Serums are a skin care product with high concentrations of certain active ingredients. These ingredients can be things like hyaluronic acid (to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles), vitamin C (to brighten the skin and help reduce the appearance of pigmentation and age spots) or glycolic acid (an exfoliant), to name just three.
Moisturizers are formulated to keep the skin hydrated by putting a protective barrier between it and the outside. Serums are formulated to penetrate deeply into the skin to deliver key ingredients.The molecules in a serum are smaller than those in a moisturizer. This means it can deposit ingredients deeper into the skin.
If you feel your current skin care products aren’t doing what you would like, it may be time to consider adding a serum. The difference can be quite remarkable, provided you use the serum correctly and consistently.
Serums are applied after cleansing and toning, but before your moisturizer. Ideally, apply the serum while your skin is still slightly damp from cleansing. As with cleansing and moisturizing, don’t forget to include your neck and upper chest when applying the serum.
An amount the size of a 5 pence or 10 cent coin should be enough. Some women mistakenly think more is better, but your skin will only absorb as much product as it needs.
Excess is just a waste of product. Depending on the serum, you may see an immediate improvement. But most require about four weeks of consistent use for visible results.
After that you may find a serum becomes an indispensable part of your daily skincare regimen. Attributes of skin care serums — light, fast-absorbing liquids used as an alternative or in addition to creams or lotions. The biggest difference between a serum and a cream or lotion is what the formulation doesn’t include. Serums leave out occlusive, or airtight, moisturizing ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil that keep water from evaporating.
They also contain fewer lubricating and thickening agents, like nut or seed oils. Most serums are water-based, eliminating oils altogether. Serums are a top pick of many skin care pros, including Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist and vice president of research and innovation at Englewood Lab. Wilson chooses a serum instead of a cream for her own at-home regimen: “It works better for my oily skin, and it has every ingredient I need.”
Esthetician Veronica Barton-Schwartz, owner of Veronica Skin and Body Care Center in Malibu, Calif., who counts celebrities Olivia Newton-John, Suzanne Somers, and Cher among her clients, is also a fan. “I think everyone is doing their skin a disservice if they don’t have a great serum.”
“The beauty of a serum is that most of the fluid is eliminated,” Wilson says, “so what you’re left with is a high concentration of active ingredients.” Serums contain the most potent dose of anti-aging ingredients — antioxidants, peptides, and skin brighteners such as kojic acid — you can find in nonprescription products. “They’re the true workhorses of any product line,” Wilson says.
Benefits of Skin Serums
Because active ingredients are more expensive than thickeners, serums are also the costliest product in many skin care lines. But when applied properly, a 1-ounce container of serum should last months. Many brands come in pump bottles or have medicine-dropper applicators to dispense just the tiny amount you need. Those few concentrated drops are super-efficient. Serums are made of very small molecules, so the skin absorbs them quickly and deeply. “The thicker, heavier ingredients in creams form a barrier on your skin,”
Wilson says. “That’s great for locking moisture in. But it can also lock active ingredients out. Without these hindrances, the active ingredients in a serum penetrate your skin faster and more effectively.”
Jessica Wu, MD, a Santa Monica, Calif., dermatologist, and author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days, recommends serums to many of her patients. “They’re great for people with oily skin,” she says, “or those who prefer a weightless feel to their skin care products. Serums have a non-greasy finish and they don’t leave behind a sticky residue.”
Still, serums aren’t for everyone. Wu says the liquid or gel-like texture of a serum can be a poor match for people with chronic skin conditions like eczema or rosacea, which weaken the skin barrier. For these people, serums may penetrate too quickly, causing irritation. Others need the hydration that a rich day or night cream provides. “If you have mature or dry skin, you can’t get away with using just a serum,” says Wilson. Instead, she recommends a serum as an add-on to your skin care regimen, layered under your moisturizer. “There’s a lot of benefit to serums, from smoothing fine lines to reducing age spots, that you can’t reproduce in any other formulation,” she says.
How to apply Skin Serums
- After cleansing your face, apply a pea-sized amount of serum, patting it evenly over skin with your finger.
- If you have sensitive skin, wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face before using serum. “When your skin is damp, applying a water-based product is more likely to lead to irritation,” says dermatologist Wu. “Allowing your skin to dry completely slows down penetration.”
- You don’t need to skip the moisturizer you love. Just pat on your serum first, so it isn’t blocked from penetrating your skin.
- Is your serum too pricey for twice-a-day use? Borrow this trick from cosmetic chemist Wilson. Use the serum as a booster either a.m. or p.m., adding a couple of drops to your moisturizer.
Serums often get overlooked but you need one of these high-performance, radiance boosters in your beauty cabinet. They are the number-one skincare product worth investing in: lighter than moisturiser, they penetrate the deepest layers of your skin with concentrated ingredients, such as retinol and vitamin A, to address skin concerns such as dryness, pigmentation, dullness and wrinkles.
Loaded with nutrients, ceramides, glycerin, natural ingredients (cucumber, aloe vera etc.) and vitamins like C, K, E, skin serums are oil or water-based products, that have the ability to penetrate deep within the layers of your skin, so that you get phenomenal results. Unlike other skin products, these have a higher concentration of active ingredients and usually come in a creamy gel form. In fact, new age serums use silicones, which allow your skin to receive the supplements, without the grease.
Precautions before using Skin serums
Always use serums according to the instructions and as per the prescribed amount because excessive use of serums can cause irritation, rashes and itching to the skin. Also, never use two serums at a time. It is time consuming to add another product to your existing skin care regimen. Because of the active ingredients they contain, serums can be expensive. Next, given the heavy content of these products, clogging of pores is a common side-effect, especially if the serum isn’t non-comedogenic. Finally, they can make your skin feel greasier and look oilier, particularly in summers.”
Choosing the right serum for your skin
Whether you’re blessed with a good complexion or have problematic skin, the sheer variety that you have in serums can be a conundrum for even a beauty junkie. To ensure that you find one that will suit your skin, begin by picking a serum as per your skin type — dry, oily, combination or sensitive. There is no such thing as the best face serum for everyone. You can determine the right product for you according to your age and needs. Also consider what other skin care products and techniques you are using. If you use chemical peels regularly, be careful if you are adding an anti-ageing serum to your routine. The Vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids in these serums are very acidic and can irritate freshly peeled skin. Be careful with other forms of exfoliation when using anti-ageing serums. Get the best results from most skin care products by using them consistently. This is especially true if you are trying to remove wrinkles and age spots. Try a serum for at least a month before you give up on it. It can take some trial and error, but eventually you’ll find the best face serum for your needs.