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

by Gio

shiseido ultimune power infusing concentrate 01

As a skincare fanatic, I’m a bit ashamed to admit I didn’t know about pre-serums, until my friend Annette gave me a sample of Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate a few weeks ago (thank you!).

Apparently, a pre-serum is something you use after your cleanser and toner, but BEFORE your serum and moisturizer. What it does? Well, Shiseido’s pre-serum is supposed to boost your skin’s immunity, helping your lotions and potions be better absorbed by the skin and work more efficiently.

Sounds very gimmicky, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. A quick look at the ingredient list reveals the serum for what it is: a boring formula that may actually do more harm than good to your skin!

The base of this serum is made up of glycerin, a humectant that draws water from the environment into the skin, and dimethicone, a silicone that creates a protective barrier on the skin without suffocating it.

Yep, popular opinion is wrong. Dimethicone, like all other silicones, has a particular molecular structure made up of big molecules with wide spaces between them. These wide spaces allow skin to perspire.

So, no, dimethicone won’t ruin your skin. But it’ll fill in fine lines and wrinkles so they’ll look temporarily smaller, and make your skin silky soft to the touch. I adore the super sleek feel it gives to my skin, but Annette can’t stand it (that’s why she gave the serum to me).

Glycerin and dimethicone make your skin feel slightly hydrating, but not so much you’ll feel a big difference. It may have been intentional. After all, this stuff is supposed to be used before serum and moisturizer, not in its place.

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate’s real job is to boost our skin’s immunity, so can it do that? Mmm, no. The exclusive Ultimune Complex, what Shiseido boasted to be one of the biggest innovations of the past year, is only a blend of Bulgarian rose water, aqua in pool, and yeast, that’s supposed to protect and strengthen skin.

shiseido ultimune power infusing concentrate 02

I’m sure that Shiseido has studies proving this complex benefits skin, but its ingredients are hardly miraculous, especially in the tiny amounts used here.

So far, the serum sounds average, not bad. So, why do I think it may cause some harm to your skin? Alcohol Denat. This pre-serum is loaded with it! Although I’ve recently come across a study that claims that alcohol is not as irritating as previously thought, it can still dry out skin with regular use.

This serum didn’t dry out mine yet, but that’s more because of the moisturizing cream I apply afterwards. It counteracts its potential side effect. Phew! But why include it?

Alcohol has two jobs in skincare. The first is to enhance the penetration of active ingredients, so they get deeper into the skin and perform better. But active ingredients are severely lacking here. The bulk of the formula is made up of humectants and emollients that work better when left on the surface of the skin.

The other reason is to thin out the texture. Because no one enjoys applying a thick, hard-to-spread serum all over their face. And Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate 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.

And then there’s the fragrance. It’s floral, lovely, and subtle. But it may also irritate sensitive skin. Although, chances are the alcohol will get there first, so the fragrance is the least of your worries, really. So no, this is so not something suitable for sensitive skin.

But is it suitable for anyone else? Mmm.. Not really. Even if the serum won’t dry out or irritate your skin, it won’t do much good either. I’ve been using it for almost a month now and have seen no improvement. Not surprising considering the lack of beneficial anti-ageing ingredients.

So no, I’m not sold on Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate. But I’m not sold on the idea of a pre-serum either. It sounds like a gimmick designed to make us spend more money rather than improve our skin. I don’t think I’ll try another one anytime soon.

Water (Aqua), SD Alcohol 40-B (Alcohol Denatured), Glycerin, Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, PEG/PPG-17/4 Dimethyl Ether, Triethylhexanoin, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-14M, Methylparaben, Tocopheryl Acetate, PEG/PPG-14/7 Dimethyl Ether, Rosa Damascene Flower Water, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Fragrance (Parfum) Disodium EDTA, Potassium Hydroxiodes, Silica, Isoceteth-10, Linalool, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract (Ginkgo Biloba), Geraniol, Citronellol, Sodium Carboxymethyl Beta-Glucan, BHT, Thymus Serpillum Extract, Perilla Ocymoides Leaf Extract, Sodium Bicarbonate


Pros: Lightweight texture, sinks in quickly; Doesn’t leave a greasy residue behind; Slightly hydrating; Makes skin soft to the touch.

Cons: Boring formula lacks anti-ageing ingredients; Loaded with drying alcohol; May irritate sensitive skin.

Summary: Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate is a boring formula that did nothing for my skin. But, had it been sensitive, it would have probably irritated it!

Price & Availability: 65$ at Sephora

Rating: 2/5

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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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