This $22 Serum Gave Me Clear, Hydrated (and Even Bouncy) Skin

It’s like I moved to L.A. Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

My skin, like many grown women’s, is somehow both adolescent and showing signs of age, like a pre-menopausal high-school junior. This means it’s dry and oily, prone to breakouts and in need of some serious anti-aging intervention. Just like Britney sang, my poor skin feels like it’s caught in the middle.

In the past, my favorite products have come through recommendations from friends who are, like me, pretty minimalist when it comes to beauty and who have been open to letting me try their stuff. On a trip to Santa Monica, I noticed that one friend, a recent transplant from New York to Los Angeles, looked better than she did years ago in Bushwick. I knew it was more than green juices and a chill outlook on life that was making her skin so bright, and this is how I found the first and only serum I have stuck with and still use on a daily basis.

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My bright-skinned California friend let me test her little bottle of Insta Natural Age Defying & Skin Clearing Serum, which she described as the only serum she would ever use again. Now, two years later, the unassuming thing still works better than any other product to clear my skin while gently helping to prevent wrinkles and it only costs around $20 (bonus points it’s vegan). The active ingredients are an all-star line-up that works wonders on my combination skin: Vitamin C (hence the citrus-y scent), niacinamide, Hyaluronic and Salicylic acid (all skin hydrators and texture refiners). The goop — 4.4 stars with 2,000+ reviews on Amazon — is like a thin jelly that absorbs into my skin without residue. Unlike retinols I’ve tried, it doesn’t irritate. Since using it, I’ve noticed a more balanced tone to my skin — there’s even a supple bounce to it that was never there before. And as any true retinol should, it’s helped curb my breakouts too. Years past my teens, I am definitely a woman, only now I have skin more like a baby’s.

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Insta Natural Age Defying & Skin Clearing Serum> Insta Natural Age Defying & Skin Clearing Serum $22 at Amazon 4.4 stars, 2,033 > $22 at Amazon Buy
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More Strat-approved Serums:

Timeless Skin Care 100% Squalane> Timeless Skin Care 100% Squalane $11 at Amazon

Writer Allison Schmidt loves the Timeless squalane: “Unlike other oils that just sat on top of my skin, the clear and odorless Timeless Skin Care Squalane sinks in quickly (it’s like my skin is lapping it up) without that gross, slimy feel. It’s been a revelation of a moisturizer. I now have much less irritation — the dry patches are gone, and the pigment and hydration of my skin are more even throughout.”

> $11 at Amazon Buy
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Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum> Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum $17 at Amazon

Strategist beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton calls the Timeless ferulic acid serum one of her must-haves: “I tend to try a lot of vitamin C serums — they don’t make me break out, and if they’re potent, I know how to gently ease them into my routine (slowly increase doses from once a week and wear a lot of sunscreen). The results of this vitamin C serum are fierce, and it is half the price of my former lover Drunk Elephant Vitamin C. Consistency is key here, so if you want to see this product work its wonders, use this every day.”

> $17 at Amazon Buy
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