What Is Serum for Skin? Everything You Need to Know About Skin Care Serums

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Have you ever wondered what a serum is? If you are new to the world of skincare, this can seem like a difficult question. But don’t worry. Serums are actually very easy to understand and use in your daily routine.

A serum is a concentrate of active ingredients that are typically used to treat specific skin conditions. They are designed to deliver targeted ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid into the skin.

Although serums are not as popular as moisturizers, they’re just as important for your skin. They’re not just a mixture of ingredients, either. Serums provide specific benefits for your skin and they do it faster than any other product.

This article breaks down what serum is, how it works for the skin, and most importantly, what benefits you can expect to see with this type of skincare product. Let’s get started.

What Is a Serum?

A serum is the most potent and concentrated form of a skincare product. It contains active ingredients, mostly extracts from plants and herbs which have been proven to produce positive effects on the skin.

Serums provide a variety of benefits for the skin. For instance, they can help to fade wrinkles, even out skin tone, and reduce pore size. There are also serums for specific purposes like hydrating your skin or combatting signs of aging only.

Linda Woodson, a dermatologist, elaborates on their anti-aging benefits. She says, “serums have a great ability to penetrate the dermis, and stimulate collagen production. This helps to improve the skin’s firmness and elasticity.”

Furthermore, serums are easy to use and safe for all skin types. They are also more lightweight and concentrated than moisturizers, so they can deliver specific ingredients deeper into your skin’s layers.

Why You Should Use a Serum

Serums are a great way to add that extra bit of moisture and nourishment to your skin. For instance, if you have dry or dull skin, a serum is something you should consider using on a daily basis for healthier-looking skin.

However, some people don’t like the idea of using serums because they assume it will make their faces oily or greasy. If you’re part of this population, it is important to know that this notion is false.

“There’s actually good evidence that shows serums are non-comedogenic, which means they don’t clog pores or lead to breakouts. They are also lightweight and penetrate deep into your skin without leaving an oily residue.” Woodson explains.

Serums contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid which helps to hydrate your skin from the inside out and retain moisture in the outer layer of your skin.

Moreover, they contain antioxidants that help protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage and result in inflammation, cancer, and premature aging.

Serums also contain active ingredients like retinol, which help to promote healthier-looking skin by encouraging collagen production and strengthening the skin’s elasticity.

Which Type of Serum Is Best for You

Most people ignore the fact that choosing a serum is more than just reading the label and picking up the most expensive bottle. Do not choose a serum because it’s trending or your friends are using it.

Instead, choose a serum specific to your skin type and needs. The key to finding the right serum is knowing what your skin needs and then pick a product that delivers those specific needs.

Here’s a list of the common types of serums and how they function:

1. Anti-aging Serums

Anti-aging serums are a popular treatment for rejuvenating the skin and reducing wrinkles and other signs of old age, caused by the loss of moisture and elasticity in the skin.

The active ingredients in these serums typically include different antioxidants, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), or beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). 

These ingredients work to protect your skin from skin radicals and maintain elasticity in your skin tissues. This helps to prevent signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles before they form and reduce the visibility of existing ones.

They also work as exfoliators, getting rid of any dead cells that may be blocking your pores and contributing to acne or blackheads. The result is visibly plump and smoother-looking skin for you.

2. Skin Brightening Serums

Skin brightening serums are the way to go if you want to brighten your skin tone and complexion. These skincare products are designed to even the skin tone and remove dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation.

Skin brightening serums contain active ingredients like kojic acid, vitamin C, glycolic acid, niacinamide, and hydroxyl acids, which work wonders in changing the pigmentation of the skin.

These ingredients work by hydrating your skin and inhibiting the production of melanin (the skin’s natural pigment). This will keep your skin from being dry and it will also help even out skin tone, and fade dark spots and acne scars.

Incorporating a brightening serum into your skincare routine also helps break the bond in dead and damaged dead skin cells, making them shed faster. The result is an overall glow that can’t be gotten with other products.

3. Antioxidant Serums

Antioxidant serums are skincare product that helps repair your skin from molecules and free radical damage. These free radicals can come from environmental factors such as sunlight, pollution, and other sources.

They are also created naturally within your cells as a byproduct of normal metabolic processes. When these free radicals react with your skin, they can cause damage and lead to age spots, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.

There are many types of antioxidants, but the most commonly used ones in these serums are vitamins C, A, & E. These vitamins work by neutralizing the free radicals to prevent them from damaging your skin.

Furthermore, antioxidant serums boost collagen production in your skin, which in turn protects your skin from aging signs. They also offer protection against UV rays that can be harmful to your skin.

