The importance of serums in skin care

Excerpts from: "The Truth About Facial Serums"
By Shelley Levitt
Reviewed by Mohiba Tareen, MD
WebMD Magazine - Feature
"Faster and lighter are the qualities many of us look for in a car, a laptop, and our bodies when we're running a marathon. They're also the prized attributes of skin care serums -- light, fast-absorbing liquids used as an alternative or in addition to creams or lotions.
The biggest difference between a serum and a cream or lotion is what the formulation doesn't include. Serums leave out occlusive, or airtight, moisturizing ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil that keep water from evaporating. They also contain fewer lubricating and thickening agents, like nut or seed oils. Most serums are water-based, eliminating oils altogether.
Serums are a top pick of many skin care pros, including Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist and vice president of research and innovation at Englewood Lab. Wilson chooses a serum instead of a cream for her own at-home regimen: "It works better for my oily skin, and it has every ingredient I need."
Esthetician Veronica Barton-Schwartz, owner of Veronica Skin and Body Care Center in Malibu, Calif., who counts celebrities Olivia Newton-John, Suzanne Somers, and Cher among her clients, is also a fan. "I think everyone is doing their skin a disservice if they don't have a great serum."
"The beauty of a serum is that most of the fluid is eliminated," Wilson says, "so what you're left with is a high concentration of active ingredients." Serums contain the most potent dose of anti-aging ingredients -- antioxidants, peptides, and skin brighteners - you can find in nonprescription products. "They're the true workhorses of any product line," Wilson says.
Serum Costs, Serum Benefits
Because active ingredients are more expensive than thickeners, serums are also the costliest product in many skin care lines. Many brands come in pump bottles or have medicine-dropper applicators to dispense just the tiny amount you need.
Those few concentrated drops are super-efficient. Serums are made of very small molecules, so the skin absorbs them quickly and deeply. "The thicker, heavier ingredients in creams form a barrier on your skin," Wilson says. "That's great for locking moisture in. But it can also lock active ingredients out. Without these hindrances, the active ingredients in a serum penetrate your skin faster and more effectively."
Jessica Wu, MD, a Santa Monica, Calif., dermatologist, and author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days, recommends serums to many of her patients.
Others need the hydration that a rich day or night cream provides. "If you have mature or dry skin, you can't get away with using just a serum," says Wilson. Instead, she recommends a serum as an add-on to your skin care regimen, layered under your moisturizer. "There's a lot of benefit to serums, from smoothing fine lines to reducing age spots, that you can't reproduce in any other formulation," she says.

How to Apply Serums
Adding a serum to your daily beauty routine? Here's how to apply these lightweight elixirs for maximum effect.
1. After cleansing your face, apply a small amount of serum, patting it evenly over skin with your finger.
2. If you have sensitive skin, wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face before using serum. "When your skin is damp, applying a water-based product is more likely to lead to irritation," says dermatologist Wu. "Allowing your skin to dry completely slows down penetration."
3. You don't need to skip the moisturizer you love. Just pat on your serum first, so it isn't blocked from penetrating your skin. "

Great article, it says all, the only thing to add is, because serums are designed to penetrate, it is even more important to avoid those that contain fragrance or other sensitizing ingredients 


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