With affordable brands like The Ordinary and The INKEY List changing the game, it's now easier than ever to build an effective skincare regime with ingredients that really work. While the likes of retinol and vitamin C once came with hefty price tags, these companies have made them a hell of a lot more accessible, which means you don't have to pay over the odds to achieve your best skin. Yet even though my skincare arsenal is filled to bursting with these cheap yet brilliantly effective products (I'll tell anyone about The Ordinary's Granactive Retinoid 2% In Emulsion, £8), I'm not opposed to the odd luxury buy. There's something about the sleek packaging that sways me, not to mention the swanky department store shopping experience, as well as promises of potent ingredients and clinical grade formulas tested by scientists and skin experts behind the scenes.
So when I read about Silk Therapeutics, a luxury skincare brand exclusive to Harrods, which harnesses pure liquid silk as the main ingredient, I was intrigued. I mean, actual silk sounds pretty lavish, right? And there are some big claims. According to experts behind the brand – Dr Greg Altman, PhD and CEO of Silk Inc. and Dr Rebecca Lacouture, Silk Inc. president and COO – silk is a protein material, similar to collagen, which is essential for keeping skin bouncy and firm, as it provides it with structure and support.
"We create pure liquid silk using cruelty-free cocoons from the B. mori silkworm," Silk Therapeutics told R29. "We source natural, non-GMO silk cocoons from Japan, and at our facility in Boston, liquify the pure silk protein (a.k.a. fibroin) for use in our skincare." Dr Altman also claims that liquid silk has the ability to "bond" with other proteins and molecules in the skin (without the use of other enzymes, chemicals or plasticisers), firming it up, increasing hydration levels and helping to deliver ingredients like vitamin C (notoriously difficult to get into the dermis, as it's unstable) without the need for harsh fillers. Promising to say the least.
Even though there are heaps of stories about the brand's launch in the UK, it seems very few have tried it. That could be down to the price point. Products start from £65 for a cleanser and the rest exceed the £100 mark, but in a stroke of luck, vice president of the brand, Jennifer Halliday, introduced me to the line when she was in London, so I could give my verdict on whether liquid silk is really worth your hard-earned cash. Here's how I got on for two weeks.
I have acne-prone skin, so an AHA peel is a staple in my skincare routine. I've been using The Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2%, £6.30, and always notice an instant difference, so swapping it out for something that's £123.70 steeper? Ouch. It combines glycolic and lactic acid to slough away dull skin cells and sebum, and of course, liquid silk to increase hydration levels. On opening the lid, the texture threw me. The only way I can describe it is as something between Vaseline and caviar, but there's a little tool to help you apply. It dried into a clear film and it was difficult to move my face until it was time to wash off, but my skin was actually glowing. I now use this once or twice a week depending on whether I feel like my skin needs extra exfoliation, and most probably will do until it runs out. The hydration element isn't there for me, though, and my face does feel a little tight afterwards, so I'd recommend following with moisturiser or serum.
Beauty editors and dermatologists alike extol the virtues of vitamin C for brightening dull skin, minimising hyperpigmentation and providing protection against environmental aggressors such as pollution, but in all honesty I've never got on with it. After one extremely potent product left me virtually screaming in discomfort, I relegated the ingredient to the back of my bathroom cabinet, enlisting gentle acids instead, but this was a super kind yet effective product to help ease me back in. My olive skin can sometimes look washed out and spots leave me with staining, but a slathering (one to two drops) each morning for two weeks helped uncover fresher and therefore brighter skin – below, my acne 'scars' are significantly less angry.
My skin gets clogged really easily, so I stopped using moisturiser alongside it, just SPF, but I'm pretty sure that thanks to the liquid silk, my skin felt hydrated and plump enough to give it a miss. I did wonder whether the dropper packaging would decrease the potency of the vitamin C, but was assured by the brand that star ingredient liquid silk has the ability to stabilise the ingredient, hence the fast, glowy results in around a week. I'm sold on this, but if the price puts you off, R29's fashion and beauty writer Georgia Murray recommends Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate, £49.50, while experts rate Medik8's C-Tetra, £28.80.
Thanks to the emollients, usually used to treat dry skin and conditions like atopic eczema and dermatitis, this was far too rich for my skin type. There are only 12 ingredients, including liquid silk, vitamin E and jojoba oil, but I'm putting the latter down to a few whiteheads and little bumps under my skin, so I swapped it out for Medik8's Balance Moisturiser, £45, in the morning, because I know it agrees with my oily complexion, and used retinol at night. I gave the pot of cream to my colleague Rose, who said: "It feels amazing. You literally need a microgram of product and my face feels like I've had a face mask on. I have only been using it a few days but I do feel like I’m already losing my pillow face faster in the mornings."
My eyelids have a tendency to flare up with atopic eczema, probably because of all the different products I try, which leaves me with lots of faint lines and an uncomfortable taut feeling. No one but me can really see the lines, mind, but I know they're there and they annoy me. The texture of this eye cream is very light so I was sceptical, but on super close inspection my wrinkles seemed much less obvious after using it religiously, morning and evening. In all honesty, though, it doesn't differ much from CeraVe's Eye Repair Cream, £10.99, or Clinique's All About Eyes, £27.50 – both a snip of the price.
The packaging doesn't say £65 and it smells like a bar of traditional soap, but this cleanser does what it says on the tin. It's creamy and gentle, so I used it in the morning and switched to Boots' Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Foaming Face Wash, £4.19, in the evening. I wake up with oily skin but this left it feeling squeaky clean. Combined with liquid silk, the four fatty acids (essential for maintaining the skin's barrier) meant my skin wasn't tight and uncomfortable, which is often the case with most cleansers, and the patches of eczema on my eyelids weren't exacerbated. I'll use this to the last drop, but the price does put me off repurchasing.
Overall, I'd say that liquid silk has a similar effect to hyaluronic acid on the plumping and hydrating front, but it has the clever added factor of working as a buffer ingredient to deliver difficult ingredients like vitamin C into skin more effectively, as well as being obviously luxurious. Of course, whether you want to shell out on liquid silk skincare is entirely up to you, but for all the skintellectuals out there, it's definitely one to try – budget permitting.