What Are Face Serums And How to Use Them? The Ultimate Guide

What are face serums and how to use them

If you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered what face serums are and why they’re so popular. You might also be wondering if they’re really worth the hype.

Well, I’m here to tell you that they are!

Face serums can take your skincare routine to a whole new level by focusing on targeted areas of concern or dryness. They provide concentrated doses of ingredients that work wonders for your skin when you use them regularly.

But where should you start? Which face serums are right for your skin? How should you start using face serums in the first place?

To help you learn everything you need to know about face serums, our team put together this massive guide for you.

If you’re wondering what face serums are, how they work, and how to choose the best serum for you, tag along!

What is a face serum?

A serum is a concentrated form of skincare that delivers active ingredients like antioxidants, peptides and anti-inflammatories to your skin. Serums are either oil-based or water-based, and they can penetrate the skin more deeply than other types of skincare products.

Serums are designed for all skin types, including those with sensitive or problem skin, but they’re especially beneficial for those who want to target specific skincare concerns.

For example, if your skin is dry, you can choose a face serum with hydrating agents to give your skin what it needs.

Or if you want to get rid of dark spots, you can include a brightening face serum into your skincare routine.

So are serums moisturizers or creams?


Face serums offer moisturizing ingredients, but they can’t substitute a moisturizer. Especially if you have dry skin or your skin is prone to redness and irritation, you need both a face serum and a moisturizer.

Serums have a thinner consistency than creams and moisturizers. Therefore, they absorb quickly into your skin, making them perfect for layering your skincare products.

For more learning, check out our guide on the difference between face serums vs. oils.

What do face serums do?

Serums are a type of skincare product that is designed to target specific skin concerns such as dryness, redness and signs of ageing.

Depending on what you want to achieve, face serums allow you to address certain needs and issues with your skin.

Here are a few issues face serums can help you with:

  1. Dry skin:
    Hydrating serums contain active ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
  2. Acne, large pores, oily skin:
    Serums containing salicylic acid and zinc can unclog pores and help reduce inflammation.
  3. Signs of ageing:
    Face serums containing retinols can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, while vitamin C can brighten the skin.
  4. Redness and irritation:
    Soothing face serums usually contain hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, zinc, and aloe vera.
  5. Uneven skin texture:
    Hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid improve the overall skin texture and appearance.

The bottom line is: face serums can bring multiple benefits to your skincare routine. We believe it’s best to include 2–3 serums into your regime. That way, you can give your skin exactly what it needs on any given day.

Why should you use a face serum? 4 benefits to your skin

If you’re looking for a way to take your skin care routine to the next level, then face serums are exactly what you need.

A serum is essentially an added step in your daily skincare regimen that provides deep hydration and nourishment for your entire face – and it can help provide some serious benefits.

If you’re ready to add this powerful tool into your daily routine, here are six reasons why:

1. It hydrates your skin:

If your skin is dry, it craves for hydrating agents and moisture – both from the inside and outside. Especially if you live in a climate with cold winters, your skin needs some extra love and care to deal with the massive temperature jumps when heading outside and back in.

A face serum is a great way to boost hydration levels in your skin. The right serum helps lock in moisture so that you won’t have to worry about dryness or flaking. A good serum should contain ingredients that work together to form a barrier over your face that traps moisture inside.

To hydrate your skin, choose a serum that contains:

2. It improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles:

When it comes to skincare, time is the biggest factor that we can’t change – it’s a given. So, as time passes by, we all develop signs of ageing that are just a part of life.

Although it’s impossible to stop ageing, a well thought-out skincare routine and healthy life choices can help slow things down.

With the right face serum, you can reduce or even eliminate fine lines and wrinkles by plumping up skin cells and filling in spaces between them. The active ingredients hydrate, regenerate, and brighten the skin. Also, certain ingredients like vitamin C stimulate collagen production, which helps improve firmness over time.

To reduce signs of ageing, choose a face serum that contains:

  • Peptides
  • Retinol
  • Niacinamide
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Vitamin C

3. It reduces acne:

Acne is a common issue that often takes its toll not just on the skin but on the overall well-being of a person.

A face serum for oily skin can help control breakouts by killing bacteria on your skin and preventing them from reproducing.

To help your skin recover faster, choose a face serum with the following active ingredients:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Zinc
  • Hyaluronic acid

4. It improves the appearance of sun damage:

Dark spots, fine lines, and discoloration of the skin are common signs of sun damage.

