Though aging skin tends to result in fine lines, wrinkles, textural issues, and discoloration—you know, things happening on the surface your skin—things are going on below the surface, at a cellular level, that contribute to said changes. The biggest culprit? Inflammation in your cells, otherwise known as “inflammaging.”

In recent years, the skin-care world has smartened up to the immense impact that inflammation can have on the health and overall appearance of your skin. Chronic inflammation can prevent your stem cells from operating at peak capacity, and the effects can literally be written all over your face. After 10 years of testing, a just-launched brand called Heraux—the brainchild of scientists at UCLA—is serving up sciencey new serum that’s meant to stand up to inflammaging.

What is inflammaging?

Before we get into how the formula works to slow down the aging process, it’s first important to understand how the health of your stem cells can impact your skin. “Stem cells are responsible for the renewal functionality in all of our tissues—without stem cells, we wouldn’t have skin, so their health and function are really important,” says Ben Van Handel, PhD, one of the brand’s co-founders. “In the skin, the stem cells are in the basal layer, and as they differentiate they produce the keratinocytes that make up the skin we see on the surface and form the skin barrier,” says Dr. Van Handel.

Over the last half decade or so, scientists have realized that inflammation can cause these stem cells to age more quickly than they normally would, which ultimately disrupts their function. “There’s this chronic, low-grade inflammation that’s present all the time and arises from a number of different stimuli,” says Dr. Van Handel. “In the skin, it can come from UV exposure, wind, and pollution, as well as internal stressors like what we eat or general psychological stress.” He explains that all of these things funnel through the “inflammaging” pathways in your cells, and it can be a lot for skin to handle since it’s coming from internal and external sources.

Heraux’s new serum is flipping inflammaging in reverse

After 10 years of testing on nearly a quarter of a million molecules, Dr. Van Handel and his team of UCLA researchers discovered one—called HX1—that could help stop this process in its tracks. As the hero ingredient in the Heraux Molecular Anti-Inflammaging Serum, HX1 works by shielding a certain protein in your stem cells from inflammatory factors, and pushing it toward consistent, low-level regeneration. “There’s a protein on the surface of stem cells that controls the balance between regeneration and inflammation, so depending on how it’s activated it can either promote the youthful, healthy function of these cells or accelerate the inflammation process and age the cells much more quickly,” says Dr. Van Handel. “What makes HX1 unique is that it’s got a dual action response, meaning that it improves the environment your stem cells are in both by shielding from the ‘bad,’ inflammaging factors and kicking on a regenerative response.”

Aside from helping fend off signs of aging, reducing inflammation in your stem cells can also help alleviate other inflammatory skin responses, like acne and rosacea. “We’re literally shielding the cells from inflammatory factors, so you’re going after the root of the problem that applies to so many different situations,” says Dr. Van Handel. His co-founder, Amir Nobakht, MD, adds that the brand gets “a lot of anecdotal feedback from people saying how it’s helped reduce redness, irritation, and the frequency and duration of their breakouts, which makes sense because those are all predominantly inflammatory conditions.” However, more testing needs to be done to validate these claims.

How the serum works

The serum has both preventative and rejuvenating properties. “At any stage of your life, it can be helpful to reduce the inflammatory burden on your cells so that your skin can continue to look good and react and recover from the pollutants, UV rays, and other stressors it encounters every day,” says Dr. Van Handel.

In addition to HX1, the formula contains a cocktail of other tried-and-tested ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and peptides. According to Dr. Nobakht, these ingredients deliver results within the first few weeks, and you’ll start to see the effects of HX1 within four to eight weeks of continued use. “With this formula, you’ll get results that are better than any of these single ingredients on their own,” says Dr. Nobakht. In a third-party clinical trial conducted on 30 participants, after eight weeks, 100 percent of people saw statistically significant improvements in ether fine lines and wrinkles, texture, hyperpigmentation, brightness, or elasticity (and 50 percent saw improvements in two or more categories).

At $250 a bottle, it’s and investment for your skin, but with so much science-backed evidence and the promise of real results, this is one serum we say is worth investing in.

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