• Constance Elaine

What is a serum? And How to choose one.

What is a serum?

A serum is a skin care product with concentrated ingredients that target specific skin conditions. They are designed to deliver those ingredients deeper into the skin. They can be used for treating skin concerns such as hyperpigmentation, dehydration, and uneven skin texture. Serums are a good vehicle for dosing the skin with vitamins and antioxidants.

Why do I need a serum?

I always tell my clients, "If you’re going to spend money anywhere, put it in your serum." That’s because it’s the most effective way to deliver active ingredients. Your cleanser is only on the skin for a few minutes, and moisturizer is meant to remain on the top layer of the skin to trap in moisture and protect the skin. Serums absorb into the lower layers of the skin, getting the most of those active ingredients. Serums are also meant for daily use, which means you get that concentration of treatment everyday. If you have a specific skin concern you‘re trying to treat, a serum with the right ingredients can help you get the results you want faster.

When do I apply serum?

Serums can be confusing, but used correctly can give you great results. In general, you always want to apply your skin care from smallest molecule size to largest molecule size. This is usually also thinnest texture to thickest texture. This allows you to get all the benefits of your skin care ingredients. Starting with clean skin you’d apply toner, essence, serum, then lastly moisturizer.

The two most common serum application mistakes are: applying serum after moisturizer, or not using a moisturizer at all. It’s important to apply a moisturizer on top of your serum to lock those ingredients in and keep your skin from losing moisture.

How to choose a serum.

Two things to consider when choosing a serum are the active ingredient(s) and what time of day you plan on using it. I‘m going to explain 5 serums with different active ingredients, what they treat, and what time of day to use them. These are some of my favorites below. Here we go!

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum - Vitamin C

Active Ingredient: Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it’s great for prevention of premature aging. It’s also a main ingredient for fighting hyperpigmentation. This serum specifically also has collagen in it, so it’s slightly plumping and hydrating as well.

What it treats: As mentioned above, Vitamin C is great for hyperpigmentation. It’s also used for anti-aging. This is used to treat dullness, uneven texture, and loss of elasticity. When to use it: It’s ideal to use Vitamin C serums during the day because the antioxidant will help protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals. Always make sure to wear a sunscreen!

DRUNK ELEPHANT T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum

Active Ingredients: AHA blend: glycolic,tartaric,lactic, and citric acids exfoliate built-up dead skin cells. Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) loosen the "glue" between dead skin cells to so they slough off. Salicylic Acid (BHA): loosens sebum to unclog pores. This type of chemical exfoliant is good for dissolving oils.

What it treats: Uneven skin tone and texture, dullness, and pores.

When to use it: Since AHAs can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure, it’s best to use resurfacing serums at night. When using a serum with exfoliating actives, check your moisturizer to make sure there are no conflicting ingredients.

Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Serum

Active ingredients: Salicylic Acid, as mentioned above, helps loosen serum to unclog pores. It works well for oily skin. Caudalie is a natural based brand and their salicylic is derived from Wintergreen. Grape Seed Polyphenols provide antioxidant protection and prevents blackheads.

What it treats: Oiliness, pores, acne, blemishes and uneven texture.

When to use it: This one can be used morning or night. It‘s good for morning if you need something under your makeup to help control oil. At night, you can apply this on areas where you have blemishes for an overnight treatment.

Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative. I picked this formula because it’s more gentle than a pure retinol. This a good place to start to get your skin used to an ingredient like this. Retinol can cause sensitivity in the skin so you have to build a tolerance to it. It’s best to start every third night, then every other night, and eventually build up to every night. Retinol increases the cell turnover rate in your skin, bringing all those fresh new cells to the top. This serum also has squalane and hyaluronic acid to nourish the skin.

What it treats: Uneven skin tone, fine lines, and loss of elasticity.

When to use it: Any retinol/retinol alternatives should be used at night. Seriously, wear an SPF. If you refuse to wear sunscreen, just avoid retinols. You’ll end up burning your skin and creating hyperpigmentation.

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum

Active ingredients: 2% hyaluronic acid, which I’m not even sure if I‘d call "active". I picked this last serum because 1) it’s simple and anyone can use it and 2) it’s inexpensive. All this does is attract water to the skin. What it treats: Dullness and dehydration. Can seem a little plumping.

When to use it: Morning and night before moisturizer. This serum is handy because you can literally use it anytime with anything and it cannot hurt you. I wanted to include something that can work for anybody!

Hopefully that answered most questions about serums, but if you have any questions please email me at

All my skin care junkies, comment your favorite serum below! I’d love to see what you all are enjoying these days :)

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