The right face serum can help reduce or even eliminate sun spots and discoloration by fading away dark marks over time.

Regular use will help prevent new dark spots from forming. Also, make sure to protect your entire face, ears, and neck with an SPF of 30 or higher.

To reduce the appearance of sun damage, choose a face serum with these active ingredients:

  • Vitamin C
  • Retinol
  • Peptides
  • Niacinamide

Now, what are all these ingredients exactly? Let’s take a look:

Types of face serums: Common active ingredients

There are many types of face serums you can choose between. Let’s go through some of the most common active ingredients you will find in serums and see what they can do for you:

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant properties that help protect the skin from free radicals. This ingredient helps brighten the skin and boost collagen production.

Hyaluronic acid:

Hyaluronic acid is a powerful hydrating ingredient that binds and attracts water molecules to the epidermis (the outer layer of your skin). It helps skin stretch and flex and reduces skin wrinkles and lines. It is also proven to help wounds heal faster and can reduce scarring.

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen hyaluronic acid everywhere in skincare lately. And the truth is: it works!

Retinols and retinoids:

Retinols, retinoids, and other vitamin A derivatives promote collagen production. Out of all ingredients in skincare, vitamin A derivatives have the most scientific evidence of being effective against signs of ageing.


Niacinamide helps reduce inflammation, redness from eczema, acne, and other inflammatory skin conditions. It also reduces the appearance of pores, and keeps your skin smooth and moisturized.

Salicylic acid:

Salicylic acid can fight acne and blackheads by reducing redness, unplugging blocked pores, and promoting exfoliation. It softens and loosens dry, scaly, or thickened skin so that the dead skin cells can be removed easily.


Peptides can improve cellular regeneration by stimulating fibroblasts to produce more collagen and elastin fibers as well as new blood vessels within the dermis (the middle layer).

In other words: peptides help your skin renew and retain moisture. This improves your skin texture, making your complexion more even and smooth.

How to choose the right serum?

Before choosing a face serum, consider these points:

Skin type:

Be mindful of your skin type and what works best for you. Whether you have normal, dry, oily, combination, or sensitive skin, your serum should help your skin look and feel better.

Skin issue:

What issue are you trying to fix or address? Whether you want to fight acne, signs of ageing, sun damage, or redness, the right serum will do the job for you.

Of course, we all have different concerns depending on different days and times of year. We recommend having 2–3 face serums to choose from, so that you can always give your skin exactly what it needs right now.

How do I use a face serum? 5 quick tips

Once you’ve decided on a face serum, it’s time to start using it.

1. Use the right serums for AM and PM

Some face serums make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so they’re best applied in the evening.

A good rule of thumb is: apply hydrating and protecting face serums in the morning, and regenerating, exfoliating serums in the evening.

Use these in the morning:

  • Anti-pigmentation and antioxidant serums (vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha arbutin)
  • Hydrating serums

Use these in the evening:

  • Anti-ageing serums (retinols, retinoids)
  • Exfoliating serums (AHA, BHA, salicylic acid)
  • Hydrating serums

2. Patch-test before use

When incorporating a new face serum into your routine, make sure that you do so slowly by making a patch test first.

Some people may experience irritation if they apply too much product at once or use ingredients that aren’t compatible with their skin type or condition.

For example, using too many exfoliating products containing acids can lead to redness and irritation.

3. Apply serums after toning and before moisturizing

When you include new steps into your routine, you want to make sure to layer your skincare products correctly. The active ingredients in face serums can only absorb into your skin if you apply them at the right time.

When should you apply face serums, then?

The right answer is:

When layering skincare products, serums come after cleanser and toner but before moisturizer. You want them closest to the skin so that they can absorb into your skin more easily. Also, your moisturizer will lock in all the good stuff.

4. Use just a few drops

When it comes to applying face serums, less is more. Applying too much could irritate your skin.

Use just a few drops – a little goes a long way!

5. Spread evenly over face, ears, and neck

Spread your face serum evenly over the entire face. Don’t forget the ears, neck, and neckline.

Summing it up

Now you know what face serums are and how they can benefit your skin. If you’re looking to try out a new product, be mindful of your skin type and the specific issue you want to target.

Remember that face serums contain a high concentration of active ingredients, so they are very potent compared to other skincare products. Thus, more is not always better. Always patch-test when incorporating a new serum into your routine.

If you are not sure which face serum is right for you, consult your dermatologist for more information and details.

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