Face Serums: A Complete Guide to Incorporating Them Into Your Routine ----- Back

18.12.19

Face Serums: A Complete Guide to Incorporating Them Into Your Routine

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Words by Antoinette Barnardo

Do you want to incorporate a face serum into your skincare routine but are unsure of how to effectively do that? If you're unfamiliar with this popular skincare product, don't worry. We will walk you through everything you need to know about serums — including what they are, how they can benefit your skin, and the best times of day to use them. 

What Is a Face Serum?

A face serum is a formula that contains a high volume of active ingredients. Serums can specifically target one concern or a combination of them. A serum is not loaded with as many ingredients as a cleanser or moisturizer. Instead, it has more potent actives that more deeply and efficiently penetrate the skin. Your skin will reap the rewards of a concentrated formula that will give your complexion the boost it needs.

We recommend you begin adding a facial serum to your skincare routine when you're in your 30s. However, it's perfectly fine to begin using a serum in your 20s if you feel it's necessary.

Different Types of Face Serums

Whether you want to target fine lines, dark spots, or dry skin, a properly formulated serum can deliver results with regular use. The following are the most common types of facial serums you will find.

1. Anti-Aging Serums

Anti-aging serums can help prevent or lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. These usually contain actives such as retinol (vitamin A) and niacinamide (vitamin B3)

Opting for a formula with retinol will help stimulate cell turnover, which begins to slow down by the time you enter your 30s. According to a 2006 clinical study from the University of Michigan, regular application of topical vitamin A yields smoother skin and a reduction of fine lines. YORA's Defence Face Concentrate features retinol plus lipochroman®. Together, these ingredients reduce visible lines while protecting skin from free radicals and other external pollutants. 

Meanwhile, niacinamide (vitamin B3) is a multi-faceted ingredient that touts several benefits, including anti-aging. Niacinamide "may have the ability to increase dermal collagen and protein production," per a 2010 study in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. This is key considering that once you hit your 30s, collagen production starts to decline by 1% each year.

2. Brightening Serums

Brightening serums are designed to target hyperpigmentation and reduce discoloration. These serums often contain ascorbic acid (vitamin C), an antioxidant that inhibits the enzyme responsible for melanin production. Niacinamide is another popular ingredient for fading dark spots and evening skin tone.

Pure vitamin C is not stable, which gives it a short shelf life due to the potential for oxidation. Fortunately, vitamin C compounds are being developed to prevent serums and other skincare products from losing its efficacy. Also, as this 2013 article from the Indian Dermatology Online Journal says, stabilized vitamin C compounds are easier for the skin to absorb than pure vitamin C.

As for niacinamide, the aforementioned 2010 study from the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology says vitamin B3 was "clinically defined" as improving uneven skin tone through the fading of hyperpigmentation and blotchiness. In addition to that, niacinamide also brightens skin — defined in the study as "reflection of light from skin's surface." This leads to a more radiant, vibrant complexion. 

3. Hydrating Serums

Hydrating serums provide an extra boost of moisture for your skin. They're used in conjunction with regular moisturizers. Hyaluronic acid is the most common ingredient found in hydrating serums. 

Hyaluronic acid's appeal lies in its ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water. Also, as a humectant, this ingredient draws in water from its surroundings. Make sure to apply hyaluronic acid in a humid area, such as your bathroom after a warm shower. Otherwise, the hyaluronic acid will instead attract the moisture from your skin, leaving your face dry.

YORA's Dynamic Face Serum features a proprietary hyaluronic acid blend of PrimalHyal™ 50 and PrimalHyal™ 300 to hydrate skin and leave it plumper. It also includes brown algae for a more radiant complexion.

4. Exfoliating Serums

To prevent your skin from falling victim to dullness and breakouts, exfoliating regularly is encouraged. Exfoliation comes in two forms: physical and chemical. A physical exfoliant is a grainy scrub that can be used to manually remove dead skin cells. However, this can be too harsh for anyone with sensitive skin or acne-prone skin. A chemical exfoliant, meanwhile, is a less abrasive alternative that is typically produced in serum form. 

