The Science of Anti-Aging Face Serum
The biggest difference between a face serum and a cream or lotion is what they do not include. Serums do not add moisturizing ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil that keep water from evaporating. They also contain fewer lubricating and thickening agents. Most serums are water-based, eliminating oils altogether.
Harvard Medical School recommends using a serum to reduce skin concerns related to aging rather than a moisturizer or cream. This is because serums are highly concentrated and absorb more quickly into the skin.
According to WebMD, “Serums are a top pick of many skin care pros, including Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist and vice president of research and innovation at Englewood Lab. Wilson chooses a serum instead of a cream for her own at-home regimen: "It works better for my oily skin, and it has every ingredient I need."
Esthetician Veronica Barton-Schwartz, owner of Veronica Skin and Body Care Center in Malibu, Calif., who counts celebrities Olivia Newton-John, Suzanne Somers, and Cher among her clients, is also a fan. "I think everyone is doing their skin a disservice if they don't have a great serum."
"The beauty of a serum is that most of the fluid is eliminated," Wilson says, "so what you're left with is a high concentration of active ingredients." Serums contain the most potent dose of anti-aging ingredients -- antioxidants, peptides, and skin brighteners such as kojic acid -- you can find in nonprescription products. "They're the true workhorses of any product line," Wilson says.
Anti-Aging Face Serum Benefits
The active ingredients in face serums are more expensive than creams and tend to be higher in price. Those few concentrated drops are super-efficient. Serums are made of very small molecules, so the skin absorbs them quickly and deeply.
WebMD writes that Jessica Wu, MD, a Santa Monica, Calif., dermatologist, and author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days, recommends serums to many of her patients. "They're great for people with oily skin," she says, "or those who prefer a weightless feel to their skin care products. Serums have a non-greasy finish, and they don't leave behind a sticky residue."
Serums aren't for everyone. The liquid serum can be a poor match for people with chronic skin conditions like eczema or rosacea.
Others need the hydration that a rich day or night cream provides. "If you have mature or dry skin, you can't get away with using just a serum," says Wilson. Instead, she recommends a serum as an add-on to your skin care regimen, layered under your moisturizer. "There's a lot of benefit to serums, from smoothing fine lines to reducing age spots, that you can't reproduce in any other formulation," she says.
It is important to keep in mind that no skin care product can fully prevent or reverse the visible signs of aging. Fine lines, wrinkles, and skin color changes are natural changes that everyone experiences.
How to Apply Face Serums
If you are adding a face serum to your daily routine, here's how to apply it for maximum effect.
1. After cleansing your face, apply a pea-sized amount of serum, patting it evenly over the skin with your finger.
2. If you have sensitive skin, wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face before using the serum. Allowing your skin to dry completely slows down penetration.
3. You don't need to skip the moisturizer you love. Just pat on your serum first, so it isn't blocked from penetrating your skin.
Ni’Kita Wilson, cosmetic chemist, vice president of Research and Innovation, Englewood Lab, New Jersey.
Veronica Barton-Schwartz, esthetician/owner, Veronica Spa and Body Care Center, Malibu, Calif.
Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Southern California; author, Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days