Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum
Kiehl’s Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum has a shockingly misleading name since this serum’s downfalls won’t strengthen any skin type nor convey anything remotely super. Kiehl’s has some OK serums, but this isn’t one of them!
The opaque pump bottle packaging dispenses a thin, water-based serum that feels light, silky, and layers well with other products. The combination of glycerin and dimethicone feels hydrating, but the high amount of denatured alcohol keeps this from being appreciably hydrating and also poses a slight risk of irritating skin due to depleting skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF), especially when combined with the other irritants this contains.
The ingredients that precede the denatured alcohol helps offset some of the damage, but the potent, lingering blend of fragrance (including limonene, methyldihydrojasmonate, citronellol, geraniol, and linalool) plus a host of fragrant essential oils like orange, rosemary, and lavender pose a strong risk of irritating skin. Using a fragranced product like this daily puts skin’s health at risk, as we explain in the More Info section.
What about the form of hyaluronic acid this contains? Kiehl’s is using a low molecular-weight salt form, sodium acetylated hyaluronate, which is capable of penetrating further into skin where it plumps and hydrates. Kiehl’s maintains it goes eight surface layers deep, which sounds impressive until you realize that’s not actually too far within skin’s uppermost layers. Technically, skin has five formal layers, but each of those layers has, you guessed it, multiple layers between them, arranged in a brick-and-mortar fashion.
There are numerous serums with hyaluronic acid that outperform this, omit irritating ingredients. Check those out before giving your hard-earned money to Kiehl’s.
Note: Kiehl’s also sells a 1.7-ounce size for $81 and a 3.4-ounce size for $135.
- Feels light and silky.
- Layers well with other products.
- Packaged to keep its delicate ingredients stable in use.
- Highly fragrant formula poses a strong risk of irritating skin.
- Several of the fragrant oils and fragrance ingredients are pro-aging.
- Denatured alcohol risks depleting skin’s natural moisturizing factor.
- Not all that strengthening and definitely not most people’s definition of “super”.
Why Fragrance Is a Problem for Skin: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes a chronic sensitizing reaction on skin.
This reaction in turn leads to all kinds of problems, including disrupting skin’s barrier, worsening dryness, increasing or triggering redness, depleting vital substances in skin’s surface, and generally preventing skin from looking healthy, smooth, and hydrated. Fragrance free is always the best way to go for all skin types.
A surprising fact: Even though you can’t always see or feel the negative effects of fragrant ingredients on skin, the damage will still be taking place, even if it’s not evident on the surface. Research has demonstrated that you don’t need to see or feel the effects of irritation for your skin to be suffering. Much like the effects from cumulative sun damage, the negative impact and the visible damage from fragrance may not become apparent for a long time.
References for this information:
Toxicology In Vitro, February 2018, pages 237-245
Toxicological Sciences, January 2018, pages 139-148
Biochimica and Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1410–1419
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008, pages 191–202
International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 27, 2008, Supplement, pages 1–43
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798
Our Hyaluronic Acid serum strengthens skin to help resist signs of aging, while boosting radiance and smoothing fine lines. Formulated with 11kDa Hyaluronic Acid — our smallest form of Hyaluronic Acid, which penetrates 8 skin surface layers deep** — and an Adaptogenic Herbal Complex, our serum neutralizes the effects of external skin-aging stressors for youthful, radiant skin.
Kiehls has been around for quite some time, with its origins in a New York City-based pharmacy established in 1851. The brand is perhaps best known for its apothecary-style packaging and its best-selling (and celebrity favorite) Lip Balm #1.
Though the brand claims its products are made with the finest naturally-derived ingredients, most of its formulations include synthetically-produced ingredients as well. Like most skincare companies the line contains both good and not-so-great offerings; Kiehls main misstep is that many of its products contain fragrance ingredients that could irritate skin, particularly sensitive skin.
Note: Kiehl's is categorized as a brand that tests on animals because its products are sold in China. Although Kiehl's does not conduct animal testing for its products sold elsewhere, the Chinese government requires imported cosmetics be tested on animals, so foreign companies retailing there must comply. This requirement is why some brands state that they dont test on animals unless required by law. Animal rights organizations consider cosmetic companies retailed in China to be brands that test on animals, and so does the Beautypedia Research Team.
For more information about Kiehl's, call (800) 543-4572 or visit www.kiehls.com.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.