Exfoliating serums contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), or poly-hydroxy acids (PHAs). Glycolic acid is a popular AHA that treats skin at the surface level by removing dead cells. Salicylic acid is a common BHA that goes beyond the skin's surface to clear pores of blackheads, blemishes, and other impurities. 

PHAs such as gluconolactone produce similar effects to AHAs but are more gentle, according to a 2004 study by the Vitiligo and Pigmentation Institute of Southern California. If you have sensitive skin, seek out serums containing PHAs. 

5. Firming Serums

Firming serums target sagging skin. A decrease in collagen, elastin, and ceramide (moisture) production in your more mature years is often the cause behind loose, coarse skin. Thus, incorporate a serum that is formulated with ingredients that will promote collagen production (such as retinol and niacinamide) and boost hydration (like hyaluronic acid). 

YORA's Rebalance Night Face Serum contains a hyaluronic acid blend of PrimalHyal™ 50 and PrimalHyal™ 300 for a deep hydrating effect. It also helps promote skin’s elasticity thanks to vitamin E.

When to Use Face Serums

Not all face serums are created equal. Active ingredients play a major role in determining whether you should be using a serum in your daytime or nighttime skincare routine. 

Day Serums

A facial serum containing vitamin C is best used during the daytime. Since vitamin C is an antioxidant, it's capable of protecting your skin from free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage skin cells) and other pollutants while you're out and about. Also, when used in conjunction with daily sunscreen, vitamin C can save your skin from photodamage such as fine lines and dark spots. (As vitamin C can make your skin more photosensitive on its own, however, SPF is a must.)

Night Serums

While a retinol serum could be applied and worn during the day, it's preferred you use it at night, especially if you're introducing this ingredient to your skincare regimen for the first time. Similar to vitamin C, retinol makes your skin extra sensitive to sunlight. Daily sunscreen is necessary if you opt to work this ingredient into your skincare routine. 

Exfoliating acids (AHAs/BHAs/PHAs) should be used in your nightly routine, as well. These acids increase your skin's sensitivity to UV, so make sure you adequately protect your skin from the sun during the day. 

Anytime Serums

Hyaluronic acid serums can be used to provide additional moisturizing during the day or at night. As we mentioned already, your climate is key when choosing to use this ingredient, as you want to make sure hyaluronic acid can draw moisture from the air and not away from your skin. 

Niacinamide serums are also safe to use day or night. Unlike retinol or vitamin C, niacinamide does not make your skin photosensitive. 

Getting the Most From Your Facial Serums

When introducing face serums to your skincare routine, be mindful of how you'll be incorporating them by considering the following tips.

1. Take it Slow

Like with any new skincare product, you'll want to start small and work your way up so your skin does not experience any adverse effects. Serums with vitamin C should be applied every other day before transitioning to daily use. Retinol serums are best used once a week to start, as are exfoliating serums. 

2. Be Mindful of Mixing Actives 

Make sure you are not combining active ingredients that can potentially create negative reactions. For example, vitamin C does not mesh well with exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHAs. Instead of layering serums that may contain reactive ingredients, alternate their usage.

3. Layer Effectively

Apply facial serums after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing. Once your face is clean and balanced, a serum can then effectively do its job, whether it's to exfoliate, hydrate, or brighten. A nourishing moisturizer will seal everything in so your skin can benefit from the serum's active ingredients. Don't forget to apply sunscreen as a final step after moisturizing during the daytime.

To help introduce retinol or pure vitamin C serums to your routine, you can mix a few drops in with your favorite moisturizing cream or lotion.

Ready to Add a Serum to Your Skincare Routine?

Woman with glowing skin smiling

If you're new to serums, the experience can be daunting. There are many different types that cater to a number of concerns. However, no matter your skin type, you can benefit from incorporating a well-formulated serum into your skincare routine. When used correctly, serums can become one of the best ways to enhance your natural radiance and beauty.

Words by Antoinette Barnardo

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