I Figured Out Why TikTok Loves Olay’s Super Serum

When I think about the most affordable skin serums on the market, they're often simple, single-ingredient formulas. For example, if your primary concern is brightness, there are hundreds of dedicated vitamin C serums; you can find one on Amazon or at the drugstore.
The problem is that single ingredients only go so far. Personally, I want my serum — the first step in my skincare routine in the morning — to give me brighter skin, sure, but I'm also looking for hydration, something that will soften texture, and even prevent breakouts; most importantly, it has to be gentle. We're talking about a more complex serum now, so I expect a higher price point. But, I recently found out that doesn't have to be the case.
Olay, the legacy drugstore skincare label, recently introduced what they're calling a "Super Serum." The label shocked me from the jump in that the serum contains five different key ingredients: niacinamide, vitamin C, peptides, vitamin E, and AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid). Normally, that kind of laundry list would scare me and my sensitive skin. But at this specific ratio and concentration, the serum clears, brightens, and hydrates my skin — and thousands of others, according to the TikTok reviews and awards it's won — without irritation. And the price tag is less than most single-ingredient serums. Super, it seems, is a good word to describe it.

What's in Olay Super Serum?

The Super Serum is backed by over twenty years of research aimed at understanding niacinamide specifically. "For twenty years, we've been working on optimizing our ingredient formulations and also researching niacinamide in general," explains Rolanda Wilkerson, PhD, Olay's Principal Scientist. "We know that niacinamide is a powerhouse ingredient, it provides a lot of different benefits." Top line, the benefits of niacinamide include oil balancing properties, managing the skin's sebum production to prevent breakouts, helping with water retention, and easing inflammation in the skin.
A niacinamide-forward serum is a great addition to any skincare routine, but this Olay formula goes further. Through the primary research, Olay found that niacinamide is its most stable, safe, and effective at a low pH. Super Serum has a pH of 3.8. For context, normal skin pH is between 4.7 and 5.75. "At 3.8 we are able to see faster, better penetration without concerns of irritating the skin," explains Dr. Wilkerson. "Optimizing niacinamide, we can also see that it doesn't break down into a more irritating form which is niacin."
Beyond "optimized" niacinamide, Olay Super Serum also contains vitamin C, collagen peptides, vitamin E, and AHA. Dr. Wilkerson says it's a delicate combination. "When you marry the right concentration of our low pH niacinaminde with the right combination of additional ingredients, in this case, vitamin C, collagen peptides, vitamin E, and AHA, what we're seeing is at that those ingredients are working together better," Dr. Wilkerson explains. Unfortunately, the specific concentrations and rations are proprietary, which means Olay is not able to disclose that information.
My skin before using Olay Super Serum
My skin after using Olay Super Serum

How does Olay Super Serum compare to other serums?

Psychologically, I have to remind myself that price does not correlate with performance; just because a serum is affordable in comparison to the popular $200 serums, it does not mean it's cheap or less effective. In fact, I was particularly influenced by Olay's clinical research on this Super Serum compared to a more expensive competitor. The brand commissioned an eight week blinded study (meaning participants did not know which serum they were testing) that included 200 people between 25 and 64, across diverse skin tones and skin types.
The results? Olay Super Serum outperformed across both technical and consumer preference measurements. "We looked at over ten different measurements: Texture, spots, micro redness, chronic hydration — not just immediately, but long term, over 24 hours — we also looked at skin barrier improvement, and skin tone. At every point, Olay was directionally higher than the competition," explains Dr. Wilkerson. Of course, this is a study commissioned by Olay, not a third-party, so we have to take the results with a pinch of salt; still, it's impressive. You can see the before and afters on the brand's website.
If I compare this serum to other vitamin C formulas (or even what I could guess might be the competitor), I give the Super Serum points for being gentle and effective. When using other serums containing vitamin C, I've experienced dryness reactions as mild as a sticky, tacky feeling and as severe as dermatitis. But with this serum, I've experienced zero signs of irritation. For benefits, I've seen the most noticeable improvement in the tone of my skin; it looks brighter and feels smoother immediately after I apply the serum. Moreover, I've noticed my skin stays hydrated throughout the day, speaking to the long-term hydration Dr. Wilkerson mentioned.

How should I use the Olay Super Serum with other skincare?

According to Dr. Wilkerson, you can use the Super Serum morning and night on clean, dry skin. There's a scented version and an unscented formula. If you're sensitive to fragrance, I'd recommend the unscented. At night, a good routine would be cleanser, Super Serum, and night cream — consider the Olay Retinol in the purple jar. The benefits of Super Serum "are elevated when you pair it with Olay Retinol 24 Moisturizer at night," Dr. Wilkerson adds. In the morning, the guidance would be cleanse your skin (if you do that; I don't), Super Serum, moisturizer (Dr. Wilkerson recommends the Olay’s Niacinamide + Peptide 24 because it has also been shown to boost the serum's efficacy), and sunscreen.
Personally, I use the Super Serum in the morning. I splash my face with water, pat it dry, use my Rhode Glazing Milk, and when that's evaporated, I apply 3 drops of Super Serum in my palm and press it into my face. It feels like it sinks right into my skin. You know the feeling, like your pores are drinking it up (not literally, just the sensation). Dr. Wilkerson says this is due to the lightweight formula that's able to penetrate the skin. There's a visual here, too. The serum comes out of the bottle as a white, slightly pearlescent color (that's sustainable mica) and when it sinks into the skin, that iridescence disappears.
I follow up the serum with a moisturizer; I'm currently using the Dr. Whitney Bowe Microbiome Nourishing Cream, and Ourself HA+ Replenishing Eye Serum. Then, of course, sunscreen; I'm using the RMS Supernatural Radiance Serum Broad-Spectrum SPF 30. It's worth noting that out of everything else I use, the Super Serum is the least expensive, tied with the Rhode skin milk. However, considering the ingredient profile, I'd venture to guess it's doing the most for my skin (in terms of benefits, not protection because that would go to sunscreen).
Considering my own positive experience and the clinical data, I'm confident recommending Olay's Super Serum to anyone, especially people in their twenties getting into skincare. "Even though the youngest person in our study might not see wrinkles at 25 or even uneven texture, we know from research that there's a tipping point that happens in the skin in the 20s — that's when we start to see things decline," explains Dr. Wilkerson. As someone in their 20s without wrinkles, I can see other benefits, like more even skin tone and possibly fewer breakouts than I'd see if I wasn't using a souped-up serum. Really, at this stage I'm interested in investing in gentle yet effective, science-backed, accessible skincare, and this Super Serum checks those boxes.
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