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What's a Serum? What they are and what they are used for.

What is a face serum?


Want to give a boost to your skincare routine by adding a serum but don't know where to start? Then this is the right place for you.

First of all, what is a face serum?

A facial serum is an intensive moisturizer that you apply to your skin before applying your makeup. It's made with powerful ingredients like antioxidants, peptides, and retinoids that target your skin's most problematic areas, such as redness or dry patches.

Serums are incredibly lightweight, which allows the ingredients to seep into the skin very quickly. 

In short, serums are a liquid form of moisturizer with concentrated ingredients to treat specific skin concerns.

What are the benefits of using a serum?

Most serums will help improve skin texture, reduce inflammation and make your makeup go on smoothly. It's also an excellent way to protect your skin

What's the Difference Between Serums, Concentrates & Facial Oils?

What's a serum?

As defined by a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, "Serums are skincare products that are designed to deliver high concentrations of specific active ingredients to the skin."

Face serums come in two types, water-based or oil-based.

Although face serums are formulated to be lightweight, some people that deal with oily skin will probably prefer using a water-based serum on their skin, especially if they choose to use a face oil at the end of their skincare regimen. 

This doesn't mean that you can't use an oil-based serum if you have oily skin or suffer from acne.

Oil-based serums use oils like jojoba, avocado, or argan oil to help balance your skin's oil production with good oils that won't clog your pores. 

face serum

If you are on the adventurous side, you can try adding a drop or two of one of these oils to your water-based serum to give your skin an even bigger shot of moisture if you don't want to dive right into using an oil-based serum.

For instance, argan oil is non-comedogenic, meaning that there is a meager chance that it will cause your skin to produce extra oils, experience more breakouts, or experience irritation.

Jojoba oil is a type of oil used to help prevent acne while preventing both bacterial and fungal infections on the skin. This oil also helps regulate your skin's sebum production to prevent pore-clogging, making it another great choice to add to your water-based serum. 

Although avocado oil is good for your skin, it's not often recommended as an add-on to your water-based serum. It is excellent for locking in the skin's moisture and relieving dryness, but you may find that its thickness is a bit too much to handle if you already deal with oily skin.


These contain concentrated ingredients like serums, but they typically have a single component instead of a mixture of ingredients like those in serum. Concentrates are also slightly thicker than serums, almost like a thin lotion.

Concentrates are still far more lightweight than typical moisture so they can make an excellent addition to your skincare routine. If you choose to use a concentrate on your skin, it should be added after using a serum but before applying your moisturizer. You can also use them alone on the skin in place of a serum or moisturizer.


Facial oils are thicker than both serums and concentrate. They contain essential oils and/or plant extracts infused into the oil through fatty acids and lipids vital to skin health. Their thicker consistency makes them better at locking in moisture, which is why they are applied on top of a moisturizer. These should not be confused with oil-based serums. Facial oils are specifically designed to lock moisture into the skin at the top layer instead of transporting water into the lower layers of the skin, as serums are formulated to do.

Types of serums: Choose The Best for Your Skin

In general, face serums fall into four categories: anti-aging serums, skin brightening serums, hydrating serums, & texture improvement serums.

Here you'll find a breakdown of the different types of serums and the skin issues they address, as well as some of the ingredients they contain and which skin types they will benefit from. I have also included the best time to use some of these serums to reap the most benefits.

What is an anti-aging serum?

These serums are great for targeting fine lines and wrinkles while giving your skin a more overall youthful appearance. This is done by using anti-aging ingredients like retinol or vitamins C, E, and B3, among others. It can be used by all ages to treat or prevent signs of aging. These types of serum are known for their skin renewal benefits that stimulate cell turnover and assist in helping the skin's collagen production. 

Anti-aging serums are best used after you wash your face at bedtime. This allows the ingredients in the face serum to penetrate your skin deeply during your body's daily cell turnover. This natural cell turnover is further stimulated with the aid of the anti-aging serum, which works to help repair your skin.

What is an antioxidant serum?

This type of serum is designed to protect the skin from free radicals in the environment that can damage the skin and cause early signs of aging. You can also use it to help repair skin and treat visible signs of aging that have already occurred. Antioxidant serums generally contain vitamins A, C, and E and other ingredients formulated to protect the skin. 

Antioxidant serums work by binding their molecules to free radicals in the environment. Free radicals damage your skin by stealing electrons from your skin cells, leading to the breakdown of collagen in your skin. This causes fine lines, wrinkles, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation. Antioxidant serums work best when used in the morning to provide a barrier of protection to your skin before you head out into the world.

