What Is A Face Serum And Do I Really Need One?


Updated 11/29/15. For many years, the recommended daily skincare routine was a gentle cleanser, alcohol-free toner and moisturizer. To give a boost of results, an exfoliating facial scrub and mask were added weekly. Nowadays, the world of skin care has seen incredible advancements and there have been more product categories introduced in an effort to be more targeted in solving every skin dilemma. One such type of product is a serum, which can help target specific issues like clearing blemishes, firming saggy skin, fading brown spots and encouraging younger-looking skin.

What is a serum? A serum is a skin care product that has a gel or light lotion consistency and has a higher concentration of performance ingredients meant for use under a moisturizer or treatment mask. While using a cleanser, toner and moisturizer is the foundation for maintaining the health of the skin, serums should be used when you feel like your skin is in a rut and want to see better results. I’m always recommending to my clients to add this simple step in their routine and once they do, they can see a big improvement.

What are common ingredients found in serums?

For clearing and preventing blemishes: Ingredients like beta glucans (found in Skin Correcting Serum), salicylic acid (found in BHA Clarifying Serum), zinc, tea tree and aloe vera are used in higher concentrations to control bacteria and to calm redness and inflammation.

For repairing sun damage and to smooth out wrinkles: The ingredient retinol (stable vitamin A found in Advanced Resurfacing Serum) is simply the best and most biologically active ingredient you can use to turn back the clock on your skin. If you’re not using one, I highly recommend you work this into your nightly routine to improve the look of your skin every day. Watch this video to learn more about retinol and its proven benefits.

For calming redness and sensitivity: Aloe vera, lichochalcone, licorice root, sea whip, green tea, white tea (found in Soothing Relief Serum) and zinc all help to ease redness and irritation as well as prevent inflammatory damage.

For hydrating the skin: Panthenol, hyaluronic acid (found in Skin Drink), phospholipids and allantoin are all very beneficial for infusing moisture deep within skin cells to protect against surface dryness and fine lines. After all, skin cells are like fish and need water to live so a good serum can dramatically improve the health and integrity of the skin.

For firming the skin: Peptides are the name of the game here and ingredients like palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, matrixyl synthe’6, caprooyl tetrapeptide, palmitoyl oligopeptide (found in Bio Radiance Night Serum) are a few of my favorites to encourage a more “lifted” look.

For exfoliating dry surface cells to smooth the skin: Glycolic acid and lactic acid are excellent for dissolving and digesting cellular buildup deep within the skin to encourage a healthier and more even-toned complexion. I recommend AHA Smoothing Serum to my clients to use several nights a week under moisturizer for immediate results.

For fading brown spots and discoloration: Vitamin C (in various forms) is very powerful for suppressing melanin activity to lift discoloration and even out the skin tone from age and hormones. There are many types of vitamin C but I find for the purpose of lightening sun spots, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is most effective and can be found in Vitamin C&E Treatment. See this experiment I did when I applied a vitamin C serum to an apple. Amazing, huh?

See the full collection of Renée Rouleau serums.

Anything to avoid when choosing a serum? SD alcohol 40 or denatured alcohol. These ingredients are dehydrating which will encourage dry skin cell build up. (See a full list of skin care ingredients to avoid)

What does a serum feel like? Serums most often are water-based (especially those for oily/combination skin) so they have a gel-like feel to them. Drier skin serums often use silicones to give additional repair to the skins’ moisture barrier.

How do I use a serum? Did you know that moist skin is ten times more permeable than dry skin? After cleansing, use an alcohol-free toner and leave it damp on the skin before applying your serum. By leaving your skin damp with toner, the action ingredients in your serum will penetrate deeper within the skin giving you better results.

Can I use a serum as my moisturizer? No. Moisturizers are meant to create a protective barrier over the skin to keep moisture in the skin from evaporating and keeping environmental irritants and debris out. Serums, while meant to hydrate, should never be used alone as they don’t contain the protective properties that creams do.

How much should I apply to my skin? About a dime size but definitely not more than that. Many people think that if they use more, they’ll get better results. False. Your skin acts as a sponge and takes in all that it can and the rest may not absorb allowing for product waste.

Any special application tricks when applying a serum? Since moisturizer is to be used immediately after, you can keep your moisturizer in the refrigerator. When moisturizer is applied cold, it pushes blood away from the skin and in the process it creates a vacuum effect to pull the potent serum ingredients deeper within the skin.

Which Renée Rouleau serum is right for me? Take my easy Skin Type Quiz and it will suggest the appropriate serum for the unique needs of your skin.

Read: Can Your Skin Get Used To Products And Stop Working?
Read: This Is Mother Nature’s Wrinkle Reducer
Read: How Do Hormones Affect The Skin?

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