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If there’s one skincare product that doesn’t get the hype it deserves, it’s serums. Unlike cleanser, toner, and moisturizer, serums get a lot less love and seem a lot less necessary. So, we’re here to help you get to know serums better and clear up any confusion surrounding them.

What is Serum?

A serum is one of the most potent formulas on your shelf as it’s packed with active ingredients that can target multiple skin issues.

Serums have a high concentration of active ingredients and a small molecular structure that allows them to penetrate the skin at a deeper level. It’s essentially a water-based cocktail of all the best ingredients the beauty world has to offer, like AHAs, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Serums are heavier than an essence but lighter than a moisturizer, and they typically sink into the skin quickly without a greasy feeling. Apply a pea-sized amount after you’ve cleansed and toned for maximum effect (find out how to layer your skincare products). And, don’t presume that more product means better results; serum is a potent formula, so too much product could irritate your skin.

How are Serums Different from My Other Skincare Products?

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a moisturizer, face oil and serum, it’s what a serum doesn’t include. Serums are normally free of heavier, moisturizing ingredients that would otherwise dilute them. This is why serums are normally pricier than moisturizers, as you’re basically paying for just the best ingredients.

Wondering what the difference between an essence and a serum is? The main difference is the texture; serums are slightly thicker and an essence is much more ‘water-y.’ Also don’t be fooled into thinking a serum is just a lightweight moisturizer, as moisturizer creates a barrier so that your skin can retain moisture. And serums, aren’t like an oil either, as not only is the consistency completely different, but an oil is a raw ingredient, derived from plants. Instead, a serum contains man-made, beautifying compounds as well as natural vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. They also contain less lubricating oils than a facial oil, making it easier to wear throughout the day as you don’t have to worry about that mid-day shine (making it ideal for acne-prone and oily skin).

How to Choose a Serum

Like everything in skincare, you need to get a serum that’ll suit your skin type. As serums are so potent, they’re extra efficient at solving specific issues, like dry or oily skin, hyperpigmentation, acne, and sensitive skin – we told you they were kinda magical! The most important thing is to look for ingredients that work well for your skin type:

Oily/Acne-Prone Skin: Vitamin C, retinol, zinc, salicylic acid, lactic acid.

Dry/Sensitive Skin: Vitamin E, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid.

Normal/Combination Skin: Hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid, vitamins, niaccinamide.

Mature Skin: Retinol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E.

We love the Bioderma Hydrabio Sérum, $25, perfect for dry, mature or normal skin, or the Clinique Acne Solutions Acne + Line Correcting Serum, $44, which works well for oily and acne-prone skin.

Serums may be more expensive, but they are worth it! The bottom line is, a serum is more powerful and contains more active ingredients than most other skincare, allowing it to target issues a lot quicker than other formulas.