Skincare standards, part 5: Everything new you need to know about face serums

May 11, 2023

With their potential to moisturize, soothe and brighten your skin, it’s easy to see why face serums are making a name for themselves in the world of skincare. But if you’re new to this magical elixir, the question remains—when should you start using a face serum?  

Today, we’re sharing everything you need to know about face serums, including what a serum is, when to use a serum and how to incorporate it into your routine to ensure optimal results. 

What is a face serum? 

A face serum is a thin, lightweight oil or water-based liquid that absorbs into your skin to provide various benefits. Unlike face creams, face serums consist of high concentrations of specific ingredients, so they can get to work deep inside your skin as soon as they’re applied.  

A few types and ingredients you may already be familiar with include vitamin C serums, retinol serums, hyaluronic acid serums and lactic acid serums. 

Types of serums 

There are a vast array of facial serums available, each providing different benefits based on their specific ingredients.  

Here are some of the most common types of face serums on the market and some of the key ingredients often found in each: 

  • Age-diminishing serums: Retinol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C 
  • Hydrating serums: Hyaluronic acid 
  • Free-radical fighting serums: Vitamins A, C and E 
  • Acne-prone/sensitive skin serums: Salicylic acid, niacinamide (a form of B3) 
  • Texture-improving serums: Glycolic acid 
  • Skin brightening serums: Vitamin C, glycolic acid 

When to use face serum 

Honestly, there’s no right or wrong time to begin reaping the benefits of face serum and incorporating one into your daily skincare routine. Plus, from hydrating serums to serums made for sensitive skin, there are many different types to choose from, so you can easily find a serum that’s right for your skin at any age and stage of life. 

How to add a face serum into your skincare routine 

Once you’ve found your ideal face serum for your specific skin concern, it’s time to rearrange the order of your skincare product application, because yes—the order you apply your skincare products matters. 

The easiest way to remember the proper order is to think about applying your products from lightest to heaviest. This will help your skin absorb each product more effectively for greater benefits. The right order to apply skincare products (including serums) will look something like this: 

How to apply facial serums 

When it comes to applying your serum, follow these simple steps: 

  • Step 1: Squeeze a few drops of the serum into the palm of your hand 
  • Step 2: Rub your hands together to spread the serum evenly onto both hands (unless you’re targeting a breakout: Apply directly to the affected area with a clean cotton swab) 
  • Step 3: Gently apply the serum all over your face, massaging it in until it’s absorbed 
  • Step 4: Wait a minute before applying a moisturizer so the serum has ample time to soak into your skin 

You can use most serums twice a day. However, if you find that a serum is irritating your skin or causing your face to feel too oily, you can cut back to once a day to see if the issue improves. 

Enjoy the benefits of a face serum that’s best suited for your skin’s needs 

With so many serums available, you might worry about pinpointing the exact one that’s right for you. But the beauty of serums is that you can mix and match different types to target all of your skin concerns. 

References for this information: 
Harvard Health Website, Blog 
Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2006, volume 1, issue 4, pages 327-348 
Dermatoendocrinology, 2012, volume 4, issue 3, pages 253-258 
Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2011, volume 51, issue 5, pages 1000-1013 
Experimental Dermatology, 2019, volume 28, issue 7, pages 786-794 
Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2013, volume 6, pages 281-288 
The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 2017, volume 10, issue 7, pages 14-17 
Cleveland Clinic Website, Skin Care & Beauty 

About the Author

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Jacki Marzano is SoCal-based storyteller and head copywriter at Murad Skincare. She's shaped the voice of some of the most recognized beauty brands in the business, has a penchant for sharing homemade cookies, and believes SPF is the secret to getting carded well into your 40s.