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Face Serum: What It Is and How to Use It the Right Way

You wouldn’t dream of not using cleanser on your face. And you probably have a favorite moisturizer you use daily that you can’t live without. But what about a facial serum? Serum might not be on the essential skincare list for everyone, but it should be!

Face serum can be the difference between having really nice skin and the kind of complexion that turns heads. That’s because a serum is like an intense personalized treatment that targets your skin’s specific problems, diving deep to address the cause. This is what makes it stand out among other skincare products.

But before you add one to your routine, you’ll want to know a few things about how to find the right serum and how to use it. So keep on reading for everything you need to know to ramp up your look with a powerful facial serum!

What Is a Facial Serum?

A facial serum is a lightweight skincare product rich in active ingredients that acts as a targeted treatment and hydrator for your face. Serums can contain a wide variety of nourishing ingredients depending on the specific skin concerns they address. The most common concerns addressed by serums are acne breakouts, dryness, dullness, and the signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots.

True serums contain water. Water-based serums deliver their beneficial nutrients deep into the layers of your skin. Some products called serums are oil-based serums. These are usually made with a handful of different face oils and are best for creating a seal on the skin's surface to keep in moisture. Technically, oil-based serums are just face oils and not really serums at all, but some companies use the term “serum” for these products. So we will only be talking about true water-based serums in this article.

Why Use a Facial Serum?

A facial serum is an excellent addition to your skincare routine, regardless of skin type. The primary benefit of using a facial serum is that you’ll get a healthier complexion that truly glows. How? By correcting specific issues, your serum can improve the appearance, texture and brightness of your skin. 

Serums have the unique ability to hydrate, smooth, balance, brighten, firm and calm your skin, depending on what ingredients they contain.

Serum vs Moisturizer

So, what is the difference between a serum and a moisturizer? You might be wondering if you need both. It can be a bit confusing since they both have hydrating and nourishing properties. But the main difference is that serums penetrate your skin, while moisturizers sit on top of the skin.

Serums are lighter than moisturizers. Plus, they contain water to provide hydration, and high concentrations of active ingredients to correct skin problems. Serums are absorbed into the deeper layers of your skin, so they can deliver their powerful nutrients directly to your skin cells. In contrast, a moisturizer’s job is to coat the skin and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier to help prevent moisture from escaping.

So it’s best to use both because they nourish and hydrate much better together than either could on their own. If you only use serum and no moisturizer, the water content will end up leaving your skin, drying it out. If you only use a moisturizer, you will have little, if any, water to seal into your skin layers, and your skin will also end up dry. Using a moisturizer after your serum maximizes the amount of nourishment and hydration your skin gets.

How to Choose a Face Serum

When you shop for a serum, you will find a dizzying array to choose from. But never fear! As long as you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you should be able to find what you need. Serums are formulated to target specific skin concerns, so the label should tell you what you need to know and if it’s the right one for you.

If you’re dealing with multiple skin issues, you can use more than one serum. You can layer the serums by putting the lighter one on first, followed by the thicker one. Or you can use the lighter one in the morning and the thicker one at night. If they're similar consistencies, then you can choose when to use each of them. 

The best serums are all-natural, non-irritating, and made with non-toxic ingredients. Look for ones made without any parabens, phthalates, and fragrances. Also, be sure to research any other ingredients you’re unsure about before buying something.

Another thing to know about buying face serum is that some serums made to combat acne can contain harsh ingredients that could irritate some people. For example, ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide may get the job done, but they can go too far and strip your natural oils away. Some milder, natural alternatives to these acids are just as effective, though, so you don’t need to use them to fight breakouts.

You won’t find any toxic chemicals or synthetic ingredients in Nurture My Body's serum formulas. Try our Reparative Serum for mature skin and Acne Clarifying Serum for oily skin for a pure and natural glow.

How to Apply a Face Serum

So where does face serum fit into your skincare routine? As I mentioned, you will apply your serum right before your moisturizer to get all the fabulous benefits of both. The serum will infuse your skin with potent bioactives to address your skin concerns and quench it with water to hydrate. Waiting a minute or two after applying your serum will allow it to sink in. Then, apply your moisturizer to retain the added moisture and nutrients.

While you may be used to rubbing or massaging big dollops of your skincare products into your face, serum works best with a gentle touch. You will only need a few drops of serum because they’re highly concentrated with powerful ingredients. Put a few drops into your palm or fingertips and gently pat it onto your face. Your skin will soak it all up in a minute or two as you wait before applying moisturizer.

Here’s the order you should apply your products for the most effective skincare routine:

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner or mist
  3. Serum (leave on for a minute or two)
  4. Moisturizer
  5. SPF sunscreen (only needed in the morning)

Other things to consider: Use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip away your natural oils. If you don’t use a toner, you’ll want to apply your serum within a few seconds after cleansing while your face is damp. This will maximize the water your skin retains when you apply your moisturizer.

If you use toner, use a mild, nontoxic one made for your skin type (our calming Lavender Toner is great for all skin types!) The toner or mist will also supply moisture, so apply your serum quickly after toning.

How Often to Apply a Face Serum

Using a serum daily is perfectly safe and the best way to glean its benefits. If you have a reaction to the serum you’re using, it’s probably not the best one for you, and you should look for a more suitable one. It may take some trial and error. As for frequency, it’s ideal to use serum each morning and night as part of your regular skincare routine.

More Tips

For highlighting your cheeks after putting on your makeup, pat a few drops of serum right over your cheekbones. You can also add a few drops of serum to your foundation to turn it into a nourishing skin treatment. Using it this way will also give you a more dewy, quenched look.

Wrapping It All Up

If you’ve ever thought that serum is not a necessary part of your skincare toolbox, you might change your mind after trying one. Serum is more like a targeted treatment for your skin than other skincare products and can help eliminate issues like breakouts and wrinkles. Using it right after cleansing and before you moisturize will give you the biggest boost in nourishment and hydration, improving the look and feel of your skin. Give it a try, we bet you’ll love the results!

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