What's The Deal With Face Serums?

We now know how important it is to take proper care of your skin. With more toxins, pollution and other external skin-damaging substances in our immediate environment than ever before, it is crucial that you maintain a thorough skincare and beauty routine. 

From toners to moisturizers, eye creams to cleansers, there are long lists of products that you should or could use (1). With new beauty and skincare products entering the market on a daily basis, it can become difficult to determine exactly which types of creams and lotions you may need.

While browsing the aisles at your favorite beauty store or shopping for creams and tonics online, you may have read and seen the word serum. But what exactly is the deal with this seemingly new beauty product that has taken the industry by storm? Does it really work as well as the adverts would make you believe?

In this article, we will explore everything you should know about face serums.

What Are Face Serums?

Face serums are lightweight formulations of highly concentrated nutrients and skin benefiting ingredients created to impart these active ingredients into the deepest layer of the skin. Due to their intensity and small-molecule ingredients, they can penetrate deep into the dermis (2).

While different from typical moisturizers, serums also have hydrating qualities. However, they also have a long list of additional benefits and uses, including improving the skin's texture, complexion and much more. 

Think of a face serum like a highly effective addition to your skincare routine. These products promise to deliver results quicker and more potently. Generally water-based and in liquid form, they have specific skin care goals in mind, for example, reducing wrinkles, brightening or hydrating.

Face serums are lightweight skin care products that are formulated with a high concentration of active ingredients. This allows them to penetrate deeply into the skin and deliver a quicker more effective result. With most serums being water-based, each has its own purpose and specific skincare goal.

What Does It Do?

Just because you already moisturize your skin does not mean that you don't need a serum. These products offer many additional advantages, that regular lotions do not. Face serums readily absorb into the skin, working quickly and giving the user a more powerful result. 

As with any beauty product, there are a vast number of serums on the market, each with its own purpose and use. These are some of the top concerns that are typically treated via the use of serums. However, there are many other reasons why people incorporate these skincare products into their regime. 

Photo of Face Serum Bottle
  • Hyperpigmentation: Marketed as brightening serums, these products work to improve overall complexion, correcting dark spots and uneven skin tone (3).
  • Anti-Aging: These serums are made from scientifically researched ingredients, designed to firm, tighten and promote the skin's natural collagen and elastin production. They help to resurface the skin's outer layer to create a younger and smoother look (4).
  • Acne: Serums that have been designed specifically for acne and problem-prone skin, can balance the skin's natural pH-levels, penetrate and cleanse pores while minimizing future breakouts.
  • Antioxidant: Helps to prevent damage caused by free radicals that contribute to the early signs of aging.
  • Hydration: With active ingredients such as glycerin that imparts an extra layer of moisture to your skin. These serums can also help to soothe irritated skin (5).
  • Exfoliation: These types of serums are worn overnight, allowing the formulation to dissolve dead skin cells. This is accomplished by incorporating substances such as salicylic acid.
Face serums are more than just moisturizing agents and have various applications and benefits. Some of the most common categories for serums include; exfoliation, hydration, antioxidant, acne/problem skin, anti-aging and hyperpigmentation. The type of serum you will use will depend on its purpose. It is up to you and your skincare needs to decide on what type of serum you should invest in.

The Difference Between A Face Serum And Moisturizer

As mentioned before, serums are not moisturizers. The main difference between these two products essentially comes down to the formulation. Face serums do not include ingredients such as petroleum or mineral oil and are often void of thickening and lubrication agents. Most serums you will find are water-based and are free from any oils. 

In serums, most of the liquid is eliminated, which leaves a high concentration of active ingredients. Typically, serums will incorporate peptides, antioxidants and other nourishing substances.

Serums and moisturizers are different because of one main reason. This difference is the way they are made, in other words, the formula. While serums can have moisturizing qualities, the concentration in which they are manufactured is typically free of oils and are water-based. This concentration is said to impart the desired result in a quicker time.

Do You Need A Face Serum?

While serums are not necessarily a must for all skin types, they do offer great support and protection to your skin if you have any specific concerns. If you want to take better care of your skin, you should consider incorporating a serum into your daily routine (6).

When deciding on a serum, you could select the right product based on your skin type. Oily skin can benefit from serums that include glycolic acid or salicylic acid; people with dry complexions should look for hydrating peptides and proteins; while combination skin types should use a serum with vitamin A and C.

It should also be noted that age no longer plays a factor in when you should start using these potent beauty products. You can, and should, begin taking measures to maintain your skin's radiance from any age.

Deciding on whether you need a serum in your skincare routine is a personal preference. However, these formulations pack a potent and effective punch. You can choose the type of serum you need based on your skin type and needs. This makes it easier to take proper care of your skin from a younger age.

What To Look For In A Face Serum

The skin concern you are dealing with will determine the serum you pick. To help you make the right choice, we have put together a list of ingredients that are commonly found in serums.

Hyaluronic Acid

This vital and naturally occurring ingredient plays a crucial role in keeping skin youthful. Supporting the skin's matrix, hyaluronic acid helps to renew your dermis. This substance is also known as a humectant, which means that it draws moisture from its surroundings - adding a critical hydration factor to your skin.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is rich in antioxidants that are crucial to your skin's overall health. Ascorbic acid greatly benefits skin cells and has been shown to prevent and assist with the photodamage caused by ultraviolet light.

