The Tatcha Silk Serum Works Like an IRL Filter on My Skin

Today I shared a no-makeup selfie and was bombarded with DMs asking what I did to my skin. My response? I started using the new Tatcha Silk Serum. Yes, that’s really it. 

For starters, the Tatcha Silk Serum is the first retinol or retinol alternative that’s actually been gentle enough for me to keep using it. My other attempts at trying retinol—and even gentler retinol alternatives like bakuchiol—always left my face bright red, blotchy, irritated, and broken out. Since I’ve been borderline traumatized by vitamin A derivatives, I swore I’d never try one again. 

And I stuck with that until meeting Rose Sparacio, VP of product innovation at Tatcha, who convinced me the Silk Serum was different. The test subjects’ before and after photos certainly didn’t hurt either.

The Tatcha Serum acts like retinol on your skin without actually being retinol, and does so without any irritation. It’s the best of both worlds. It contains a “retinol alternative duo,” composed of a potent plant-based complex of upcycled cranberry extract and sea fennel. These effective yet gentle ingredients work together to promote cellular turnover the way any standard retinol and exfoliant would—which, in case you’re unaware, is the process of shedding old and dead skin cells to be replaced rapidly with newer, healthier ones. 

As for why this doesn’t irritate the skin the way other retinols and exfoliants do? Skin-smoothing and -soothing properties help to maintain balance in the complexion (as in, no dryness or irritation), reduce roughness, and actually alleviate redness, as opposed to causing it.

Silk protein, an ingredient you’ll find in handful of Tatcha’s other products, moisturizes and plumps skin, along with Hadasei-3, Tatcha’s proprietary antioxidant complex of Akita rice, Uji green tea, and Okinawa algae. These ingredients work together to neutralize free radicals, brighten skin, improve hyperpigmentation, and clear pores, while the aforementioned cranberry and sea fennel rehabilitate your skin from the inside out. 

After learning all of this, I figured it was time to face my fears (hopefully) one last time, and give another retinol alternative a go. If it’s gentle enough to use twice a day, everyday, this just might be the one my skin could handle. This was in early March, and it’s now nearly May: I’ve used the Tatcha Silk Serum every night since, and once I realized it really wasn’t going to irritate my skin (it took me about two weeks to trust it; more on this below), I began incorporating into my morning routine as well. 

As for why I needed a full two weeks to trust it? Most of that was probably wrapped up in previous retinol trauma. But I also experienced slight peeling and skin purging (as in, my skin breaking out in response to the cellular turnover) around the five day mark. My skin wasn’t irritated and didn’t sting, though, and I could tell by my blemishes that these weren’t “normal” pimples. Instead, it was clear that my skin was purging, which was actually a good thing—it meant the serum was doing its job. I waited a few more days, and indeed, my skin cleared up completely and never peeled again. It’s all been uphill from there.

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