why a serum is the most important product in your skincare routine

I have a confession to make.

For years, I didn’t use a serum. I thought it was just one of those skincare gimmicks that suck your money dry, but don’t really do anything for your skin. Not if you’re using a good moisturizer, anyway.

“Wouldn’t I just pay twice for the same thing?,” the cynic in me said. It’s not like skincare brands never repackage their facial creams in smaller jars and call them eye creams…

But, you can’t exactly run a beauty blog that focuses on skincare and avoid serums for good. So, in my mid-20s, I took the plunge. Back then, I was just starting to get into anti-aging, so I picked up one that was laden with antioxidants.

And then kicked myself in the butt for not adding this stuff to my skincare routine earlier.

Turns out, serum isn’t a useless gimmick. It’s the workhorse of your skincare routine. Here’s why:

What The Heck Is A Serum?

A serum is a lightweight lotion packed with active ingredients designed to target a specific skincare concern, like wrinkles, dehydration or dark spots.

It’s their incredibly high concentrations of active ingredients that makes them stand out. Only boosters contain more – but those are for emergencies, not daily use.

Related: The Complete Guide To Skincare Booster: What They Are, What They Do, And How To Use Them

Not sure what ingredients you can use together? Download the “How To Combine Actives Like A Pro” cheatsheet below to find out:

Do You Really Need A Serum?

When choosing a moisturizer, I always made sure it had plenty of antioxidants. If I got my fix from a moisturizer, I reasoned, I didn’t have to buy an antioxidant serum, too. Why pay twice for the same thing?

Because a serum contains a much higher concentration of antioxidants than any moisturizer ever will. Same is true for every other active ingredient, by the way.

You see, a moisturizer is made up of a thousand things. Occlusive oils to seal moisture in. Thickeners to make the formula richer. And so on.

Compare this to serums. They contain their active ingredients and not much else. With little else to fight for space for, these active ingredients take up most of the formula.

And, their lightweight textures make it easier for them to penetrate your skin, too. That’s why serums work better and faster than any other skincare product out there.

Related: Dry Skin? Here’s What Your Moisturiser Should Contain

How Do You Use A Serum?

Ok, now that you know a serum is not negotiable, how do you use one?

Easy. Pour a pea-sized amount on your hand and apply it on your skin after your cleanser or AHA/BHA exfoliant, but before your moisturizer. 

Moisturizers create a barrier on your skin that’s almost impossible for serums to get through. Some of the actives may still make it, but the serum won’t work as well as it could.

If your skin is oily, you may not need to apply a moisturizer at all. There’s the chance the serum will be hydrating enough for your skin on its own.  I sometimes skip the moisturizer on my oily t-zone. But, on my dry cheeks? It’s a must. If I don’t, my skin feels tight and dry.

Related: Can You Skip Moisturiser And Use Serum Alone?

best vitamin C serum: drunk elephant c-firma day serum

What Are The Best Serums Out There?

So, now that you know you should use a serum, which one should you pick? Here are a few of my favourites:

For exfoliating skin: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00)and Alpha Skin Care Intensive Rejuvenating Serum ($18.99)

For fading dark spots and brightening skin: Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution ($88.00) and Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00)

For hydrating skin: Niod Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Complex ($25.00) and Skinceuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier ($98.00)

For preventing wrinkles: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($166.00) and Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Concentrate Serum ($38.00)

For soothing skin: Niod Modulating Glucosides (£17.00) and Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Repairing Serum ($34.00)

For treating wrinkles and sun damage: Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65.00) and Paula’s Choice Resist Wrinkle Intensive Retinol Repair Serum ($42.00)