beauty

TRIED AND TESTED: I tried Charlotte Tilbury's new serum to find out if it's actually 'magic'.

Mamamia’s Tried and Tested series is your weekly review of the latest to hit our desks in beauty, health and wellness. You won’t find any #sponsored content here, just honest, relatable and independent advice. This week, Senior Lifestyle Writer Amy Clark reviews the new Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum to see if it’s worth the hype.

A few weeks ago, British makeup artist to the stars, Charlotte Tilbury, rang me up to tell me about her brand new serum.

It was a Zoom call. With 200+ other beauty writers and editors, skin specialists and influencers from around the world. Details.

WATCH: Seven things you can do to improve your skin while you snooze, post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

From the cult brand that brought us Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream and the iconic Pillow Talk lipsticks, not even a global pandemic could dull the shine of this highly-anticipated beauty launch.

The serum is called the Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir, and with its heavy glass art deco bottle covered in gold lettering, there’s no arguing it’s a very fancy-looking skincare product. It also promises to be the “supercharged secret to your skin’s best future”, which sounds like something you need, right?

But there’s a catch. A 30ml bottle of this magic serum will cost you $100.

 

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Yes, this product is shiny and whispers a lot of nice things about making your skin look young! plump! firm! and lifted! But now more than ever, it’s important to ask: is this particular serum worth its expensive price tag and can you get similar results with budget-friendly products?

To find out, let’s break down exactly what’s in Charlotte Tilbury’s new fancy serum, whether you should spend your money on it and where to find more affordable alternatives.

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What does the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum promise?

SO. MANY. THINGS.

This product is sold as being: “the SUPERCHARGED secret to your skin’s best future! A CLINICALLY proven hydrating SERUM for youthful-looking skin.”

From a user trial involving 209 women and men aged 18-80 over a four-week period, the serum claims the following stats:

  • 93 per cent agree skin looks younger.
  • 97 per cent agree skin feels instantly hydrated.
  • 91 per cent agree pores appear tighter and more refined.
  • 91 per cent agree fine lines and wrinkles appear reduced.
  • 94 per cent agree skin looks and feels firmer.
  • 91 per cent agree facial contours appear lifted.

 

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What’s actually in the new Charlotte Tilbury serum?

Excellent question.

Once you wade through all the buzzy adjectives like ‘supercharged’, ‘groundbreaking’, ‘magic matrix’ and ‘expertly-blended’, the key ingredients in this serum are:

  • REPLEXIUM® (this is the brand’s patented anti-ageing complex).
  • Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B – an ingredient that works on the appearance of pores and skin texture.
  • Polyglutamic Acid – this is meant to be four times more hydrating than the popular ingredient Hyaluronic Acid.
  • A “five crystal complex inspired by holistic wellbeing and the healing frequency of magic and light”.
  • ‘Golden’ Vitamin C to brighten the skin for a radiant appearance.

OK cool, but what do these ingredients actually do? And will they work as well as advertised?

Dr Michele Squire, PhD-qualified scientist, skincare educator and founder of Qr8, told me this serum is “mostly a nice, hydrating serum” and if you’re willing to spend the money, then “this might be for you”.

“The ingredients that make up most of this serum will definitely leave your skin feeling hydrated as promised, and possibly improve skin over time because of the five per cent concentration of niacinamide (niacinamide is effective above two per cent according to clinical studies),” she said.

“The ‘scientific’ ingredients, like Golden Vitamin C, Septitonic, Squisandryl, Replexium etc. have small manufacturer-sponsored/conducted studies that report they perform as promised.” (In other words, these studies haven’t been backed up by further independent testing.)

And the healing crystals? “They have absolutely no function.”

If you’re hoping for a serum with anti-wrinkle effects, Dr Squire suggests favouring skincare ingredients with decades of solid, objective evidence like sunscreen, retinoids and L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) over ‘scientific’ ingredients with little peer-reviewed research behind them.

My Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum review and verdict.

charlotte tilbury magic serum
You can't argue, this is a very good looking serum. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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So, now you know what's in this hydrating serum, what's it like to use?

I've been road testing this serum for almost two weeks, here are my thoughts:

  • Really lovely packaging, but the pipette applicator means you won't be able to scrape out every last drop and get your full $100's worth.
  • The thin, milky lotion texture sinks into the skin straight away.
  • It has a subtle(ish) spa-like fragrance that I don't mind but some might.
  • I haven't experienced any irritation after applying the serum.
  • My skin looks visibly smooth and hydrated after applying, but I also see the same result with other products.
  • I can't speak to the long-term benefits of the product, but taking Dr Squire's insights into account, I don't expect to see dramatic results from prolonged use of this serum.

Overall, the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum isn't the most expensive serum out there (remember Victoria Beckham's $312 serum??), but it's definitely not affordable.

Investing in a good serum does give you the best bang for your buck because their high concentration of active ingredients do the heavy lifting, but if I'm going to spend upwards of $100 on a serum, I want it to do more than just hydrate my skin.

It is a lovely-looking product, though, and my advice to Charlotte Tilbury fans who can't resist is to buy or jump on the waitlist for the $85 travel size Magic Serum and Magic Cream duo so you can try both.

So, if you'd like to and are financially able, spend $100 and you'll get a hydrating serum. But also know, you don't need this product to secure your skin's future. Your financial future will probably thank you for it.

On that note, here are some really great products that do practically the same job as the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum, for less.

1. Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster 20ml, $62.

 

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If you're not currently using a serum, picking one with a decent amount of niacinamide in it will give you a bang for your buck. It'll improve uneven skin tone, promote brightness and refine the appearance of pore size, skin texture and fine lines. You can use it morning and night after cleansing and before moisturiser (and sunscreen in the AM!).

2. Clear Skincare B3 Serum 15ml, $45.

 

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This serum stocked at Priceline contains five per cent Niacinamide for all the lovely benefits listed above, and hyaluronic acid for hydration. You can also use this one morning and night.

3. Alpha H Hyaluronic 8 Serum 25ml, $69.95.

 

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If you're into your skincare, you'll love this product from Aussie brand Alpha H. It's so lovely to apply and feels great on the skin while hydrating and plumping it, which in turn, reduces the appearance of any fine lines. A few drops morning and night under your moisturiser will do the trick.

4. Beauté Pacifique Defy Damage Skin Repair Serum 40ml, $80.

 

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$80 isn't cheap, but this is another brilliant all-rounder serum for all skin types, including people with sensitive skin. The serum/lotion formula has it all. A gentle Vitamin A for improved skin texture. Hyaluronic acid for plumpness. Vitamin E and Squalene for even more hydration. Apply after cleansing and before moisturising day and night.

5. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 30ml, $12.90.

 

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Honest, you won't find a better serum at this price than The Ordinary's HA. It's suitable for all skin types and layers nicely under moisturisers and makeup. The brand also does a 10 per cent Niacinamide serum you can try to manage breakouts and extra oily skin.

Feature image: Supplied/@theamyclark.

Have you tried any Charlotte Tilbury products? Tell us about your thoughts in the comments below!

You can catch up on our previous Tried and Tested reviews here:

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