Honest Reviews: Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint + Retinoids.

By: Jen Shoop

I’m back with an abbreviated selection of honest reviews (more here, here, and here)! I’ve been in a pretty good spot with my beauty and cosmetics routine and have been disinclined to introduce much else at the moment, but I did want to share a couple recent experiences…

+Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint. I wanted to like this so badly! A serum and an SPF with foundation-like coverage, all-in-one? However, I found the formula very difficult and unwieldy to apply — even after shaken vigorously (per instructions), I felt the tint “broke” and was difficult to apply with any degree of consistency over the skin, even with my Artis brush in hand. I also did not feel it left my skin looking as natural as it does when I wear a tinted moisturizer — I found it difficult to blend in (splotchy?). Finally, it has a very distinctive scent I could not get beyond — sort of like plastic or plaster or something? Disappointing. But, it reminded me that I already have two great tinted moisturizers on hand (love LM and Chantecaille) and, when I need more coverage, my favorite foundation stick (<<free shipping right now with code FLASHNOVEMBER).

+Differin. I have been intrigued for a long time about retinol and retinoids, which promote skin cell turnover and which many people claim as the key to the fountain of youth. My dermatologist recommended starting with something non-prescription (a retinoid) and working my way up to a prescription-strength retinol if I liked how things were going, as they can be drying. Many people rave about Differin — inexpensive, treats acne, and adapalene (its key ingredient) is a retinoid. I used this for a month and saw no favorable difference in my skin. In fact, I broke out! I think the breakout could have been because I stopped using my glycolic acid treatment pads in favor of testing Differin and my skin rioted against the unceremonious change. But I just can’t figure out how or where else to introduce differin — it feels too harsh to put it on top of glycolic acid?! Help! Tell me your secrets, skincare gurus!

+Ritual Vitamins. As a part of my self-improvement regimen, I started taking daily multivitamins, and I chose Ritual. There is a lot to like about them — they taste good (minty) and contain only what you need (no additives), and I like the subscription model (takes all legwork out of the equation), but I found them so hard on my stomach! Every day I took them, I was horribly nauseous. I later read that this is common and that often it takes your body awhile to adjust but I could not get to the next phase, and so I abandoned ship. I do feel I eat a very balanced diet so I am just going to rest on those laurels for now.

+IGK Thirsty Girl Leave-In Hair Conditioner. This stuff is AMAZING for color-treated, dry hair. I have been layering it with my Oi Hair Milk recently and je suis obsessed. It goes on like a hair spray (!), smells like heaven, and totally softens and conditions my hair. The Oi Hair Milk is fantastic as a primer and detangler. I think they work wonderfully together.

+Not new in these parts, but I recently re-stocked a few items that I simply can’t live without:

HOURGLASS EYEBROW GEL — Please (!) give (!!) this (!!!) a (!!!!) try (!!!!!). It is truly the most amazing eyebrow tamer, shaper, and filler. I love the way it fills and shapes brows with a simple flick (no tedious penciling-in), and looks so natural given the range of colors it comes in (you can actually match to your natural brow color!)

BOBBI BROWN EXTRA LIP TINT — Pack of three for 25% off at the moment. I don’t know about you, but I have worn statement lipstick once in the last nine months, and it was on a day where I needed to hit the reset button and my children were very confused about why I had red marker all over my lips. (Ha!) Most days, I wear this lip tint instead. It glides on like a balm and affords the loveliest hint of color. I couldn’t resist picking up this three-pack at such a good value! (They work out to like $14/tube! Buy for yourself and give the other two as gifts to your sister and mother! Or use them all for yourself, as I am doing…ha!)

BELIF THE TRUE CREAM AQUA BOMB — I seriously considered testing a different moisturizer (thank you in particular to Veronica for your very convincing recommendation of Drunk Elephant!) but I ended up reordering Belif, a gel-like cream from Korean skincare label that I find deeply hydrating for the dead of winter, because a) I know and love it, b) I was somewhat disheartened by my recent testings of the highly popular items above, and so I might as well stick with what works for now, and c) it is such a good value compared to other high-end moisturizers! (Half the price of Drunk Elephant for the same amount of product, for example.) J’adore j’adore jadore.

What other products have you been testing and liking?

The product I now have my eye on is Le Prunier’s Plum Beauty Oil, which Chrissy Teigen (unsponsored!) lauded on social media a few weeks back and is, of course, now sold out for weeks.

P.S. My favorite home organization products.

P.P.S. A really, really, really good book. Probably the best I’ve read this year, alongside The Dutch House.

P.P.P.S. Drive gently, dearie.

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24 thoughts on “Honest Reviews: Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint + Retinoids.

  1. You are so amazingly gracious to people you’ve never even met, answering each one of us with thought and good wishes. I’m going to try to remember you for my future interactions with strangers. Thank you!

    1. Aw – thank you so much, Devon! What a kind thing to say. Feeding off the generosity/graciousness of everyone here, too. xx

  2. Jen,

    Having lived in Seoul for a year, I know the value of a good K-beauty product! Don’t blame you at all. Also, very glad to know about the Ilia skin tint. Thank you for always sharing an honest review. You never steer us wrong (like seriously still obsessed with the Diamond Dazzle stick ha).


