Do you know how to use a serum?

Never used one before? Here’s a beginner’s guide by Melanie Pike on what to look for when serum shopping.

We all know that a daily skin care regimen means cleanse, tone and moisturise. But as we all (yes, guys too) become savvier with skin care, serums are fast becoming a popular way to supercharge your daily routine.

What is a serum?

Different to a moisturiser, serums are lightweight, mostly oil-based products packed with vitamins and skin friendly ingredients. They can be used to target specific skin concerns at a deeper level. Providing antioxidants, anti-ageing benefits and a boost to hydration, most skin types can improve by using a targeted serum.

How do I use them?

Serums work best when used consistently. Their lightweight texture makes them easily absorbed after you’ve cleansed and toned, but before you moisturise.

Being oil-based, people with oily skin can be discouraged from using them, but because serums are packed with active ingredients you only need a few drops to cover your entire face. If you have oily skin, give it a few weeks to adjust. You’ll notice a change for the better in your skin tone and your oiliness in general — my 40-year-old oily skin certainly did!

Which one is best?

Choosing the correct serum depends on what you’re trying to achieve for your skin type or specific concern. Here are the most popular serums on the market.

Antioxidant serums

Containing high levels of vitamin C, these serums help combat oxidative stress from pollution and UV radiation. The end result of antioxidant serums is radiant skin with improved texture and tone. Try L’unico High Potency 30% Vitamin C, $160 or Mesoestetic AOX Ferulic, $199.

Anti-ageing regenerative serums

Use an anti-ageing serum to accelerate cell turnover and brighten your skin, making it appear smoother with fewer fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots.

These serums are high in vitamin A (retinol) and take some getting used to. Start with a low-dose retinol product like Medik8 Retinol 3 TR Advanced Night Serum, $75 every few days, gradually building up to a nightly application.

Once your skin has acclimated, you can increase the intensity of the serum to something stronger like Dermalogica Age Smart Overnight Retinol Repair 1%, $148. Make sure you apply sunscreen daily when using a retinol-based product for added protection.

Hydrating serums

When it comes to skin health, there’s a difference between being hydrated and being moisturised. Your skin can be perfectly moisturised, but still suffer from dehydration — mind bending, huh?

Hydration refers to the amount of water in your skin cells, whereas moisture is the amount of oil produced by your sebaceous glands in each hair follicle. Hydrating serums use a humectant like hyaluronic acid to attract and hold water, and because they’re oil-based, they moisturise while sealing in the hydration. Make sense?

Some options to help boost your hydration levels topically are SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel, $129 and Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Skin Hydration Serum, $79.