If redness, dark circles and hydration levels, especially if you have oily skin, are particular concerns then we highly recommend the Charlotte Tilbury serum, because a little goes a long way. However, this is not a wonder-drug. It’s not a catch-all solution for ageing skin and will not work miracles so if you can live with that, this serum is worth the investment. Just don’t believe the hype.
|Charlotte Tilbury||£25 (8ml) or £60 (30ml)|
|Cult Beauty||£25 (8ml) or £60 (30ml)|
|SpaceNK||£25 (8ml) or £60 (30ml)|
Charlotte Tilbury has been relentless with launches of late – from the refreshed Pillow Talk range to her Eye Colour Magic palettes – and in mid-April, it was the turn of the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum Crystal Elixir. Of course, this meant it was our turn to carry out an in-depth Charlotte Tilbury Serum review.
For the past four weeks we’ve been using the serum as instructed, every day and night, in order to make this Magic Serum Crystal Elixir review as accurate as possible. To not only reveal if the new serum lives up to the hype, but if it’s worth the £60 price. Unfortunately, in many ways, it’s not.
While certain aspects of our skin have improved, others haven’t. In fact, they’ve got worse.
For all of our skincare reviews, we take a two-pronged approach. We note down how we think our skin looks and feels before attempting to quantify the results using a smart mirror.
We use the HiMirror, alongside the HiSkin analyser, to plot changes in our skin’s pigmentation, hydration, dark spots, red spots, roughness, pores, wrinkles and fine lines.
We then compare how we felt about our skin with the percentage changes from the smart mirror to get a greater, all-round picture of what the product is actually like. You can read more about this methodology in our How we test skincare explainer.
Ahead of the Charlotte Tilbury serum launch, the brand boasted that more than 8,000 people had joined the waitlist for the Crystal Elixir.
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It promises hydrated, firmer, brighter and more youthful-looking skin via a 20% concentration of ingredients within a water-based formula.
The Charlotte Tilbury serum costs £60 for 30ml, although you can also buy an 8ml pot for £25.
The first thing we noticed about the serum is its colour. Whereas many serums we’ve used are clear or err towards yellow/copper tones, Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir is cream with a slight shimmer. It’s like a runnier version of Charlotte’s Brightening Youth Glow primer.
The Charlotte Tilbury serum comes in a glass bottle, with the brand’s iconic rose gold metal lid with a white, silicon pipette. This packaging makes it feel incredibly luxurious and the bottle looks great on our bathroom side.
Consistency-wise, the Crystal Elixir isn’t as runny as other serums we’ve used, but that’s not to say it’s thick. It manages to combine the best of cream moisturisers and serums in a liquid that absorbs into the skin quickly with minimal massaging.
As a result, this consistency and quick absorption means you only need to use the bare minimum – we can cover our entire face and neck with just four drops – which means a little goes a very long way.
The pipette also gives you better control over how much you’re using, unlike the single or double dose served by the Clarins Double Serum, as an example.
Both aspects combine to make Charlotte Tilbury’s serum relatively good value for money. We bought the 30ml bottle and have used it every morning and night for at least four weeks and we’re not even half way through.
The Charlotte Tilbury serum contains a number of ingredients we hadn’t heard of before, as well as skincare staples, including:
The brand describes it as “a potent serum masterfully formulated with the transformative power of state-of-the-art ingredients extracted from the heart of mother nature and the latest lab-innovations in skin science.” To which Charlotte adds: “Darlings my Magic Serum will not only enhance your skin, but it will also change your life!”
So far, so good. We’ve researched the science behind many of these ingredients – check out our guide to the acids in your skincare – and trust in their abilities.
However, Charlotte Tilbury lost us when she started talking about how the serum contains a “crystal complex of moonstone, ruby, rose quartz, crystal quartz and amethyst, inspired by holistic wellbeing and the healing frequency of light and energy.”
During user trials, in which Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir was tested on 209 women and men aged 18-80 over four weeks, the brand claims 93% agreed their skin looked younger, 97% said their skin felt hydrated, 91% believed their wrinkles appeared reduced and 94% agreed their skin looked and felt firmer.
In a separate clinical study, the results of the Magic Serum Crystal Elixir were observed in tests on 31 women and men aged 18-80 over eight weeks.
This study found a significant increase in hydration after an hour, 43% less water loss from the skin, and reduced pores.
Elsewhere, skin in these clinical tests appeared more elastic by 122%, and firmer by 49%.
In particular, the use of 0.75% concentration found in this serum is said to be the highest recommended level for skincare and “helps to significantly increase hydration of the skin by 172% after 1 hour.”
Our results were more varied.
Our skin certainly felt more hydrated immediately after use, which we could say for almost any skincare we use, but the effect did last hours.
We’d also wake up with more a noticeable glow to our skin after using it before bed.
Overall, our skin did appear more plump but we didn’t notice any visible improvements in the appearance of our wrinkles, fine lines or pores.
The Charlotte Tilbury serum was the only product we changed in our skincare routine during our testing period so we can anecdotally connect these results to the serum.
What’s more, these subjective results lined up well with the more objective scores we got from the smart mirror and skin analyser.
Hydration levels rose significantly. Between mid-April until mid-May, our skin’s hydration went from “Normal” to “Well-hydrated”, rising from a Level 3 to a Level 4 on the hydration scale (this scale is measured out of 5). The below charts show the difference with the red dot being the selected date.
The exact percentage and score changes from the smart mirror are shown in the table below but in summary the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum Crystal Elixir significantly improved the texture and roughness of our skin taking it from Good to Excellent.
It had a similar impact on the appearance of dark circles and improved the redness in our skin.
This is a particular concern of ours so we were really pleased, and we’d attribute this largely to the fact that the Charlotte Tilbury serum was the first and only skincare product in our routine to contain niacinamide.
It made a marginal improvement to our pores, but, as you can see in the table, the three skin concerns we had expected this serum to have the most impact on – dark spots, wrinkles and fine lines – got worse.
|Charlotte Tilbury Serum|
|Before %||After %||Before rank||After rank||Difference|
The higher the percentage, the more of your face is covered in dark spots, pores, roughness etc.
The biggest issue we have with the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum Crystal Elixir is that it has been so over-marketed that we had extremely high expectations.
We also love Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream – it’s our Editor’s Pick in our best moisturiser list – so when this serum didn’t deliver in the same way, we felt let down.
Granted, when it comes to dark spots the change is relatively small but during the four weeks of using the Charlotte Tilbury serum, our wrinkles score went from Excellent to Average.
In fairness to Charlotte Tilbury, we have no idea how our wrinkles and fine lines would have increased in the four weeks if we hadn’t used the serum; the difference between the scores could have been much higher.
Plus, we are four weeks older, so our skin is four weeks older and we’d expect a minor difference.
As a result, we hadn’t entered into this Charlotte Tilbury serum review expecting our wrinkles and fine lines to drastically improve, despite the marketing claims to the contrary. Mainly because we’re both cynical and realistic.
Yet we are hugely disappointed that the serum didn’t at least stem the tide. Especially at this price.
If redness, dark circles and hydration levels, especially if you have oily skin, are particular concerns then we highly recommend the Charlotte Tilbury serum, because a little goes a long way. The water-based formula is gentle enough for our sensitive skin, too.
You can buy a smaller 8ml version for £25 so at the very least, you could give this serum a go without shelling out the full whack.
However, this is not a wonder-drug. It’s not a catch-all solution for ageing skin and will not work miracles so if you can live with that, this serum is worth the investment. Just don’t believe the hype.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget