I’m Obsessed With This Do-It-All Smart Serum That Actually Works

This single skincare step brought out the best in my complexion.

by Deanna Pai
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Dermalogica Smart Response Serum Review

Everything is smart these days. From phones to thermostats, products are designed to learn and anticipate our needs, sometimes to a freakishly accurate degree. That trend has crossed over into beauty with smart skincare, which employs a newer concept of optimizing formulas to address your individual complexion concerns. One of the latest examples of these newfangled formulas? Dermalogica’s Smart Response Serum, which I personally tested and am excited to tell you about. But first, a little more detail on these scientific skincare products.

The first-gen of smart skincare often featured targeted active ingredients (such as hyaluronic acid or salicylic acid) as boosters that you can tack on to a base formula depending on your needs. Next up, we saw skincare products hit the market that were thoughtfully optimized to be readily absorbed by skin. Those with ceramides, for instance, can mimic the proportions of lipids found within the skin barrier, boosting recognition by skin.

Even more slick: Some serums can even recognize areas of damage and work only there. Exhibit A: Clinique’s entire Smart collection, which features peptides to help boost natural collagen production; or Armani Beauty’s Armani Prima Smart Moisture Serum, which delivers targeted doses of hydration consistently throughout the entire day.

But if those serums are smart, then Dermalogica’s new Smart Response Serum is a certified nerd. This formula uses SmartResponse Technology (more on that later!) to address skin concerns on a micro level, purportedly recognizing skin’s SOS signals and delivering reparative ingredients exactly where and when needed. On a more granular level, the formula contains four groups of ingredients to target dehydration, dark spots, redness, and lines and wrinkles without the labor of using four different serums — which, by the way, isn’t exactly great for either efficacy or your wallet.

The Science Behind This “Smart” Formula

All of this sounds cool, right? Too cool, some might say, which is why I couldn’t help but be suspicious: I wasn’t exactly sold on the idea of little henchmen in my serum trotting off to fix my face, much less in an over-the-counter product.

While the concept might sound far-fetched, the science behind smart serums gets more compelling when you get the details. “Each skin condition — such as dehydration and redness — gives off signals, and our ingredient technologies respond to those signals,” explains Angela Murphy, Ph.D., the vice president of Research, Development and Global Education for Dermalogica.

What triggers the dedicated response from each ingredient is the presence of certain enzymes and inflammation — or, conversely, a lack of hydration. “For instance ... hydrolyzed wheat flour activates when it detects too much of a key enzyme involved in melanin production, then responds by brightening skin and helping to reduce the appearance of dark spots,” says Murphy.

Meanwhile, Dermalogica’s Smart Response Serum ingredients get deep within the nooks and crannies of the skin barrier to seek out signs of dehydration, then get to work when and where they find it. And since this process is unfolding on a molecular level, the impact of these ingenious ingredients can have a long-term effect, according to Murphy: “The serum sees micro-changes to the skin before they are visible — so it can help prevent future damage before you even know you need it.”

Dermalogica Smart Response Serum Review

Feeling more confident, I subbed this formula in for my vitamin C serum in the mornings and added it to my evening routine, applying it after cleansing and before my retinoid and moisturizer. A little goes a long way, with a pea-sized amount covering my full face and sinking in on the spot.

After a week of using it, my skin — which is typically as stressed as I am, with uneven pigmentation and dry patches — looks calmer, like it’s taken a chill pill followed by a deep-breathing tutorial. It’s visibly less red and more even, and some of those flaky areas on my cheeks and chin are now smooth and soft. While my dark spots are a work in progress and my hormonal breakouts are finally in their overdue healing phase, I’m impressed by what a difference it makes just to have a better baseline to work with.

All the things that could have been fixed by this serum in a week, like the dehydration and redness, seem to be resolved now that this is working double-time in my routine. It’s all the evidence I need to think that it can and will accomplish the rest with regular use. (And if the folks at Dermalogica ever makes one that fixes all those things plus acne, please call me.)

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