Serums - The creme de la creme of performance skincare
Serums are the doer, the hard grafter of the skincare family, addressing specific skin concerns. We are lucky to have so many to choose from. Serums treat a plethora of different issues ranging from lack of radiance, pigmentation spots, dehydration, oiliness, large pores and spots, redness, fine lines and they can even exfoliate. Many will tackle more than one issue under the umbrella of ‘anti-ageing’. I’ve said before that I don’t like the term anti-ageing. Surely we want to live until we are old. This is the aim, right?! However, serums are designed to deliver a powerful hit of active ingredients, such as vitamins, peptides and high tech molecules, directly to our skin and can offer all kinds of benefits. This is why you will often find that they are of a higher price point compared to all other skincare steps. They cost more to produce because they contain more active ingredients. Think of your serum as having the biggest job to do. This is where you treat, repair and correct your skin. It’s stimulation for the skin. So if you are able to invest in the right one, your skin will thank you for it.
What types of serums are there?
Thankfully there are many kinds available, so you should find one to suit you and you may benefit from more than one. Below are the main ones:
This is an antioxidant powerhouse, a true skincare superhero, that helps protect skin against free radicals which can cause damage. They do this by breaking down collagen and elastin production. Pollution, cigarette smoke and other factors within our everyday environment are nasty culprits but vitamin C fights back. It improves the look and feel of the skin by boosting collagen production and is glow giving . Vitamin C is recognised as an anti-ageing ingredient and I use it every morning without fail.
Retinoids are a form of vitamin A and are the best topical treatment (a product applied to the skin) for long term reduction in fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage, along with many other skincare concerns. Some are able to reduce the appearance of pores, improve acne and psoriasis. They work by promoting skin regeneration and can be quite potent. So most need to be introduced gradually into your skincare routine as they can cause flaking and redness but this doesn’t last long. Always follow the instructions on the packaging. Don’t be tempted to slather it on. Less is definitely more to start with. Vitamin A products must always be used in conjunction with a broad spectrum sunscreen as the ingredients can leave the skin more sun sensitive. It usually takes several weeks to see a difference in the skin. It’s an investment and one that needs patience but don’t give up. The results can be incredible. There are many brands now triumphing natural alternatives which is wonderful for consumer choice. They tend not be quite as potent which might appeal to some. I use a Vitamin A serum every other night as part of my evening routine. When I first started I used it twice a week and built it up. I haven’t suffered any adverse effects.
This is a skincare all-rounder. It’s found naturally in the skin but when we are exposed to the sun and free radicals it diminishes. It really helps to retain moisture, is an effective anti-inflammatory, a wound healer and can reduce redness. This is a great option for those with really sensitive skin.
This might sound scary but if you’ve read my blog about acid toners you’ll know that there is nothing to fear. These products don’t contain harsh acids. Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance which is already present in your body. It has the ability to hold more than a thousand times its own weight in water. It will grab onto water in your skin and plump it up as well as brighten the skin tone. So by doing this it helps the skin to look and feel plumper and smoother. It’s widely used in serums as well as creams, foundations, body lotion, lip balms and can be used on any skin type. Perfect for this time of year when skin tends to be drier and more dehydrated than normal. I love it because results can be instant. I use this in the morning when I feel my skin needs it and sometimes in the evening.
These are collagen boosters that stimulate the skin’s stem cells. When collagen breaks down, as we get older, it releases peptides. By applying a topical peptide it encourages the skin to make new collagen. Copper Peptide is certainly a favourite. It accelerates collagen production and increases the skins natural moisturisation encouraging firmer more hydrated skin. I have a peptide serum which I use a few times a week when needed.
Also known as vitamin B3. It has been shown to work well for acne/blemish prone skin. It works by enhancing and strengthening the barrier function of the epidermis (the outer layers of the skin), therefore protecting against bacterial attack. It works well to soothe redness and irritation so it’s good for rosacea, hyper-pigmentation and fine lines. I keep a Niacinamide serum in my bathroom cabinet at home as I sometimes get a rosacea flare up on one cheek and will use it to calm the area.
