What Is Face Serum? A Complete Guide for Skincare Beginners

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Face serum is a skincare product that fortifies your skin with high concentrations of active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, retinol, and more.

Toners, cleansers, moisturizers, and eye creams alone do not suffice for flawless skin. Besides, it is not uncommon to see a face serum on the list of recommended products for your skincare routine when you consult your aesthetician or any other skin expert.

The skincare routine you follow largely depends on your skin type and skincare goals. And so do the products. So, if you are looking to manage your skin and its peculiarities, I’ll advise you to include a face serum in your skincare regimen. Read on to learn all you need to know about face serums.

What Is Face Serum?

Face serum is a lightweight skincare product that absorbs quickly into your skin and nourishes it with active ingredients.

Most of this class of skincare products replace occlusive, moisture-trapping ingredients like mineral and seed oils with water and alpha- and beta- hydroxy acids (AHAs & BHAs).

Ni’kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist elaborates on its quick absorption. She says, “the beauty of serum is that most of the fluid is eliminated. So, what you’re left with is a high concentration of active ingredients”.

Furthermore, face serums come in glass bottles with droppers for application and easy use. The liquids are concentrated with antioxidants, peptides, skin brighteners, and other ingredients that soothe your skin.

People with sensitive skin usually are quite picky when it comes to what goes onto their skin. I assure you that there is a face serum that will not cause your skin to flare. Rather than that, you’ll find it soothing and the reason why you have fewer skin flares.

What Is Face Serum Used For?

When you use a face serum, you directly counter the unfriendly effects the elements have on your skin. For instance, face serums work to clarify your skin and enhance your complexion.

Moreover, they eliminate the dark spots that result from hyperpigmentation and prolonged exposure to sunlight. With a face serum, you extend the youthfulness and suppleness of your skin.

As you age, your skin develops wrinkles, fine lines, dullness, and dark eye circles. AM and PM applications of these beauty products will smoothen out those lines and brighten your undereye.

Face scrubs are the chemical exfoliants we all know. But you should know those face serums contain the recommended AHAs and BHAs your exfoliators contain. You can use them as skin exfoliators and get just the same result and a bonus of active ingredients.

Additionally, the water-based formula and hyaluronic acid content are why it is recommended for those with dry skin. These ingredients hydrate your skin and keep it plump and glowing.

Every skin type needs moisture to look its best; whether normal, dry, oily, acne-prone, sensitive or even combination.

You can think of serums as skincare ingredient vehicles. They help to deliver the ingredients of your moisturizers and still balance your pore after you have used a cleanser, astringent, or toner.

How Should You Choose a Face Serum?

Do not use a face serum because I or any other person said you should. Do not buy a face serum because your favorite brand just launched one and everyone is lauding it.

Choose a face serum based on your skin type and the concerns you are looking to manage. Buy a serum because it contains the ingredients your skin requires to look good.

Here’s a list of the types of face serums.

1. Anti-aging serums

This type of face serum alters the speed of the irregular aging process. If your skin type is prone to quick aging, you need a face serum like this. Anti-aging serums exist as vitamin C– of vitamin A- (retinol) based serums. They foster collagen production by increasing cell regeneration.

Incorporate an anti-aging serum into your skincare routine and enjoy turgid and plump skin. Moreover, it smoothens fine lines and wrinkles, enhancing suppleness and a youthful look.

If you’re using a retinol-based face serum, be aware that retinol is UV sensitive and may cause burns or skin irritations during the day. However, they are good for PM routines.

2. Anti-acne serums

When your skin pores are clogged with oil, dirt, grime, and dead cells; it leads to skin breakouts. Anti-acne face serums have strong exfoliating properties. Active ingredients like AHAs and BHAs penetrate deep into your skin and clean your pores and fade existing acne scars.

Meanwhile, your skin can enjoy pore refining and size reduction. When this happens, you have salvaged future occurrences. Glycolic and salicylic acids are the major acids found in this type of serum.

3. Antioxidant serums

Antioxidant serums repair and defend your skin from the effect of prolonged exposure to sun rays. This is a major concern for people with sensitive skin. Oxidative stresses from seasonal changes and certain beauty routines like makeup application and removal can be held off or countered with these serums.

These almost inevitable factors release toxins in the form of free radicals. These toxins are gateways to skin dryness, acne, wrinkles, and other skin problems peculiar to almost every skin type.

This skin repair serum contains vitamins C, A & E, and resveratrol which are antioxidants. The ingredients enhance the production of elastin and collagen which in turn protect and repair your skin. Also, this type of serum aids in speedy wound healing.

4. Hydrating serums

Every skin type can do with extra moisture. Moisture is the life of every skin. However, some skin concerns can only be treated with moisture. For instance, dry and dull skin.

