It should come as no surprise that as a 30-something beauty writer, I'm pretty obsessed with taking care of my skin. There are a number of ingredients I count on to target various skin concerns, such as retinol to boost collagen production and stave off fine lines wrinkles, AHAs and BHAs to exfoliate and de-gunk my pores, and antioxidants like vitamin C to fight free radicals, fade sun damage, and help boost my skin's collagen supply. And, of course, plenty of SPF.
But what about combatting stress-induced inflammation caused by everything from the outside environment to the hormones in my body? Enter Heraux's Molecular Anti-Inflammaging Serum ($250), a topical treatment designed to target inflammaging in the skin. Launched a little over two years ago, this luxurious—and, yes, pricey—serum promises to do everything from reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation to increasing skin firmness and moisture retention. Intrigued, I naturally had to take it for a spin myself.
Photo:COURTESY OF HERAUX
But before we dive into my review, you're probably wondering, What the heck is inflammaging? Well, as the name suggests, it has quite a bit to do with inflammation and aging. "Chronic inflammation that leads to aging is called inflammaging," explains Ben Van Handel, Ph.D., a stem cell biologist at the University of Southern California and the co-founder of Heraux. "Inflammation itself—in short, controlled bursts—is actually very positive for the body and drives a regenerative response. However, when inflammation continues past this positive point and becomes chronic, it results in a poor cellular environment that accelerates the biological clock of our cells, leading to early signs of aging on our skin."
It's important to understand that the chronic inflammation in inflammaging can result from any number of things, and the exact trigger may not always be obvious, explains board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD. "It may be related to daily stressors such as UV, pollution, diet, hormonal changes, and stress," she says. However, whatever the cause, it can show up on our skin in the form of dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles, skin laxity, dullness, and even dry skin.
If you're looking to improve or prevent any of the above skin concerns, targeting chronic inflammation can do wonders, no matter your age. Handel explains that getting good sleep, stress-reducing activities like exercise and meditation, a healthy diet with limited alcohol, and avoiding smoking are all great measures to take to help reduce inflammation. But protecting our skin is just as crucial. Sun protection is key, but other topical ingredients aside from SPF also play an important role—that's where Heraux's serum comes into play.
"The Molecular Anti-Inflammaging Serum is unique because it is the first anti-inflammaging serum designed to target the protein responsible for the majority of chronic inflammation," explains Handel. While most other skincare products on the market are designed to treat skin concerns—whether it's signs of aging or acne and rosacea—he explains that this serum instead gets to the root of the problem by regulating and adjusting the inflammatory pathways found in our skin.
Photo:COURTESY OF HERAUX
The star ingredient here is HX-1, a patented biomimetic lipid discovered by a team of stem cell biologists through a decade of research on stem cell regeneration. "This revolutionary one-of-a-kind molecule shields stem cells from the effects of stress and promotes their overall youthful function by modulating the protein that regulates regeneration versus inflammation," says Handel, explaining that it essentially stops the inflammaging process in its tracks. "Cells are pushed into a regenerative state that breaks the cycle of stress in the skin, which leads to healthier, more youthful skin and reduces some of the symptoms associated with inflamed skin, like redness, irritation, and even acne breakouts." Consider it a jack-of-all-trades.
While HX-1 specifically targets inflammaging, the serum is also chock-full of ingredients that improve the overall health and appearance of the skin. "It incorporates hyaluronic acid to boost hydration, antioxidants such as vitamin C and red maple bark extract to fight free radical damage, and peptides, which support collagen production to help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," says Garshick.
In short, it's an absolute powerhouse of a serum designed to address signs of aging and overall skin health from multiple angles. In fact, Handel says it can result in similar anti-aging benefits to retinol without the irritation—and on a comparable or even faster timeline to boot.
Sound too good to be true? The brand has clinical trials to back up its claims. In an independent eight-week clinical study with twice-daily application overseen by an independent board-certified dermatologist, HX-1 showed up to an 85% decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkle depth via advanced imaging technology. Additionally, 100% of participants showed an improvement in at least one of the following categories: fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, radiance, and laxity.
