Serum 101: The Expert Guide to Why, When and What to Use
Serums are having a moment. Open any beauty blog, magazine, or product lover’s medicine cabinet and you’re sure to see the latest must-have popping up right between the cleanser and moisturizer. But what exactly is all the hype about…and should you start to incorporate them into your skincare regimen? To get the skinny, we reached out to Dermatologist Dr. Adam Geyer, for an expert take on the benefits, differences, and the right products to try.
“As people have become savvier about their skin-care routines, layering has become increasingly prevalent. By using a serum, people are able to intensify the strength of their regimen or round out the ingredients they are applying to their skin to provide a more comprehensive approach to anti-aging and hydration,” Geyer says. “Serums are usually formulated with a higher concentration of active ingredients so that a few drops are sufficient to cover the entire face. The texture is usually lighter than a moisturizer, which allows for it to be used as a stand-alone product for someone with oilier skin, or used under a moisturizer for someone with normal to dry skin.”
“Serums should be applied twice daily. They are the first products that should be applied to the skin after cleansing and toning. A sunscreen should be applied over the serum in the morning and a moisturizer appropriate for an individual’s skin type should be used over the serum at night.” Geyer suggests. “Apply the serum with one or two fingers (so as to avoid wasting the serum on your hands) and massage thoroughly into the skin.”
Now that you’ve got the basics and application covered, which product should you choose? Well, the answer depends on your objective, naturally. “There are many different types of serums and both the active ingredients and the texture of the serum can provide different functions and benefits. Serums formulated in a water base tend to be well suited to those with oily skin and those with a richer texture, or formulated with oils, tend to work well for those with drier skin. However – it is really the combination of active ingredients that defines the serum – with the main six categories being antioxidants, peptides, retinol, growth factors, alpha and beta hydroxyl acids, and unique botanicals,” Geyer says.
To improve skin tone and reduce wrinkles: “Antioxidant rich serums (such as those rich in Vitamin C) tend to work will at preventing oxidative strain from pollution and UV radiation that we are all exposed to during the day, making them ideal for application under a sunscreen in the morning. These multifunctional serums work to protect the skin as well as improve the evenness of the skin tone and reduce the number and depth of facial wrinkles,” Geyer says.
MDC Recommends: Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate Reducing Concentrate; Obagi Professional-C Serum; Skinceuticals Serum 15 AOX+
To firm skin: “Serums rich in peptides can help to boost collagen and elastin production and restore firmness to the skin,” Geyer suggests.
MDC Recommends: Wilma Schumann Collagen 2000; Exuviance Collagen Triple Boost Serum; L’Oréal RevitaLift Triple Power Concentrated Serum
To brighten and regenerate skin: “Serums formulated with retinol can help accelerate cellular renewal and can brighten the skin and make it appear more luminous and smooth, but care should be taken not to over-apply these serums as they can have a tendency to irritate the skin if applied too liberally,” Geyer says.
MDC Recommends: Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Facial Serum; Garnier Ultra-Lift 2-in-1 Wrinkle Reducer Serum + Moisturizer; RoC Retinol Correxion Max Wrinkle Resurfacing System
To renew overnight: “Finally, serums rich in essential oils and Omega-3 fatty acids, can help the skin to repair itself overnight and make sure that the skin’s barrier function is working at its best,” Geyer suggests.
MDC Recommends: Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate; Kinerase Hydraboost Intensive Treatment; Dermalogica Age Smart Overnight Repair Serum
And now you’re fluent in serums, dear friends. Have any other skincare questions you’d like answered? Leave ‘em below and our MDC experts may tackle them soon!