Serums 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Amazing Beauty Category

Lighter than moisturizers, serums contain high concentrations of active ingredients, allowing for targeted results. Still confused? We break it down for you: What is a serum, how to use a serum and which serum is best for your skin concerns.

Serums. You’re either using one in your skincare routine or you’ve heard the term and seen the products peppered throughout the skincare aisles at your local drugstore. Even if you’re the proud owner of a serum, it’s still a perplexing category. It looks like an oil, and sometimes feels like an oil, but don’t confuse it with a face oil. Serums are often moisturizing, but you still need to follow up with a moisturizer after you use one. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to serums. In short, they are the best way to deliver a high concentration of active ingredients to the skin. Read on for more about this powerful skincare category.

What is a serum?

Think of a serum as a booster. You know, that extra shot of protein powder you add to your smoothie in the morning. Serums are much more lightweight than a moisturizer or an oil, which means they have the ability to seep into your skin, carrying with them all the skin-transforming active ingredients. Whether it’s hyaluronic acid, peptides, antioxidants or any number of other ingredients, serums transport these mini molecules deep into the skin.

The main difference between a serum and a moisturizer is what a serum doesn’t have. Serums lack barrier-sealing ingredients, such as waxes, petroleum, thickeners and lubricating agents. Moisturizers have these to keep water from evaporating from the skin, but it also means that active ingredients can only go so far in a traditional moisturizer. With less fillers and a higher dose of active ingredients, serums allow you to obtain the benefits in less time than other treatments might take.

How to use a serum?

To get the most out of your serum, you need to make sure you have your application down—this means knowing the correct order in which to apply your products. No matter how many skincare lotions and potions you use, the general rule is to apply your serum after you’ve cleansed your skin. Typically, a few pearl-size drops are all it takes, but you should always refer to the specific instructions on your serum. You can apply it directly on your fingertips or into the palm of your hand and then pat it into your skin. Next, massage the product evenly in an upward motion to help your skin absorb those tiny ingredients. If you’re starting a new serum, apply once a day, preferably before bed, and work your way up to twice a day if you feel like your skin can handle that additional dose. Follow up with a moisturizer; it will create a barrier and help lock in the serum’s potent ingredients. If you’re using it during the day, always finish with a liberal application of sunscreen that has a minimum of SPF 30.

What is the best serum for me?

There’s a world of serums out there to suit whatever your skin concern may be. Whether you’re looking for something to slow down the effects of aging or boost your complexion’s radiance, serums come in a wide variety of formulas, each promising their own solution to your skincare concerns.

Best serum for dry skin:

Look for serums that have vitamin E (protects cells from oxidative damage), niacinamide (improves elasticity and increases ceramide levels), glycolic acid (helps remove excess dead skin cells) and hyaluronic acid (retains moisture). The best hyaluronic acid serum? Your skin will drink up L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power LZR 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum. When it comes to dewy, hydrated skin, few ingredients deliver the way hyaluronic acid does. In fact, it’s the best serum for dry skin—but all other skin types can benefit from its plumping effects. This type of serum helps skin not only look beautiful but also function at its best.

Best anti-aging serum:

If you don’t own a serum and anti-aging is your main concern, what are your waiting for?! It’s the skincare product that gives you the most anti-aging bang for your buck. Try L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Hydrating Smoothing Serum with adenosine, an anti-wrinkle agent known to fight the key signs of aging. It also has a patented firming complex to reinforce skin, leaving it looking smoother, firmer and hydrated—fast.

Best smoothing serum:

If your skin feels rough and looks dull, consider adding antioxidants such as green tea extract and ferulic acid (both of which combat free-radicals). You’ll also want something to exfoliate dead skin cells, so try a glycolic acid or an LHA (a derivative of salicylic acid) to improve clarity and radiance. Try L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal Golden Serum. It helps stimulate cell renewal on the skin’s surface and plumps and firms texture.

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