Face Serums: What They Are and How to Use Them

Beauty comprehensive.

The skin-care game is always changing. With new products constantly flooding our feeds, it’s hard to keep track of what we are “supposed” to be doing. Whether you’re someone who is constantly keeping up with trends or you prefer to stick to a classic method, you’ve probably heard of or seen products that are marketed as serums. But what exactly is a serum, and what does it do? You’re not alone if you can’t quite wrap your head around the need for a serum.

Let’s get right to it, what is a serum?

“Serum is a lightweight topical agent that has a high concentration of active ingredients that get absorbed into the skin,” says Dr. Jason Rivers, certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Derm in Vancouver.

Dr. Rivers explains that the properties of a serum make it lighter than a moisturizer but thicker than water. For this reason, even small doses can be very effective.

Serums are used to target specific problem areas of the skin. Whether for acne, wrinkles, or discolouration, there is a serum to tackle even the toughest skin issues.

How do you use it?

According to Dr. Rivers, the proper application of a serum is important to maximize its potential. He explains that the first step is to wash your face and let it dry. The next step is to apply the serum. Because the serum is so concentrated with active ingredients, use a small amount—just enough to create a thin layer. “Two or three drops is usually enough,” Dr. Rivers says. A moisturizer should then be applied to seal in the serum, allowing the nutrients to be fully absorbed and have the maximum effect. After this, you can carry out your regular makeup routine.

How do I know which serum is right for me?

The main goal of a serum is to correct any problem areas your skin may have. Knowing which ingredients target which problem is essential for using a serum correctly.

Acne- If you struggle with acne, a serum that contains zinc will reduce oil production, resulting in less buildup. A product with salicylic acid will also clear out pores to reduce the chances of acne.

Wrinkles- If you want anti-aging properties, retinol is something you should look for in a serum. Retinol causes your skin to speed up its normal cell-turnover process. That means it will help tackle issues like fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyperpigmentation- Sometimes skin can be uneven in colour. A serum with peptides to stimulate collagen growth will brighten and smooth discoloured areas. Niacinamide is another common ingredient used in discolouration serums.

Dryness- Niacinamide (vitamin B3) will increase ceramide levels in the skin that help maintain the skin barrier to lock in moisture and hydration. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects skin from damage.

Should I be using more than one serum?

“Everyone’s skin reacts in different ways,” Dr. Rivers says. “Some people can get away with only one serum, while others may need to combine more than one to get their desired results.” If you are intimidated by all the options out there (don’t worry, you’re probably not the only one), opt for a serum with hyaluronic acid—this ingredient is beneficial for most skin types.

There are many choices of serum available, but here are a few options to start you on your journey to great skin. Tip: If you suffer from sensitivity, avoid layering retinol and vitamin C as the results will likely irritate and dry out your skin.

Filorga, NCEF-Intensive Serum

The formula incorporates NCEF, a polyrevitalizing complex derived from aesthetic medicine and used for the first time at high concentration. Retinol is combined with a DNA complex and vitamin C to make skin look firm and radiant.


YEOTH, Niacinamide Serum

This niacinamide serum with hyaluronic acid, licorice root extract, and aloe vera is an affordable option for skin hydration and a smooth complexion. It will minimize enlarged pores to increase moisture retention. This is a great product for those with dry skin.


SkinCeuticals, C E Ferulic

A daytime vitamin C serum with advanced environmental protection improves the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and loss of firmness, and brightens the complexion. If you live in an urban area, this is a great product because it protects from environmental damage and premature signs of aging caused by free radicals from UVA/UVB, infrared radiation (IRA), and ozone pollution (O3).


The Ordinary, Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

This is an excellent everyday hydrating formula with ultrapure, vegan hyaluronic acid to target dryness. The formulation combines low-, medium-, and high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid, as well as a next-generation H.A. crosspolymer at a combined concentration of two percent for multidepth hydration. This system is supported with the addition of B5 for enhanced hydration.


L’Oreal Paris, Revitalift Triple Power LZR 0.3% Pure Retinol Night Serum

With 0.3 per cent pure retinol (vitamin A), this face serum fights key signs of aging such as wrinkles and uneven skin texture. It is potent and effective for visible results overnight.