By Sophia Hussain and Chere Di Boscio
What is a serum? Many people don’t actually know the answer to this basic beauty question. In a nutshell, the molecules in a serum are smaller than those found in a moisturiser, so the product penetrates the skin more deeply. For this reason, many serums are targeted at specific skincare problems they can help to solve.
But don’t think a serum can take the place of a skin cream. These products don’t contain emollients, hydrating oils or thickeners which create that rich creamy texture. Additionally, serums won’t contain sunscreen ingredients like a daytime moisturiser might. So a serum won’t replace your daily or nightly moisturiser, but it will boost your overall skin health when used regularly.
In fact, regular use is the key here: while you will probably see some improvements immediately, as their antioxidant-rich formula soothes redness and brightens skin, in the long run, if you find the right product for you, you’ll be sure to see signs of damage fade and skin will look and feel healthier and firmer, too!
How to Choose A Serum
Serums are often more expensive than day or night creams, so you should see purchasing one as an investment in your skin. Look for serums with proven anti-aging ingredients that have been shown to be effective based on a large number of independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials. Such substances include potent, stable antioxidants (such as vitamin C, green tea, and chaga mushroom, goji berry and vitamin E), stem cells, peptides, and cell-communicating ingredients like retinol and niacinamide.
Make sure you never buy a serum packed with harmful ingredients: preservatives, toxic fragrances, emollients and other chemicals are packed into most big brands (think L’Oreal, Estee Lauder and all their subsidiaries), and these can not only be dangerous to your health in the long run, but can even speed up the ageing process!
Don’t be shy about asking or a sample at the beauty store, and use this for a week to see how you react to the product. Also try it in the shop: you should see some immediate, slight improvement. And of course read reviews, like those coming up below.
When to Start with a Serum
We all know that eating a balanced diet and exercising keeps your body healthier and younger-acting as you age. With that in mind, would it make sense to wait until you are unhealthy and in your 50s or 60s to start a healthier lifestyle? Of course not! And the same is true when it comes to anti-aging for your skin.
Start using products loaded with these types of impressive ingredients before signs of damage occur (it’s never too soon) and you’ll be on track for a more even complexion and firmer, healthier skin as you age. Your skin never “gets used” to these types of ingredients, just like your body never gets used to eating healthy foods.
Of course, these ingredients do work even after skin damage starts showing up, but there’s no doubt that sooner is better than later!
How to Use a Serum
Now that you know the potential benefits of serums, it’s time to learn the best ways of making them work for you.
Use serum both in the day and nighttime: You can’t have too many antioxidants in your skin care regimen, and nor can you apply them too often. In the morning, apply a thin layer of serum under your sunblock to help protect the skin from pollution and other free radicals you’re faced with during the day. At night, apply another layer after cleansing the skin to allow the serum to help your skin repair itself while you sleep.
Apply your serum after exfoliating, but before moisturising: Most serums don’t provide much in the way of moisture, so you will need a cream as well as a serum if your skin tends to be dry.
If you are using a prescription topical cream: All serums will work well with any prescription treatment, and you can apply your serum before or after your retinol, acne treatment, or whatever prescribed cream you are given–just experiment to see which order works best for you.
Tried and Tested Serums
As mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to read tried and tested reviews of serums before you commit to buying: after all, these are usually pricier than mere skin creams, and you want to ensure what you choose will work for you! Here, we’ve tested several natural serums and wrote honest, non-sponsored reviews to help you select one for yourself.
Scandinavian women are known for their beauty-in particular, for their flawless skin. Supermood products are the latest secret in the beauty arsenal of head-turners in Finland and Sweden. Packed with natural, free-radical fighting ingredients, Supermood products include collagen-packed chocolate, chaga-mushroom enhanced food supplements, and of course, a range of creams and serums.
While this brand is a bit difficult to find outside the European north, we were so impressed with Supermood’s line, now you can find their products online at Eluxe Exclusives, too, including their Egoboost Moisture Kick Serum. This dense liquid blends and dries into the skin nicely, leaving no greasy residue behind—just a smooth, hydrated layer of skin. Containing highly anti-oxidant Birch sap, Chaga mushroom (so effective against free radicals, it’s thought to even prevent cancer), Argan kernel oil and Hyaluronic Acid, this product is packed with natural goodness. We liked how it made our skin feel instantly lifted, kind of like when egg whites were applied to the skin. Despite the promise of a ‘moisture kick’, I felt it necessary to apply a cream on my (quite dry) skin afterwards though.