When should I use a serum?
As a rule - every day. Don’t save them for best. They are the boss of skincare products so weave them into your routine. As a general rule use Vitamin C in the morning after cleansing, toning and applying an eye product. Then follow with moisturiser and your sunscreen. Vitamin A can be introduced gradually into your evening routine after cleansing, toning and applying an eye product. Then follow with facial oils, night creams and blemish treatments. Hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and peptides can be fitted in as and when you need them. Try to always follow with a moisturiser because, even though they contain more active ingredients than a moisturiser, they don’t tend to contain enough moisture. Remember – use your serums every day. Make them your friend. Having said that, you don’t need to have every one of the serums that I’ve mentioned. Start with a vitamin C and use it in the morning. You can then add others to your skincare shelf as and when you want to.
How much serum should I use?
Most serums come with a handy pump dispenser or pipette (dropper) which makes them super easy to use as they dispense the correct amount. Always follow the product instructions but they will generally say one pump or half a pipettes worth. A little goes a long way to cover the face. They are normally light water based formulas which means that they sink into the upper layers of the skin easily and tend not to leave an oily residue. Massage in well to face, neck and décolleté, there is no need to gently pat the product in unless this is specifically stated (but even then I always massage it in).
In what order should I apply my serums?
If you are applying more than one serum, for example a vitamin C and a hyaluronic acid always apply the lightest consistency first. Although most serums are quite light, there is a mixture of textures available. They are designed to be layered under a moisturiser and will penetrate into the upper layers so ensure skin is regularly exfoliated with a physical exfoliator or acid toner. This will mean that the product will effectively penetrate rather than sit on the surface with the dry dead skin cells. We want those active ingredients to absorb well. Your moisturiser then works predominantly on the surface of the skin.
Serums according to age:
Here is an outline of what you could use according to your age and the condition that your skin is in. It is a loose guideline as you will ultimately know your skin best.
A vitamin C would be great but a very gentle one. It doesn’t need to be too active or aggressive.
An antioxidant serum like vitamin C and niacinamide plus a hyaluronic acid serum. From our mid-twenties our cell turnover slows down, this is the start of the aging process. Skin will find it harder to retain water and oil, this is called trans epidermal water loss, and so Hyaluronic acid will really help to combat this.
A good antioxidant serum like Vitamin C and niacinamide. Use daily in the morning. Also a daily dose of a good quality hyaluronic acid to combat trans epidermal water loss which is quite common at this age and can get worse. From our mid 30s we can step things up with the use of peptides and retinoids too. Don’t leave these until you notice lots of signs that your skin is getting older, if you’d prefer to keep them at bay.
40s 50s 60s 70s 80s & 90s
A good quality antioxidant serum like Vitamin C. But you may also want to spend money correcting issues i.e. a good quality pigmentation serum, good quality hyaluronic serum, Vitamin A, these should be a staple as the skins cell turnover is very slow at this point and vitamin A will help to speed it up.
Serums won't let you down. They are a hard working and your skin will thank you for it.
Here are my all time favourite serums:
Sunday Riley Vitamin C Brightening Serum https://uk.sundayriley.com/
Medik8 C Tetra Vitamin C Radiance Serum https://www.medik8.com/
Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum https://uk.sundayriley.com/
Medik8 Retinol 3TR Advanced Vitamin A Serum https://www.medik8.com/
Peptides, Vitamin E, Hyaluronic Acids, Niacinamide, others:
Medik8 Liquid Peptides Multi Peptide Serum https://www.medik8.com/
Clarins Double Serum https://www.clarins.co.uk/
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair https://www.esteelauder.co.uk/
The Organic Pharmacy Skin Rescue Serum (containing Vitamin E) https://www.theorganicpharmacy.com/
The Organic Pharmacy Hyaluronic Acid Serum https://www.theorganicpharmacy.com/
The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum https://uk.theinkeylist.com/