Never have I ever encountered a moisturizer quite as iconic as Augustinus Bader's The Rich Cream ($265) or its slightly lighter-weight sister The Cream ($265). Beauty editors, celebrities, and makeup artists alike seem to wholeheartedly agree that the moisturizer (plus the brand's other hero products) has fast launched the brand to cult status since it debuted in early 2018.
Naturally, my undying love for The Cream made me want to snatch up the brand’s newest addition to the family: The Serum ($375). Now available on Violet Grey and AugustinusBader.com, this everyday essential aims to hone in on some of the most common skincare issues we face as we get older, such as loss of elasticity, stress, fine lines, environmental damage, and dehydration.
Armed with the brand's quintessential TFC8 technology, invigorating vitamin C, pomegranate seed extract, squalene, and rice bran oil, the serum aims to tighten up your skin barrier and prevent future moisture loss. Sounds like your standard, run-of-the-mill serum, right? Wrong. As with any product of Bader's, its unique cocktail of ingredients packs a serious punch. The secret lies in his patented TFC8, or Trigger Factor Complex, which consists of natural amino acids, invaluable vitamins, and key molecules already found in the body. It boosts your skin’s natural renewal process, which will help you ditch lingering environmental damage, hyperpigmentation, redness, you name it.
Of course, such an innovative complex (backed by over 30 years of scientific research) is also a key component of the brand's two highly coveted moisturizers I mentioned earlier, The Cream ($85) and The Rich Cream ($85). And once people got their hands on such an ingenious moisturizing formula, it would seem pretty inevitable that they would demand a serum next. As any beauty editor would, I found it totally necessary to compare the two products to see if the serum could truly eclipse the iconic cream. (Fair warning: You may hear a soft sob coming from your wallet upon seeing the price tag. Clocking in at $375 a bottle, it's not for the faint of heart.)
That said, it just might be worth the splurge if your budget allows. According to a press release from the brand, the new serum doled out a staggering 291% improvement in skin hydration and an 85% reduction in wrinkles in a clinical trial of 30 female participants of varying ethnicities (ranging from ages 18 to 70). Think of The Serum as The Cream's highly concentrated sister. In this case, I'll act as a skincare mom of sorts selecting her favorite child (frowned upon but will be done for the sake of this review).
Some context: If I'm honest, my entire skin journey deserves its own novel (or more pointedly, a melodramatic soap). But to spare you the theatrics today, I'll provide you with the CliffsNotes version. I struggled with acne as a teenager and all through my early 20s. After trying just about every antibiotic and cream on the market, I decided to do a round of Accutane—the big guns of acne treatments. Even post-Accutane, I still deal with hormone- and stress-related breakouts from time to time and use a prescription-strength retinoid cream.
In its most natural state, my skin errs on the side of oily, but using a retinoid cream dries it out significantly. So now, I would say I have combination skin. Going into this review, my main concerns were acne, dryness, scarring, and fine lines caused by said dryness. You'll notice in the before photo that I was previously dealing with a few pimples here and there, dryness, and some dark spots sprinkled in. Although the product doesn't necessarily advertise itself as a star acne treatment, I was curious to see if it would help with breakouts considering its highly advanced formula.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty about the formula itself, we first need to talk about the packaging. Upon opening the box, I immediately felt like I was transported into the future (or straight into Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century—you pick). The sleeker-than-sleek glass container housing the product is a display piece worthy of any vanity. It's mindfully designed with recyclable packaging to minimize waste and is unlike anything I've ever seen before. The glass container's box insert is also made of renewable plant fibers, and refills can be purchased separately to promote sustainability. However, I couldn't let my shiny object syndrome deter me from my mission of finding out if The Serum is actually worth its hefty price, and I decided not to use The Cream in tandem with the serum so I could properly compare the two.
The brand recommends that you apply this product in the morning and evening, just like you would most other serums. It was tough to part with my previous daily favorite—IS Clinical's Pro-Heal Serum Advanced + ($155)—as it had become a staple of mine. But I have to say, after just one use of the new AB serum, my skin felt extremely soft and supple, which is not an easy feat when you use a retinoid cream regularly. The serum is a much lighter texture than the cream is, and its feather-like consistency absorbed into my skin so quickly I almost forgot I had applied it at all.
Normally, my problem with most serums is that I have to apply much more than the allotted amount due to retinoid-induced dryness. This was not the case with The Serum. In truth, I barely had to apply any at all to achieve my desired level of hydration before moving on to my moisturizer—a welcomed characteristic considering the price tag.
Right before I began using the serum, I had a particularly angry-looking couple of pimples appear around my chin area due to stress (ugh). Not ideal but useful for the purpose of this review since I wanted to see if it would help with this additional skin concern. I was pleasantly surprised that it did in fact help calm them significantly after about three to four days. I wasn't exactly sure if this would be the case considering it didn't have additional acne-fighting ingredients like retinol, but I blame Bader's TFC8 technology for the acne-banishing magic.
After seven full days, my breakout had gone down, as you can see above, and all was right in the world again. It's nice to know that even though this product doesn't contain traditional acne zappers, it still holds up in that department. Not only did my redness reduce tenfold, but also my radiance levels skyrocketed, giving my skin a major sun-kissed look, in addition to all the other benefits this serum delivers. I dare say it just might be my new favorite product.
So does this serum truly surpass the iconic cream? I'd say it depends on your skincare goals. I was entirely impressed by the serum's ability to reduce redness, deeply hydrate, and help with zits. If you share my concerns, I'd say the serum is definitely going to be more of your jam. If your worries only consist of keeping your skin hydrated round the clock (lucky you!), I would stick with The Cream (or Rich Cream).
Overall, I think The Serum will be a new staple in my routine moving forward—it just checks all my boxes. I can't wait to use the two simultaneously for double the deliverance. For my entire skincare routine and other current favorites, keep scrolling below.
Shop the Rest of My Skincare Regimen
Step 1: Cleanser
Step 2: Toner
Step 3: Serum
Step 4: Jade Roller
Step 5: Moisturizer