face serum

Face Serums- Why you need them?

While most people will readily add a moisturizer, a face wash, or even a facial oil in their skincare shopping bag, they are hardly aware of products called “Face Serum.”

The working and need for the product is not well understood on the surface. It moisturizes, but the moisturizers in your kitty do that too. Serums can be watery, but are they skin hydrators? Some facial serums can feel oily, but then, they are not necessarily categorized as face oils. 

With this article, we’re trying to pull out our understanding and knowledge of face serums and their importance in the world of skincare. After all, beauty and care should never be stressful!

What is a face serum?

A serum is essentially a skin that is applied to the skin directly after cleansing, in order to nourish the tissues with essential ingredients and nutrients. 

Most serums constitute small molecules that can penetrate the skin surface and reach the deeper levels if the dermis to deliver active ingredients to the cells. 

Modern fast-paced living, poor environmental conditions, and dietary habits create stressful conditions for the skin. Premature skin aging, wrinkles, and other conditions are a common occurrence. 

Face serums target these skincare concerns by providing a high concentration of active ingredients and taking care of these deficiencies. 

Skincare-Face Serum
photo credit: Amplitude Magazin from Unsplash.com

A usual skincare routine starts with facial cleansers, followed by serums, ending with moisturizing. 

The difference between face serum and moisturizers

As mentioned above, there is a certain amount of confusion in the skincare world when it comes to serums and moisturizers. 

While it is true that serums do contain moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides which help keep the skin supple and maintain its moisture content. 

However, a typical moisturizer is richer in these ingredients. Moisturizers are hence able to create a moisture lock, or a barrier on top of the skin. Without really penetrating the skin tissues. A serum, on the other hand, is usually water-based and penetrates the dermis and helps enrich it.

The difference between a face serum and a face oil

So are face serums similar to face oils? 

Too often, brands label face oils as serums. While it is true that all serums need not be water-based, and there are a good number of serums that are oil-based too. 

However, water-based serums penetrate the skin layers better and nourish deeply. Since the molecules present in the serums are very small, they penetrate the upper layers to reach the dermis easily. Oil-based serums or face oils, on the other hand, have larger molecules and go on top of the moisturizer layer, keeping it intact on the skin for a long time. 

How to apply face serums?

Wondering what is the recommended procedure to apply face serums for best results? 

Follow the steps mentioned below:

  1. Use a cleanser to wash the skin thoroughly before applying the face serums. You may also choose to exfoliate your skin while cleansing. Massage the cleanser carefully all over the face and wash away for clean skin with open pores.
  2. Serums are used in very small amounts since the concentrations of active ingredients is usually high. Apply one drop of face serum on your finger and rub on the target area (cheeks, nose, chin, forehead), slowly covering the entire face. Gently rub the serum on the skin using circular motions.
  3. Certain face serums can be extremely dense. These need to be warned by rubbing them on your hands before applying on the face.
  4. After you’ve applied the face serum all over the skin, pat the skin gently to give the ingredients time to penetrate the tissue and go deep into the skin.
  5. Wait for a few minutes and then apply a layer of moisturizer all over the face. The moisturizer will help seal the nourishing ingredients of the face serum within the skin, thereby, giving it a lasting effect. 

It is recommended to avoid using too much of a face serum. A small drop is usually enough to cover a target area. Remember that excess serum application is not just a waste (since it does not get absorbed in the skin) but might also cause rashes and irritation. 

What to look for in a face serum?

While it is true that face serums are costlier than other regular skin care products, they are definitely worth the value that they provide. 

However, it is important to read the ingredients in a face serum when choosing one that matches the requirements of your skin. Additionally, most serums contain active ingredients like Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in high concentrations. 

These ingredients become unstable very soon after coming in contact with air. Once oxidized, these ingredients lose their efficacy. 

Reputed skincare brands, therefore, use modified versions of these active ingredients which helps them last longer. 

Various skin types and skin problems call for different types of ingredients in a face serum. 

Dry skin

A face serum containing Vitamin E, hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid is a wonderful combination for dry skin. The ingredients help in exfoliation, adding and retaining moisture as well as improving skin elasticity in the long run. 

Dull skin

A face serum based out of natural antioxidants like green tea is helpful in reducing the high free radical levels of dull skin. These also help in cellular repair. A branded cell repair lift serum should ideally target skin aging, and improve the elasticity of the skin by stimulating the production of collagen I and III elastin fibers. 

green tea
photo credit: JiaYe of Unsplash.com

Acne-prone skin

Serums rich in Vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are good when it comes to treating acne-prone skin. These anti-acne ingredients not just treat the existing acne by reducing inflammation but also provide long term wellness by keeping the pores unclogged and managing the face oil levels. 


Face serums packed with retinol and peptides work as anti-ageing ingredients and help in reducing wrinkles and fine lines. When these serums are applied at night, the skin absorbs the required quantity leaving the surface supple and replenished, without wrinkles. 

Complexion brightening

Serums that contain Vitamin C and Ferulic acid are recommended to those who are looking for skin brightening treatments. Both these ingredients are antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and add brightness to the skin tone. 

Complexion Whitening
photo credit: Coline Haslé of unsplash.com

Certain face serums are designed to target restoration at a cellular level and help reverse damage to the skin’s DNA. 

Further, face serums are also classified based on their time of application. Day time serums are usually water-based and are less heavy on the skin. Nighttime serums, on the other hand, are thick and have ingredients that are best left on the skin overnight for effective results. 

Final thoughts: 

As a rule that is common to all skincare products, it is essential to choose a face serum that treats your skin issues and is generally suited to your skin type. Going with a reputed brand that offers quality products (preferably based out of natural ingredients) is recommended. 


Coreenna Ong

Head of Research

Coreenna Ong has more than 20 years of extensive experiences in research and development, conceptualization, formulation, production process development and bring to market skincare products in the beauty industry. Ms Ong is currently the Director, Research and Development at Recherché skincare.

Recherché is a Singapore cosmeceutical skincare brand, with its products clean, green, plant-based and specially catered for Asian skin. It is also the pioneer in developing edible skincare actives to specifically address skin concerns.

Within just 2 years, Ms Ong’s research has led Recherché to win several awards and accolades for its products.

Ms Ong’s research focuses on harnessing the latest formulation technologies, knowledge and techniques to distil and extract nature's essence, and then apply them synergistically for maximum results.

She has authored 2 best-selling Beauty and Wellness books with Marshall Cavendish. The books had multiple runs and remained popular and in print circulation for several years. They are currently available in the Singapore National Library collection.

Ms Ong was also a Beauty columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore's largest Chinese-language newspaper publication, with huge regional presence. As its weekly expert contributor, she shared the latest research and technologies from the Beauty industry, and addressed the many skincare issues and concerns of the newspaper's readers regionally, including offering beauty tips, quick fixes and insider knowledge.

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