Face serum is often excluded from sample skincare routines, mostly because it’s viewed as “optional” instead of a necessity like washing your face or exfoliating. However, face serums should arguably be a staple part of any full skincare routine because of their numerous benefits and how easy it is to insert a great face serum into your existing habits.
Today, let’s examine why you should use face serum and when the best time to apply it might be.
What is a Face Serum?
Face serums usually start with a water base, plus a little alcohol. A wide variety of additional ingredients will then be added to provide nourishing benefits depending on what skin concerns that particular serum is aimed at, like hyaluronic acid for hydrating, glycolic acid for brightening and anti-dullness, and retinol for anti-aging, combined with flower and plant oils and other natural ingredients. Face serums are mixed together from all these elements, and the alcohol allows the serum to penetrate deep into the skin.
Although face serums and moisturizers may share many ingredients, the two products are actually two distinct things.
A moisturizer is a dedicated product designed to seal in existing moisture for the skin and make it easier for your skin to hold onto that moisture throughout the day, even in dry or cold environments. It’s an ideal choice to hydrate already naturally dry skin, and is also a staple in most skincare routines for all skin types, whether it's actually needed or not.
A face serum can be used by just about everyone, whereas moisturizer may not be the best choice if you have oily skin. Facial serums:
- penetrate the skin deeply
- moisturize the skin
- provide additional benefits through a high concentration vitamins and nutrients (relative to moisturizers)
Since face serums can penetrate to the lower layers of your skin, these products deliver active ingredients straight where your skin can benefit the most from those vitamins. In short, it supercharges your skin and provides a plethora of benefits depending on what you're looking to improve.
Another great thing about face serums is that you don’t need a lot of any particular solution to see big benefits. A few drops are usually enough for your entire face and should provide lasting nourishment throughout the entire day.
Why Use a Face Serum, Anyway?
Facial serums, like all other types of facial skincare products, can be very effective if you use them correctly and at the right time.
The most popular problem-specific serums include:
- vitamin C serums (also known as ascorbic acid serums) to help boost collagen production
- brightening serums to help the appearance of even skin tone and reduced discoloration
- hyaluronic acid serums and other hydrating serums
- anti-aging serums like retinol serum to reduce the appearance of fine lines and help with sun damage
- antioxidant serums to help neutralize free radicals
- lactic acid serums to help reduce the appearance of dark spots
When used properly, face serum may make your skin look healthier or younger, particularly by making it appear smoother and firmer.
Furthermore, face serum with niacinamide may help your pores appear smaller – a particularly nice benefit for those with naturally porous skin. Because many of the best face serums also contain moisturizing ingredients like aloe, they can also provide hydrating benefits, so they go well with dedicated moisturizers. You can alternatively use a face serum in place of a full moisturizer if you don’t have naturally dry skin.
Because face serums often provide a plethora of vitamins and minerals alongside other nourishing ingredients, face serums can promote skin health which supports the skin's natural ability to recover from injuries or blemishes. Some face serums even contain salicylic acid to help in the fight against breakouts.
Perhaps best of all, fueling your skin with top-tier ingredients supports skin health even through the aging process. This, in turn, may result in the reduced appearance of fine lines or dark spots that naturally occur over time. Face serums help you age gracefully when adopted into your skincare routine.
Okay, So Face Serums Are Great – When Should I Use One?
If you already have a little experience maintaining a good skincare routine, you probably already know the importance of sequence of product order. You can't just use a multitude of different skincare products in any order you please, as the products can interact with each other differently or may be more effective depending on the state of your pores.
Because face serum depends on being able to penetrate deeply into your pores to provide maximum benefit, it’s always a good idea to use any face serum after thoroughly cleansing your pores.
Additionally, you don’t want any washing or cleansing products to scrub away the face serum solution, as doing so removes the nutrients mentioned above and essentially eliminates the entire purpose of using a face serum in the first place.
With all this in mind, how often should you use a face serum?
Once per day is fine for most people, and is what virtually every face serum will recommend on the box. For instance, Suki Skincare’s Purifying Face Serum is an all-natural serum product that may help to balance your sebum and bacteria production along with clarifying and purifying your complexion. It’s meant to be used once per day even though it uses gentle ingredients for sensitive skin.
Why only once daily?
In short, your skin can only make use of so many beneficial nutrients and vitamins at a single time. While it won’t necessarily hurt you to apply face serum once in the morning and once in the evening, you also won’t really see any benefits to doing so; you’ll just be wasting precious drops of your serum.
Furthermore, you don’t need very much face serum to provide your skin with all the possible benefits. One or two relatively large drops is usually enough to do the trick. The serum is relatively easy to spread since it doesn’t use too much alcohol, though it does absorb into the skin fairly quickly as you rub it in (we recommend in circular motions!).
Using only a few drops at a time, and once per day, will help your chosen face serum last longer and save you money in the long run while still providing fantastic benefits.
Let’s break down an example skincare routine that incorporates face serum so you know what to expect.
- A good face wash is the first thing you should use, and preferably in the shower. Face wash is distinct from cleanser or other products because it provides a surface-level cleaning without dehydrating the pores or rubbing away too many dead skin cells.
- Next, use an exfoliating product (if appropriate – keep reading!). Exfoliating products should only be used two or three times per week at most. Both physical and chemical exfoliants are designed to get rid of the majority of dead skin cells or dirt and debris packed into your pores, and may do more harm than good if overused.
- After exfoliating, you can apply a toner. Toner products contain more alcohol than face serums and penetrate deeply into your pores to finish the cleansing process. These go the deepest out of everything and are the most effective at clearing away old makeup or other skincare solutions.
- Once all the cleaning is done, it’s finally time to use a good face serum. The serum will be able to penetrate deep into your pores fairly easily now that there’s nothing in its way. Your skin will absorb the serum within minutes.
- Depending on your skin type, it may be worthwhile to complement the serum with a dedicated moisturizer lotion. Some serums are better at moisturizing than others, but dedicated moisturizers are great things to apply after any toner product just to make sure your skin doesn’t feel dry or itchy.
- Only after doing all of these steps can you then move on to secondary facial skin products, like sunscreen (yay SPF!), eye cream, or lip balm. Makeup, of course, also comes after everything else.
As you can see, you effectively seal in the face serum when you apply the product in this manner. This makes certain that your skin actually benefits from the vast amount of nourishing nutrients contained in the best face serums.
At the end of the day, the serum will be absorbed and you can wash your face without worrying about getting rid of any excess. Then, you can do the same routine the next day (though remember not to exfoliate two days in a row!).
But, what about a nighttime routine?
There is some logic to the idea of applying a night serum at the end of your day instead of at the beginning. This way, your pores aren’t constantly filling with more dirt and debris from your environment and your skin can passively absorb the nutrients from your serum without being interrupted.
The trick, of course, is cleansing. You still need to cleanse your pores thoroughly for a night serum to be as beneficial as possible. If you already have a good facial cleansing routine at the end of the day, you can absolutely insert a face serum into this routine for great results.
However, don’t use toner twice per day. You’ll make your face raw or uncomfortable if you wash it too frequently. In this case, your pores may not absorb the serum quite as readily as they would right after being cleansed by a toner, but they will benefit from being relatively undisturbed as you sleep.
In short: morning or evening are both fine, but be sure that you cleanse your pores beforehand. You also only really need to use face serum once per day regardless.
In the end, face serum is a great way to support your skin’s appearance and health, and may provide lasting benefits down the road. Use face serum in the right order and after cleansing your pores, and you should see excellent results!