the ultimate guide to facial serums: what it is & how to use it the ultimate guide to facial serums: what it is & how to use it

The Ultimate Guide to Facial Serums: What It Is & How to Use It

Facial serums play an important role in skincare. Read on to understand the purpose and proper use of these powerful solutions.

With a multi-step skincare routine being all the rage nowadays, it can be tricky to figure out what specific products or steps can actually do wonders for your skin. While you immediately know what a moisturizer or facial wash does, it’s hard to tell what a serum is for at first glance. 

Many skincare enthusiasts and experts swear by their favorite serums, but what are they exactly? How are serums much different from moisturizers? Are there extra benefits that serums can offer to your routine?

Here is a guide that will answer those questions and provide an in-depth look into serums. Read on to find out what they are, how they work, what they can do for your skin, the various types available in the market, and how to apply them to get the maximum benefits.


The Ultimate Guide to Facial Serums 

What are facial serums?


Facial serums are lightweight, fast-absorbing liquids that are rich in active ingredients, ranging from vitamins and peptides to minerals and other chemicals that benefit the skin. Compared to other skincare products that contain anywhere between 5 to 10% active ingredients, serums can contain up to 70%. Because of this high concentration, serums are packaged into smaller quantities.

Facial serums have a smaller molecular structure, allowing them to penetrate your skin more effectively. It is a more potent solution for addressing specific skincare concerns, such as wrinkles and blemishes. 

A typical serum takes the form of a clear gel or liquid that is less viscous than a regular moisturizer and is typically water-based. 

Serum vs. Moisturizer


While serum and moisturizer can both boost the hydration of your skin, they play two different roles in your skincare routine. 

Moisturizers, like face creams and lotions, are made to both moisturize the skin and create a barrier to seal in the moisture. They include occlusive ingredients such as petrolatum and mineral oil to lock in the moisture. They also have lubricating and thickening agents like nut and seed oils that give it that rich, creamy texture to stick to the skin. Typically, they only contain 5–10% concentration of active ingredients.

Serums, meanwhile, tend to be on the thinner side, allowing its active ingredients to penetrate the skin better and faster. Because of this, they are generally water-based and do not contain any oil. Unlike moisturizers, serums have higher concentrations of active ingredients

Rather than using a hydrating serum to replace your moisturizer, your serum should be used before your moisturizer to help boost the moisturizer’s effectiveness.

What are the benefits of facial serums?


A serum’s strength is in its active ingredients, which provide more intense effects due to the high concentration. Here are the benefits that the right facial serum can give you:

  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

A study found that anti-aging serum users reported visible reductions of fine lines and coarse wrinkles on the face, with a 43% improvement in the overall facial skin appearance. These serums contain ingredients that help with improving the skin’s elasticity and barrier functions.

  • Addresses skin marks and fades dark spots

Sunspots, hyperpigmentation, and other skin marks can be hard to treat. Regular use of a brightening serum can help lighten and brighten the skin without the need for harsher chemicals or peels. If your goal is to achieve healthier-looking skin, the Garnier Light Complete Vitamin C Booster Serum is an excellent choice.

  • Improves skin texture

Due to age and environmental exposure, the skin loses its smoothness and ends up looking dull.  Serums with collagen or Vitamin C help the skin regain its firmness, smoothness, and elasticity, giving it a more visibly youthful appearance.


  • Boosts natural healing and repair of skin cells

Free radicals are a fact of life, and your skin is exposed to them regularly. They take a toll on your cells and advance aging. Antioxidant serums protect the skin from these unstable molecules while improving its ability to heal and repair the damage.

  • Reduces clogged pores and acne

Serums can help you fight acne in two ways. Firstly, occlusive agents are absent from serums, so it penetrates the skin better and delivers active ingredients more efficiently. Secondly, serums with specific active ingredients like retinol and salicylic acid help unclog pores, reduce pore size, and decrease inflammation of the skin. 

How do you pick the right serum?


Serums contain active ingredients meant to target specific concerns. To pick the right serum for you, you need to evaluate your skin type and needs.

  • Acne-prone skin

Salicylic acid serum is a go-to serum for preventing and getting rid of acne. Salicylic acid penetrates deep into pores to break down dead skin cells and sebum, making it excellent for declogging pores, loosening blackheads, and reducing oil. A salicylic acid serum can also be a great exfoliator that can help keep your skin radiant.

  • Dry skin

Dry skin is best addressed with serums containing hyaluronic acid that helps retain moisturized and resilient complexion.


  • Dull-feeling skin

Dull-feeling skin is caused by exposure to free radicals that damage the skin. Serums that contain green tea extract and resveratrol are best for battling free radicals, increasing sunscreen effectivity, and promoting cellular repair. 


  • Aging skin

Caffeine is the perfect ingredient for addressing aging skin as it improves firmness and protects the skin from damage. Retinol also works to smoothen fine lines and wrinkles while also protecting against stress and environmental damage

  • Dark spots

Vitamin C is a tried and tested ingredient when it comes to fading dark spots. In a concentrated serum, Vitamin C can help lighten hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. Studies have also shown that it can inhibit the skin's melanin production, and thus prevent new sunspots from forming. 

How to use serums effectively?


Like with other skincare products, serums can react differently from person to person. On average, you should test a serum for around seven weeks to assess how well your skin responds to it. Depending on its potency, you may see visible results in a few days. Once you’ve found a serum that works with your skin, you can incorporate it into your overall skincare routine. 

It should be applied directly on your face after cleansing but before applying moisturizer, sunblock, and makeup. Towel-dry your face thoroughly before applying the serum, as excess water may work against it. Because serums are incredibly potent, a pea-sized drop should be enough for the whole face.

Generally speaking, serums can be used twice a day in combination with a moisturizer to get maximum results. For antioxidant serum masks, they are best applied in the evening as they work more effectively when not competing with sunblock. Serums with glycolic acid and retinol are also ideally used at night as they can make the skin more sensitive, especially when exposed to the sun.

A Little Goes A Long Way

Serums promise significant results for every skin type, even in little doses. Thanks to its highly-concentrated active ingredients, it effectively provides the essential minerals, nutrients, and solutions to keep the skin at its best. 

A serum that suits your skin type and addresses your skin issues can become an indispensable part of your routine for healthier and beautiful skin. The key to mastering serums is to do your research and pay attention to the ingredients each product has. 

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