(Trial Run)

How Does Tatcha’s New Silk Serum Stack Up To Retinol?

One editor puts it to the test.

Tatcha The Silk Serum review

Angela Melero

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In our series Trial Run, TZR editors and writers put the buzziest new beauty products to the test and share their honest reviews. This week, executive editor Angela Melero is testing Tatcha’s brand-new The Silk Serum.

As a woman in her mid-30s, I’m no stranger to retinol and its regenerative powers. In fact, I’ve used the vitamin-A derivative, which helps boost the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, on and off since I turned 30. Why on and off you ask? Well, I often find the potent ingredient to irritate my skin and cause redness, especially when I introduce new products into the mix. So, I’ve been on a constant quest for a less irritating but equally effective alternative to no avail ... until recently. After about 10 days of testing, I’ve concluded that Tatcha’s new The Silk Serum could very well be a permanent replacement for retinol in my skin care routine.

Designed as an alternative to retinol, the brand’s latest launch is formulated with natural wrinkle-busting ingredients that are as efficacious as they are gentle on the complexion. And while the ultra-buzzy bakuchiol may come to mind when you think of vitamin A substitutes, Tatcha’s Silk Serum formula doesn’t know her. Instead, the innovative formula stars upcycled cranberry extract and sea fennel, which work in tandem to support cell turnover and give skin that supple, smooth, collagen-ized finish.

That said, at $98 for a 1oz bottle, glowy, youthful skin does’t come cheap. Also, to be honest, I’m always skeptical of more natural, botanical-based “alternatives” as they just don’t seem to completely stack up against their more chemically-derived counterparts. But, in the name of research (and, you know, age) I decided to put The Silk Serum to the test for a couple weeks. Ahead, my honest review.

Fast Facts

  • Price: $98
  • Size: 30 ml / 1.0 oz
  • Clean/Cruelty-Free: Yes
  • Best For: Those with more sensitive skin who want the effects of retinol, sans irritation
  • Ingredient Highlights: Cranberry extract and sea fennel
  • What We Like: Instantly hydrates and keeps skin looking supple and dewy overnight and/or throughout the day; lightweight and absorbs quickly; layers nicely under other moisturizing products and makeup
  • What We Don’t Like: Pricey
  • Rating: 5/5
How TZR Keeps Score: 1/5: Making a return; 2/5: Keeping as a backup; 3/5: Finishing to the last drop; 4/5: Recommending to my group texts; 5/5: Already on auto-replenish

The Formula

As I mentioned before, the two stars of the show here are cranberry extract and sea fennel. For context, cranberry extract is a powerful antioxidant and collagen-booster, as well as an anti-inflammatory, so it simultaneously soothes and fights redness. Sea fennel’s magic lies in its ability to unclog pores, soften fine lines, and accelerate cell turnover. As if that wasn’t appealing enough, the Silk Serum also brings in moisturizing silk amino acids and a proprietary Hadasei-3 complex, which includes akita rice, Uji green tea, and okinawa algae. All of these components work together to speed up turnover in the skin and promote collagen production, while also retaining moisture in the complexion.

My Skin Care Routine

Although I can be pretty inconsistent about everything from working out to calling my mother regularly, my skin care routine is one thing I’m religious about. Blame it on vanity, but I will not start my day or go to bed until my beauty business is completed. For reference, my morning routine consists of a foaming cleanser, toner, serum, eye cream, moisturizer, the occasional oil if I’m feeling dry, and sunscreen — even if I have no plans to leave the house. At night, I double cleanse with an oil-based face wash, followed by a foaming or gel formula, retinol or serum (depending on my relationship status with vitamin A), eye cream, thicker nighttime moisturizer, and again, an oil if my skin especially dry.

Once I received my silk serum, I decided quickly to work it in as my primary serum in both AM and PM routines, changing nothing else and keeping every other step in tact. Upon pumping the formula onto the back of my hand I instantly perked up from the fresh citrus-y scent. I also noticed that the lightweight texture of the product and how it absorbed quickly and easily into the skin, leaving a subtle sheen. There was no sticky residue or feel, something I often encounter in other serums. My finger tips glided easily over my skin, which admittedly tingled a bit, but not in an inflamed sort of way, but more like it does when exposed to chilly temps or elements. I personally found the sensation soothing, especially over a particular patch of skin that had been previously treated with a harsh acne spot treatment that turned my skin red for a few days.

My makeup-free skin after 10 days of testing Tatcha’s The Silk Serum.Angela Melero

From the jump, The Silk Serum impressed me in its ability to play well with others. While other serums and retinols would cause my skin to flare up when matched with a moisturizer or oil, this gentle formula kept its cool. I also liked that my skin felt supple well after application. In fact, every morning I’d touch my skin and marvel at how soft it felt and how glowy it looked even after hours of pillow contact and the tossing and turning that can come with sleeping with my bed-hogging dog, Molly. My daytime experience was similarly positive, with the serum working nicely under my sunscreen and any makeup I layered on top. One of my girlfriends even enquired about my skin care recommendations since she noticed my skin was “glowy as f*ck.” I’ll take it.

The smooth sailing continued through my 10-day trial, with no issues arising in the skin department, aside from the occasional breakout, which was likely a combined result of stress (and subsequent stress eating) and my skin likely reacting to heavy makeup days — I was in the midst of award season and zipping from one event to another.

Because I was already a somewhat regular retinol user and already so diligent about my skin care routine, not to mention an avid partaker in injectables like Dysport and filler, I can’t say that I noticed a major change in the state of my skin. My complexion was smooth and supple with a nice rosy glow, sans irritation or redness. So, considering my goal was to find a more gentle alternative yet equally effective alternative to retinol, I see this as a good thing.

Is The Silk Serum Worth It?

After almost two weeks of use, I can happily report that I will be subscribing to The Silk Serum for the foreseeable future. I love the natural radiance and bouncy texture it imparts on my skin and how easily and safely it works with other products in my routine. While $98 is surely on the pricier side of the skin care spectrum, a little goes a long way with this 1 oz bottle (one to two pumps per use will do), so I see it as a worthwhile purchase, especially for those who can’t handle the side effects of retinol. So go forth and Silk Serum it up.