Hydrating serums contain hyaluronic acid which is a strong hydrator. Its emollient properties work to make the molecules of the acid stop water from evaporating from your skin. Consequently, your skin continues to look smooth, supple, and plump.

Meanwhile, if you have oily skin, you can also the hydrating benefits of this type of face serum. It does not clog your pores with residues, hence, keeping acne and other skin blemishes at bay.

5. Skin brightening serums

Skin brightening serums contain acids like glycolic, kojic, ferulic, and sometimes lactic acid alongside vitamin C. If dull skin is something you have been struggling with, you can use this type of face serum and get gratifying results.

Dull skin can be a result of acne discoloration and uneven skin tone from other skin conditions. In addition, it could be a result of a lack of hydration; this is where glycolic acid comes in. All the ingredients work to hydrate, brighten and give your skin an uncompromised glow after use.

6. Skin resurfacing serums

Skin resurfacing face serums sound like one-size-fits-all serums. Mature skin will look better with this type of face serum. They improve and restore skin elasticity that may have been lost to dead skin cell build-up.

This serum contains ingredients that nourish your skin with nutrients and remove dead skin cells. Common ingredients of skin resurfacing serums include lactic acid, glycolic acid, and season.

How to Use Face Serum

The way to get the best out of your skincare products is when you buy an appropriate formula and use it appropriately.

When you use a face serum and your face feels sticky, there is a slight problem. You have either used too much, applied it in the wrong sequence, or there is a problem with the formula.

Furthermore, if it leaves your skin too dry and tight, you may have used a serum that is not meant for your skin.

Face serums border between cleansing and creams & oils. This means that, just after cleansing with toner or facial cleanser and just before moisturizer and eye cream, you should apply your face serum. And you should apply it while your face is still damp.

Follow this step-by-step guide to apply serum to your face:

  • Use the dropper applicator to pump out some of the serum
  • Then, apply four drops onto your clean palm and use your fingertips to transfer the serum to your face and neck
  • Gently pat the serum outwards until it has evenly covered your face and neck
  • Afterward, wait for it to absorb into your skin before you go on with a moisturizer and other products. This should take only a few minutes
  • Do this as part of your AM and PM routine

What Is the Right Age to Use a Face Serum?

The right age to add a face serum to your skincare routine is between the ages of 20 and 30.

At this time of your life, your skin already has the concerns serums are tailored for. You must have passed the pubertal acne so you can treat them accordingly.

Moreover, the skin around your face and undereye must have started showing those fine lines and dullness that anti-aging serums should smoothen out. This is also the time when your skin needs optimum protection.

Are There Any Downsides to Using Face Serum?

Yes, there are downsides to using a face serum. On first contact with your skin, you may experience some reactions like a burning sensation or itchiness. Also, if you use the wrong formula, it will have a different reaction on your skin.

Certain skin conditions like eczema cannot cope with the consistency of face serums. So, if you use face serums on them, you may get skin flares. Though, most of these downsides can be avoided.


Do face serums go bad?

Yes, they do. Every face serum has a shelf-life duration and expiration date. When this time has elapsed, the ingredients lose their quality.

Opened face serums naturally lose half of their approximated shelf-life. So, you should use it within twelve months and always store the bottles in a cool place away from sunlight. Also, when you go shopping, take note of the expiration date.

Do you need to use a face serum with moisturizer?

Yes, you do. Face serum cannot replace moisturizer either the other way round. Essentially, both are useful to achieve your skincare goals. They work together to supply your skin with nourishment and moisture.

Moisturizers come after using a face serum. Do not use serum after moisturizer and do not apply moisturizer until the serum has fully absorbed into your skin.

How should you store face serum?

Skincare products do not need humid or hot environments like your bathroom. Store products like face serum in cool temperatures like in a refrigerator. This keeps the active ingredients from denaturing and causing side effects.

However, you should keep an oil-based serum out of the refrigerator. Instead, keep them in a clean, cool place away from sunlight.


The skin on the face is the most exposed and sensitive area on the body. For this reason, when skincare products are made and prescribed for this skin area, extra caution needs to be taken. Face serum is one skincare product that is causing a rave and making waves in the beauty industry.

I think it will be unfair to leave you without adequate information and just egg you on. You should know the why, how, and what of face serums. This is how you get the best out of your skincare routine. Face serums penetrate into your pores and clear dirt, oil, and dead skin cells.

This quick and deep absorption of active ingredients is the bedrock of all the benefits that your skin enjoys. Buy the right face serum and use it as you should, in the right order and frequency. If you notice prolonged reactions like a burning or itching sensation, you should see a doctor.

Thanks for reading.

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