What Does Serum Do For Your Face?

  • Elle 
What Does Serum Do For Your Face

Face serums are skincare products that contain several active substances designed to penetrate your skin. But, what does serum do for your face? They are applied to the skin directly to target a skincare issue, including acne, anti-aging, hyperpigmentation, dehydration, etc.

Serums look like clear or translucent gels. They are lighter than moisturizers, which helps the skin absorb them easily. Depending on the product in question, serums can hydrate, nourish, and protect your skin from damage.

We’ll cover more about what serums do for your face in this article. You’ll also learn how to choose the right serum for your needs, as well as how to apply them properly.

What Are Face Serums?

Facial Serums are lightweight liquids that are packed with beneficial ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C, and vitamin E. They are runnier than face oils and less thick than moisturizers which helps them penetrate the top layers of skin. Serums are easily applied but they work best when layered on top of clean, damp skin.

Serums have a higher concentration of important ingredients and each one will be designed to help specific skin issues. 

Serums can help you smooth over fine lines or target hyperpigmentation patches, and some are filled with antioxidants that protect the skin from damage.

Because they are designed to penetrate the skin, serums are often a great source of hydration and can be even more effective when used in conjunction with your moisturizer.

As serums are so lightweight and easily absorbed, they can be a simple, yet effective addition to your skincare routine.

What Does Serum Do For Your Face?

Face serums are formulated to achieve specific results depending on the ingredients included in the formulation.

Salicylic acid serums act as an exfoliant that unclogs your pores.

Hyaluronic acid serums draw water into your skin, keeping it plump and hydrated.

Niacinamide serums have anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce acne swelling.

A glycolic acid exfoliating serum will remove dead skin cells from your face.

Vitamin C serums will brighten dull skin and protect you from sun damage.

Retinol serums stimulate collagen production and accelerate skin turnover, fading acne marks, dark spots, and blemishes.

Main Purpose Of Serums

Serums are made to deliver potent substances into the skin. They penetrate the skin easily as they are made from much smaller molecules that sink straight beneath the epidermis.

Serums can work on a multitude of skin issues, including:

  • Delivering a strong dose of antioxidants and hydration deep within the skin
  • Soothing inflamed or sensitive skin
  • Protecting the skin from damage and harmful oxidants
  • Smoothing over fine lines and wrinkles
  • Targeting hyperpigmentation marks or patches

Heavy creams and moisturizers are made up of larger molecules, so the skin takes more time to absorb them. They also have less active ingredients within them, so they’re less efficient at targeting skin issues.

This doesn’t mean that moisturizers don’t have a place in your skin routine! Skincare products tend to work in tandem with each other.

Cleansers clean the skin, toners hydrate, serums work to resolve a skin issue, and moisturizers help keep the skin from drying out. A good skincare routine will have all of these products within it.

The Difference Between Serums, Face Oil, And Moisturizer

Serums, face oils, and moisturizers can all treat the skin, but they all work in different ways.

Serums are generally nutrient-packed water-based formulations that absorb quickly into the skin. As they are often thin and water-based, it’s best to apply them after toners, but before moisturizers or oils.

Face oils are more viscous than serums due to their larger molecules. The lipids often found in face oils help to prevent damage while enhancing the moisture barrier for your skin.  These are better to use after serums as they can prevent moisture from escaping and drying out the skin.

Moisturizers are creamier than serums. When laid over a serum, their thicker formula creates a barrier that stops water from escaping. This helps repair the skin and keep it hydrated and moisturized.

How To Use Face Serums

How To Use Face Serums

Serums can be easily applied to the skin. Most experts will recommend applying them once in the morning and then again once in the evening. For the best results, apply the serum after cleansing your face, but before applying moisturizer or sunscreen.

To apply your serum, use the pipette to place a few drops (think pea-sized) onto your fingers, or directly onto your face and neck. Make sure that the dropper itself doesn’t touch your skin, as this can spread bacteria.

Next, spread the serum onto your face and neck. Dab gently, using smaller movements and patting the skin in an upward motion. Never rub too hard as this can damage your skin.

Wait for a couple of minutes to let the product seep into your skin, then apply your usual moisturizer.

Serums can be great for your skin, but they contain high concentrations of potent ingredients. Always do a patch test before applying a serum, especially if you have inflamed, sensitive, or dry skin.

Never use more than a few drops at a time unless recommended otherwise by a dermatologist.

Tips On Using Face Serums

Tips On Using Face Serums

The following tips will help you get the most out of your face serum.

Always Cleanse First

To make sure your skin soaks up as much serum as it can, always cleanse your face before applying the product. Skipping cleansing can leave dirt on your face and instead of penetrating your skin, the potent substances in serums may stick to the grime on your skin.

