Serums: Are They Really Necessary?

So many questions can be asked about serums, starting with “Are they really that necessary?” and “Why in the world are they so expensive?” In reality, serums are the best way to deliver potent, active ingredients and improve your skin’s health. Within a few, weightless drops of product are extremely concentrated, potent powerhouses formulated with everything from antioxidants, such as ferulic acid and vitamin c, to moisture boosters and retainers, such as hyaluronic acid. Because of their potency and active ingredients, you are more often than not going to see a price tag higher than your average cleanser or moisturizer. Post-tone and pre-moisturizer, this is where you should focus your skincare budget.

Serums are the true workhorses of your skincare routine, having the most power, the best ingredients, and the most potency. Unlike cleansers, with contain many base ingredients like surfactants to make the cleanser cleanse, good serums do not contain "filler" ingredients. This reflects in the price: you are not paying for soap, you are paying for a treatment product.

Moreover, a serum can often represent multiple products. If oil based, a serum could be acting as a potent treatment product and a source of moisture. The best serums on the market have active ingredients at the top of the ingredient list. While a serum does not have to be priced like a mi-range car to be effective, if you see important active ingredients at the end of the ingredient list, this means they are in the product at a proportion of less than 1%--they are not worth the money regardless of the price.

Serums are designed to be lightweight and absorb quickly. They are often weightless due to the particle size of the ingredients, simply meaning they will not only absorb quickly, but penetrate deeply, delivering the active ingredients effectively. This is extremely helpful for people who have acne prone skin or are dehydrated: you can include an additional layer of nutrients without feeling like you have sixteen layers of product on your face. They also work or perform in a different way than say, cleansers and moisturizers. Both can contain active ingredients, but cleansers are washed off and moisturizers do not penetrate the skin as deeply. The product will sit “on top” of your skin, protecting from external stressors, rather than allowing potent ingredients to sink into the epidermis.

One of the best things about serums is how customizable and diverse they are. Some of the most popular types of serums include: antioxidant serums, hydrating serums, brightening serums, exfoliating serums and deep wrinkle/anti-ageing serums.

  • Antioxidant serums: critical to skin health, incorporating everything from vitamin c, green tea extract, and ferulic acid (the list goes on). These are designed to prevent oxidation, protecting from pollution and future UV damage.
  • Hydrating serums: the best way boost hydration. Ingredients commonly seen involve glycerin, aloe vera and hyaluronic acid.
  • Brightening serums: help to fight hyperpigmentation, redness, or overall dullness. Think vitamin c, viniferine, or malic acid.
  • Exfoliating serums: an extra dose of exfoliation, via the help of alpha-hydroxy-acids like lactic and glycolic. Serums containing salicylic acid can also help prevent clogged pores.
  • Deep wrinkle/anti-ageing serums: Look for peptides, amino acids, ceramides, vitamins, and retinols.
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