I’m not being dramatic when I say that my skin is going through a lot right now. Between the chilly-for-Southern-California temperatures; the dry, suffocating heat indoors; and my over-40, perimenopausal skin, my regular regimen is being thrown for a loop. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself gravitating towards vegan collagen serums, as they’ve been great at both packing in moisture and improving texture—two things I desperately need.
With that in mind, when I heard about Pai Skincare’s new Vegan Collagen 0.9% Restoring Booster ($29), I was intrigued—it seemed different than any of the other vegan collagen products I've tried. Because it's a "booster" instead of a traditional serum (more on what that actually means, below), adding it into my routine was mindlessly easy... so I did exactly that for two full weeks. Keep scrolling to find out how it went.
How it works
Pai’s Vegan Collagen 0.9% Restoring Booster ($29) is the newest addition to the brand’s line of concentrates. These "boosters" target specific concerns (think: hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and sensitivity), and are meant to be added to your usual serums, moisturizers, or facial oils to supercharge your routine. This allows you to get more benefits in fewer steps, something the brand likens to adding a wheatgrass shot to your smoothie (cute!). This latest launch heroes vegan collagen, which is derived from corn, wheat, and soy protein and touted for its hydrating and skin-smoothing abilities.
Though vegan collagen comes from a different source than natural collagen (bacteria and plants instead of animals), it still has the same major limitation: It's too big to penetrate the skin. “Regardless if it is animal derived or engineered with bacteria, collagen in its natural form is too big of a molecule to be absorbed into the dermis, where our native collagen is located, through application on the skin,” says Carmen Castilla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in NYC. In other words, topical collagen won't actually boost the collagen in your skin (you need collagen-stimulating peptides for that)—but that hasn't stopped other brands from claiming their collagen products (vegan or otherwise) have small enough molecules to penetrate the skin.
Thankfully, Pai doesn't do that. Instead, the brand focuses on the benefits that its vegan collagen offers to the surface of the skin. It works by conditioning the outermost layer of your complexion, ramping up protection for the layers underneath and leaving behind a smooth, hydrated finish.
And as far as the rest of the ingredients in the formula are concerned? “Though I am not a cosmetic chemist, I would expect that the combination of glycerin and cellulose would help create a silky and radiant ‘film’ on the skin," says Geeta Yadav MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology. As humectants, both of these actives work to draw moisture into the skin to make it appear visibly more hydrated. There's also a low concentration of lactic acid in the mix, which Dr. Yadav notes "will result in mild skin resurfacing, further promoting radiance.”
My honest thoughts
This was the first time I ever tried a booster type of product, as most of the vegan collagen products that I use are serums, and I committed to using it for two weeks in different ways.
For the first couple of days, I used the product just once a day (at night, on its own, before serum and moisturizer). Then, I upped it to twice a day. In the morning, I mixed it with Pai C-2 Believe Vitamin C Brightening Moisturizer ($79), and at night, I alternated between using it solo or mixing it with my night cream. Right away, I could tell that my skin felt less dry, and the results were even more noticeable after I started using the product twice a day. My forehead, which had been feeling tight and rough from being so dry, became smoother after a couple of days of diligent, twice-daily use.
This was my introduction to Pai's products, but considering these results, I can't wait to try the rest of the line.
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