Serums usually have concentrated active ingredients targeting specific concerns such as anti-aging or hydration of the skin. Read more...
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What is the importance of using serums when you have dry skin instead of just applying moisturizers or face oil alone?
Think of serums as lightweight products with very small particle sizes. They do not have the thickness or weight of a lotion or a cream and can penetrate the skin more effectively. Serums usually have concentrated active ingredients targeting specific concerns such as anti-aging or hydration of the skin. If you have excessively dry skin just heaping on more and more heavy moisturizers is just not going to get you much further! This is where serums can really help. They are meant to be applied to your skin first to allow those smaller particles to get into the upper layers of the skin. Following this up with a thicker moisturizer if needed will seal in this hydration much more effectively!
How do you choose the right serum when you have dry skin?
Think hydrating ingredients that draw moisture to them- Hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, Argan oil, ceramides, etc. Water-based serums tend to spread quickly and absorb into the skin with ease.
What ingredients should you look for?
Hyaluronic acid tops the list for serums because it is very effective at drawing moisture to it. It’s a little confusing to some people because they worry that it might be irritating because of the word ‘acid’. It is also a bit misleading because many people think that Hyaluronic acid ON the skin will provide the same effect as injected INto the skin as we do with fillers. This is not the case. Hyaluronic acid applied on the skin does not "fill" the skin. It actually draws moisture to it and hydrates the skin at the surface so effectively it can give the appearance of minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. In spite of these common misconceptions, it’s a wonderful dry skin product. It is ideally used in conjunction with a moisturizer on top of it. The main reason for this is that if the skin is excessively dry, the Hyaluronic acid will still ‘seek’ moisture to pull into it. It may paradoxically dry your skin further if it doesn’t find it!! Remember to apply a moisturizer on top so it can pull this extra hydration in from the product.
Glycerin is in tons of products for dry skin! It’s a wonderful product that, similar to Hyaluronic acid, absorbs moisture like a sponge. These types of products are called humectants- they literally attract moisture into the skin. Glycerin is lightweight, mild, and very effective at keeping the skin hydrated. Before the ‘product explosion’ of countless options to try these days, I used to recommend just buying glycerin and mixing it with a regular moisturizer to help the product spread easier, hydrate, and not leave the skin feeling too greasy. You can still do that and save a lot of money:)
Panthenol is another humectant that makes it ideal as a serum for dry skin as it attracts moisture as well. This one is also found commonly in hair products designed to trap moisture and protect the hair follicles.
Niacinamide is also known as vitamin B3. Although this can hydrate the skin as well, most of its reputation is built on its anti-inflammatory effects. It’s been used as an add-on for acne treatments for years to reduce the redness and inflammation associated with breakouts. For dry skin, most people will start with what appears to be ashy and dry skin. If this lingers too long without being addressed, those dry cracked areas of the skin can become inflamed and exquisitely sensitive (think of those times when you apply hand sanitizer and your skin just feels like it’s on fire!) With this concept, I always go back to the analogy of giving 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. This leaves it open to any insult from the environment which will inflame and irritate your skin. Think of niacinamide as a key anti-inflammatory that will help bring down this inflammation while also hydrating your skin!
These are very common ingredients to find in serums. It is always nice to look for ingredients such as Argan oil that can hydrate the skin without clogging your pores. These alone are wonderful. However, when I look through products in large cosmetic stores I’ll often find these ingredients with anti-aging serums. If you are treating dry skin, please look at the labels! Avoid buzzwords like ageless, age-defying, and anti-aging- these will often have added alpha hydroxy acids that may irritate dry skin.
Are there any other ingredients to consider?