Be sure to use lukewarm water as hot water can make you sweat, preventing the serum from being absorbed. Similarly, cold water can make your pores constrict, stopping the product from reaching beneath the epidermis.

Use Less Product

Serums are full of concentrated ingredients, so you don’t need to apply much at all. A few drops are all that’s necessary unless stated otherwise.

Never use a serum in excess quantities as it could lead to several issues, like dryness, acne, or irritation.

Apply Serum On Damp Skin

If you have dry skin or are using a serum with a humectant (moisture retainer), like hyaluronic acid, always apply your serum on damp skin. The moisture will help your skin soak up the serum. 

Damp skin works well with humectants, as the substance pulls the moisture into the upper skin cells, keeping it moisturized.

Colors & Fragrances

For those with sensitive or dry skin, you may want to avoid skincare products containing colors and fragrances. Serums are already full of strong substances, so additional perfumes or colors may have undesirable effects.

Never Apply Moisturizer Before Serum

Skincare products are best applied in order of thickness – from lightest to thickest. Face oils and moisturizers are thicker than serums and applying them before thinner serums will create a seal that prevents the skin from absorbing the serum.

Similarly, never apply serums before toners. Serums are thicker than toners so they may prevent the toner from hydrating your skin. The order for applying skincare products is generally as follows:

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Serum
  • Eye cream
  • Acne treatment
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen (in the AM). 

Choosing The Right Serum For Your Skin Type

There are lots of face serums that can help to alleviate different skin concerns. Your serum should contain ingredients that help your skin type and address your skin issue.

Before you choose a serum, think about what concerns you’re trying to treat. Do you have dry patches of skin, fine lines forming, or are you searching for brighter and more rejuvenated skin? Identify your primary skin concerns and look for a serum with the right ingredients to help address them.

Acne-Prone Skin

For those with acne-prone skin, look for serums that contain salicylic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, and retinol.

  • Salicylic acid acts as an exfoliant that can unclog pores and soften your skin.
  • Niacinamide serums have anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce acne swelling
  • Vitamin C and retinol also work well to increase collagen production which can keep your skin healthier.

Does Retinol Help With Acne?

Dry Skin

For those with dry skin, look for serums with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, or glycolic acid. 

  • Hyaluronic acid helps draw water into your skin, keeping it plump and hydrated.
  • Vitamin E can keep the skin moisturized and defend it against free radicals.
  • Glycolic acid is a better exfoliant as it works gently to remove dead skin cells. Just make sure you don’t use a high-strength glycolic acid serum too soon, as this may be too potent for your skin cells.

Dull Skin

For those with dull skin, look for serums that contain AHAs (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHAs (beta hydroxy acid). These are exfoliants that will remove dead skin cells. Once the dead skin cells are removed, new skin will peek through underneath with a glowy, smooth, and refreshed look.

Some AHAs include glycolic, citric acid, and lactic acid, while the most common BHA is salicylic acid. These are powerful exfoliants, so don’t use these serums two days in a row when first getting started with your regimen, as this can damage the skin barrier.

Vitamin C serums are another great option that can help brighten dull skin and protect you from sun damage.

Is Azelaic Acid An AHA?

Normal Skin

If you don’t have many skin concerns, your best bet is to choose a hydrating serum or exfoliating serum.

Hydrating serums will likely contain niacinamide or hyaluronic acid in them, which will stop moisture from escaping from your skin cells to keep them plump and hydrated.

A glycolic acid exfoliating serum will remove dead skin cells from your skin, allowing for newer moisturized skin cells to start coming to the surface.

It’s important to note you should avoid using an exfoliating serum if you already use exfoliating acids in your skincare routine. Over-exfoliating can lead to dryness, sensitivity, or irritation.

Suitable Age For Face Serums

As serums contain so many powerful ingredients, it’s best to keep them away from younger skin. Teenage skin, for example, is still developing, so it’s best not to use anything that could affect these developing skin cells.

It’s best to wait until your 20’s to begin using face serums, and obviously, this will depend on the ingredients in the serums as well. For instance, serums with hyaluronic acid, Vitamin E, or niacinamide, are generally safe for people in early adulthood; however, serums with retinol are best saved for people over 25, as they are designed to treat signs of aging.

You can keep using serums well into adulthood, focusing on certain skin issues and targeting certain ingredients to treat these concerns as you age. Part of the appeal of serums is their versatility and ability to improve and protect so many different aspects of skin concerns.

The Bottom Line

Serums are skincare products that are full of active ingredients designed to penetrate deep into the dermis and help with various skin concerns, including hydrating, nourishing, and protecting your skin from damage.

Serums are lightweight and easily absorbed, and should always be applied before moisturizers, which act as a protective layer over the skin.

With many active ingredients, serums can address a multitude of different skin issues, so ensure you’re using a serum with the right ingredients to meet your needs.

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