When people used to say I had “good” skin, I didn’t think much of it. Like most, I would fixate on a lone pimple that cropped up from time to time, or the darkness under my eyes that nobody else seemed to notice. We all have seemingly minuscule imperfections that, to us, are under a personal microscope of self-criticism—and we truly don’t appreciate our aesthetic blessings until things go awry. During quarantine, stress and hormones sent my skin into a tailspin that made me regret taking all those compliments for granted. Looking back on my skin before made me feel so ungrateful, and my lack of control over the breakouts put me in a pretty dark place.
Between the collective lifestyle change that struck in March 2020, going off birth control, and inching towards my late twenties (when adult acne tends to spike), I was honestly lost in the dark when it came to my skin. Cystic acne outbreaks crowded my cheekbones and jawline (especially around my period), which led to inevitable dark spots and discoloration, which doesn’t disappear overnight. I didn’t recognize the face I saw in the mirror, but with the overload of products on my bathroom counter, I knew one thing: It would take doing less to improve this mess.
So the great purge began. I Marie Kondo’ed my cluttered beauty arsenal and became super selective about what I put on my face, returning to the tried-and-true Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser and a basic moisturizer to start. The blessing and curse of this job is you get used to an endless influx of products, and when you’re stuck at home with nothing to do but test out peels and masks, complexion catastrophe can strike.
Beauty Awards season was upon us (when Glamour staffers put a bounty of potions, treatments, and tools to the test), but I made a point to be picky in the process. I treaded lightly when trying everything out, swiping formulas on my hand before putting anything on my face. I was immediately drawn to the Mutha No. 1 Serum’s shiny exterior and bold branding, and I was hopeful the product would measure up.
The Muthaload Core Technology includes protective antioxidants like licorice extract, green tea extract, and ferulic acid; four versions of hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin’s surface and deeper layers; kefiran, a fermented probiotic active to increase hydration, firmness, and elasticity and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles; and a next-level stabilized form of vitamin C that the brand claims to penetrate cells 50 times more effectively than traditional forms of vitamin C.
All of this sounded great (albeit too good to be true), considering the fact that I was not only dealing with gnarly acne deep beneath the surface, but also the inability to leave my blemishes alone, plus flaking and dark spots that stuck around long after the breakouts dissipated. The No. 1 Serum aims to protect, hydrate, and repair for glowing, healthy skin—but could one dream product really stand a chance against all that?
When I first swiped the serum across my face, it just hit…different. It was less liquid-y and more hydrating than serums I’ve tried before (think a milky texture that’s more absorbent than your average serum). It’s no surprise it sold out in seven days after it launched. The flashy packaging will draw you in, but the ease of application, the unique and efficacious formula, and the near-immediate results will keep you coming back. After a week or two of regular use, I noticed improvements in my skin’s texture—my hyperpigmentation was fading and a natural glow began to emerge. Thanks to a meticulous combination of powerhouse ingredients, the does-it-all product helped keep my routine simpler than ever and allowed me to ease back into a regimen that didn’t clutter my bathroom counter (or overwhelm my skin).
Having shaved off multiple steps in my routine, I realized the miracle serum was the epitome of a skinimalist essential. The steep cost ($140 a bottle) might be a deterrent, but rest assured a little goes a long way. When I began to notice how hydrated, bright, even, and glowing my complexion looked in comparison to the struggle bus I grew far too familiar with, the price felt worth it. In conjunction with a biweekly Drunk Elephant Babyfacial and regular visits to Skin Laundry for the Signature Laser Facial, I finally felt like my skin was on the mend. All in all, I’d definitely consider splurging on this regularly.
With all of the over-saturation in the skin care industry, discovering game-changing products can be tough, but the Mutha No. 1 Serum is so much more than its pretty packaging and chic website. That “before” picture is not easy to look at, and after years of taking my “good” skin for granted, I was totally unprepared for its downfall, which almost seemed to happen overnight. While I can’t credit the serum solely for these improvements (shout out to my trusty Hydro Flask which helped me drink more water), I won’t be dropping this to see what happens. It’s a risk I’m not willing to take, and I’m happy to say this powerhouse potion gained a permanent spot in my skin care arsenal.
Looking for more incredible product recommendations? Check out all 265 winners from the 2021 Glamour Beauty Awards.
Erin Parker is a commerce writer at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @erinhaveadream.