*This review contains PR samples and affiliate links* I’ve been using three newly released Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums for a while now, and I can’t wait to tell you all about HA5 Light, HA5 Rich and aPAD today, hopefully demystifying the somewhat strange-sounding names and make you say, “The Ordinary WHO?!” as soon as you’ve gotten to know these indie skincare gems!
If you’ve been following my work for a while, you know by now that I have a soft spot for indie skincare brands – it’s where the true innovation happens, in my opinion. You may also remember my review of the Geek & Gorgeous exfoliants, which remain my favourite acid peelings I’ve tried as of yet. Especially the Geek & Gorgeous Calm Down exfoliant* with 4% PHA and BHA has managed to totally win me over, and I use it almost every day in my evening routine. The result? The most luminous, glowing skin I’ve had in a while!
When Geek & Gorgeous released a new trio of highly potent facial serums, I was instantly hooked. So, there was no question as to whether or not I wanted to review them on my blog when they arrived at my doorstep!º The Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums I received are: two multi-hyaluronic acid serums, rich and light, as well as a skin-brightening serum with an azelaic acid derivative. They come in a brown, 30ml dropper glas bottle and are surprisingly low-cost given the quality ingredients and smart formulations. The Ordinary is getting some pretty fierce competition here, I would say!
I’ve been using the three Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums for a while now, pretty much every day, and it’s about high time that I tell you a little bit more about them and let you know how I got on with them. Now, since – to be absolutely honest – I just cannot for the life of me truly notice a difference between the HA5 Rich and Light versions, I’m going to talk about those two together, and then explain what the aPAD serum is all about!
Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums: HA5 Light and HA5 Rich
So, yeah, this is the first thing I have to admit, somewhat sheepishly: I have tried and tried to spot a difference between the “light” and the “rich” version of these two “HA” Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums, but even after trying all sorts of things to distinguish them, they just seem pretty much identical to me. Maybe, maaaaaybe the “rich” version is indeed a tad more nourishing, but if so, I’d say the difference is minimal. It probably pays off to check the ingredients lists for both serums, in case you have sensitivities to something that is only in one of the serums.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself here – first, a few words on what exactly “HA5” stands for, and why these two serums are such perfect additions to pretty much any skincare routine…
The “HA” stands for “hyaluronic acid”, which is the main ingredient in both serums. The number 5 indicates that Geek & Gorgeous has combined 5 types of hyaluronic acid for maximum effect, with this mix of medium- and high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid providing maximum hydration and plumping for your skin.
Different types of hyaluronic acid offer different benefits for the skin, respectively, due to their varying molecular weight and the way that your skin absorbs these molecules. Thus, forms of hyaluronic acid with a high molecular weight mostly stay on the surface of the skin and build a sort of water-binding “film”, which can help make your skin look more dewy and combat trans-epidermal water loss, while forms of HA with a medium- and lower-molecular weight can penetrate the skin better and thus deliver that nice plumping effect we all adore so much.
Apart from hyaluronic acid, other notable star ingredients that deliver an extra dose of hydration in the Geek & Gorgeous HA5 serums are panthenol, glycerin and “Tremella Fuciformis” extract. Tremella Fuciformis, or “silver ear mushroom”, is said to be “the next big thing” after hyaluronic acid, due to its even more impressive water-binding properties and added antioxidant benefits.
Here is the list of ingredients for the Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serum HA5 Light:
“Water, Glycerin, Peg/Ppg/Polybutylene Glycol-8/5/3 Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol, Tocopherol, Carbomer, Propanediol, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol”
And here is the list of ingredients for the Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serum HA5 Rich:
“Water, Betaine, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Propanediol, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.”
So, you can see some slight differences in the formulas, but again – I found it difficult to near impossible to feel or see a difference in how these two serums perform on my skin. They are both slightly sticky, but not too much, absorb beautifully well and without any residue, and they leave my skin looking and feeling super hydrated, plump and with a subtly dewy glow. I really cannot say that the “rich” version feels more nourishing or richer, to be honest – both are lovely hydrators that will need an occlusive moisturiser to seal in the hydration provided by the hyaluronic acid(s).
Both HA5 serums are free from any noticeable scent and “neutral” in the best sense of the word: you can use them on their own, or mix them with other serums and creams. My favourite combos at the moment are: mixing the light serum with a drop of the Lioba Anti-Ageing Serum in the morning, and mixing the rich serum with 2-3 drops of the Whamisa Organic Flowers Face Oil* in the evening – amazing!
Now, since I find it so hard to distinguish “light” and “rich” from each other, and since they costs exactly the same, I can’t really recommend one over the other. I am not even sure which of the two I will repurchase once I’ve run out (because I will undoubtedly repurchase an HA5 serum!), but I’m thinking since I have combo skin, I’ll probably stick to the HA5 light. If you have normal to dry skin, go for the rich version, with oily to combo skin, give the light one a go.
