shiseido ultimune power infusion concentrate review

Wait…. Is PRE-serum a thing now?! Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate claims to be a pre-serum and I don’t know what that is. Is this a new marketing ploy to sell us another serum we don’t need or do pre-serums actually do something for your skin? Are you supposed to use them before serums or in place of serums? I’ve put Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate (a sample of it, anyway – I wasn’t going to splurge the big bucks on it just head) to the test to find out:

Key Ingredients In Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate: What Makes It Work?


I’m not surprised to see glycerin here. This baby is pretty much in all your skincare products. For a reason. It’s a humectant that draws water from the environment into the skin. The more moisture your skin has, the better it looks. Moisture plumps up skin, makes fine lines and wrinkles look smaller, and even gives the complexion a dewy glow. It’s the perfect base for every skincare product.

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycerin In Skincare


Shiseido Ultimate Power Infusing Concentrate doesn’t have any actives that help you fight wrinkles, slow down aging, or reduce dark spots. It’s just a simple mixture of glycerin and silicones.

Silicone create a protective barrier on the skin without suffocating it. Thank their molecular structure for that. They’re big molecules with wide spaces in between. Skin can still perspire – and active ingredients penetrate – through these gaps.

So what else do silicones do? A few things:

  • They fill in every nook and cranny, so your fine lines and pores look smaller
  • They help moisture stay into the skin, where it needs to be to keep it hydrated
  • Make skin velvety soft to the touch
  • Enhance the texture of the serum, helping it glide onto your skin smoothly

The catch? Silicones only provide a temporary fix. When you wash them off your face, your fine lines and large pores are back. If you’re happy with that, great. But if you want something antiaging, they won’t cut it.

Related: Are Silicones In Skincare Bad?


Alcohol has a bad rep. Critics say it’s drying and irritating. Science doesn’t agree. A 2007 study shows that “alcohol-based hand rubs cause less skin irritation than hand washing.” I’m still not convinced that alcohol is totally harmless because, when in my teens I used toners with it and little else, my skin always became drier and, in the long run, produced more oil. So frustrating!

So, who’s right? Both. Alcohol may not be the devil incarnated, but overuse can dry out your skin, especially if it was already dry to begin with. As long as you moisturise well afterwards, you should be fine. But why is it here? Alcohol has two main jobs in skincare: it thins the texture and helps active ingredients better penetrate skin.

