Today, I’m giving you the low down on serums. Not that I am the serum EXPERT by any means, but I’ve done a fair amount of research on serums and have added a few to my everyday skincare routine. I got on the serum train about 4 years back, and I wish I had started sooner because the results are REAL. Seriously, it’s never too early to start taking care of your skin, and serums are game changers (if you invest in the right ones!). Sooo let’s talk SERUMS!!

First of all, what the F is a SERUM?

Simply put, a serum is a lightweight “moisturizer” made with a potent formula of vitamins & nutrients. Each serum caters to different skin concerns, and as a result, contains different vitamins/nutrients. Most serums include antioxidants, think vitamin C or E, glycolic acid, peptides, and the list goes on. Because they are so lightweight (something about them having smaller molecules – I don’t know, I’m no scientist – ha!), they penetrate deeply into your skin, allowing it to soak in the goods. They should be applied right after cleansing, before applying moisturizer, SPF or makeup. One thing I want to warn you about before you read on…because serums are extremely potent with powerful ingredients, they can be on the pricey side. However, most of them last for at least 6 months as you’re only using a couple of drops a day. Don’t freak when you see the pricing! It’s your face you’re investing in!

Where do I even start?!

There are hundreds of serums out there…the most important thing to keep in mind is what you’re trying to do and go from there. Do you have dry skin? Sun spots? Fine lines & wrinkles? Blemishes? Acne? Make a list of what you’re trying to solve for and look for the key ingredients I’ve listed below. ALSO, make sure you’re putting your money into something that actually does what it says it’s going to do. I always double check my go-to beauty review sites and see what people have to say before pulling the trigger. Another general rule to stand by – if a skin product has added fragrance or drying alcohol, DON’T BUY IT. Keep on reading to hear the benefits of serum, based on different ingredients!

The key ingredients to address your skin concerns

Retinol: wrinkles, acne, fine lines, pigmentation

Retinol is pretty much in every single anti-aging product out there, because it’s proven to work. It’s essentially an exfoliant – it peels off the outside layer of your skin (don’t worry, this doesn’t happen all at once, it’s so gradual you won’t even notice it), causing your skin to constantly regenerate. This helps with scarring, acne, any pigmentation/sun damage, and the holy grail…for fine lines & wrinkles. In order for a product to be effective, it should have between .1-1% retinol, and have packaging that protects it from excessive air and light exposure. If you’ve never used retinol before (especially if you have sensitive skin), it may be best to start with a lower % and see how your skin reacts.

Vitamin C – wrinkles, losing elasticity, dull skin, sun spots

Vitamin C is something WE ALL NEED in our skincare regimen. Not only does it increase elasticity & collagen production, but it also helps brighten and even out your complexion. It’s also protective, protecting your skin from free radicals, and helping your skin build a stronger barrier against sun exposure. You may not necessarily see “vitamin C” in the ingredients list for products. Here are ingredients to look out for: ascorbic acid (or l-ascorbic acid), magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl glucosamine, ascorbyl glucoside, and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. The packaging should be dark & air tight. Avoid fragrant ingredients, especially citrus oils! No bueno.

Hyaluronic Acid – signs of aging, dryness

I actually recently started incorporating hyaluronic acid in my skincare routine, and I’ve seen a MAJOR improvement. As someone with combination skin, my skin gets incredibly dry around my eyes and mouth, and it definitely doesn’t look pretty. Hyaluronic acid has this magical ability to hold in moisture (1000 ml of water per gram of hyaluronic acid!). What does this mean? It makes your skin more plump, as it’s more hydrated. It also protects skin from UVB rays aka sun spots. All good things.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids – wrinkles, uneven skin tone, acne/blackheads

The group of alpha hyrdoxy acids includes glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid & mandelic acid. Glycolic acid is most commonly used in skincare products, and is known as the gold standard. Out of all the acids in the group, it’s the most studied & most proven to deliver results. It’s able to penetrate the skin more deeply to exfoliate more than the other acids, revealing fresh skin that’s hiding underneath. As a result, you can say goodbye to fine lines, pigmentation, and acne. KEEP IN MIND – wear SPF when using any glycolic acid product, as it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. If you’ve never used an acid on your face before, start it off slow and gradually increase use! I prefer to use these products at night before bed to be safe.

Serums I’m using right now

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum has been in my routine for years now and I will never get off of it! It’s pricey but worth it. I tried to ween off of it about 6 months ago, and saw my skin change within a week of not using it. It’s amazing. Highly highly recommend! FYI – a bottle lasts me about 6 months, and I apply it on my face, neck and chest every AM.

Paula’s Choice RESIS Hyaluronic Acid Booster is a serum I started using a few months back, and I’m loving it so far. I have combination skin, and should have started using hyaluronic acid AGES ago. This serum has helped keep my skin more hydrated and gives it a nice glow as a result. I apply it after the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum every morning.

Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Dew It All Eye Gel is a product I started using last week and I’m already obsessed! More to come in an upcoming post on all things Dr. Dennis Gross :).

I’ve been testing a few retinol night serums and glycolic acid products as I’m trying to settle on what to integrate in my routine permanently. More to come in a few weeks as I figure things out!

What serums do you use daily? Tell me in the comments below!

Benefits of Serum