How To | Serums 101

As mentioned before, I said that first you find what you need then what you want. Your normal routine consisting of cleanser, moisturiser and exfoliator are part of what you need. In targeting what you want, a serum comes in handy.

Now we are on to the good stuff! Serum. What is it? What do we do with it? Do we put it after an oil or before? Does it really work? Let's debunk all the myths about serums and find out why they are so so SO important.

What is a serum?


A serum is a lighter, thinner substance that helps to deliver nutrients deeper into the skin. They commonly (well should) contain active ingredients in a smaller molecular form. This means that serums can help to change the appearance of your skin and target specific skin concerns.

My word! Can serums really be that amazing?

I'd say you have to find the right one for what you are looking for. There are numerous factors that make serums amazing. What I tend to focus on is the delivery system and the active ingredients in the product. Say for example, I am looking to lighten some post-acne scarring, some of the ingredients I would look out for are Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), retinol, liquorice root, etc. Then I kind of research if some ingredients can actually penetrate deep into the skin.

Some examples include:

Vitamin C is oil and water soluble - meaning it can settle deeply into our oily barrier in between our skin cells = greater penetration ;)
Hyaluronic acid is one of those tricky ones that, despite it's large molecular weight, it has the ability to seep deep into our skin layers.

From there I find out if the serum has the ingredient and if it is at a good concentration (sometimes I refer to its position on the ingredients list).

It may sound like a lot of work but it is so worth it, I find that a little bit of research now will prevent you from wasting your hard earned money on products that don't work.

When do I use a serum?

Generally, the serum absorbs best after toner (if you don't tone, then after you cleanse). This is because your toner has pre soaked your skin so that it is now more absorbent. It is also necessary to do it before your moisturiser due to the fact that moisturisers are much more thicker and larger in molecular weight. They essentially seal in all the goodness in the serums and prevent them from evaporating.

In terms of oil, some serums come in the form of an oil, take Sunday Riley's Luna Oil, but they aren't actually real oils. They are esters of ingredients that take the form of an oily texture. These can be done before a moisuriser. In the case where you have serum and oils to layer in your routine, I usually advise to go by texture. Choose the lightest/watery texture and place it first, then layer your heavier products, including your oils. Again, my belief is that the heavier product helps to create a veil over the active ingredients so they don't fly away and leave the skin.

Does it really work?

In my experience, and through reading other peoples' experiences, I can safely say that serums truly work. This is only if you find the one that targets your needs and has the right active ingredients in them. They have the ability to transport to 2 layers of the skin - both the epidermis (top) and dermis (middle layer). The dermis is where all the signs of ageing and problems occur, so that fact that a serum can go deep into that layer and mess about just goes to show what great technology we have. 

There are more things to learn about serums, I find that having a basic knowledge will help to relieve the disappointment of ineffective products. I have to say though, serums can only do so much. I think what is really important is that you observe your skin and take initiative into what it needs, as well as take care of yourself and your body.