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The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Water: The main solvent in the formula, it helps to dissolve other ingredients.
  • Butylene Glycol: A humectant that increases moisture level in the skin, making it softer and smoother. Plus, it helps other ingredients better penetrate skin.
  • Diglycerin: The big brother of glycerin, it increases moisture levels into your skin. It has a bigger molecular structure than glycerin, so it penetrates skin more slowly, but its hydrating effects last longer – and it’s less sticky on your skin.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi in your skincare products, helping them last longer.
  • Triethylhexanoin: A mixture of glycerine and 2-ethylexanoic acid (a fatty acid) that helps moisturise skin.
  • Isodecyl Neopentanoate: A synthetic emollient that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Trehalose: A type of sugar with hydrating properties that makes skin softer and smoother for hours.
  • Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Behenete: A synthetic polymer that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • 25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer: It helps to stabilise emulsions by preventing the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • PEG-14M: A binding agent that lubricate skin, allowing the serum to glide on your skin smoothly.
  • Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer: It enhances the texture and feel of the formula.
  • PEG/PPG-14/7 Dimethyl Ether: A skin-conditioning agent that keeps skin softer and smoother.
  • Tocopheryl Acetate: A form of Vitamin E that has antioxidant properties. It fights free radicals and keeps your skin younger for longer.
  • Rosa Damascena Flower Water: It’s hydrating and makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Alcohol: It thins the texture of the formula, so it feels better to use. Alone, it can be quite drying. Here, there are enough hydrating ingredients to counteract its drying effects.
  • Fragrance: It makes the pre-serum smell great, but it’s the most irritating ingredient used in skincare. If you have sensitive skin, avoid!
  • Disodium EDTA: It’s a chelating agent. That’s a fancy way of saying it binds to the trace elements present in the water that could spoil the formula and neutralises them, thus helping the serum last longer.
  • Potassium Hydroxide: Also known as lye, it helps to adjust the pH of products.
  • Silica: A mineral that absorbs excess oil from your skin, helping it to stay matte for longer.
  • Isoceteth-10: An emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Linalool: A floral and spicy fragrant ingredient. It must be listed separately because it’s a common allergen.
  • Lauryl Betaine: It’s a cleansing agent. It’s good and safe, but it gets a yellow rating cos I’m not sure what it’s doing here. This isn’t a cleanser.
  • Sodium Metabisulfite: A preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria and germs in your skincare products.
  • Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract: It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that fight off premature wrinkles and soothe redness and irritation.
  • Geraniol: A fragrant ingredient extracted from geranium. It smells good, but can cause allergies and irritations.
  • Citronellol: A fragrant ingredient with a grassy, citrusy-like scent. Unfortunately, it causes allergies and irritations, too.
  • Origanum Majorana Leaf Extract: Extracted from marjoram, it makes skincare products smell nice. But it can be irritating.
  • Nelumbo Nucifera Germ Extract: A.k.a. lotus flower extract, it has powerful antioxidant properties that fight premature wrinkles.
  • Hydroxyproline: It’s the most important amino acid in collagen. It makes skin softer and smoother, but it can’t firm skin.
  • Houttuynia Cordata Extract: A flowering plant native to Southeast Asia, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It fight wrinkles and soothes irritations.
  • Sanguisorba Officinalis Root Extract: A plant that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Sodium Carboxymethyl Beta-Glucan: It enhances the texture of skincare products.
  • Thymus Serpyllum Extract: It has powerful antioxidant properties that fight wrinkles. But, its fragrant components can also irritate skin.
  • BHT: A preservatives that inhibits the growth of germs in your bacteria, so they last longer.
  • Lactobacillus/Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Ferment Filtrate: Derived by the fermentation of hibiscus sabdariffa flowers by the microorganism, lactobacillus, it makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Perilla Ocymoides Leaf Extract: Also known as beefsteak plant, it has antioxidant and soothing properties. It helps prevent wrinkles and reduces irritations.
  • Sodium Bicarbonate: It helps to adjust the pH of skincare products.
  • Iris Florentina Root Extract: It can irritate skin and there’s no proof it benefits skin in any way.
  • Sodium Benzoate: Another preservative that helps your skincare products last longer.
  • Ganoderma Lucidum (Mushroom) Stem Extract: A type of mushroom with powerful antioxidant properties that slow down premature aging.


This pre-serum has a very lightweight, thin texture (just a little thicker than water) that sinks in into the skin quickly, without leaving a greasy residue behind.


It’s floral, lovely, and subtle. If you like floral scents, you’ll dig this serum even more for how good it smells. But it may also irritate sensitive skin. Any fragrance is made up of thousands of chemical compounds, some of which are well known for irritating skin. If you’re cool with fragrance, go ahead. But if you know your skin has a problem with it, go fragrance-free.

How To Use It

Shiseido recommends you use it after your cleanser and toner, but BEFORE your serum and moisturizer. Apparently, it helps your lotions and potions better penetrate skin… (I’m not 100% convinced about that). I’d apply it after retinol or Vitamin C serums – the closer they’re to your skin, the better they work.


This pre-serum comes in a bright red to white gradient-coloured bottle with a pump applicator. It looks beautiful on my vanity and it’s practical to use.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Even after putting Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate to the test, I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to do. Shiseido says it has an antioxidant and mushroom blend that firms skin and protects it from daily damage. But those ingredients are so far down the ingredient list, they’re here for show. They can’t do what Shiseido claims. Although… silicones create a protective barrier on the skin, so you could say they help defend skin against environmental aggressors…

It’s not the most hydrating serum, either. It makes skin a little softer and a little more hydrated, but… there’s a reason why it’s called pre-serum. You still need a hydrating serum afterwards. I’ve been using it for almost a month now and have seen no improvement. I may as well have splashed water on my face. At least it didn’t irritate it. But if you’re sensitive skin, the combination of alcohol and fragrance may be too much for you. Stay away!

shiseido ultimune power infusing concentrate 01

How Does Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusion Concentrate Compare To Other Shiseido Serums?

