Face Serums: What Are They and How Do They Work?

A facial skincare routine needs a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Maybe you can throw in some exfoliation for deeper cleaning. That’s all, right?

You’re forgetting one key aspect: face serum

In fact, face serum is just as important as the other products you should always use in a thorough skincare routine. You should try to include face serum in your routine for long-term skin health as it can help your skin recover from some of the more intense aspects of your routine, like exfoliation.

Don’t know what face serums are and how they work? This page will tell you everything you need to know about face serums and explain why they deserve a spot in your skincare collection.

Face Serums: An Overview

Face serums are specialized products designed to help your skin recover from the more intense products used during a thorough skincare routine and produce new, healthy skin cells over time. Think of face serums as tonics that your skin absorbs – they contain vital nutrients and other key building blocks that can help your skin cells make collagen and elastin, which are crucial compounds for long-term skin health and vitality.

Furthermore, many face serums contain moisturizing ingredients and other helpful vitamins. In short, face serums are skin-boosting products that can make your skin look and feel much better over time.

They’re distinct from many other types of facial skincare products because of this focus. In contrast:

  • Cleansers, toners, and exfoliating products are designed to help clean your skin, digging deep into the pores to remove oil, dirt, and dead skin cells
  • Meanwhile, products like moisturizers are intended to protect your skin from drying out over time, sealing in any helpful ingredients applied beforehand (like those from face serums)

Due to these differences, face serums have a unique spot in any full skincare routine.

The Benefits of Face Serums

Face serums are some of the most beneficial facial skincare products, even compared to toners and cleansers, and should be used by everyone regardless of age or skin type. Face serums can:

  • Jump starts collagen, especially if they contain vitamin C or ascorbic acid. Collagen is critical for skin health and youth, as it determines how plump or soft your skin is. 
  • Jump starts elastin, which affects how stretchy your skin is. More elastin means less visible wrinkles, especially as you age.
  • Moisturize your skin to some extent. This is mostly a proxy benefit since some top face serums contain hyaluronic acid. 
  • Helps reduce the signs of aging, especially if the serum in question contains retinol or other retinoids. These ingredients can reduce how deep wrinkles appear and can help reduce the visible effects of sun damage. 
  • Remove blemishes or other signs of hyperpigmentation. Both of these issues are caused by improper cellular division or cell damage that accrues over time. With the right ingredients and nutrients, your skin can rejuvenate to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. 
  • Protect your skin against environmental stressors. Many face serums contain antioxidants that bind to environmental stressors and pollutants, stopping them from causing damage to your healthy skin. 

That’s a ton of benefits! In this way, many face serums are less targeted and more generally helpful products, although specialized face serums for tackling specific issues (like hyperpigmentation or aging lines) do exist.

For instance, Suki Skincare’s Purifying Face Serum is specifically designed to help balance bacteria and sebum production on the skin to reduce excess facial oil. But it’s also designed to reduce the appearance of redness, flare-ups, as well as blemishes.

It does all this work thanks to the excellent natural ingredients used in its formulation. Ingredients like willow bark extract, rosa centifolia flower water, and lavender oil all combine to make a gentle and easily absorbed serum your skin can take advantage of.

How Do Face Serums Work? 

By now you’ve seen that face serums are miracle products that can really improve the look and feel of your skin! But how do they provide these myriad benefits?

It has a lot to do with how and when you apply face serums over the course of a skincare routine.

Your skin is made up of multiple layers. The epidermis is the outermost layer, but this layer is all too often clogged with dirt and dead skin cells. The next layer down, the dermis, is the site of all kinds of cellular activity and skin cell production. It’s this layer that you want your face serums to penetrate to.

In a nutshell, when your pores are cleared by toners and exfoliating products, they open the way to the lower layers of your skin through your pores. Once applied correctly, face serum, and the revitalizing ingredients that it contains, can be absorbed by your skin at a deeper level compared to many other skincare products.

Thus, your skin cells gain the vitamins and nutrients they need to create new, healthy skin cells, and jump start collagen and elastin. Since the absorption happens deeper in the skin than at the surface level, your skin gets more of the ingredients than it would otherwise and the benefits are enjoyed for longer.

However, this does mean that you need to apply face serum correctly for it to work as intended. Applying face serum before you wash your face, for instance, will neutralize many of these benefits since the vitamins and nutrients won’t penetrate as deeply as they need to.

Do Face Serums Work for All Skin Types? 

Yes! Another great thing about face serums is that they aren’t particularly harsh on your skin, unlike products like exfoliators and toners. Face serum can be used with any skin type, ranging from sensitive to dry to combination.

It’s still wise to alter your face serum use or the order it holds in your skincare routine based on your skin type, of course. Bottom line: anyone can (and should) take advantage of face serums. 

Are There Any Side Effects from Using Face Serums? 

Not usually. The biggest potential side effects from using a face serum come from retinol, which some serums contain.

In a few cases, some people may experience excessive skin dryness and itchiness or irritation when they use any skincare product containing retinol. That’s because retinol can really work to make skin supple and plump, and if your skin doesn’t have the moisture to compensate, it could result in dry skin or itchiness.

However, this means that most of the other ingredients in face serums don’t cause other side effects. As with all skincare products, however, different ingredients affect different people. It’s always wise to do a spot test  and dab a little of the serum onto your skin to see if you have a reaction before incorporating it into your routine right away.

How to Best Use Face Serums

As mentioned, you should use face serums correctly in order to best take advantage of their benefits. 

Here’s an ideal skincare routine, plus specific pointers about face serum application: 

  • First, start with a cleanser and toner. This allows you to get rid of dirt and dead skin cells that might clog your pores and that undoubtedly take up a lot of space on the surface of your epidermis. Doing this clears out your pores and opens the way for face serum to do its work.
  • Next, apply your face serum. Dab one or two drops of the solution onto your fingers and rub the serum into your skin using small, circular motions.
  • Once the face serum has been absorbed by your skin, you can then move on to other skincare products like moisturizers, creams, and lotions. It’s crucial that you apply face serum before these other products so that nothing else gets into your pores and prevents the serum from going as deep as possible.

Furthermore, you can use face serum every time you complete your skincare routine, as opposed to exfoliation products. Therefore, it’s wise to use face serum once or twice per day at a minimum. If you have to choose between one or the other due to scheduling issues or supply, pick nighttime.

At night, your skin is less exposed to environmental contaminants and pollutants, so it’s under less stress. Furthermore, nighttime is when your skin regenerates itself and does most of its new skin cell production anyway. So, it can make the most use out of the vitamins and nutrients provided by face serum during this time frame.


Face serums are a huge part of long-term skincare, even if they seem to be "extra" at first. 

In reality, those who apply face serum consistently over the long-term will enjoy healthier, younger-looking skin as they get older. Their skin cells will have benefited from better nutrition and more vitamins than skin that went without, resulting in fewer visible wrinkles and a more graceful aging process. 

You can check out our Radical Results Youth Serum which focuses on targeting signs of premature aging, or you can explore our Purifying Face Serum which clarifies and purifies your complexion. 





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