectacular enough to merit its own article because, surprisingly, it comes at a very affordable price. Available for under a tenner, it's a product by The Ordinary called Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (retailing at just $9.80).
After my editor proofed the article, she too was impressed with the anti-ageing benefits the night serum boasted. And thanks to the attractive price tag and our slightly irrational fear of developing wrinkles (we're both in the 20-25 year age bracket), we decided to go out during lunch and purchase it.
We came back to our desks holding our new bottles of serum that cost about the same price as lunch. Our colleagues rolled their eyes at us for buying a Kim K-approved product, especially considering that most people start their anti-ageing regime once they're in their thirties. But as regular correspondents on the matter, we knew that it's never too early to start taking preventative measures to keep your skin looking youthful. And for less than a tenner, why the hell not?
However, things did not go as we expected.
We both applied as instructed – before bed, after cleansing and before moisturising. The product claims to be so effective because it combines retinol (touted for its anti-ageing benefits) with a more gentle retinoid called hydroxypinacolone. This "next generation" retinoid helps to reduce the signs of ageing by eliminating wrinkles and fine lines, as well as evening out texture and dullness in the skin. Well, reduce the signs of ageing it did... by making us both break out with angry pimples.
I have combination skin with a T-zone and my editor, Nessa, has dry-normal skin. Neither of us gets spots anymore unless we're stressed or it's around that time of the month. But just a week into using the serum, I was transported back to my awkward 15-year-old pimply self – developing raised red pimples on my forehead, chin and even my cheeks. Nessa saw no real difference for the first few weeks, but a month or so in, she got an outburst of spots clustered across her cheeks.
Sure enough, a quick internet search revealed that it's actually quite common to break out after starting to use retinol-based products. Commonly referred to as "purging", the retinol speeds up the skin's natural exfoliating process and brings to the surface the build-up of gunk that would naturally have appeared a couple of weeks later. Skin renews itself every three to four weeks to shed old, damaged skin cells and replace it with new, smoother ones, and retinol speeds that whole process up.
Unfortunately, that means it's very easy to break out when you start using it.
But fear not, because it does go away eventually. Experts say the purging process only happens when you start using retinol, meaning you should avoid stopping and starting. They say the breakouts will start clearing after two to eight weeks of using the product.
Other than the pimples, I couldn't really say that my skin changed at all in the six to seven weeks that I've been using it. Nessa agreed, and she decided to stop using it. Her pimples cleared after a few days. I, however, decided to stick out the purging process and see what happens.
This whole experiment made me aware of how naive I was to think the serum would instantly give me Kim Kardashian's glowing complexion – I guess we like to convince ourselves of things we want to believe in. But alas, it's not just this $10 serum that is Kim's secret. For one, she's got completely different skin to me, and for another, this is only one of 15 products she listed in her original "How I slow the ageing process" blog post.
What's more is that the reality television star also has a completely different skin-care routine and all-round lifestyle than I do, including consultations with dermatologists, pricey vampire facials and a commitment to not drink alcohol. It was always going to be too good to be true to think that this $10 solution would give me the same complexion.
And of course, the nature of preventative anti-ageing measures mean that I'll probably only be able to see if my efforts have paid off in ten years or so. I'll keep you updated, but until then – keep drinking your water and applying sunscreen for a more surefire way of keeping your skin looking youthful.