Updated: Feb 3, 2021

The world of skincare offers a diverse range of products to choose from and the options can be overwhelming. More so with new product categories for which only limited information is available.

One such category is “Serums”. Here is some information to help you understand this most talked about skincare product.


Serums are skincare products designed to deliver high concentrations of specific high-performance ingredients and nutrients to the skin. With their lightweight texture and small molecular structure, they penetrate deep into the skin to deposit powerful actives like peptides, antioxidant-rich vitamins, glycolic acids, etc in the deeper layers of skin for more targeted results. No wonder they are a vital step in every skincare routine.

Are serums moisturisers? This is a question I am asked most frequently. The answer is yes, and no. Some serums may be full of ingredients that provide deep hydration to the skin. However, these serums cannot replace moisturisers as moisturisers create a barrier on top of the skin to seal in the actives and help skin retain moisture. So, layering a serum with a moisturiser is an important step.


Serums typically may be categorised as

- Water-based (Gel or Liquid or Emulsion or Bi-phase) serums and

- Oil-based serums (Facial Oils or Pressed Serums)

Water-based serums may be thin watery liquids, fluid gels or in the form of creamy lotion-like emulsions. Oil-based serums are waterless formulations of light oil blends or made with oils, butters and waxes into a semi-solid balm-like consistency.

All of these are designed to deliver actives to the skin, but in different ways. Each has its advantages and can be used separately or layered to work together. The fundamental difference between an oil-based serum and a water-based serum is in the high-performance ingredients it contains.


Depending on the ingredients, serums may perform different functions like anti-ageing, soothing & calming, moisture boosting, firming & toning, nourishing, skin-brightening, repairing, rejuvenating, resurfacing/exfoliating, oil-balancing, anti-pollution and more.


The choice of serum ideally should be made based on skin type and skin concern.

Choosing Serums by Skin Type:

OILY OR ACNE-PRONE SKIN will benefit from serums containing Vitamin C (increases collagen production, enhances skin’s repair process and reduces inflammation), retinol (also an antioxidant, reduces inflammation), zinc (soothes irritation, regulates oil production), and salicylic acid (unclogs pores).

DRY SKIN needs hydration and rejuvenation. Therefore serums with vitamin E (an antioxidant, protects cells from oxidative damage), niacinamide (improves skin elasticity, increases ceramide levels in skin), glycolic acid (gently exfoliates and lightens discoloration), and hyaluronic acid (retains moisture) will be beneficial.

MATURE & DULL SKIN would improve with serums formulated with antioxidants like green tea extract, resveratrol, ferulic acid, etc which combat free radicals, increase effectiveness of sunscreen by day, and promote cellular repair and healing by night.

Choosing Serums by Common Skin Concerns:


These serums help slow down the ageing process by delivering essential anti-ageing actives to combat fine lines and wrinkles and delay signs of ageing. These are beneficial for all skin types, not just mature skin, and one can start using them as early as in one’s 20s. Retinol, caffeine, green tea, and hyaluronic acid (generally labelled as sodium hyaluronate) are the ingredients to look for.


These serums help protect skin from free radicals one is exposed to. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and cause premature ageing. Since all of us are exposed to free radicals on a regular basis, antioxidant serums are ideal for all skin types. They also aid in the prevention of fine lines and other visible signs of ageing and can heal and repair skin. Ingredients to look for would be vitamins A, C and E, resveratrol, niacinamide and coenzyme Q10.


Much like the name suggests, hydrating serums help infuse skin with extra moisture. Those with dry skin are ideal candidates for a hydrating serum, but oddly enough, oily skin types (and even acne-prone skin) may also benefit from some targeted hydration to balance the excess sebum production which causes the skin to become oily in the first place. Both mature and young skin alike would benefit from a hydrating serum. Ingredients to look for would be hyaluronic acid, hydrolysed proteins, glycerine etc.


These serums perform an array of functions and can target skin issues like hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores and fine lines. Those looking to even out skin tone or lighten dark spots and brighten skin may opt for these serums. Look for ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, vitamin C, arbutin, kojic acid, azelaic acid, L-ascorbic acid and glycolic acid.


With serums, less is more. A couple of drops to a pea-size amount of a serum is enough for face & décolletage. They can be applied in the morning or evening or twice a day.

For the most effective results always apply them on clean skin to optimize absorption. Ideally, they should be applied after cleansing and toning the face. Lightly tap or press the serum into your skin and wait until it is absorbed to proceed with the application of a moisturiser.

Everyone's skin is different. Typically, it may take six to seven weeks for the results of a new serum routine to start showing. Good things come to those who are patient!

A WORD OF CAUTION : because serums are super potent, more is not always better. Powerful ingredients may irritate sensitive skin. Always patch-test before first use.

Some actives found commonly in water-based serums, like peptides, retinol, ceramides, hydroxy acids are synthetic ingredients and may cause skin irritation. For those looking for natural solutions, it is best to opt for natural Serums which contain botanical extracts, antioxidants, lipids and other natural actives.

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All