As beauty editors, we get bombarded with a ton of new products every day (we know—tough life). Reviewed is a series where we report on some of the best products we’ve tried. Whether it’s a drugstore lipstick that lasted all day or a hand cream that saved us this winter, you'll find all our favorites in this column. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago, I was doing what I admittedly do best—trolling my favorite online hot spots for beauty loot. Sure, product research is also in my job description, but more often than not I find myself in a deep, dark hole completely off task from what I'm actually supposed to be searching for. Oops. Alas, I don't regret the habit too much, since it's how I've inadvertently stumbled upon some of my very best beauty discoveries—which I've written about. So you see? It all comes full circle. And it was during a circumstance such as this that I discovered Epicuren's InjecStem Bio-Firming Serum ($220).
Now, I can't remember exactly why I clicked on the serum, but I'd guess I was tracking down a certain ingredient and wanted to look at the formula's potion-like makeup to see if it would be a fit for whatever story I was working on. It wasn't, but there was a different ingredient that pretty much screamed at me with intrigue: dragon's blood. Um, excuse me? Of course, the rational part of me knew the chic black bottle wasn't housing the blood of a fantastical winged killer, but then again, we do live in a world where penis and vampire facials are alive and well among us. Therefore, please excuse my longer-than-logical balk. Plus, I just really appreciated that it sounded like something straight out of Harry Potter. Or Shrek. Or a Hans Christian Andersen tale. I mean, don't you?
Thus, I did the only rational thing I could think of at 6 a.m. (to be fair, it was 9 a.m. in New York) and texted my boss, Editorial Director Faith Xue. "Have you ever tried anything with 'dragon's blood' in it??" I questioned her. A few minutes later we had settled on the idea that it might be some kind of exotic red fruit, and I would be in charge of investigating and trying it out. For the record, dragon's blood is actually a bright red resin found on certain species and plants, and not, as it turns out, a tropical fruit. We tried, Faith, we tried.
But back to said resin—to be precise, dragon's blood resin (kind of like a gummy sap) comes from the fruit of a variety of different palms. However, according to medieval accounts, sources claimed the sap wasn't an organic secretion but instead the literal blood of large animals (like elephants and dragons) who had perished in combat. Sounds more exciting right?
Additionally, the sap has been used in alternative medicine for centuries and as such has found its way into various supplements and skincare products thanks to claims it can naturally tame inflammation and help repair tissues. For centuries—especially in traditional Chinese medicine—it's been used for wound healing. Knowing as much, I obviously couldn't wait to slather Epicuren's (non-literal) blood-infused elixir all over my face. The brand touts that the serum has "firming," "re-densifying," and "restructuring" perks. The formula also boasts other skin-boosting ingredients like orange-derived plant stem cells, copper amino acids, and antioxidants aplenty. Oh, and did I mention Kate Bosworth (who just might be half-unicorn herself) is a known fan of the brand? So in the not-so-heroic quest for firmer, denser, all-around better skin (no shining armor here), I committed to swapping out my normal routine of serums—morning and night—for two weeks of dragon's blood instead.
Since I have a pretty rigid skincare routine in place and it doesn't take much to provoke my sensitive, quick-to-blemish skin, I was a little nervous to divert from my normal products. That being said, upon first application, I was already sold on the dragon's blood serum. Just as the brand instructs, I used about a dime-size amount morning and night on my face, neck, and décolletage after cleansing and toning. (I kept those products the same.) The bottle says you can also follow your application with any other serums or specialty products you'd normally use, so most nights I also applied SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense ($98) and Renée Rouleau Sheer Moisture Lotion ($42).
Over the course of the two weeks, I didn't get one pimple, and gradually (this isn't an overnight hero, guys—most good things take time with skincare) I noticed a difference in the tone and texture of my skin. I will say that it's recommended for dry, combination (me), and normal skin types, so I'm not sure how it would fare on oilier complexions. The serum is actually a bit denser and tinted a pretty shade of apricot. Most of my serums are clear or super lightweight, so I'll admit that at first, I was a little nervous—it just looked like something that would clog my pores! Alas, it proved me wrong.
As I said, and despite the very dramatic-sounding name, this serum doesn't perform some kind of mystical miracle. (When it comes down to it, the dragon's blood is just a high-quality plant extract, after all.) However, in just two weeks my skin felt softer and smoother as I applied foundation, my skin seemed to be less easily irritated (aka reddened), and the laugh lines around my mouth and the baby crow's-feet around my eyes looked a little less pronounced—no doctor's appointments or injections required.
"The skin's inner structure is key to maintaining dense, elastic, and youthful skin," the back of the bottle reads. "As we age, the structure weakens and collapses, causing the skin to become loose and thin. Costly injections temporarily improve appearance but don't support the crucial structure itself. Recover the structure and quality of a visibly younger, healthier, and see long-term results."
So is this plant stem cell– and dragon's blood–infused serum really the equivalent of an injection-rich maintenance plan? Not sure, but I've been impressed thus far and plan on continuing to use it every day within my routine. Stay tuned!