Let’s commence with an understanding of what exactly these face serums are. Face serums are very similar to moisturizers but they are very lightweight. Some of them feel like water. Some have a gel like consistency and some others feel like very light lotions. Most of the ones I have used have been almost watery but don’t let that fool you. These are highly concentrate and potent potions. They usually contain a higher concentration of active ingredients as compared to face creams. Many skincare brands make serums and face creams in the same line with varying concentration and textures. For example, Loreal makes a very good anti-aging cream and also a serum as part of their Revitalift series.
So how do you choose? Should you buy the serum or the moisturizer or both? Is it just a gimmick of skincare companies to encourage you to just buy more products that do the same thing? Well, mostly yes! But that does not mean it’s not right for you. Let me paint the whole picture and you can then decide for yourself what suits you best. In the case of most commercial brands, serums are a great way to layer up product. You use the serum and then top up with the moisturizer. But if your serum is very similar to your cream, I’d suggest using the night cream or just buying either one. So if you want something that’s lightweight – go for the serum. But, if you need intense hydration, just go for the cream and if you can afford both and need intense hydration, you can use the serum and top it with the moisturizer/cream. But truth be told, adding and layering similar ingredients doesn’t mean you get more of the active ingredients into your skin unless you have access to a galvanic facial set. The fact remains like this…..most of the ingredients in your cream aren’t really absorbed entirely by your skin. You skin has layers and layers. I’m sure you’ve heard of epidermis, dermis etc. I’m not going to get into the science of it because I’m not a dermatologist and my wisdom (yes that’s what I’m calling it )comes from experience and genuine interest, not a textbook or certificates. So I’ll leave that to the professionals. But, I do know as much as 90% of the stuff I use won’t really sink in. Even so, I’m a hopeful girl….I still do it for the 10%. So, what I was trying to get to is this…..layering won’t help get more product into your skin. So just pick one IF your products are similar in active ingredients and just have a different consistency/texture. Pick the preferred texture.
But when you use highly potent and active ingredients like retinols, please use an intense moisturizer like a thick layer of unscented cold cream or even unscented (non essemtial) oils like coconut or almond or even olive. Retinoids dry out the skin to such a crazy degree that a serum containing a potent dose of retinol will surely do you some good only if you moisturize adequately. If not, you’ll end up shedding like a snake….yes and I mean visibly! Similarly if you’re using hyaluronic acid as a serum and not really giving it any moisture to absorb, it’s quite a waste of precious serum that could have performed optimally given the right support when used in combination with a good moisturizer.
So, you see ….combinations are important too. If you don’t understand the composition of your cream/serum or the active ingredients within them, please refrain from mixing serums and creams from different brands and lines. It could be really dangerous especially when you see potent labels like retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, kojic acid, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, hydroquinone, benzoyl peroxide. I’m very careful with retinol especially. If I use a retinol serum, I stay away from night creams and active ingredients that will make my face a chemistry laboratory. I just use oil or a simple unscented cold cream for a few days. I don’t wax or tweeze or even use any face packs or masks during such time. No scrubs and no harsh face wash. I use a soap free gentle cleanser for a few days post retinol use. Normally, I prefer a sulphate infused face wash that will get all the gunk out but you cannot afford to do that in conjunction with retinols…I’m not scaring you. I’m just saying…either research and know your ingredients well before you venture into the mixing laboratory or just stick with combinations suggested by the brand itself.
The main difference between serums and the creams(day or night) is that the creams (from the same line of products) have added moisturizing properties and have a slightly greasy texture with more intense hydration. But the serum just delivers all of that good stuff in a more powerful way without any of the grease. It just gets absorbed instantly. Most serums have a water base and fewer, if no emollients at all. So no moisturizing properties usually. But that also means there are no fillers. So what you get is more of the good potent stuff. But of course, active ingredients are also more expensive. Hence serums are always more expensive than their cream counterparts. Now, remember I said they’re lighter and are usually water-based…that also makes absorption a whole lot easier. So skin drinks up the good stuff. In the case of creams, the lubricants and emollients or oils form a layer like a barrier outside. While some of the active ingredients get absorbed, much of it gets stuck in the creamy barrier outside. But that barrier serves a purpose too. It prevents moisture from leaving your skin’s surface thereby keeping it supple and hydrated. This becomes even more important in winter when the air is dry or even if you sit/sleep in an air conditioned room all day/night. Because the dry air just robs you of all your moisture ….and creams or oils just form a nice protective shield that won’t permit those thieves to steal the good stuff from your skin. If you have mature or dry skin, a serum alone may not suffice. And if you have extremely sensitive skin, a quick penetrating, highly potent dose of serum may just agitate your skin. So, try and analyze your situation, the weather conditions your skin is subject to, your specific skin type and also the results you seek. That will help you make a better decision- whether you need a serum or a moisturizer or both. There’s no one-size-fits-all here. So you have to focus on your specific need and decide. I have given you the tools to assist you with that decision though.
Stay Beautiful, Inside Out, RUELHA www.ruelha.com
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