Face Serums: What are they and why do we need them?

Just as you began to get to grips with the basic routine of cleansing, toning, and moisturizing, the beauty industry introduces a new and must-have step, serum. Beauty gurus and fans raved about how serums are basically miracles in a bottle, and many dermatologists also recommended adding serums into our daily skincare regime. But what are they exactly? What do they actually do?

If you have no earthly idea of what a serum is, you are not alone; even the best of us are baffled by its function and application. Is it just another fancy moisturizer? When do I apply serum? Can I use more than one serum at one time? Read on to find out…

What are serums?

Facial serums are essentially lightweight moisturizers. However, unlike moisturizing creams, serums have a lipid-soluble base to allow molecules to penetrate deeper and deliver active ingredients into your skin, while the heavier moisturizing creams sit on top of those layers. Hence, sometimes a serum is able to hydrate more effectively than even the heaviest creams. Does that mean you can replace facial moisturizers with serums? The answer’s no.

Serums and moisturizers help the skin in different ways. Serums are packed with active ingredients and offer highly-concentrated dose directly to your skin, therefore designed to address one specific skin concern like wrinkles, dark spots, sun damage etc.

Moisturizers are meant to improve your skin’s moisture levels, and more importantly to protect the skin’s natural protective barrier that can be damaged from cold weather, hot water and UV rays etc. In other words, moisturizers strengthen the skin’s shield and keep moisture sealed in. 

Yes, serums are hydrating, but more often than not, they can only draw water into your skin. They can’t seal it in. You need a moisturizer for that, especially if your skin is dry or sensitive.

The bottom line, although they sometimes share the same ingredients, serums and moisturizers aren’t the same things. Serums target specific skin concerns while moisturizers strengthen the skin’s protective barrier. Therefore, serums do not necessarily replace your moisturizers but they can be used to boost the hydrating effects of your moisturizers. Unless your skin is oily or in perfect condition, you need both in your skincare regime.

How do use a serum?

Following the thinnest to thicket rule, serums should be applied after more watery products like toner and essence, but before heavier products like moisturizer and sunscreen.

If you have more than one skincare concern that you’d want to address with different serums, you can layer and mix your serums together, HOWEVER, strong ingredients that can be harsh on the skin, like vitamin C, retinol, AHAs and BHAs etc., should not be cocktailed or layered together.

Another important note, do not overuse the product. Because serums contain concentrated dose of effective ingredients, a little really goes a long way. Plus, these little bottles of goodness usually cost more than product like cleaners and even moisturizers. Make your bucks worth by not wasting!

Looking for the best face serums? Shop our editors’ picks below.

Best Anti-Aging Serums 

CLARINS Double Serum 30ml

CLARINS Double Serum S$125 S$99

ESTEE LAUDER Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II 50ml

ESTEE LAUDER Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II S$175 S$140

Best Hydrating Serums

INNISFREE Green Tea Seed Serum 80ml

Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum S$37 S$30

LA MER The Revitalizing Hydrating Serum 30ml
Best Dark Spot Serums
CLINIQUE Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector + Interrupter 50ml