What is a skin-brightening serum?

These might also be referred to as skin color-correcting serums. They are designed to treat hyperpigmentation caused by acne or other skin issues. This type of serum also helps to even skin tone, reduce fine lines, and shrink enlarged pores. They contain vitamin C, glycolic acid, L-ascorbic acid, or other skin brightening ingredients.

Just like antioxidant serums, you should apply brightening serums in the morning because they also contain ingredients that help protect your skin against free radicals in the environment and UV rays.

What is a hydrating serum?

These serums help improve the moisture retention of the skin by using ingredients such as Glyconic acid, vitamin E, and/or hyaluronic acid to repair and improve the skin's natural moisture barrier. It is an excellent choice for dry, oily, combination, or acne-prone skin. These serums are best used twice each day to help add moisture to your skin. 

Hydrating serums that are known as hydro serums, are those that contain hyaluronic acid as the main moisture retention ingredient. Hyaluronic acid is a substance that is naturally produced by your body. It is found in the connective tissues of your muscles and joints, providing them with lubrication. It is also found in your skin, where it performs the same general task by binding to water to help keep your skin moisturized. 

The natural hyaluronic acid that your skin produces is in short supply due to damage from air pollutants and UV rays, but its benefits make it a great moisture bonding agent when used in skin serums. Hyaluronic acid quickly bonds with the water in the moisturizers you use to help bring that moisture even deeper into your skin while also bonding to the water already present in your skin. It can also help speed up wound healing, which can benefit those that deal with acne. 

types of serums

Add a face serum to your skincare routine.

Serums should be used twice a day after washing your face, typically in the morning and before heading to bed.

I previously mentioned that some serums are more effective at certain times of the day. While this is true, there is no hard and fast rule. You can still use your serums twice a day to ensure that you see benefits from their use sooner.

Although the inside of your home isn't filled with car exhaust or pollution, there are still dust molecules and other pollutants floating around and interacting with your skin. This means that an antioxidant serum can still be used in the evening.

Deep Hydration Face Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
JK Naturals Deep Hydration Face Serum is packed full of highly concentrated hyaluronic molecules that provide intensive hydration.

In the same vein, a skin brightening serum can also be used in the evening to address hyperpigmentation because it isn't an issue that stops just because the sun has gone down.

You can also use multiple serums at once, but it is best that you only use two or three at one time so that each can absorb into the skin properly.

If the serums are the same consistency, first use the one that addresses your main skin concern. In rare cases, one serum may be thicker than another. If that is the case, apply the lighter serum first. 

Wash your face

To incorporate a serum into your skincare routine, first wash your face thoroughly and gently massage the serum across your entire face and neck.

Wait a moment for the serum to absorb completely into your skin, then apply the moisturizer of your choosing.

Add a face oil on top of your moisturizer to help lock the moisture into your skin further if you choose.

I like to place a warm, moist towel over my face between each serum. This allows my pores to open, so the first serum absorbs deeply into my skin before I layer the next serum on.

After applying the second serum, I follow the same procedure or allow the serum to absorb on its own. When my skin is feeling especially dry, I use a face steamer before applying each layer of serum to really open up my pores and add even more moisture.


Age should never be a barrier to having great skin. People say that they wish they'd taken better care of their skin when they were younger, so add a serum to your skincare routine now so it won't be one of your regrets as well if it's too late to avoid feeling that skincare regret, and it has already set in, there is still plenty of time to achieve the healthy, glowing skin you deserve. There's no better time to start than today.


  • https://www.prevention.com/beauty/a20515580/best-antioxidant-serums/
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/hyaluronic-acid-benefits
  • https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/beauty-smarts-serums-jan13#1
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/jojoba-oil-for-face#overview
  • https://wildernorthbotanicals.com/blog/the-benefits-of-oil-and-waterbased-serums/
  • https://sundial.csun.edu/163507/sundialbrandstudio/sundial-marketplace/how-to-properly-use-different-serums/
  • https://www.drniveditadadu.com/blog/serum-oil-concentrate-which-one-is-best/#:~:text=Concentrates,moisturisers%20or%20simply%20used%20alone.
  • https://www.news24.com/truelove/beauty/learn-the-difference-between-oils-serums-and-concentrates-20180306
  • https://www.today.com/style/what-serum-everything-know-about-face-serum-t149981
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-face-serum#whats-a-serum

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