To start with, I’ll out myself as the unnamed, to-be-heard-from tester Marta referred to in her fascinating October 10 post “What’s currently working for my face” in which she anointed Hydropeptide’s Hydrostem+6 “a show-stoppingly effective serum.”  After exactly one month’s use, I can confirm Marta’s hunch that this product will get my vote as a “candidate for a future Five Best.”  In fact, I find it amazing.

I actually almost sent in my notes after two weeks’ trial—something I’ve never been tempted to do.  And ironically, I wasn’t even particularly looking for a serum.  I’d been exploring the bounty of TIA’s August round-up of Five Best anti-aging serums for 2011, with predictably positive results.  At that point I’d already started using Reluma earlier in the spring, and began alternating with LiftLab after that post as well.  I felt that each produced real and differentiated improvements – with wrinkle repair, and with overall skin condition.

And with all things in life, I tend to be almost pathetically, or at least boringly, loyal.  So when I like a brand or regimen, I tend to stick with it, and I like having a set routine that I feel I’m committed to—rather than a flirtation.  So when Hydrostem+6 came along, I wasn’t eager to make room for it in the medicine cabinet.  Nor was I encouraged by some of the caveats in Marta’s initial post in September—particularly after reading that the original reviewer was so put-off by the scent, she’d sent it back untried.

But I did make a promise.  So I held my nose, and followed through.

First of all, let’s get that matter of the scent out of the way.  I consider myself to have as dainty and sensitive a nose as any I’ve known, and while Hydrostem’s fragrance is distinctive, it is not, in my opinion, unsavory.  What it isn’t is sweet, or artificial: I assume thanks to all those plant cells, it has a smell that I would call vegetal (with maybe a tiny medicinal note).  But not like moldering-compost-heap vegetal.  More like the clean and slightly astringent smell of fresh cucumber peels.  Not really appealing, but not unpleasant.

So yes, I was able to get past the odor (which doesn’t linger after application, anyway).  I started by plunging in twice a day, pretty much all over the face and neck, but paying particular attention to my worst problem area—the deep horizontal lines across my forehead—as well as the usual suspects (crows’ feet, nasolabial lines).  And after a couple of weeks, I was genuinely surprised.  More than the modest improvement I’d have hoped for, Hydropstem+6 made a noticeable difference.  I believe that lines are less pronounced; that my skin is plumper and firmer; and that I look fresher.

As late-September end-of-summer has become real autumn, I am planning to stick with it.  Even when I have to replace it on my own nickel, I should add.  [Not sure how long the bottle will last.  Like most of the better serums, Hydrostem is packaged in an attractively designed, efficient airless pump, but there’s no way of telling how much is still left; it’s opaque. At $160 for an ounce, I’m guessing that on a price-per-dose basis, Hydrostem will be roughly comparable to Reluma, which is $199 (in the TIA shop) for the comparable quantity.  The LiftLab serum is substantially cheaper ($85 in the TIA shop).]  As the weather gets colder and drier, my skin is already feeling older, sadder, and more weathered, and I am counting on it to see me through the change in seasons.  I should add that in the last few weeks I’ve been alternating -- using Lift Lab instead some mornings, and Reluma some evenings too.  I think they offer different and perhaps complementary benefits and I’m eager to see what combination will work best.

Ingredients: Water, Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Trimethylpentanediol/Adipic Acid Copolymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Panthenol, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Silica, Palmitoyl Dipeptide-5 Diaminobutyroyl Hydroxythreonine, Palmitoyl Dipepitde-5 Diaminohydroxybutyrate, Niacinamide, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Cell Extract, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Cell Culture, Echinacea Angustifolia Meristem Cell Culture, Gardenia Jasminoids Meristem Cell Culture, Leotopodium Alpinum (Edelweiss) Meristem Cell Culture, Malus Domestica (Swiss Apple) Fruit Cell Culture, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tocopherol Acetate, Allantoin, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Menthyl Lactate, Lecithin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride,Polyacrylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Isomalt, Sodium Benzoate, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, Methylisothiazolinone