What’s a Serum? (And Do You Need One?)

As you’re shopping for skin care products and reading endless articles about the latest and greatest skin savers, you’ve probably come across loads of products called serums.

But … what exactly is a serum? And more importantly, should you use one?

Cosmetic chemists and dermatologists maintain that serums tend to be more effective than plain ol’ moisturizers due to the method of delivery: Serums are more concentrated with active ingredients, so they’re able to penetrate more deeply than creams. That makes these products ideal for troubleshooting specific problems such as redness, acne and hyperpigmentation. For example, rosacea sufferers might try a serum that contains azulene, which can help calm irritated skin.

They’re also idea for oily skinned-folks who avoid heavy creams like the plague. Most serums are water-based (read: non-pore-clogging), making them ideal for shiny-prone skin.

For normal or dry skin, serums can be layered under cream for a one-two punch. For instance, vitamin C serums are known far and wide for brightening brown spots and giving skin a youthful glow, but vitamin C is rarely found concentrated enough in a cream to make much difference.

Of course, concentrated ingredients also mean a steeper price tag, but since you only use two to three drops at a time (any more than that will make you sticky), one bottle lasts a long time, which takes some of the bite out of the cost.

So, back to the original question: Do you need a serum? I say if you have found that your current skin care regimen has plateaued and you’d like to jumpstart your complexion, it’s definitely worth giving one a try.

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