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Do I need to use a serum?

Serums are lightweight products that do not have the thickness or greasiness of a cream or lotion. Read more...

 

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What is a serum?


Serums are lightweight products that do not have the thickness or greasiness of a cream or lotion.

Creams or lotions are heavier because they are designed to adhere to the skin to help maintain hydration.

 


 

What can a serum do for my skin?



If you have excessively dry skin just heaping on more and more heavy moisturizers may not get you much more hydration. There is only so much help they can offer if they are too thick to get into the superficial layers of the skin.


This is where serums can really help. They are meant to be applied to your skin first to allow their smaller particles to get into the upper layers of the skin. Following a serum with a thicker moisturizer if needed will seal in this hydration much more effectively.


With this concept, I always go back to the analogy I give my patients- think of your skin as not smooth like a wall, it’s more like a cobblestone street. When your skin dries out it’s as though the mortar that holds the bricks (your skin cells) together is breaking down. Serums have a small particle size and can settle effectively between those skin cells to replace the mortar. Following with a moisturizer is helpful to “seal” it in.



What do serums contain?



Most body serums tend to target one of the most frustrating cosmetic concerns- tissue paper-like wrinkling of the skin. This is often referred to as crepey skin. Serums often contain peptides and alpha hydroxy acids with claims to firm and tighten the skin. These are ideally used with a moisturizer to potentiate their effects.



Are there body serums as well as face serums?



There are also body serums that target excessively dry skin without leaving behind a greasy feel. These are the ones I like the most because one of the biggest barriers to using moisturizers routinely for many people in the first place is how greasy they can feel. Body serums have concentrated hydrating ingredients that are not usually irritating.


What makes a serum so effective?



Serums may have other active ingredients designed to address a particular concern. For example, discoloration and anti-aging are the most common. These active ingredients are more concentrated and should therefore be a bit more potent.


Because these active ingredients are so concentrated they can also be a little more irritating for some skin types depending on the active ingredients.


Most who consider serums will use particular products to address specific concerns. Most often these are used on the face because serums tend to be cost-inhibitive to use on larger surface areas like the body.

How do I choose the right serum for my skin type?



Choosing a serum should depend on the target for your product (acne, aging, dry skin, etc). With a higher concentration of active ingredients, the potential for irritation is possible.


For sensitive skin or dry skin, hydrating products containing jojoba oil and/or hyaluronic acid and niacinamide are helpful.

Sun-damaged skin will benefit from serums containing antioxidants, peptides, and/or retinol.


Acne-prone skin will benefit from products containing retinol and/or salicylic acid.



When should I start using a serum?



A serum can be used at any age depending on the target for the product. The products available tend to have an anti-aging focus, however.



If I use a serum, do I need to still use other products?


It depends. If the serum you are using contains ingredients needed to address your specific skin concerns, you may not need other products. However, if there are other challenges your skin is facing, other products may be needed.



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