Like booster supplements in smoothies and freshly pressed green-drink orders, the use of serums in skin care can at first seem like a superfluous, if not costly indulgence. Sure, these shots of concentrated nutrients might add extra oomph to our complexions, but if we’re already keeping our skin clean and hydrated, can adding a serum to the mix make that much of a difference?
According to Dr. Alexander Rivkin, a Los Angeles-based cosmetic surgeon, and Dr. Mary Lupo, a New Orleans-based dermatologist, just like with those shots of bee pollen or maca we might add to our juices for better health, serums can deliver a concentrated level of nutrients to the skin that can penetrate better than many moisturizers.
Whereas creams sit on top of the skin to form a protective barrier of hydration, serums are typically made from active ingredients that contain molecules small enough to penetrate the outer layer of the skin and deliver intensive doses of collagen builders, antioxidants, and other anti-aging ingredients deeper in the epidermis. And, as Lupo points out, because many formulations are water based, serums can also serve as great vehicles to deliver water-soluble ingredients, like vitamin C, beyond the skin’s surface for deeper absorption and to provide a brightening effect.
In fact, serums can be such heavy hitters, Rivkin doesn’t just see them as an added bonus to a skin-care routine, but as being “very essential.” Which isn’t to say that a serum should replace your moisturizer. Rivkin notes that after delivering such concentrated active ingredients, a moisturizer is needed to lock in hydration and provide a protective barrier. To really maximize these complexion boosters, he recommends cleansing with warm water (to maximize the products' absorption), applying a serum to a slightly damp face, and following with a moisturizer a few minutes later.
So, now that we know that serums should be an integral part of our skin-care regimen, how do we find our skin-boosting soul mate? Ahead, we asked Rivkin to identify the best active ingredients for each of the nine most common skin types. Read on to find out which one you should be adding to your daily routine.