How to Properly Use a Serum

How to Properly Use a Serum

Even the best, most top-of-the-line skincare products can be rendered powerless by improper usage and serums are no different. But exactly what are serums and how can they help afford you a beautified complexion? Read on to learn more about these miracle elixirs, what they can do for your skin, and how to properly incorporate them into your routine.


Main Takeaways: Always apply products as directed. But as a rule of thumb, wedge the application of your chosen serum in between your cleanse (or tone if you partake) and your moisturizer.

Good to Know: Know your serum ingredients and be sure to use serums targeted for your specific skin concerns.

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What Is a Serum?

By definition, serums are highly concentrated skincare products that are made of smaller molecules than those that would normally comprise other products like moisturizers or oils. This makes them lighter in weight, quicker to absorb into our skin, and more effective at reaching and penetrating deeper dermal layers. True serums are also often water-based, contributing to their borderline weightlessness and freeing you from any oily post-application residue. When you couple all this with their inherent potency, it is easy to understand all the hype and why they are kind of famous for their ability to deliver dramatic results in comparably short periods of time. In just a matter of weeks, and depending on your product of choice, you may notice things like visibly smoother fine lines and wrinkles, faded looking dark spots, and even the minimized appearance of large pores. But what is even more exciting is that serums are for everybody! No matter what your skin type, rest assured that there is a serum for you and your specific skincare concerns.

How to Choose the Right Serum for You

What may be the most important thing to note when choosing a serum is that shoppers should beware of the imposter. Serums are currently all the rage and unfortunately, as with anything experiencing a winning season, posers will pop up. The most repeat offenders tend to be facial oils. But as they are oil-based, these can’t help but be much heavier, less penetrable formulas, incapable of delivering comparable results to the real thing. To avoid buying into a pretender, look for light water-based liquids or thin gels that are most often clear and never greasy.

When you’ve got that nailed down, it’s time to consider your complexion’s individual needs. But it’s much easier to understand what a serum will do for you when you know how the ingredients function, and serums are usually labeled by their feature ingredient. Some of the most popular ones include:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C serums are definitely having a moment. Notorious for brightening dull skin and evening tone, these fresh-feeling, razzle dazzle-dealing serums can be invaluable for anyone in need of some added glow. But they can be a bit intense, especially for those with sensitive skin. Look for gentle formulas, like our Nectar of the C. It is fortified with 10 nourishing actives and a blend of powerful botanicals, but also happens to be super mild and non-irritating. This makes it perfect for all skin types. It can even be used twice daily for amazing results that will leave you with a brighter, more glistening and consistent complexion. And you may even soften the look of some fine lines along the way!

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is one of those precious little naturally occurring moisture magnets you often hear us buzzing about. It is a powerful humectant, which means it hydrates by drawing atmospheric moisture to and through the surface of the skin. The result is a plumper, juicier complexion, often with the thrilling byproduct of seemingly minimized fine lines and wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid is a perfect ingredient to seek out if you suffer from dry skin and a serum is the optimal way to deliver it. The smaller molecules that comprise the serum help hydration seep into the deepest layers of the skin, rather than simply sitting on top as with a cream or moisturizer.

Keep in mind that there is no sub for a good moisturizer; this is a critical step in your routine and should under no circumstances be ousted. But if you want to bump up moisture levels, a hyaluronic acid serum can def get you there. Selecting one that is blended with other hydration heroes - ingredients like aloe vera and glycerin – is a great idea too!


Retinol is a form of vitamin A notorious for addressing a variety of skin concerns due to its impressive capacity to gently and indirectly exfoliate the skin. It has become a staple in all kinds of anti-aging formulas, rightly touting some impressive results. It is also known to help slick up skin cells, which dramatically reduces one’s propensity for clogged pores. If you feel your skin is maturing or needs some revitalization, hit up a retinol serum.


Another ingredient with various benefits, niacinamide has become a bit buzzworthy as of late. But one of its super strengths is its ability to balance your natural oils. Those with oily skin will love the results afforded by a niacinamide formula, which will not only reduce a shiny appearance but also works on a deeper level to help keep pores clean. Look for ones blended with zinc to supercharge the benefits and clarify your complexion in no time.

How to Properly Use a Serum

Applying your serum at the right time is key and the best insurance that it will do what it is designed to do. Since they need access to clean unadulterated skin, serums should be applied right after a good cleanse. Wash your face and pat dry with a fresh towel to ready yourself for serum application. If you use a toner, however, you can apply that before your serum to help further clarify and hydrate in advance. Then gently dab on your serum, avoiding the eye area unless directed, and press into skin; don’t rub. Then, once your serum has fully seeped in and the product is dry, apply a quality moisturizer to seal in all that nourishment.

A few things to remember:

  • Remember that serums are highly concentrated concoctions. Don’t get skimpy, but don’t overdo it either; a little can go a long way. If you’re unsure, simply follow the manufacturer’s guide for proper “dosage”.
  • If using a series of serums as part of your routine, start with the lightest formula and progressively work your way to thickest, bearing in mind that true serums tend to be light and water based. If you’re heading into heavy territory, you may be applying an oil rather than a serum, which should be reserved for after your moisturizer.
  • Know what you’re working with. Some ingredients often found in serums can cancel each other out or be too harsh for the skin (e.g., vitamin C and retinol). Do your research and make sure you separate ingredients that need space from one another to thrive. Maybe apply one formula in the morning and the other at night to get the best of both their benefits!