Both Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums HA5 are simply fantastic in their effective simplicity, and will please especially those of you who love a minimalist ingredient list similar to The Ordinary products. What I prefer about these beauties compared to TO, however (apart from the constant drama surrounding the Deciem brand…), is that they offer a much more sophisticated formula in my opinion, especially compared to their hyaluronic acid serum, which I haven’t heard too many great things about really.
Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums: aPAD
It’s kind of difficult to describe what is so ingenious about the aPAD serum, mostly because its star ingredient, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate (“PAD”), is still somewhat unknown in the beauty community. Paula’s Choice describes Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate as “a water soluble derivative of azelaic acid”, which “is believed to convey many of the same benefits as pure azelaic acid, but is easier to incorporate into various different types of cosmetic formulas.” Now, I first made the mistake of thinking that azelaic acid – a chemical peel used for acne-prone skin – was basically identical to Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, but in fact they are quite a bit different.
The Azelaic derivative used for the Geek & Gorgeous 101 aPAD Serum doesn’t really behave like what you would expect from an acid: the serum is super gentle and does not have a peeling effect as such. You can easily use it after your chemical exfoliants, and in fact using the Geek & Gorgeous Calm Down peeling and following up with the aPAD serum has brought amazing results for my dull, ageing skin. See, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate acts quite similarly to niacinamide, which means it could be a great alternative for those of you who are sensitive to niacinamide-containing products!
The aPAD serum is meant to help combat oiliness and blemishes, even out skin tones and have an overall brightening effect. Now, I can’t say that using this serum has helped with my hormonal breakouts, but it most definitely has a noticeable brightening and texture-improving effect on my skin!
Here is the full list of ingredients for the Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serum aPAD:
“Water, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Propanediol, Glycerin, Methyl-Gluceth 20, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.”
You can tell that this serum is really all about the PAD, with the remaining ingredients mostly there for preservation, texture-improvement and some extra hydration thrown in the mix. Again, those of you who are fans of minimalist skincare products and ingredients-based brands will surely adore this cleverly simplistic formula!
Just like the HA5 serums, the aPAD serum has a slightly sticky, sirupy texture, maybe a tad less sticky than the HA5 serums, and it absorbs just as quickly and readily as these two. There is no noticeable scent to the serum, and I found this easy to layer and combine with all my other skincare. Since this is not a conventional acid, there is no stinging or peeling effect, it really just feels like a lightly hydrating serum.
I use a few drops of the Geek & Gorgeous aPAD directly after cleansing, or after my exfoliant if I use one, and then wait for a minute or two until it has fully absorbed. If you are using an acid toner, I would place it before the aPAD serum, but any hydrating toners should, I would say, come after the aPAD. The instructions given by the brand state that you should use this before any creams or lotions, so I’m guessing that “PAD” simply works best on a “fresh” face.
If you are looking for a brightening, sebum-controlling, gentle serum that can help with uneven skin texture, calm down redness and give you a brighter, fresher appearance, then grab yourself a bottle of the aPAD – there is nothing quite like it on the market right now, it’s truly impressive! The Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serum aPAD* costs 10.50€ for a 30ml bottle, and you can buy it online at the brand-owned shop.
Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums – the Bottom Line
I’m so impressed with the Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums, and I continue to be impressed with this indie brand. Since receiving this serum trio, G&G has launched a new 101 Serum, C-Glow,* a vitamin C serum with 15% ascorbic acid and 0,5% ferulic acid – so exciting!
I really think that the Geek & Gorgeous 101 Serums are shaping up to be pretty strong competition for The Ordinary products, depending on what new beauties they will continue to release. Both the HA5 serums and especially the unique aPAD serum have really impressed me, and I would repurchase them in a heartbeat. I also hope to get my hands on the C-Glow Serum soon!
Geek & Gorgeous ships to most countries and offers free shipping with purchases 60€ and over – some Americans have complained about the “high shipping” of roughly 15€ for orders under 60€, but just so you know, we Europeans pay far more when we try to get anything shipped from US-based companies, who rarely offer good deals for outside the US (as they are usually very North America-focused)! And, well, given the low price point of the G&G products, I think it’s more than fair for such a small indie brand to charge for shipping. I know they are really trying their hardest to find the best and fairest shipping methods for everyone around the world!
Let me know in the comments: Have you tried any Geek & Gorgeous products yet? Which indie brand is currently winning over your heart?
Take care guys!
°PR Sample, kindly provided by Geek & Gorgeous for review purposes – I am not obligated to write this blog review, and my opinions are entirely my own.
*Affiliate Links, meaning I earn a small commission if you decide to use the link to purchase an item. This does not raise the purchase price for you, and it helps me and my blog to grow – so, thank you for supporting me in this way!