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Face Serum: What It Is and Why You Should Use One

If you're unsure about what a face serum is or if this is a product you should include in your skincare routine, then read on. We sorted the information and product picks to make finding the right serum easy for you.

I know you have a lot of questions about serums. What are they? Do I need one? How is a serum different than a moisturizer and are both needed in a skincare routine? Is it pronounced seer-um or sir-rum? Well, let's chat. This is one product that can really help you step up your skincare game!

What do serums do?
Think of them as your treatment step. Moisturizer does precisely that: moisturize. Serums can penetrate deeper and address issues like wrinkles, acne and dark spots.

Do you need both a serum and a moisturizer?
Yes ma'am. Serums are a lightweight texture, so they absorb faster than a night or day cream. Don't believe me? Put serum and moisturizer on a piece of tissue. Watch how much more quickly the serum soaks in. You'll apply face serums first, then layer your regular moisturizer on top.

How do I pronounce it so I don't sound dumb at Sephora?
Seer-um. Not sir-rum.

What are some of your favorite serums?
I'm glad you asked. Here are some of my favorites. I'm sure there's one here that's right for you.

Face Serums

1. NUDE Skincare Advanced Renewal Serum
If you want to help your skin combat the effects of aging, you have to give it an ally with two key ingredients: peptides and omega fatty acids. This brand-new product from Nude does just that in an ultra weightless formula. If you have oily skin or simply hate the idea of layering on both serum and moisturizer, you'll love this. It feels light as air and touts both omega 9 and polypeptides!

2. Philosophy Time in a Bottle
This is one that I'm downright fanatical about. When it first came out, I'd never heard of a skincare product that worked at the DNA level. The before and after images are convincing enough, as it actually prevents aging below the skin! I noticed brighter, firmer, more-even-textured skin by using this daily underneath my moisturizer. I finished a whole bottle and I'm dying for another. This is one of the more highly reviewed skincare products I've seen!

3. Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster
This product will lighten, tighten and brighten! It has a gel consistency but dries to a nonsticky lightweight finish. It can be used under moisturizer, or it can replace moisturizer. Plus, it is safe to use in the under-eye area!

4. Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum
This was one of the first drugstore serums, and it has stood the test of time. My mom has used it for years, and her skin feels baby soft! For $20, you get amino-peptides and a B3 complex.

5. Seventh Generation Boosts Skin Serum
With six different formulas, I love that you can pick the version based on your skincare issues! I've used the firming one and enjoyed the scent and texture. All of the Seventh Generation serums are packed with antioxidants and are non-pore-clogging. Top with a moisturizer and wake up with heavenly smooth skin in the morning!

6. Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
If sun spots or age spots are your major gripe, this is one of the fastest-acting serums available over the counter. The key ingredient, Hydroquinone, works to break up areas of excess pigment so you'll see results in as little as one week. Use this only at night and follow up with sunscreen on a daily basis, or you'll ruin all your progress.

7. Murad Acne & Wrinkle Reducer
If you want bang for your buck and you have multiple complaints, you can address both wrinkles and pesky breakouts with this one supercharged product. It contains a small amount of salicylic acid—so it won't overdry—and retinol, a proven wrinkle fighter. Willow bark extract and tea tree keep pores clear! I didn't experience any pronounced drying with this despite the list of powerful ingredients.

8. First Aid Beauty Anti-Redness Serum
Those who battle persistent redness—even conditions like rosacea—can cut the redness in half with this gentle but effective serum. Caffeine helps to constrict blood vessels; aloe, bisabolol and ginger act as anti-inflammatories. The entire First Aid Beauty line is formulated for sensitive skin!

For more skincare advice and product tips from Ivy, go to Wake Up for Makeup.

Ivy Boyd

I have a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design, but it's creating works of art on faces that I love most. By day, I am a Senior Education Consultant for Sephora as well as a freelance makeup artist. The rest of the time, I'm creating content for my makeup and beauty blog, Wake Up for Makeup, reading product reviews, watching tutorial videos and reading makeup artist books. I live and breathe this stuff and if you could eat makeup, I'd probably do that too. I also love painting abstracts, running, attending music festivals and acting weird with my husband and our two awesome cats. I'm here to tell you what products are legit, how to better use the ones you have, give you ideas to shake up your routine and guide you through some fun tutorials I know you can dominate.

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