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What are serums for?

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

There are so many steps to a skincare routine and 10 times as many skincare products that can be incorporated into one. It can get overwhelming to say the least. To make it simple, your AM routine should probably look something like: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen.

Cleansers clear the surface from dirt and debris. Double cleansing is meant for a deeper cleanse within the pores. Toners can hydrate, treat, or rebalance your skin's PH. Moisturizers work as a barrier for the skin while locking in ingredients. Suncreens are for protection. So what are serums for?

Without a serum it seems as if your routine is missing something, right? Moisturizers are meant to lock in hydration and other actives, but without a serum what ingredients are being locked in? My favorite way to explain the importance of a serum is describing them as the treatment part of your routine. Your serum should be the product that directly responds to your main skin concern.

Acne prone:

Vitamin C serum helps the skin repair itself and helps to reduce inflammation.

Retinol reduces inflammation and is also an antioxidant that preserves and protects the skin.

Zinc soothes irritation and helps with oil production.

Salicylic acid unclogs pores.


Antioxidants are your best friends. This includes vitamin C serums, and ingredients like green tea extract, ferulic acid.


Exfoliating cleansers are great because usually dry skin will flake.

Glycolic acid is a gentle ingredient that exfoliate and brightens the skin.

Niacinamide increases the ceramide levels in the skin, helping with hydration.

Hyaluronic acid hydrates the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.


Vitamin C is one of the most common ingredient for brightening and evening the skin tone.

Other amazing ingredients for resurfacing and/or brightening the skin are listed below.

Kojic acid



Azelaic Acid

Mandelic Acid


hydroquinone ( is bleaching agent), not my first choice but it is an option


Protecting my skin from the environment and preventing wrinkles has been my favorite hobby lately. Retinoids are my absolute favorite for anti-aging: retinol, vitamin A, retinoic acid. These ingredients are best used at night. They can make you more sensitive to the sun.

Not all serums are created equal! Make sure you are reading the label for use instructions AND consulting with your esthetician to make sure those instructions are suitable for your skin specifically.


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