Retinol (Vitamin A)

This form of Vitamin A promotes skin cell production and are essential to the healthy development and growth of your skin. In this way, retinol helps to keep your skin firmer and more youthful.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Known as a peeling agent, AHAs is a group of acids naturally found in plant sources. This ingredient loosens up dead skin cells, making it easier to exfoliate.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant-rich nutrient that prevents damage from the sun. It also nourishes the skin, which helps to protect it from free-radical effects. 

DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol)

Made from the acid found in fruits, DMAE has a long list of anti-aging properties that help to regenerate dermis cells.


Peptides occur when collagen is broken down into smaller segments of amino acids. In skin care, these active protein molecules have many anti-aging benefits (7).

Stem Cells

Scientists have found that human non-embryonic stem cell extracts may help to fight and slow down the signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Hands Full of Cocoa


This natural substance, found in red wine and cocoa, is known for its anti-aging properties.

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA is a potent, vitamin-like antioxidant that fights and protects the skin against free radical damage. Studies have proven that this ingredient is quite useful when used for the treatment of photodamage.

When looking for the right serum, you should carefully inspect the ingredients list to ensure that you pick one that will give you the right results. With common ingredients like peptides, stem cells, vitamin C, vitamin A, ALA, DMAE, vitamin E and more, you are sure to find exactly what you need.

Best Face Serums

Choosing the best face serums will depend on you as a person and the type of skin you have. As these products are rich in high-quality ingredients, they make for highly effective results. When you find the right combination of ingredients for your skin, the beauty benefits of using these skin elixirs are genuinely endless. Therefore, face serums are the best skin care you can give your complexion.

Face Serums Benefits

Not only do these concentrated skin products help with specific issues you may have with your complexion, they also have many other benefits that you may not be aware of, these include: 

  • Potency: When compared to other skin care products that only contain around 10% of the ingredients that claim to help your skin, serums are made from up to 70% active compounds. Meaning that you would get the results you are paying for.
  • Filler-Free: If your skin is sensitive, you know what havoc cheap additives and fillers can reap. Due to their formulations, serums are designed not to include any of these potentially harmful substances. This recipe makes for a purer and more powerful product.
Face serums have many benefits. Due to their formulation, most serums are free from fillers that might have adverse effects. Because they include the purest form of their respective active ingredients, these serums are also more potent as a result.

How To Use Face Serums?

Woman Applying Serum on Face

While there are many different serums available, the way you use them are mostly the same. 

Apply your serum to freshly cleansed skin. It should be the first thing you put on after washing your face. If you have opted to use more than one, put the most targeted one on first. 

After you have applied the serum, wait until all of the product has absorbed into your skin. Next, you can add moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup.

It is best to use face serums after cleansing the skin. Apply on clean, bare skin and allow to soak in before adding a moisturizer or SPF.

Ingredients To Avoid

While most serums are great and free from potentially harmful ingredients, some may include additives that have more negative results.

When it comes to using any new skin care product it is always advisable to carefully read through the ingredients list. In this way, you can steer clear of certain substances that are dangerous, unsafe for use and that have even been identified as being carcinogenic.

Here are a few ingredients that you should look out for and avoid:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Triclosan and Triclocarban
  • Aminophenol
  • Diaminobenzene
  • Phenylenediamine
  • Parabens
  • Polyethylene
  • Petroleum distillates
  • Oxybenzone
  • Hydroquinone
Unfortunately, not all serums are made equal and some may include potentially dangerous additives that could negatively affect your skin and health. It is important to read the product label before purchasing or using a beauty product.

The Verdict

Face serums may be a relatively new beauty category, but these products have already made quite a name for themselves in the industry. This reputation is due to their effectiveness and potency, which could help your skin get to the condition you have always wanted. 

From anti-aging to acne fighting properties, and everything in between, face serums may be the addition your skincare routine has been lacking all along. 

While there are many great products on the market make sure to choose one that is free from harmful additives. Also, keep in mind that every individual is different and results may vary from product to person.

Brought to you by our expert team at Authority Health.

Juno received an MSc in Dietetics from Robert Gordon University in Scotland and is registered with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). As someone who has learned the value of healthy eating later in life, her passion is teaching younger children about the value of eating well. She offers hands-on, instructional classes to both children and adults to prepare healthy meals. In addition, she consults with local institutions and schools to promote healthy eating and advice on healthy meal preparation.

She has traveled the globe and been privileged to experience a wealth of cuisines, the Mediterranean diet being her favored (and healthiest) option. Juno loves creating in the kitchen and that is where she comes alive. According to Juno, “Food is medicine” and thinks that the adage of “we are what eat” should be the mantra we all should live by. Her big dream one day is to pen a cookbook with recipes from her travels but, for now, she is happy writing on her health and wellness blog.

She is married with 3 beautiful children, 2 Airedale Terriers, 4 cats and a guinea pig. She lives in the countryside of Southern England and loves nothing more than walking on the coast on a blustery day to blow away the cobwebs!