What Is Serum? We Unveil the Truth Behind Everyone’s Obsession

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what is serum

So, you’ve spoken to one of your friends who can’t stop raving about a serum. You’re intrigued and want to get in on the action but don’t know where to start.

Don’t worry – you’re not alone.

It can be pretty intimidating and confusing, to say the least, to try to understand the true definition of serum, especially when the term is often intermixed with face oils and moisturizers.  

Frequently, the answers to the “what is serum” questions just scratch the surface. But if you’re anything like me, you want in-depth answers before you make a purchase, including product recommendations based on your skin concerns. Just know that chasing healthy, glowing skin is completely attainable – with the right products.

As a proud owner of several serums (you only really need to start with one, but we’ll get to that in a minute), I’m highly aware of the benefits it can do for your skin. Serums work harder than any other skincare product, with results made to last. 

What Is Serum?

A serum is a skincare product that contains a potent blend of active ingredients that look to target skin concerns, such as dullness, fine lines, acne, and dehydration. For a product to categorize as a serum, the texture needs to be very lightweight, watery-like for maximum absorption.

Why? Let me give you a crash course in how serums work (without getting too science-y):

Think of your skin as a protective barrier that blocks large particles from entering the surface – this is a good thing! The only way to gain access to the skin’s deeper layers is to remain small, hence why serums are so good at doing their job. Because serums consist of tiny molecules, they can penetrate deeper into the skin, which means they can tackle stubborn issues much quicker and with greater efficacy.


How Many Serums Should I Use? 

Purchasing serums brings pure, endless joy to my life (I know, I know, it’s a problem). Each product launch brings glorious innovation – which I can’t help but try out for myself. Can you blame me?

But for newcomers who are still trying to decipher what is serum – stick to one. The best practice is to pick a serum based on your skin concerns or skin type. If you want to improve the overall brightness of your skin, opt for a vitamin-c based serum. If your skin is dry and tight, a serum containing high skin-plumping hyaluronic acid levels is your go-to.

Can Serum Replace Moisturizer? 

In short, no.

Serums are not necessarily meant to replace your moisturizer. They both have their respective place in your skincare routine. Serums sink deeper into the skin layers and focus on correcting. Moisturizers sit on the skin’s surface and look to replenish lost moisture and repair the outermost layer.

But can they coexist? Absolutely.

Hydrating serums can help boost moisture to the skin when used in conjunction with a moisturizer. For best results, after you cleanse and tone your skin, apply a hydrating serum. Then, finish off with a moisturizer to keep everything locked in.

This powerful duo is proven to have impressive results compared to solely sticking with a moisturizer.

What Face Serum Should I Use Based on My Skin Concern? 

Good question!

While there is a myriad of serums on the market which tackle a wide variety of skin concerns, the ones listed below are the top favorites we turn to whenever we need a skin fix.

It’s worth mentioning that serums are not going to transform your skin overnight, so don’t expect instant results. It takes time for the product to work its magic. The goal is to remain consistent to begin noticing the profound effects it has on your skin. But trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Best All-Around Serum 

Vintner’s daughter is the world’s greatest multi-tasker – addressing all the main skin concerns with such ease. It’s safe to say this tiny glass bottle has captured our hearts with its high-quality clean ingredients, a unique blend of potent antioxidants, and superb effectiveness.   

What else do we love about it? Well, it plays nicely with all skin types and ages; it’s the ultimate skin food and is incredibly lightweight.

With countless reviews praising VD for maintaining such high-quality standards and the other-worldly glow you’re able to receive – we have yet to meet anyone who’s doesn’t become an instant fan of this serum.

vintner's daughter

Best Serum for Newcomers 

If you’ve recently figured out what is serum and are looking to incorporate one into your routine, bareMinerals has created a perfect beginner’s version to help get you started.

Skinlongevity is a lightweight serum that focuses on strengthening the skin barrier. Oxidative stress and damage can wreak havoc to your skin; this is where this serum comes in handy. It looks to protect the skin from these external factors using superfood-based ingredients, sourced directly from Japan.

The results? The appearance of fine lines are reduced, skin is incredibly soft, and baby- smooth.

bareminerals skinlongevity serum

Best Serum for Acne-Prone Skin 

Beloved by famous faces and world-renowned aestheticians, IS Clinical’s Active Serum packs a solid fight against breakouts. It’s formulated to act as a gentle exfoliator, leaving skin clear and bright.  

Key ingredients include:

  • Sugarcane extract (a type of glycolic acid) exfoliates the skin to reveal a more radiant complexion.
  • Bilberry extract (a type of lactic acid) softens the skin.
  • White willow bark extract (a type of salicylic acid) clears pores and exfoliates.
IS clinical active serum

Best Serum for Uneven Skin Tone 

Skinceuticals’ Discoloration Defense serum targets pesky dark spots and discoloration commonly found on the face, due to external factors like sun damage. What makes this product stand out is all to do with the formula. Not one, but a handful of active anti-discoloration ingredients work synergistically to improve your skin’s appearance.

And since Skinceuticals prides itself on creating medical-grade quality products, you can rest assured knowing they have clinical proof to back up their claims.

You can apply this product morning or night; however, if you plan on using it during the day, always follow up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to keep your skin protected.

skinceuticals discoloration defense

Best Anti-Aging Serum 

Okay, we’re talking about a revolutionary skin serum, here.

BioEffect’s EGF serum takes on the less is more approach, utilizing only 7 ingredients to make one of the best anti-aging products on the market (IMHO). Seriously, how did they do it?

EGF contains growth factors, which in case you didn’t know, are proteins that naturally occur in the body and provide support to heal damaged skin. They also encourage collagen and elastin production – which, as we know, can start to break down as you age.

Sure, wrinkles are reduced, and skin is moisturized, but what makes this product a game-changer is how it manages to increase your skin’s thickness level. Again, age tends to thin the skin, making it more susceptible to damage. Thicker skin means healthier skin – resulting in a strengthened barrier function and maintained hydration at any age.

Bioeffect EGF serum

Best Serum for Brightness 

You didn’t think I’d forget about Skinceuticals’ classic CE Ferulic Serum, did you?

Whenever I think of “what is serum,” this golden product comes to mind. It’s a classic for a reason.

CE Ferulic contains 15% l-ascorbic acid, aka vitamin c, a superior antioxidant. It works to protect the skin from oxidative stress and prevents pre-mature aging. A few drops are all you need to receive an overall boost of radiance.

To fully maximize overall protection, use this serum in the morning, followed up with sunscreen, and you’ll be good to go.

skinceuticals ce ferulic serum