Overall: A great value for money, full of anti-oxidising ingredients Vegan friendly: No
I fully expected this to go on like a cream, because the transparent glass, silver topped bottle suggested a milky fluid lay inside, but I was surprised to find a clear, unscented gel coming out of the bottle instead. This absorbed super quickly, leaving a pleasantly moist residue on the skin, leaving it feeling dewy afterwards. This Icelandic product contains an EGF cellular activator, which is said to be the only plant-based such activators on the market today. EGF stands for Epidermal Growth Factor and can be thought of as a kind of conductor for skin cell renewal. This cellular activator signals skin cells to speed up their renewal process and to increase the production of collagen and elastin.
The manufacturers recommend using this serum for 1-4 months a year only, depending on how wrinkled the skin is. After that period, they recommend waiting 11-8 months before undergoing another intensive treatment using the product. Though I only tried it for three weeks before writing this, I have high hopes for this product–a few drops goes a long way, and I feel the fine lines where I’ve applied the serum are diminishing slightly. The only downside is that it contains genetically modified barley, which is a serious environmental concern for us….
Overall: At £125, it’s a bit pricey, but the science says it should work. Vegan friendly? Hmm…contains GMOs.
As someone who suffers from sensitive skin, which is easily irritated by the pollution I experience every day living in the big city, I was hoping this would lessen the redness I get around my nose and mouth. I needed a single pump of the milky fluid to cover my face, and it took a few minutes to blend into my skin–for some reason, the more I rubbed it, the whiter it got, but eventually it soaked in.
The serum promises to reduce redness and repair skin with its variety of natural ingredients, including rice and milk protein, Vitamin E, while Tyronsinase helps to decongest the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation. The serum also contains Hyaluronic Acid, which is an ingredient I’m always looking for in my skincare routine.
After a few weeks of using this, I noticed the redness I get has calmed, but it’s not fully gone–I still need to use makeup over it. But then again, I’d probably need a few months of using this to really see results.
Overall: A gentle, slightly hydrating product that won’t break the bank. Vegan friendly? No
The Organic Pharmacy’s Gene Expression Lifting Serum claims to address all the issues our skin has to deal with at it ages: rough texture, uneven tone, surface dullness, appearance of enlarged pores, loss of elasticity, dehydration/dryness, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin and premature ageing. That’s a lot of issues to tackle! But a combination of plant based bio technological extracts, antioxidants, sea algae, essential vitamins, remodelling, stem cells, growth factors and lifting herbs and 3 different sized hyaluronic acid molecules (low, medium and high molecular weight) in this luxurious serum are said to help save the skin.
This one goes on strangely–it looks like metallic bronze coming out of the cannister, and we feared it would go on all sparkly. But surprisingly (oddly?) the metallic looking particles just disappeared with a few rubs into the skin, leaving no trace whatsoever. This seems to be the result of micronized particles–which we don’t know much about, but it seems these are teeny tiny particles that are deeply absorbed by the skin. Is this a good thing? We’re not sure yet. The serum doesn’t feel very moisturising, and leaves the skin with the same hydration as before application. But it’s good to know that it’s getting to work on growing healthy new cells to bring out a fresher, brighter skin over time.
Overall: A very high tech formula that promises great results. Not sure about the safety of the micronized particles though Vegan friendly? We think so
The Essential Serum takes it back to the most natural of basics. It’s a potent blend of 15 plant and essential oils known for their nourishing properties, plus a boost of natural Vitamin E, providing serious levels of hydration to the skin. This simple serum is a hardworking multi-tasker: the rich texture means it gives you an immediate moisture boost, and the light, fresh scent also provides a bit of aromatherapy. It can even be mixed in with mineral makeup to give it a creamier texture for dry skins.
Overall: Reasonably priced and 100% natural Vegan Friendly? Absolutely
Oily and blemish prone skin needs a serum, too–one targeted to their specific issues, those being the regulation of sebum in the skin and the repairing of damaged areas of the skin. Yours Truly Organics Fix Me! Repairing Serum contains three key actives which will perform both of these functions: Gatuline Skin-Repair Bio aids cell regeneration and targets preferentially damaged areas, while Avena Sativa reduces inflammation and helps repair damage. What’s more, their trademarked ingredient REGU®-SEB: helps to control and reduce sebum production, especially in the T-zone area of the face.
I felt this oat kernel enriched serum did reduce some of my redness; this could have been the sesame seed extract and saw palmetto, or one of the patented ingredients. As my skin is dry, I may not have chosen this serum for myself, but I do believe that for anyone with oily skin, this Ecocert organic certified, very reasonably priced serum would be a good fix.
Overall: High tech ingredients meet Ecocert organics for a unique formula for oily skin. Vegan Friendly: Yes