Creating A Custom Serum With Kiehl’s Apothecary Preparations | My Experience & Review

Kiehl's Apothecary Preparations Custom Serum mixture review

Back in November, I was invited to try out Kiehl’s custom skincare service called Apothecary Preparations, offered in various stores across the US and around the world.  The service gives you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a trained Kiehl’s advisor to assess your skin and create a custom serum that addresses your top two skin concerns.  Here’s a quick recap of my experience…

To kick off the Apothecary Preparations, a Kiehl’s advisor performed a quick skin analysis. (I believe this part is available to anyone who comes in and is looking for product recommendations).  She first blotted two tabs on my face – one on my forehead, and a second on my cheek – to measure oil production and confirmed my suspicion that I had combo skin – oily in the T-zone, dry everywhere else.

Next, she took out the DAT, aka the Dehydration Analyzer Tool.  It supposedly works by sending an electric current through your skin’s top layers and measures how quickly it bounces back – the higher the frequency, the more hydrated your skin is.  She held it to my cheek for a few seconds, and it came back with a reading of 22% – yikes! Readings under 30% indicate severely dehydrated skin, 31 – 50% indicate slight dehydration, and anything 50%+ is apparently where you want to hit.

I can only assume that these measurements are taken so that you can return to the store after using their skincare, compare results, and ultimately gauge what’s working and what’s not.  However, when it came to the customization of the serum, they didn’t play any role – no matter your skin type, all serums start off with Kiehl’s Skin-Strengthening Concentrate, which contains squalane plus a lipid complex to help strengthen skin and keep it hydrated.  What did come into play were my top skin concerns…

Kiehl's Apothecary Preparations Personalized Serum review 6

To start this process, my advisor brought out an old-school, encyclopedia-style book (nice touch) and turned to a section of photos illustrating various degrees of five main skin concerns – wrinkles, texture, clarity, enlarged pores, and redness.  From there, I was asked to pick out the photos that I felt best matched my own complexion. My selections turned into rankings – from 1 to 4 (4 being the most severe) – for each of the five concerns, and the two highest-ranked concerns factored into the creation of the customized serum.

Honestly, I found this part of the consultation a tad rudimentary, especially after having just finished the more analytical, measurements-based skin type assessment.  It got particularly nonsensical when it came to ranking wrinkles, since the photos were of people of all different ages, with the most severe case (ranked #4) showing a women likely in her 70’s with extremely deep set wrinkles.  Now, I’m pretty sure most men and women under the age of 50 wouldn’t match up with this last photo, even though wrinkles may actually be a top concern of theirs.  I, for example, landed on a ranking of 2 because my wrinkles weren’t as deeply set as the last two photos, when in reality I’d rank them as a 3 or 4.

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Now, you do have the option to fudge rankings around in the end before committing to your chosen two concerns.  However, since I already had two other skin concerns ranked in the top 3-4’s – enlarged pores and redness – and that’s the max number of concerns you can address in the serum, I ultimately decided to stick with those.

Kiehl's Custom Serum + Target ComplexesKiehl's Personalized Serum - Pore & Redness Complexes

Next, they took the Skin-Strengthening Concentrate plus two ‘targeted complexes’ formulated to address my top two skin concerns – including the Pore Minimizing Complex (formulated with Samphira Extract and Salicylic Acid) and the Visible Redness Neutralizing Complex (formulated with Sunflower Seed Extract and Vitamin E) – and mixed up a small sample for me to try out in the store. 

Then, for my take-home custom serum, they packaged up an amber bottle of concentrate plus two tubes of complexes into a brown box, and put a custom label on it – snazzy.

Kiehl's Personalized Serum review

When I was ready to use my new serum, I squeezed both tubes into the amber bottle and gave it a little swirl.  (The serum, once mixed, has a 6-month potency, so it’s best to do this when you’re fully committed to incorporating it into your routine.)

I’ve been using my custom serum twice a day for the past month now and am loving it so far.  Both morning and evening, I’ll gently press two drops into my skin, as the Kiehl’s advisor recommended, concentrating primarily on my T-zone (my biggest problem area).  The formula spreads easily, absorbs quickly, and adds a welcome boost of hydration to my skincare routine.  So far, I’ve noticed a slight reduction in redness, though I’m still monitoring the whole pores situation – a tough one to conquer.

Kiehl's Apothecary Preparations Custom Serum mixing

Overall, while I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of meeting one-on-one with a Kiehl’s expert, and getting to touch, smell, and ask questions about the formulas, I was a bit disappointed with the level of analysis involved in the latter half of the consultation.  I was sort of hoping that they’d be the ones to analyze my skin for issues and teach me something about my complexion (and maybe even pull out a few more nifty tools in the process!).  But instead, I feel like I could have just as easily walked in, told them my top two skin concerns, and had a package put together right then and there.  Then again, for those of us who may be a bit bewildered or overwhelmed when it comes to skincare, the consultation will definitely being of some value.

In the end though, no matter how well you know your own skin, the final multi-tasking serum is absolutely worth it in my opinion.  Like all of Kiehl’s products I’ve tried so far, their Apothecary Preparations custom serums feel equally luxurious, and make use of potent, natural extracts that all skin types can benefit from, even sensitive skin. Plus, I do love the fact that you’re essentially getting two powerful serums in one, which in a way justifies the higher price point compared to Kiehl’s other serums (which typically average at roughly $46 for the same 1 oz bottle).

Kiehl’s Apothecary Preparations is $95 and available in select Kiehl’s stores.  Visit Kiehl’s to learn more and find a location near you!


Have you tried Kiehl’s Apothecary Preparations service?  What are your thoughts on their latest customized skincare offering?

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  • sheismelrose

    This is an interesting experience I def want to try something like this out.

  • Ania Ropel-Sewielska

    That’s a great review. I’ve never tried their products but if they are available in Ireland I would be very interested to try. Thank you.