I’ve previously mentioned that I’m a proponent of layering an antioxidant under sunscreen. I frequently find that it’s the one step that’s most often missing from beauty regimens and one of the most important steps when it comes to anti-aging. When I was given the Snowberry Bright Defence Face Serum ($69) from New Zealand, I only needed to glance at the cutesy packaging and note the words “natural beauty” on the box to write it off as a ho-hum antioxidant serum. I knew Max had been intrigued with Snowberry’s Remineralising Toner ($54), but I take my antioxidants very seriously. Yet, upon closer examination of the product’s ingredients list (and a bit of research), I found some fascinating and rare ingredients. I was surprised, and delighted, to find that Snowberry’s Bright Defence is much more than just a free-radical fighter and unlike any serum I’ve tried.

Despite the words “natural beauty” depicted on the product’s box, I wouldn’t exactly call Snowberry natural per se. Natural is quite different from organic, and Snowberry definitely is not organic nor does it aim to be. However, there is no denying that Snowberry’s philosophy and implementation is indeed environmentally conscious. The company does not include any ingredient in its formulations without assurance that the ingredient has been sustainably harvested without detriment to the environment. In fact, Snowberry is the first New Zealand beauty company to achieve the carboNZeroCert certification. This means the company’s activities are measured and managed to be carbon neutral. That’s quite commendable in my view. Snowberry aims to deliver skincare benefits via clinically proven bio-active ingredients, such as antioxidants, enzymes and peptide complexes, while avoiding petrochemicals, sulfates, artificial coloring, parabens, silicones and glycols. The company is also developing “Snowberry Gardens” in order to derive its own sources of bio-active ingredients. The good news is there’s plenty of garden space available in New Zealand.

Snowberry describes Bright Defence as a serious, rapid-delivery anti-glycation and anti-free-radical formulation. Well, the second ingredient is l-ascorbic acid, the purest form of Vitamin C. Clearly, they are serious. Vitamin C has been shown to help protect and repair skin cells and reduce hyperpigmentation. Still, vitamin C is notoriously unstable and such high concentrations of the vitamin can certainly cause irritation, especially when water is present in the formulation. Water happens to be the very first ingredient (albeit mineralized). Snowberry’s solution is to use an enzyme in order to stabilize the ascorbic acid. But this enzyme is very clever. The enzyme enables a gradual release of the vitamin, thereby preventing any irritation. This serum is extremely mild and even sensitive skin types won’t feel the slightest bit of a tingle. Moreover, this measured release of the vitamin prolongs its benefits for a longer period of time than ordinary vitamin C serums. Vitamin C in this form is known as ascorbic acidg2-glucoside or AA2G™. AA2G is also known to effectively reduce the amount of pre-existing melanin. The formulation also includes Chromabright and ODA White  to further reduce discoloration.

Besides wiping away free radicals and hyperpigmentation, Bright Defence also addresses glycation. In simple terms, glycation occurs when a protein bonds with a sugar molecule. This eventually stiffens the body’s tissue, increasing inflammation and producing free radicals, which in turn causes premature aging. It’s a vicious cycle. Kombuchka, a fermented black tea extract counters glycation and smoothes skin. In Chinese tradition, kombuchka stands for a long and healthy life and well-being even at an advanced age. How apropos! Though, in skincare, kombuchka is fermented a bit differently from the Chinese tradition; fermentation occurs via the symbiosis of two micro-organisms.

Unlike most serums, which are slippery and sometimes leave a slimy feel on your palms after application, this beige serum has a gel-like consistency that quickly evaporates within a few seconds. Notwithstanding its somewhat dense texture (for a serum), it rapidly absorbs into skin without leaving behind any residue. I usually wait about a minute - if that - and apply my sunscreen! Two pumps are really all you need. The scent has just a hint of fruitiness but even that quickly dissipates. Overall, I’d say the serum is fragrance neutral.

The formulation is teeming with skin-beneficial emollients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients. Despite the inclusion of a mild blend of fruit acids and a bit of retinyl palmitate, the product is well buffered and extremely gentle, formulated for all skin types. Besides scavenging for free radicals, this serum hydrates, brightens, evens skin tone and smoothes skin. The product is a true multitasking anti-aging potion. I’ve always loved wine from New Zealand; now I love its skincare too!

Ingredients: Aqua (Demineralised), L-Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Saccharomyces/Xylinum Black Tea Ferment & Glycerin & Hydroxyethylcellulose, Glycerine (Coconut), Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Retinyl Palmitate/Carrot Polypeptide, Ascorbic Acid/Citrus Polypeptide, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Water & Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit/leaf Extract & Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract & Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract & Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract & Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Extract, Benzyl Alcohol & Glycerin & Benzoic Acid & Sorbic Acid, Sclerotium Gum, Xanthan Gum, Vitis Vinifera (Grape Seed) Extract, Parfum, Dimethylmethoxychromanol Palmitate, Citrus Bioflavonoids (Grapefruit)