  3. I am a Belif evangelist because of your recommendation! It’s the lightest, most hydrating moisturizing and is perfect for my dry, desert skin. Thank you!

  4. Echoing the above about retinol but adding that my skin has never been able to tolerate differin or retin-a, so I stick with the Ordinary. I also followed their/the Skincare Edit’s suggestions (here: of starting with a lower strength and working up to a higher amount, which meant that I never experienced the rashes or breakouts you can if you jump in the deep end. And like I said, I have sensitive skin. I also def layer it with moisturizer and don’t use it every day, even now. I notice sometimes when I take a day’s break, my skin’s even better the next day. But overall retinol cured my acne, which I had from about age 11 through my mid-20s. The only other thing that was as effective was a chemical peel, which is obviously much more disruptive and expensive!

    1. Wow — “overall retinol cured my acne” — !! Amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience. xx

  5. Retinol is the super star for anti-aging. Pared with sunscreen, it’s the best thing you can do at home for your skin. It does take a couple months to show results, and it’s a long game product. Start with 2-3 days a week, and alternate days with acids if you still want to use them. There may be some “purging” breakouts, but those do not happen continuously. A couple weeks and then you are in the clear for years! My derm recommends moisturize then retinol for the first couple weeks, and then switch the product order. You can use very bland moisturizers like Vanicream or Cereve with it. It’s seriously the best thing- there is a reason every derm uses a retinol in their own daily routine instead of whatever Sephora best sellers are popular.

    Who knew so many Magpies were so passionate about retinol?!

    1. Love these tips and the ones below — especially the note on frequency and product order when just starting! I will be looping back to test again!


  6. I use retin-a and a milder form of the glycolic pads (I like the replenix gly-sal 2/2). I introduced the pads after my skin was already tolerating retin-a. I use half a pad in the morning, and a full one at night, then retin-a about 5 nights a week (I started 2-3 nights a week and worked up to it!). Importantly, after the retin-a is fully soaked in, I moisturize. I haven’t broken/dried out from retin-a at all and I am vvvv breakout-prone!

    1. This is SO helpful – thank you! I think I am going to try a combination of many of the suggestions here — namely, to space out/build up to using both products and to pay close attention to order of skincare products. Thank you, friend!


  7. The best product in my experience is Retin A. You don’t need much bc it exfoliates your skin. It is excellent for cell turnover and it will help with wrinkles too. With most products you need to give them a chance. With acne products some may go through a period of purging. Hope this helps.

    1. Thank you, Carleen!! It sounds like I need to have more patience on this one. So appreciate your chiming in here.


  8. In the same vein of another commenter, Retinol (or retinoid, not really sure of the difference!) is generally not meant to be used every day and not over acids. The general schedule that I see people adhere to is retinol 2-3 times a week with acids on the off days.

    If you’re interested in learning more, I’d suggest looking at Grace Atwood’s website. She’s a big fan of the Olay Max 24 Retinol for an affordable and gently option – and says it’s gentle enough to use everyday (and maybe even over acids, I don’t remember). She has tons of recommendations for retinols and other beauty products, as well as instructions on how/when to apply.

    1. Thank you SO much! So fascinating to have such a great consensus among the comments here. Looks like I need to figure out a regimen/schedule for acids vs retinoid. merci merci!!


  9. I recommend the book Skin Care by Caroline Hirons. She lays it all out step by step and by age/need, etc.

    And yes, you’re right to not use your peel pads on same day as differin (too harsh as you mention). From what I’ve read, break outs are common when you start using differin. Takes about 12 weeks to normalize. I never had the patience to stick with it! Now in my 40’s, I jumped straight to prescription retinol.
    Good luck & I appreciate all your reviews.

  10. It takes longer than a month to see the full impact of Differin, and it’s normal to see some breakouts in the first month (I definitely did!). I think it took me around 2-3 months of use for it to really make a big difference but once it did… the best skin I’ve had in years! Stick with it – they have a rundown of the process on their website:

    Also, despite what their website says, I have never used Differin every day. I think I started out using it every 3 days, and now I use it every other day. I alternate with acids, so a similar schedule would let you get your glycolic acid in. I find the combo of differin and glycolic acid works so well!

    1. Wow! You had me sold at (“the best skin I’ve had in years”). Going to circle back with more patience and attention to schedule/regimen. Merci merci!


    2. Echoing Megan, I received a low-dose retinol product last year for Christmas (Glow Recipe Avocado Melt) and that was definitely a good way to ease my skin into it. I have sensitive skin and DEFINITELY experienced the “retinol uglies” and my skin purged for about 2-3 weeks. Now I use a Cerave retinol about 1-2 times a week just for upkeep (I like the cerave one because it still has the brand’s ceramides to offset the drying effect of retinol) . This article had some good info!,often%20resulting%20in%20excessively%20red

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