At 31, I'd like to think my skin is pretty healthy due to the fact that I take extra-good care of it—namely, slathering on SPF multiple times a day and using proven collagen-boosting products like vitamin C and retinol on the regular. Still, I've started to notice telltale fine lines forming under my eyes, and signs of my tanning-obsessed teenage years are beginning to show up as dark spots all over my cheeks. It's also winter, which is when my skin tends to, well, not look its best. I get extra dry and dull, and no matter how many products I apply, my skin looks a little lifeless this time of year.
That said, this product was definitely something I was interested in adding to my routine. Over the course of two weeks, I applied it twice daily to either freshly cleansed skin or over lightweight serums, like my evening retinol, followed by my daytime moisturizer and sunscreen or my night cream.
My skin before I started testing Heraux's serum.
Upon first application, I loved how amazing it made my skin feel. It has a lightweight gel consistency that absorbs without a trace and a subtle cooling effect as it hits the skin, which is really refreshing. For a serum, it's quite hydrating on its own (thanks, hyaluronic acid!), and it leaves the skin feeling noticeably smoother and suppler once it sinks in. It's also gentle, never stinging or irritating my skin like other active products I've used in the past, and never once did I notice any signs of redness or irritation.
After testing for two weeks, I can't say I notice any dramatic differences in my fine lines—actives take much longer than two weeks to truly work, anyway—but there's a definite difference in the look and feel of my skin. It's much more hydrated and noticeably smoother and looks much healthier and more radiant overall. Essentially, it revived my sad, winter-ravaged complexion—something I'm certainly grateful for—and I'll be continuing to use it to see how it improves my fine lines.
My skin two weeks later.
Overall, I’ve become pretty obsessed with this serum, and it's earned a permanent spot on my vanity. Sure, at $250 a bottle, it’s a big splurge—but in my opinion, it's well worth it considering its innovative ingredients and noticeable results. It truly lives up to the hype.
Interested in trying it for yourself? Keep scrolling to shop Heraux's hero serum—along with a few other inflammation-fighting, anti-aging products—below.
“Because inflammaging is due to low-level chronic inflammation, the best way to prevent these changes is to help protect the skin,” says Garshick. Both she and Handel agree that one of the best ways to do so is by using daily sun protection. This velvety-smooth daily SPF from Supergoop! is a cult-favorite for a reason, providing broad-spectrum SPF 40 protection from harmful UV rays while acting as a makeup-gripping primer.
Not a fan of sunscreen that leaves a white cast? Look no further than this sheer formula from Black Girl Sunscreen. Formulated for melanated skin, this hydrating SPF 30 lotion dries clear, leaving behind no trace of residue or chalkiness.
Handel also recommends using antioxidants, such as vitamin C, to help stave off the signs of inflammaging. As someone who's tested just about every vitamin C product under the sun, this is the one I always come back to. It’s paired with ferulic acid and vitamin E to boost the brightening and free radical–scavenging prowess of vitamin C, and it leaves the skin oh so glowy.
If your skin is on the sensitive side, some vitamin C serums may be too harsh for you. That’s where this formula from Wander Beauty comes in. Formulated with a 20% vitamin C complex to protect and brighten skin, it also contains soothing niacinamide and hydrating hyaluronic acid and squalane.
If you’re really looking to ramp up your skin’s antioxidant intake, reach for this pick from Sunday Riley. Packed with antioxidant- and vitamin-rich superfoods like blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, and broccoli-seed oils, this glow-boosting serum restores the skin’s moisture barrier while providing protection from free radicals.
Packed with antioxidants, peptides, and squalane, this affordable serum protects the skin and helps stave off signs of aging. The star here is CoQ10, an antioxidant that protects against environmental stressors like pollution. (City folks, this one’s for you.)
Simple hydration is another way Garshick recommends keeping the skin protected from chronic inflammation. This deeply moisturizing formula is great for dry or sensitive skin types. It boasts squalane to hydrate and adaptogens ashwagandha and reishi mushroom to soothe inflammation.