Don’t be misled by their petite bottle or thin texture; face serums are packed with a powerful dose of ingredients that can lead to real changes in your skin’s appearance. In addition to many serums helping to boost moisture levels, they’re formulated with concentrated amounts of active ingredients that target specific skincare concerns.
Serums can do everything from brightening dull skin to combating the look of fine lines, and even minimizing the appearance of large pores. Once you discover how to decode serums like a pro, you’ll be on your way to reaching your skincare goals.
Different Types of Face Serums
Below we’ve outlined four of the most common types of skin serums, including what their active ingredient is, what skin concern they target, and how to use each.
Vitamin C Serum
Skincare Goal: Brighten The Look of Dull Skin
Consider vitamin C serum the kryptonite todull, tired-looking skin. This antioxidant-rich ingredient is one of your skin’s best defenses against free radical damage. That means it can help combat premature signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, and reduced firmness. Plus, a serum featuring concentrated amounts of vitamin C can help bring on the brilliance. When paired with a soothing ingredient such as vitamin E, you’ll really experience a boost in moisture and glow.
Dullness in skin can be caused by a variety of factors ranging from pollution and UV damage to a natural decrease in your skin’s cell turnover. A serum with vitamin C and E combined can help boost your skin’s radiance while protecting it from external damages. Since the ‘90s, we’ve known that when used together, the skincare benefits of both ingredients are increased.
While vitamin C serum can technically be used at night, it really works its antioxidant magic when applied in the morning. Generally speaking, all serums should be applied after cleansing and toning, but before your moisturizer. (By the way, if you’re ever unsure about the order of when to apply skincare products, the rule of thumb is to go from the lightest texture to the thickest.)
Ideally, you should use it in conjunction with an SPF 15 (30 or higher if your skin is fair). To make the job easy, apply our award-winning beauty miracle, CC+ Cream w/ SPF 50+. In addition to protecting your skin from the skin, this full coverage foundation is packed with an anti-aging serum for a nourished, flawless-looking complexion.
Skincare Goal: Reduce The Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles
For many, one of the first signs of aging skin is fine lines. These pesky wrinkles usually show up in areas that move the most on our faces, including around our mouth, on our forehead, and near our eyes. Wearing SPF daily and sticking to your cleansing and moisturizing routine can really help prevent premature signs of aging.
That said, if you’re keen on doubling down on the fine line fight then add a potent serum formulated with peptides and hyaluronic acid to your regimen. Lines often appear more visible when the skin’s dehydrated and experiencing a loss of fullness. Hyaluronic acid can deeply hydrate the skin while peptides work to visibly plump.
These two powerful ingredients join forces in Bye Bye Lines™ Anti-Aging Serum. Once applied, skin quickly absorbs this weightless anti-aging serum to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. At the same time, it visibly improves the overall tone and texture of your face for skin that looks and feels firm, supple, soft, and younger.
You can use this anti-aging serum either in the morning or in the evening. If you’re using a peptide serum with another serum, you have a few options. If both are the same consistency, then you can mix them together in the palm of your hand before applying them to your face. However, if they are different consistencies, then it’s best to either apply individually and wait for the other to absorb, or you can rotate day and night application, or rotate them daily.
When two serums are different consistencies, they sometimes don’t blend together very well and can pill on your skin versus absorbing.
Skincare Goal: Visibly Fade Dark Spots, Hyperpigmentation, and Other Discoloration
An uneven skin tone has a few different causes. For example, dark spots often pop up as we age, acne can lead to lingering post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and some skin disorders can also create areas of discoloration.
To reduce dark spots such as hyperpigmentation and acne marks, it’s important to accelerate skin repair and visibly fade the discoloration. A combination of niacinamide and Actyl-C (a form of vitamin C) is one of the best face serum formulations you can use to tackle both.
This powerful duo of ingredients can help brighten the skin’s appearance while visibly aiding in skin recovery. Further, numerous scientific studies have identified an improvement in the appearance of wrinkles, skin yellowing, and elasticity with consistent topical niacinamide use.I
You can apply niacinamide serum in the morning or evening. If you’re using another type of face serum as well, alternate them in the morning and at night, or rotate them daily.
Glycolic Acid Serum
Skincare Goal: Refine The Look of Skin’s Tone and Texture
The road to smooth-looking skin begins with regular exfoliation. Glycolic acid—a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)—is one of the most effective exfoliating ingredients in the skincare market. According to theU.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), glycolic acid can help smooth fine lines and visibly improve skin’s overall tone and texture.II
It does so by buffing away dead skin cells that have overstayed their welcome. A notable benefit of regular exfoliation is that it helps sweep away dead skin cells that have accumulated in your pores, making them appear larger. You’ll sometimes find glycolic acid skin serums that are formulated with hyaluronic acid. This ingredient helps skin look and feel more plumped and hydrated, which can result in a more youthful appearance.
As for how to apply a glycolic acid serum, it’s best to use them in the evenings only. This is because AHAs can cause photosensitivity. In other words, they might increase your chances of developing a sunburn. (Even if you apply at night, make sure you use SPF in the morning.)
Also, because AHAs are powerful exfoliators, we recommend not combining them with other active ingredients, including vitamin C, enzymes, and retinoids. Doing so could potentially cause skin irritation.
If you’re using other active ingredients in your skincare routine, simply alternate the products morning and night, or rotate them on a daily basis. For example, you might use your vitamin C serum in the morning and then your glycolic acid serum in the evening. Or you might use your retinoid one evening, and then your glycolic acid serum the next evening.
Because face serums really zero in on specific skin concerns, they can be a worthy addition to anyone’s regimen. The key is to apply the right serum, or serums, that will help you reach your specific skincare goals on a consistent basis. Who would have thought a few drops a day could deliver such skin-changing results?
- Donald L Bissett; John E Oblong; Cynthia A Berge. “Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance.” American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. 2005.10.1111/j.1524-4725.2005.31732
- Liedtka, Jane; Zhang, Ben; Wang, Jianyong; Tran, Doanh. “Glycolic Acid.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 2016.https://www.fda.gov/media/101373/download