4. Hydrating Serums

Hydrating serums are a must-have for every skin type. They moisturize and nourish the skin without feeling greasy or oily. Yet, they are so lightweight that you can wear them under your regular moisturizer.

Hydrating serums work by first penetrating deep into the innermost layers of your skin to provide you with nourishing ingredients such as vitamin E, ceramide, and humectant agents.

These ingredients work to hydrate your skin and retain moisture in it. They also allow other skincare products like creams and lotions to better penetrate your skin and produce more long-term results.

Hydrating serums are also perfect if you’re looking to combat dry and dull skin. But, it is important to note that they don’t replace your regular moisturizer. You should apply it after cleansing, but before applying a moisturizer.

5. Clarifying Serums

A clarifying serum helps you get rid of the gunk and build-up on your skin. After using makeup and skincare products, you may notice that some of your products settle in your pores, making them appear larger than they are.

You can minimize these effects by using a clarifying serum. They can also help with mild acne and small blemishes. The key ingredient in these serums is usually salicylic acid, which helps to clear up breakouts and fight against blackheads on the skin.

Salicylic acid is a very gentle chemical that won’t irritate or dry out your skin like other acne treatments. It can also help with skin discolorations like brown spots caused by aging.

Furthermore, clarifying serums contain other ingredients like tea tree extract, witch hazel, and vitamin C. “I recommend vitamin C because it also contains powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the body,” Woodson says.

6. Resurfacing Serums

Skin resurfacing serums are a great way to recapture your youthful energy and beauty. These serums help to combat the effects of environmental factors, such as aging signs and UV damage. 

Resurfacing serums are formulated with an array of ingredients including lactic acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid, which help to smooth out unevenness in the skin’s surface by removing the dead cells on top of it.

Additionally, they help to nourish the dermal layer of your skin by increasing the production of collagen and elastin fibers. This leads to a decrease in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.

Are There Any Downsides to Using a Serum?

Yes, there are. Common side effects of serums include irritation, burning sensation, redness, dryness, and increased sensitivity to the sun, especially if you’re using a retinol-based product.

You may also experience irritations if you have certain skin conditions, like eczema and rosacea. If you experience any of these side effects with the use of a serum, discontinue use and consult with your dermatologist immediately.

How to Apply Serum on the Face

It’s important to note that you’re not supposed to use serums in place of moisturizers. Serums are most effective when they’re applied after the skin has undergone a good cleansing and exfoliation, but before you apply your moisturizer.

Here is a step-by-step guide to applying serum to your face:

  • Wash your face, neck, and hands with warm water and pat dry with a towel.
  • Use the applicator to pump out a few drops of serum on your fingertips.
  • Apply serum to your face and neck, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
  • Gently rub the serum into your skin until you’ve fully covered your face and neck.
  • Allow the serum to penetrate for some time before applying moisturizer and sunscreen.


Do you need serum in your skincare routine?

Yes, you do. Serums are essential in every skincare routine. They penetrate deeper into the skin, meaning they can deliver more targeted ingredients to the area where you need them most.

Serums contain higher concentrations of active ingredients that give your skin a boost. Even if every product in your routine is from a high-quality brand, it’s more likely that using a serum will make a positive difference to your complexion.

Can you use serums at night?

Yes, you can. The skin absorbs serums more effectively at night than it does during the day. Also, you shouldn’t apply retinol serum during the day as it is photosensitive and can break down when exposed to sunlight.

Serums need time to work their magic, which is why your skin is more receptive to its ingredients while you sleep. At night, your skin rests while you sleep, so it’s the perfect time for serums to get down to business.

Can you use serums to treat wrinkles?

Yes, you can. You can use serums to treat several skin conditions, including wrinkles, fine lines, loss of elasticity, and sun damage.

Serums contain active ingredients that penetrate the innermost layers of your epidermis to enhance the production of collagen and elastin fibers. Both of these are necessary to increase skin elasticity and prevent signs of aging like wrinkles.


Your skin is a sensitive and vital organ, and it is the interface between your body and the external environment. It is very important to supply it with nutrients and care through any means possible.

One way to do that is through serums. They comprise a large number of concentrated proteins, peptides, antioxidants, vitamins, and other compounds which provide many benefits for your skin, such as hydration and anti-aging.

However, serums can cause side effects such as irritation and increased sensitivity to the sun in sensitive skin, so it’s best to do a patch test first and consult with a dermatologist if you have any reactions.

Thanks for reading.

Visit Serum101 for more information on serums and other skincare products.