Serums 101: How to Add Serums to Your Routine

Check this ultimate guide to using serums to boost your skincare products.

So you’ve nailed down your skincare essentials: cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. But now you’re ready to take your skin to the next level. This is where serums come in.


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What exactly does a serum do?

A serum is basically a turbo booster for your skincare routine. It usually comes as a liquid or gel and is formulated with higher concentrations of active ingredients to target specific skin concerns, from dehydration to acne to dark spots. Because these active ingredients are so powerful and concentrated, they’ll penetrate the skin more deeply and produce visible results more quickly.

Who should use a serum?

Anyone can use a serum! The best way to get started is to figure out what skin concern you want to work on: Does your skin get irritated easily? Are you finding your skin feels more dehydrated as the weather gets colder? Do you want to get rid of hyperpigmentation? Then you can find a serum that will help.

How do I use a serum?

My number-one tip is to start slow. You don’t want to add a ton of products to your routine at once and potentially damage your skin’s moisture barrier, making your skin more vulnerable to irritation and breakouts. Instead, add one serum at a time, using it every few days for at least a couple of weeks to see how your skin tolerates it. Then you can start using it every day or add another product to the mix.

Building a reliable routine takes a lot of patience that even skincare veterans struggle with, but your skin will thank you if you take things slow. Once your skin has adjusted to using serums, you can even apply them over damp skin, which helps your skin absorb the ingredients better.

What serums should I try?

Where should you get started on your journey into the world of serums? Here are some of my favorite serums for addressing some of the most common skincare concerns:

Sale StriVectin Multi-Action Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Face Serum with Acerola Cherry Extract, 1 Fl Oz StriVectin Multi-Action Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Face Serum... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Skin concerns: Dark spots, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) acne scars

StriVectin Multi-Action Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Face Serum

This is my favorite vitamin C serum for treating any sort of discoloration. It’s formulated with vitamin C to brighten dull or uneven skin and fading dark spots, whether they’re from the sun or acne scars. Vitamin C tends to be a little more expensive because it needs to be stabilized in order to work properly, but this serum is so worth the $60 price tag for me.

Vichy Mineral 89 Niacinamide Serum, Skin Strengthening Prebiotic Concentrate and Anti-Aging Face Serum for Brightening and Fine Lines , 1 Fl Oz (Pack of 1) Vichy Mineral 89 Niacinamide Serum, Skin Strengthening Prebiotic Concentrate and... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Skin concerns: Acne, redness, sensitivity, uneven skin, oily skin

Vichy Mineral 89 Niacinamide Serum, Skin Strengthening Prebiotic Concentrate and Anti-Aging Face Serum

Not to be dramatic, but niacinamide saved my (skin’s) life. It’s an incredibly well-tolerated active ingredient that can help with some of the most common skin concerns. I prefer this niacinamide serum over other formulas because it’s thinner and doesn’t leave a tacky feeling after, so it’s perfect to layer with other skincare or makeup!

Niacinamide is a B vitamin that can aid in the prevention of moisture loss and dehydration. Niacinamide can be found in solutions that help minimize the appearance of wrinkles and make the skin seem brighter and more radiant.


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Vichy Mineral 89 Prebiotic Recovery & Defense Concentrate is a fast-absorbing, non-greasy, and non-sticky milky serum that combats the visual indications of aging caused by stress by speeding skin barrier repair and guarding against future aggressors.

DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB Real Vita C Serum 1.12 oz (32g) - Brightening, Hydrating Facial Serum with 22% Vitamin C (Pure Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin E, Vitamin B5 and Niacinamide - Korean Skin Care DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB Real Vita C Serum 1.12 oz (32g) - Brightening, Hydrating... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Skin concerns: Uneven skin, dullness, visible pores

DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB Vitamin C Serum 22% with Pure Ascorbic Acid I Vitamin Complex and Niacinamide

My favorite way of using serums is with a product formulated with more than one active. That’s why this toner is my go-to for applying both vitamin C and niacinamide in one step in my morning routine: It feels hydrating and layers well under moisturizer and SPF. Using fewer products also helps reduce the potential of irritation that comes with using a lot of products!

The 22% Ascorbic Acid and Niacinamide combination acts as a potent reboot component to help brighten up the skin tone by reducing the appearance of photo damage, resulting in radiant and luminous skin. It hydrates, treats acne, reduces hyperpigmentation, and works well under makeup. For me, this is a holy grail item.

Sale Peter Thomas Roth | Water Drench Hyaluronic Liquid Gel Cloud Serum | Hyaluronic Acid Serum for Fine Lines and Uneven Texture , 1 Fl Oz Peter Thomas Roth | Water Drench Hyaluronic Liquid Gel Cloud Serum | Hyaluronic... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Skin concerns: Dry or dehydrated skin

Peter Thomas Roth | Water Drench Hyaluronic Liquid Gel Cloud Serum

If you have dry skin or your face feels extra dehydrated as the weather cools down, you can add hyaluronic acid to your routine. I love that this hyaluronic acid serum has a simple ingredient list and comes in a big bottle with a pump — basically all you could want from a serum!

Go for this product for a silky smooth, matte finish, drench your skin in a liquid mist of lightweight moisture. A 75% compound of Hyaluronic Acid, a strong hydrator that retains water, is present in this Dermalogy gel serum. Moisture helps plump the appearance of our skin. With Sodium PCA and Silk Proteins, this facial essence creates an undetectable silk veil of hydration. It’s great for reducing the appearance of fine lines and rough texture, leaving skin smoother and more youthful.

DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB Real Ferment Micro Essence 5.07 Fl Oz (150ml) - 93% Naturally Fermented Facial Essence, Instantly Hydrates and Delivers Healthy Supple Skin - Korean Skin Care DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB Real Ferment Micro Essence 5.07 Fl Oz (150ml) - 93%... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Skin concerns: Dehydrated skin, dullness, sensitivity

DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB 93% Natural Fermented Facial Essence

Think of an essence as a gentler serum. That’s why this product is great for basically any skin type: It nourishes your skin to support your moisture barrier and encourages skin repair. I use this every night before my moisturizer, and it makes my face feel so plump and hydrated with that goodness.

As one of the earlier steps of your skin routine, this formula, with over 93% skin-compatible natural fermented components, provides fast absorption and moisture delivery. It is absorbed super quickly. It promotes the skin’s inherent cell energy, resulting in tighter, moisturized, brighter, and clearer skin.

What serums are you going to try next?

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A passionate beauty specialist and blogger with a deep love for skincare and wellness. More about me here.

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