What is serum?
Even if you’re just a casual beauty follower, you’ve probably noticed a lot of talk about serums lately, but you might not know what they are. Like toners, they seem to be in that funny category of beauty products—the one full of things that serious beauty addicts can’t live without, but the average person is completely perplexed by. Luckily, it’s not that complicated!
In short, serums are liquids that are meant to deliver very concentrated amounts of active ingredients to your skin. Generally lighter than moisturizers, they are traditionally water based, although there are definitely serums with an oil base.
Serums have the ability to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, which is why they’re so effective and probably why, once you try serums, you can’t imagine not using them.
IN A NUTSHELL
Main Takeaways: A serum delivers a concentrated amount of active ingredients to target a specific skin issue. The most common serums are hydrating serums that usually contain hyaluronic acid, brightening serums that contain vitamin C, and retinol serums to target signs of aging.
Good to Know: If your serum contains vitamin C, try storing it in the fridge to help it last longer.
Recommended Products: Nectar of the C Vitamin C Serum.
What does serum do for your skin?
Generally speaking, serums do what you want them to do based on which one you’re using.
Think of it like this: you know when you order an extra shot of espresso or syrup in your coffee? That’s because you want the espresso to deliver a very strong shot of something specific—maybe it’s caffeine, maybe it’s flavor, maybe it’s sugar. Whatever it is, that shot is infusing a powerful amount of what you want for a specific reason.
That’s exactly what serum does. It performs specific tasks in a very intense way.
Why do you need a serum?
For the same reason you need that extra shot. You have some issue—dryness, uneven skin tone, sensitivity—that you need extra help with, and a serum can deliver that help.
Here are a few of the things serums do for the skin:
1. Serums moisturize – Although it’s not the only thing they do, infusing the skin with moisture is probably what most people use serums for. Keep in mind that a serum should never be used instead of a moisturizer, just to give your skin that extra “bump” of moisture!
2. Serums exfoliate – We know what you’re thinking: We thought serums were more like moisturizers! Well, they are in terms of their feel, but remember, different serums do different things and there are serums out there that exfoliate which not only makes your skin look great but allows your moisturizer to work better as well.
3. Serums even the appearance of skin tone – If you have uneven skin tone, you know how hard it is to make it look even, even with makeup. A good serum can help even out the appearance of skin tone.
4. Serums brighten – Many serums provide an instant glow, improving the appearance of skin tone. If your skin is looking a little lackluster, a serum can really help!
5. Serums plump the skin – Since serums penetrate a deeper layer of the skin, they can really help the skin lock in moisture, causing a temporary plumping effect that helps keep the skin looking young and radiant.
6. Serums create a calming sensation – Serum’s emollient effect on the skin leaves skin feeling smoother and calmer.
7. Serums reduce dullness in the skin – If you find your skin looking a bit dull lately, add a serum to your routine to give your skin a fresh and revived look.
8. Serums protect – Many serums contain antioxidants which help protect the skin from environmental stressors that harm it.
9. Serums get the skin ready for makeup – By helping to plump the skin and promoting even skin tone, serums help prep the skin for makeup application.
10. Serums help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles – As we mentioned above, there are many serums on the market that not only moisturize but help lock in moisture which is one of the fastest ways to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles!
11. Serums firm and tighten your skin – Serums often contain firming agents that will help revitalize the appearance of mature skin.
Best Face Serums – Which Should I Use?
The great thing about serums is that since they target specific problems, they can be used by any skin type. The important thing is to choose the serum that’s right for your skin type and targets the skin problem you’re trying to solve. And of course, avoid ingredients that aren’t right for your skin type.
Best Serum for Dry Skin
Known for their incredible ability to hydrate skin’s deeper layers, serums can feel like little miracles in a bottle for people with dry skin.
If you have dry skin, look for a serum with:
- Hyaluronic acid - Not only does hyaluronic acid help draw moisture to the skin, it helps keep it there. This not only helps your skin feel great, but visibly plumps fine lines temporarily.
- Glycerin - Glycerin is what’s known as a humectant, a substance known for its ability to retain moisture. Just as hyaluronic acid helps draw moisture to the skin and locks it in, glycerin will help bring your own moisture up to the skin’s surface.
What dry skin should avoid:
- Salicylic acid – This oil-controlling acid can make your skin even drier, so stay away from it.
Best Serum for Oily Skin
If you have oily skin, you’ll want to find a serum that helps control and balance your natural oils.
Look for a facial serum with:
- Vitamin B3 – Not only is vitamin B3—or niacinamide as it’s known—an antioxidant (meaning it protects the skin from environmental stressors that cause damage), it helps balance oils that can clog pores.
- Clary sage – This aromatic herb found in the Mediterranean acts as a natural toner. It will also help balance natural oils, making it perfect for oily skin!
What oily skin should avoid:
- Oil-based serums – These can be fine for people with dry skin but anyone with oily skin risks clogging their pores with oil-based serums.
Best Serum for Combination Skin
Since there’s really nothing you’re targeting specifically, you want to choose a serum that helps maintain your natural glow and protect your skin from the elements.