Maybe you’re not sold on the idea of a pre-serum (neither am I). Or maybe you’re curious to give it a try, but you’re wondering if Shiseido has better options. Let’s compare them now:

  • Shiseido Future Solution LX Intensive Firming Contour Serum ($310.00): Don’t get sucked in by the hype around Japanese plant enmei. It doesn’t firm skin. This serum is simply loaded with silicones to fill in fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller to the naked eye. It makes your skin look good, but do you really want to pay this much for that? Available at House Of Fraser.
  • Shiseido Future Solution LX Legendary Enmei Ultimate Luminance Serum ($430.00): This is my fave Shiseido serum because it contains niacinamide, a multi-tasker that hydrates skin, soothes irritations, fights acne, reduces the look of wrinkles, and even helps you fade away dark spots. But, you don’t need to spend this much for niacinamide. There are plenty of serums out there that cost much, much less. Available at Nordstrom.
  • Shiseido Vital Perfection LiftDefine Radiance Serum ($225.00): This silicone-based serum smoothens out the texture of your skin, so that wrinkles look smaller. It also has a sprinkle of antioxidants to prevent wrinkles. But it can’t firm skin. Available at Cult Beauty and SpaceNK.
  • Shiseido Vital Perfection LiftDefine Radiance Night Concentrate ($243.00): This serum is higher in antioxidants than the day version, so if I’d opt for this instead. It still has a silicone-based for an instant cosmetic effect. Plus, the fragrance may irritate sensitive skin. Available at Cult Beauty and SpaceNK.

What I Like About Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusion Concentrate

  • Lightweight, fast-absorbing texture
  • Beautiful packaging

What I DON’T Like About Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusion Concentrate

  • Didn’t do much of anything for my skin
  • Contains fragrance, which may irritate sensitive skin

Who Should Use This?

I’m not sure, to be honest. It’s not particularly hydrating. It has soothing properties, but also irritating ingredients… It’s not anti-aging… If your skin doesn’t hate fragrance, you could try it. But don’t expect much. Just saying…

Does Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusion Concentrate Live Up To Its Claims?

The Ultimune serum strengthens skin against daily damage and visible signs of aging for skin that’s 28% stronger in just 1 week.** It has a silicone base that creates a protective barrier on the skin. That helps a little with protecting skin against daily damage, but it’s not as impressive as Shiseido makes it out to be.
For all skin types. Use Ultimune as a pre-treatment to enhance the efficacy of your moisturizer or serum. It’s NOT for sensitive skin and it won’t enhance your skincare routine.
Skin looks even smoother, firmer, more hydrated and resilient. Skin looks just a little but smoother and hydrated. But the serum can’t firm it.
The new formula features an improved dewy texture that sinks quickly into skin, for a longer-lasting, silky smooth fresh feeling. True.
In 4 weeks, 
98% said the product was effective overall 
97% said it maintained the skin’s supple condition 
90% said it improved their skin condition 
91% felt it enhances effects of other skincare products they’re using

This sounds impressive, but isn’t. Shiseido probably asked women if they felt their skin was more hydrated afterwards. This can be misleading. People can be influenced by the placebo effect or simply say yes because they want to be nice. Either way, they’re just the women’s opinions, not scientifically-proven facts.
The last claim is particularly misleading. Note that it says women “felt” that the serum enhanced their skin. They couldn’t prove it in any way…
New Ultimune is now enhanced with ImuGeneration Technology™ featuring botanical extracts of Reishi Mushroom and Iris Root, to continuously fortify skin’s ability to defend itself. These ingredients are present in tiny amounts and won’t do anything for your skin.
Features the comforting scent of ImuCalm Compound™ that contains fragrance ingredients of rose and lotus elements and a green floral fragrance. Fragrance always has the potential to be irritating, no matter how comforting it is.

Price & Availability

$110 at Ulta

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

If you’re read this far, you know I can’t endorse this. It didn’t do anything for my skin and contains irritating ingredients for that. Take the price into consideration and this so isn’t worth it.


Dupes & Alternatives

  • Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex ($125.00): A soothing serum with probiotics and antioxidants to prevent wrinkles and fight irritations. It has fragrance-free. Available at Boots, Estée Lauder, Look Fantastic, Nordstrom, and Ulta.


Water, Alcohol Denat, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, PEG/PPG-17/4 Dimethyl Ether, Triethylhexanoin, Cyclohexasiloxane, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Trehalose, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, PEG-14M, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tocopheryl Acetate, PEG/PPG-14/7 Dimethyl Ether, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Potassium Hydroxide, Silica, Isoceteth-10, Linalool, Lauryl Betaine, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Geraniol, Citronellol, Origanum Majorana Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Germ Extract, Alcohol, Sodium Carboxymethyl Beta-Glucan, BHT, Thymus Serpyllum Extract, Perilla Ocymoides Leaf Extract, Sodium Bicarbonate, Iris Florentina Root Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Ganoderma Lucidum (Mushroom) Stem Extract