Like all good ’00s movies, Suddenly 30 (or 13 Going On 30 depending where you live) romanticised the life of “real adults”. Jennifer Garner goes from awkward 1980s tween to sleek-haired magazine editor living in New York City overnight.

But we all know growing up isn’t that easy.

In the lead-up to my 30th birthday last year I was in the final months of Invisalign treatment and dealing with some of the worst acne I’d ever experienced. My hair was looking quite good though thanks to Michael Kelly at Salon Her who convinced me to zhoosh my natural strawberry blonde into a richer red. But I digress.

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The acne was in part due to my job as an editor. Hollywood doesn’t tell you about damaged skin barriers from trialling too many products, or the choice you make to compromise your gut health on a diet of (very delightful) PR dinners and deadlines.

When things started to reach breaking point I stripped my skincare routine down to the basics (hello, Cerave, my old friend), cut back alcohol and remembered to take my supplements. My complexion slowly improved but it wasn’t perfect.

Emma Lewisham’s Supernatural Blemish Serum landed on my desk a few months later. It was the Kiwi brand’s first launch in 15 months.

“A lot of brands look to create noise with constant product launches. But we approach NPD [new product development] differently. We work to release products that have a true point of view and offer something innovative to the category,” founder Emma Lewisham told me over Zoom.

Lewisham and her team anchor their products around treating specific concerns, rather than trends. Skin reset targets hyperpigmentation. Supernatural Face Creme Riche works to hydrate and stimulate collagen production. And the new serum was formulated with acne-prone skin in mind.

This serum definitely isn’t like other products I’ve used. First things first, it comes in a dual pump dispenser that you need to assemble before getting started. The probiotic pod arrives in a foil pouch, which you screw into one side of the pump. This helps to keep the live formulation stable until use, and also ties into the brand’s refillable approach.

Micrococcus luteus BLIS Q24 is the technical name for the patented live probiotic strain used. It was discovered by New Zealand professor John Tagg and is backed by 20 years of research into the efficacy of targeting acne concerns, including the ability to clarify and elevate the skin’s microbiome health.

I wish I’d taken more before/after photos for my own reference when using this product. I noticed the redness around my breakouts reduced dramatically in the first few days. I used it morning and night alongside a relatively minimal routine as I was still dipping my toes back into the product-testing waters.

Unlike other acne products, it’s not a spot treatment. The serum is designed to be used all over your face, after cleansing and before heavier creams and oils.

After a few weeks of use I noticed less oiliness across my forehead in particular – it was the start of summer so I wasn’t totally shine-free thanks to humidity – and the pimples that did pop up seemed less angry than I often experience.

There’s been a lot of focus on gut microbiome and ingestible probiotics in recent years, but a growing interest in topical microbiome treatments is evident. The point of difference with this product from Emma Lewisham is that the microbe is alive and shelf-stable at room temperature.

My biggest takeaway from speaking with Lewisham about this serum is that it isn’t just for acne-prone skin. Yes, the ingredients claim to “inhibit pathogenic bacteria that colonise on the skin and foster the overproduction of sebum (oil), blocked pores and inflammation”. But it is also designed to offer a boost in hydration and works to improve the overall function (and appearance) of skin.

I eked out the final drops from the brand’s signature purple packaging a few weeks ago. A refill is sitting in my shopping cart as I type because I’m remembering how much I enjoyed using it as part of my daily routine. Plus, my 31st birthday is rolling around quickly and while I’m learning to be better at embracing imperfections, I’m pretty keen to wake up at least mostly pimple-free at this point of life.

Emma Lewisham Supernatural Blemish serum

$135 Emma Lewisham Supernatural Blemish serum

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