Maelove's cult-favorite, $28 Calming Serum is finally back in stock — it works like magic to neutralize my redness and visibly shrink my pores

Maelove's cult-favorite, $28 Calming Serum is finally back in stock — it works like magic to neutralize my redness and visibly shrink my pores
Mara Leighton/Business Insider

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  • Maelove's $28 Calming Serum includes 10% niacinamide as well as zinc and white tea extract to calm, soothe, and hydrate skin.
  • I've been using it twice a day for the last few weeks, and it has helped address redness and inflammation. I've also noticed that it makes my pores look smaller.

Maelove, a skincare company founded by MIT grads, has grown a loyal fanbase for both its under-$30 prices and its vitamin C serum that shoppers have recommended as a dupe for SkinCeuticals.


Personally, it's also one of the skincare companies I've been most excited about during my three-year tenure of writing about products and services. Along with being affordable, the ingredients are clear and effective, and the customer service (which includes free shipping and a 100-day return window) is great. I've tried dozens of bargain and luxury skincare products, and Maelove makes some of my most reliable favorites.

A few weeks ago, the company sent me the NIA 10 Calming Serum ($27.95) to consider for a review. It's designed to calm and hydrate the skin, correct redness, and improve skin tone and texture over time. If you have inflamed, dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin, or moderate rosacea, you may like it.

The NIA 10 Calming Serum

The NIA 10 formula includes 10% niacinamide, plus zinc, white tea extract, aloe, mushroom extracts, and vitamin E. Its star ingredient, niacinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 that helps combat free radicals and inflammation. It's both nonirritating and compatible with other common skincare ingredients such as retinol, peptides, hyaluronic acid, AHAs, BHA, vitamin C, and antioxidants. It also may be used as an alternative for people who dislike vitamin C serums. Other benefits are that it may reduce hyperpigmentation and diminish the appearance of soft lines and wrinkles.


According to co-founder Brad Yim, "The exact process of how niacinamide can help with skin health is unknown. It's generally believed that niacinamide fuels the production of enzymes that power cell reproduction. And that niacinamide applied on the skin can promote keratin renewal (keratin is what makes up the far outer layer of skin), which leads to improved appearance of exterior skin with fewer signs of trouble."

What it's like in person

I have pale skin, occasional acne, and some redness, so I've become used to the song-and-dance of inflammation and cover-up. I wasn't sure what to expect from NIA 10, since beyond makeup or using a green-toned primer, the only solution I've found is simply waiting for the body to heal itself.


When I first used NIA 10, I was surprised to find the serum is slightly more viscous than I expected (pictured above). I washed my face, patted it dry, dispensed a couple of drops onto my palms, and pushed the serum into my skin with my hands. I received the NIA 10 when I was recovering from a breakout, and the formula stung for a few seconds. Even though my skin has now healed, there's still a brief, mild stinging upon application.

Immediately after, my blemishes were still red, but they looked slightly less inflamed, and I woke up the next morning to find them further along in the healing process. My complexion looked dewy and supple post-application and the added moisture and bounce stayed throughout the day. Perhaps most notably, my pores looked smaller.

The bottom line

I've been using the NIA 10 every morning and night for the last few weeks now, and I like it just as much as the first time I used it. I appreciate that it minimizes inflammation and soothes my skin, but I'm equally excited by how small it made my pores look. In terms of redness, it's helped slightly with steady use, but the results so far have not been drastic.


When this bottle runs out, I do plan to buy another. And while one ounce isn't a lot of product, a couple of drops per application should last you through a few months of regular usage — and it's the same volume as most of the serums I have in my bathroom cabinet, but at half the cost.

Overall, I wouldn't expect to use NIA 10 instead of coverup on days of extreme redness or a breakout, but I would use it before I felt comfortable applying makeup or to help neutralize some redness in the longterm. When it comes to blemishes, tone, and texture, everything just seems a little more under control.

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