On the subject of serums much has been said. Type the words skincare and serum into google and take a look – I got 5,540,000 results in 0.32 seconds over here. That’s a LOT of serum information.
So why the fuss? In short, serum is the workhorse of your routine: the non-surgical injection of moisture/active ingredients and the only topical product that can change the appearance of skin when used daily, simply because it is the only one that has a shot at reaching regenerating cells.
As a 30ml serum will last for about three months it is also the ideal way to address seasonal skincare issues. I’m a big fan of this approach as at different times of the year my skin is prone to dehydration, extreme spottiness and sun damage. Sometimes, I’ll have all three going on at once (I know: pretty). Serum is my answer – I just choose what to put where according to what’s going on at that point.
Serums contain smaller molecules than moisturiser and can therefore penetrate further into the skin. Any goodness contained within will not just dodder around on the surface of the skin but instead make its way into the basel cells contained in the stratum basale (which make up the deepest layer of the epidermis where stem cells reside) to deliver active ingredients where they will impact skin health.
FYI: for serum to penetrate, you need to have cleansed properly (that means a double cleanse, with a hot cloth. Every night, peeps).
SERUM V MOISTURISER //
Serums and moisturisers do different jobs. Moisturisers sit on the skin acting as a barrier against moisture loss on the most part, but also can contain humectants that attract and retain moisture. Think of them as a sealant with benefits, rather than something that really impacts the skin.
Serums, however, are generally packed with active ingredients such as vitamin C (to help fade pigmentation and brighten), hyaluronic acid (to help plump and rehydrate), and vitamin A (to normalise skin function) and are absorbed quickly leaving little or no residue on the skin.
PENNIES & POUNDS //
On a side note: most serums aren’t cheap. Some are horribly expensive. But if they are suspiciously cheap, run a mile – it is extremely hard to make a decent serum for bargain basement prices and if it’s cheap, it’s likely to just be a watered down moisturiser without any ingredients that will impact the skin’s cellular health. (N.B. If you’re looking for a bargain, try bigger companies who own luxury brands and then use breakthroughs in technology/cutting edge ingredients in serums made by the less costly companies under their umbrella. Or just check out my ‘thrifty’ options below).
The good news: a serum should be the most expensive part of your regime, so you can scrimp on everything else (even hallowed cleanser, so long as you’re using it properly – yes, I am still banging that drum – no point in using an expensive serum if it can’t work its way into your skin).
Post cleanse, pre-moisturiser/SPF/oil. Morning and evening. You can also layer them – most serums can address a multitude of issues but if you, say, would like to use one that focusses on hydration and one for uneven skin tone, there’s no reason one can’t go on after the other – just leave a couple of minutes between applications and apply the lightest/least viscous one first.
If your skin is prone to oiliness and you don’t like the feeling of too many layers, don’t apply moisturiser (but do pop on a lightweight SPF) after application in the morning. Key here is to listen to your skin and apply what it needs that day without getting hung up on its ‘type’. Equally, your cheeks may need a hydrating serum and your t-zone one to address pigmentation. If it does, roll with it.
WHICH // My army of testers and I were impressed by these…
SPENDY / Eve Lom Intense Hydration Serum, £75 here. This clear serum isn’t only designed to hydrate on application but also to boost the skin’s own hydraluron production. The result? Skin that continues to reap the benefits long after serum has been applied.
MIDDY / Institut Esthederm Intensive Hyaluronic Serum, £43.56 here. This is the bees knees when it comes rehydrating. The three types of hyaluronic acid within pull water deeply into the skin, plumping and softening the appearance of wrinkles. Also, the texture: very slippy and pleasing.
THRIFTY / Green People Hydrating Firming Serum, £14.36 here. A lightweight serum that feels more like a gel, this one’s ideal for younger skin or those prone to both dehydration and a touch of redness. And Green People in general: YES – a good, trustworthy brand.
SPENDY / Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Restorative Serum, £45 here. This won’t be the last Jurlique offering mentioned in this post – they hit it out the park on the serum front. This one: much calendula, chamomile and marshmallow to soothe angry skin AND strengthen the all-important skin barrier function *applause*.
MIDDY / REN Evercalm Anti-Redness Serum, £28 here. I’d like to dedicate a few words to pay homage to the greatness of REN, for REN is great indeed. Natural, affordable and effective, it’s fast becoming one of my favourite brands. This serum doesn’t only calm but also fortifies, corrects and hydrates. It, like REN, is pretty darn great if your skin is stressed out.
THRIFTY / Avene Soothing Hydrating Serum, £17 here. Nestled in many a make-up artist’s make-up bag, Avene know how to make skincare products that are universally delightful. This serum is nicely hydrating while also really comforting red skin. I also dab a little of this on red patches after waxing/plucking/threading etc etc.
PROTECT & REPAIR //
SPENDY / Nude Advanced Renewal Serum, £68 here. There’s a bit of a love affair happening here with this one at the mo. I cheat on it once in a while, but basically this is all my skin wants at the moment (far be it for me to deny it). I think this is because after a summer of flying and sunning, my skin is a little annoyed and this serum with its host of antioxidants and omegas has been simultaneously repairing signs of damage while smoothing. Also, when I’ve used it people always say ‘your skin looks glowing’. And that’s always nice.
MIDDY / Jurlique Herbal Recovery Advanced Serum, £34.65 here. Two Jurlique recommendations and counting… Number two is very special. A classic Jurlique product that was beefed up last year, this one is all about combatting the negative effects of stress and environmental damage, ergo: ideal post-summer. Also, it is extremely lightweight and absorbs almost instantly – if you dislike the feel of product on your skin, buy this one.
THRIFTY / Super Facialist by Una Brennan Vitamin C Glow Boost Serum, £15.99 here. My facial with Una was a real life-goal-ticked moment. She’s brilliant and her products are as pleasing as the woman herself. This serum is enriched with hyaluronic acid and algae extract to moisturise and add a glow (apply it, you’ll see what I mean) while the vitamin C really goes to work on sun damaged skin.
SPENDY / Radical Peptide Antioxidant Serum, £125 here. If you’re serious about your skincare, let me introduce the mother of serums. Were I to rattle off a list of the antioxidants, peptides and other skin-boosting ingredients (and the revolutionary trylacel technology that houses the actives in a bi-lipid membrane so that they can’t perish in the serum), this would get ridiculously long. Basically: very powerful, very all-encompassing, very impressive. Put it on your Christmas list.
MIDDY / Jurlique Nutri-Define Superior Retexturising Facial Serum, £86 here. Let me start by acknowledging that this is indeed the third Jurlique serum on this list. I am aware that I should probably address my obsession. But before I do that, let me tell you about this puppy. New to the Jurlique family, it’s marketed for older skin in need of sculpting and rejuvenation. I’ve been using it once a week to boost my skin and have asked my mum to trial it between. Both of us: in love. So very in love. It instantly hydrates and soothes without any residue or greasiness.
THRIFTY / Sarah Chapman Skinesis Age-Repair Serum, £47 here. Alright, I know this isn’t really thrifty but it is nonetheless a good price for the very brilliant serum within this tube (apply this maxim to all Chapman skincare). One of the first serums I ever used, I still return to this and recommend it time and time again because it ticks all the boxes. Vitamin E, A and C? Oui. Peptides and Antioxidants? But of course. AHAs to smooth and allow ingredients to penetrate more deeply? Yes indeedy.