The best serum for combination skin contain:
- Pink grapefruit – Aside from being absolutely delicious, pink grapefruit is rich in antioxidants and citric acid, which acts as a natural exfoliant, keeping your skin looking fresh!
- Ferulic Acid - A natural antioxidant found in the cell walls of plants, when combined with vitamins C and vitamin E, Ferulic Acid has been shown in studies to have a compounding antioxidant effect.
What combination skin should avoid:
- Artificial fragrances – If you have skin that’s prone to bad reactions, don’t risk further irritating it with harsh artificial fragrances!
Best Serum for Uneven Skin
It’s not easy to find a product that really balances out skin tone which is why face serums feel like such a revelation.
Here are some ingredients to look for in serums that really help solve the problem!
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is not only a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the appearance of discoloration (not to mention wrinkles), it’s especially effective in evening out skin tone when used with Vitamin E. Fleur & Bee’s Nectar of the C is full of Vitamin C which is one of the most vital ingredients in any effective skin care regimen.
- Licorice root – Although the jury is still out about the taste of licorice, licorice root is definitely beneficial to the skin. An antioxidant, it contains liquiritin, which can help with the appearance of uneven skin tone.
What uneven skin should avoid:
- Parabens – Honestly, this goes for everyone, but parabens are thought to exacerbate skin damage. Don’t make it worse by adding it to your skin!
Best Serum for Wrinkles and Aging Skin
Because of their very concentrated nature, facial serums are great for mature skin! Here are a couple of ingredients you should keep your eyes open for if you want to minimize those wrinkles and tighten that skin!
- Organic Jojoba – Pronounced, “ho-ho-bah,” organic jojoba is bio-identical to your skin’s natural oil, so it softens and conditions mature skin. It also works as a protective barrier against the elements.
- Rosehip Oil - Full of fatty acids, rosehip oil not only plumps up skin, it’s packed full of powerful antioxidants like beta-carotene that help protect the skin. It also helps firm and tighten the skin, providing a fresh and revitalized appearance.
What people with wrinkles or aging skin should avoid:
- Alcohol – You know how your skin feels dry after a night out? Well, it dries out your facial skin when applied topically in high concentrations, too, so make sure you choose something with a low alcohol content.
Best Serum for Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin and you’ve never tried a serum, you are in for a treat! Serums are a great balm for sensitive skin. Here are some ingredients that work especially well on sensitive skin.
- Organic Aloe Vera – Chances are you may have used aloe vera straight from the plant so why not use it every day to keep you skin feeling soft and looking its best? Organic aloe vera works to nourish the skin while forming a thin, protective layer, which is great for sensitive skin that is easily affected by environmental stressors.
- Chamomile – Have a look at the shelf of teas at your local supermarket and chances are you’ll notice that a lot of the “bedtime” teas contain chamomile. That’s because it’s known for its relaxing properties, which are as effective for the skin as they are for the mind. When used on the skin, chamomile provides a thin protective shield while naturally soothing and calming the skin.
What sensitive skin should avoid:
- Retinol – Retinol is great for the right kind of skin but for sensitive folks, it can be irritating—literally and figuratively!
When to Use Face Serum
Most serums can be used twice a day as part of your regular skin care routine but check the label to see if you can use it more frequently.
That said, if you have oily skin, make sure you’re not overusing your serum. You don’t want to add unnecessary oil.
Serum is also great right before you put your make-up on as it helps even out skin tone and plumps up the skin.
And if you’re going out and want to look great without piling on a lot of makeup, a little dab of extra serum on the cheekbones and brow bones will give you a gorgeous glow!
How to Use Face Serum
Since face serums are intended to give a powerful punch of active ingredients, you want to make sure it comes fairly early in your skin care routine while you have clean skin that’s free of a thick moisturizer.
- As always, start with clean skin that’s been washed with a natural face wash.
- Apply toner and wait for it to dry.
- Drop a drop or two of serum on each cheek. If you find this difficult to control, drop a couple of drops into your hands and apply to your face. Since serum is a lighter liquid, it doesn’t do well on a cotton pad, which tends to absorb it quickly.
- And keep in mind that serum is highly concentrated so a little goes a long way!
- Gently massage the serum into your cheeks, nose, forehead, chin and definitely your neck!
- Apply your regular moisturizer on top of your serum.
- And of course, make sure to top off your nightly skin care routine with a great eye cream!
- If you’re going out, dab a little extra serum on your cheekbones for some very natural-looking highlights!
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about serums! While we can’t advise you about what to put in your coffee, we do know that a great serum can really help your skin look its best so give it a go, and let us know how it went!
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Pick the Best Face Serum for Your Skin
What exactly is a serum?
Serums are liquids with a high concentration of active ingredients that can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. Usually water based (although some are oil based), they are generally lighter and less creamy than moisturizers.
What do serums do?
Serums are used to target specific skin concerns. One of the most common serums is a vitamin C serum, which helps to brighten skin, even skin tone, and minimize the look of dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. Serums can also be used to moisturize, exfoliate, or plump the skin. They can even work to protect the skin from environmental stressors.