I Tried A Pre-Serum (And It Did Nothing For My Skin)

by Gio
shiseido ultimune power infusion concentrate review

Wait…. Is PRE-serum a thing now?!

What the… 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?

I’ve put Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate (a sample of it, anyway) to the test to find out:

What’s In Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate?


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.

Need help creating an anti-aging routine that really works? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Anti-Aging Skincare Routine Cheatsheet” (it includes product recommendations, too!).


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. But it may also irritate sensitive skin.

How To 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).

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

Who Is This For?

No one needs this. Period.

Who Is This NOT For?

No one needs this, but it’s particularly unsuitable for sensitive skin.


Bright red to white gradient-coloured bottle with a pump applicator. Beautiful and practical.

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

$75.00/£69.00 at department stores.

Do You Need It?


Dupes & Alternatives


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



V. Rex August 12, 2015 - 4:04 pm

Do you have a source for alcohol denat. being drying with regular use? I’m curious about the mechanisms behind it and the extent of the effect.

Gio August 12, 2015 - 5:39 pm

V. Rex, there are plenty of studies that show that alcohol has a drying effect on the body when ingested. This effect isusually temporary, at least when consumed in moderation.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any studies showing it is drying when topically applied on the skin. I only have anecdotal evidence. When I was a teen, I used toners loaded with alcohol (they contained little else), and they did dry out my skin a bit.

tita May 26, 2018 - 2:11 am

i think every skin face has different condition i have a sensitive skin that always get acnes everytime im going to have period or eating something creamy, or just another kind of stress, but after i use this for a month my acnes is not showing up . I understand over use of alcohol for my skin can irritated make face become reddish, but try to measure how much i use this product , for me.. i just use it in the morning until the afternoon, then im not using it in the evening.. so my face is good in the morning, the positive thing of this product for me is eliminating acnes that accour from inside stress , and this is how the ultimune works for me. just for information im asian 33 yeas old

Gio May 27, 2018 - 8:02 am

Tita, thanks for sharing your experience. It just goes to show how different everyone’s skin is. Glad this is working for you.

Cheryl August 12, 2015 - 4:18 pm

WOW its pretty pricy too! Such a great review, looking at what the ingredients are actually going to do for the skin, its so much easier to tell a con from a hero that way! This one sounds like a miss… i wonder how they make the claim ‘immune boost’, i thought that was what sebum was for, to protect…


Gio August 12, 2015 - 5:46 pm

Cheryl, glad you enjoyed it. It’s definitely a miss. Way too expensive for what it really does.

I was wondering that too. I guess if they can prove one of the ingredients can help repair or strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, they can say it boosts its immune powers?

Jess August 12, 2015 - 4:56 pm

I thought I am the only one that I felt this is not working.

Gio August 12, 2015 - 5:48 pm

Jess, you’re most definitely not the only one. It doesn’t do much, does it?

Paris B August 13, 2015 - 2:26 am

Hahaha I’m sorry to laugh Gio but I too felt that this was just a bum product that did nothing. Absolutely nothing for me! I honestly don’t get all the hype surrounding it (great marketing though!) That said, one that I did feel did some benefit (over a fairly long period of time) was the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum. If you can try it, I think it’s worth a go. Cheaper than this Shiseido one, and more effective IMO although you will have to be a little patient 🙂

Gio August 13, 2015 - 8:39 am

Paris, the marketing department did a great job, didn’t it? They make it sound so much better than it is.

I had never heard of Sulwhasoo, but I’ll keep an eye out for them and their serum. Sounds good. Thanks for the heads up!

MonicaP August 13, 2015 - 5:58 pm

Well, glad I stopped by! I’ve never heard of a “pre-serum” but now I know to steer clear of those sales gals pushing this particular product 🙂


Gio August 13, 2015 - 8:05 pm

Monica, pre-serum is a weird concept, is it? I supposed it could be useful, but this one isn’t. *sighs*

Janessa August 15, 2015 - 5:36 pm

A pre-serum justifies the existence of overpriced eye creams… and most eye creams in general. Just when I thought too many of those were gimmicky. A good toner, I find, acts as a pre-serum already!

Gio August 15, 2015 - 8:25 pm

Janessa, they’re always coming up with fads, aren’t they? Wished they focused more on quality than marketing.

Annette August 23, 2015 - 9:56 pm

Just reading your description of how it made your skin feel makes me cringe! lol I didn’t realise it was a pre-serum. I’ve got enough things to put on my face already!

Gio August 24, 2015 - 5:57 am

Annette, I agree, it’s an unnecessary step. And there are too many already! They should’ve just made a normal, better formulated, and maybe even less sleek, serum.

Avgust December 3, 2015 - 6:57 pm

Great review! Thank you! I can not believe people are raving about this product. I can not believe people are spending so much money for literally nothing!

Gio December 7, 2015 - 10:33 am

Avgust, I know. That’s the power of great marketing, making you feel good for splurging on nothing.

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