Serums are designed to be high-performance products that are formulated to target specific skin concerns. They often do this with the use of a ‘hero’ or star ingredient—an ingredient that is literally the star of the show, the superhero of your product that delivers the benefits that you (or your customer) desire.

It’s fun formulating with a hero ingredient!

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Choosing a Hero Ingredient

How do you choose a hero ingredient for your serum? 

To start with, you might think about what the skin’s needs are, and what ingredients offer the specific benefits to meet that need. Or, the hero ingredient may form part of your brand or product story. 

For example, you might feature the same ingredient in every product in your brand or range. Or, it might be an ingredient with a certain story that you can tell about it and this becomes part of your marketing and the story of your product. You might choose a hero ingredient based on current market trends.

Or, your hero ingredient could simply be your favorite ingredient—the one you reach for most often, the one that has a personal connection for you. From this personal connection, you can tell a meaningful story about it to your potential audience. Not only is your hero ingredient a star because it’s brilliant for its intended purpose, but it’s also great because you have an affinity with it. 

An example of a hero ingredient could be Vitamin C, caffeine, coenzyme Q10, hyaluronic acid, or Niacinamide (Vitamin B3). It just depends on what you need! 

Formulating Around Your Hero Ingredient

Your hero can’t do its job alone. First it needs a delivery system. For example, will it be a gel, oil or emulsion? 

Your hero will likely be a bit fussy and have specific requirements that need to be met for it to work most effectively. It might be fussy about pH or temperature or which phase it is added to.

Then it needs some friends to help it accomplish its goal. What other ingredients can work in synergy to support your superhero with its mission? 

The Benefits of Formulating with a Hero Ingredient

When you formulate with a hero ingredient, you’re able to focus on product development with a new perspective in mind. You think differently about who you’re creating it for, what it will do, what story you will tell about it, and how you will package and market it—on top of all of the things the ingredient can do for the skin. When you hone in on exactly what you want your product to do, and who it’s for, it makes the ingredient selection process easier. 

Having a hero ingredient also means you cut down on wasted trial and error that costs time, money and effort. You know what you are using and why, and can then focus your formulating efforts on getting the other ingredients to match with your formulation to make it safe, stable and effective—and, more importantly, making it authentic to you… uniquely yours!

You can have fun with it, too! You’re formulating with something you’re excited about, not just a bunch of ingredients that make sense. It’s personal, meaningful, and it works. 

Tell A Story About Your Hero

Every superhero has a good story about them. Tell your customers about your superhero! What can it help them with? What are the results it can bring? Does it have an interesting background? Where it is from? 

Just remember, if you base your whole brand, or product range, around a hero ingredient, take the time to make sure you get the decision right!

Examples Of Products With Hero Ingredients

Look around at your favourite brands and pay attention to the names and descriptions of the serum to see if you can identify the hero ingredients they have chosen.

Here are some examples:

Neal’s Yard Frankincense Intense™ Lift Serum

Frankincense is the hero ingredient in this serum. When you read more closely about the product, the brand specifies that it is “our age-well secret ingredient: Award-winning Frankincense Active Phyto Complex.”

Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Retinol Serum

This contains Retinol as its hero ingredient, plus it also highlights licorice and kelp as key ingredients.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

This uses Vitamin C as it’s hero ingredient, and they even specify the quantity of it present in the product: 15%. This is very similar to the form of Vitamin C that we use in our Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum formula, which you can download here.

On our Advanced Certificate in High-Performance Serum Formulation we share with you lots of useful resources to help you identify your hero ingredient. And once you have chosen it you’ll be able to look up how you formulate with it, so you know which delivery system (formula type) it is suited to and how to work with it.

For now you can discover more about using Vitamin C as a hero ingredient by downloading our free Quick guide to formulating with Vitamin C.

Download our free Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum formula!

Want the benefits of Vitamin C but confused about how to formulate with it? Perhaps you’ve heard about its potent anti-aging benefits but also that it is highly unstable and oxidizes very quickly. Don’t worry, we’ve created a free guide to help.

In our Quick guide to formulating with Vitamin C you’ll learn:

  • What is Vitamin C?
  • What are the benefits of Vitamin C?
  • What type of cosmetic is it suitable for?
  • Stable forms of Vitamin C and how to use them
  • Plus we’ll share with you a Vitamin C antioxidant serum formula you can make yourself!

Vitamin C offers amazing benefits for the skin:

  • It boosts collagen production, and thus helps to keep the skin healthy and plump.
  • It’s an antioxidant and, especially in synergy with Vitamin E, it protects skin cells from oxidative stress and damage due to UV light exposure.
  • Vitamin C therefore functions as a potent anti-aging ingredient.

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