A Guide to Serums

A Guide to Serums

Re-Branded Signature (Emma) copy

For the second part of our skincare focus (see the series so far here), we’re taking a look at a category of product that isn’t traditionally part of that much-repeated skincare mantra of “cleansing, toning and moisturising”. Serums are often thought of as an add-on rather than an integral part of a routine, so understanding of the product can be a bit sketchy, and its value underestimated.

The humble serum has very quickly proven its worth in the skincare cabinet, though, and brands now offer very many different takes on the genre to suit all sorts of skin complaints. If you struggle with a recurring problem, chances are a serum can really spearhead your skincare routine.

So, what is a serum (or a concentrate, as it’s also known), and what is its purpose? In a nutshell, serums often offer the most potent hit of active ingredients in a range. They also have a much finer texture, allowing them to get to work on deep set problems, such as pigmentation and wrinkles. You may be interested in adding a serum to your routine if you have a specific problem that you’d like to address, such as hydration issues or dull skin; simply massage in after cleansing and before moisturising to optimise the benefits of your routine.

So, want to get to know some serums? Well you’re in the right place! I’ve split the category into 6 very broad concerns to give you a good starting point – have a read around, cross reference reviews, and we hope afterwards you’ll feel a bit more confident about choosing the right serum for you.


Hydrating Serum

The moisture maker

What’s it all about? Hydrating formulas are one of the most popular types of serum available, as we all suffer from dehydration from time to time – even oily skin types. Dehydrated skin suffers from a lack of water rather than a lack of oil, and the fine texture of a serum is very well suited to quickly and effectively delivering water, boosting and retaining ingredients deep into the skin. These serums will continuously plump up and hydrate sallow and dehydrated skin with active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

Who is it best for? Do you have fine lines? Before you go for the anti-ageing big guns, try a hydrating serum on for size. What’re often mistaken for premature wrinkles are actually a sign of skin dehydration, which can be fixed with a regular shot of hydration. If your skin is generally dry, dehydrated and lacklustre, then applying a hydrating serum before your usual moisturiser can make a huge difference.

Try:  The Vichy Aqualia Thermale Fortifying & Soothing 24 Hour Hydrating Care Serum is a fantastic example of an effective, hydrating serum, with an opaque gel-serum texture that cools and refreshes the skin on impact and then works to plump and hydrate for 24 hours. The slightly creamier Nuxe Creme Fraiche de Beaute Serum also hydrates for 24 hours, and is boosted by a cocktail of botanical ingredients to ensure hydrated, comfortable skin.


Purifying Serum

The blemish battler

What’s it all about? Serums aren’t just great for getting moisture deep into the skin. The texture is also exceptionally well suited to managing oiliness and enlarged pores, which can help to break the cycle of blemishes. The smaller molecules work really well when unblocking pores and tightening them up, resulting in a matte and uniform complexion.

Who is it best for? If you’re constantly battling with excess oiliness, a concentrate packed with balancing active ingredients could make all the difference. They work best when used in conjunction with other imperfection-banishing products, as each one will likely target a different area of concern (such as excess oiliness, redness, and blemishes) to give you global spot busting care.

Try: The well-loved Clarins Pore Minimizing Serum is fantastic for getting enlarged pores back into shape and mattifying the skin. The Bioderma Sebium Pore Refiner Corrective Concentrate has a creamier texture for those who are dubious about serums, and can be used without moisturiser to refine and mattify.


Radiance Boosting Serum

The glow getter

What’s it all about? Radiance boosting serums are multi-functional, often potent formulas that are targeted towards giving dull skin a boost. They achieve this with innovative, brightening active ingredients and instant glow-enhancing pigments, so you get both instant and long-term results that make a huge difference to the look and feel of your skin.

Who is it best for? Anyone who feels like their skin could do with a boost. They’re especially good during winter when the cold and lack of sunshine can make skin look a bit ashen and ‘grey’. They’re also an effective temporary pick-me-up for those who mistreat their skin, and need a quick boost when they’ve neglected their water and healthy diet!

Try: The Rolls Royce of radiance boosting serums is the Vichy Idealia Life Serum, a potent cocktail of LR2412 and LHA which repairs, stimulates and evens the surface of the skin to better reflect light, which makes skin look youthful and glowing. The Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is another fantastic glow booster, which focuses on tackling pigmentation issues and lightening the skin with vitamin C and grapevine sap.


Anti-Ageing Serum

The wrinkle rewinder

What’s it all about? Anti-ageing formulas constitute arguably the biggest category of serum. As we’ve already established, the texture of a serum allows potent active ingredients to get deep into the skin, and this is just what’s needed in an anti-ageing product, especially those that offer corrective as well as cosmetic benefits. If you’re serious about anti-ageing, a serum will be an important part of your kit!

Who is it best for? All those who are concerned with deteriorating skin quality, whether specific or global. A serum will set to work on smoothing, plumping and evening the skin, working to support the skin while boosting the vitality of your complexion. Serums work in different ways to delay or rewind the clock, so do your research carefully to discern which ageing concern is most important to you.

Try: A great entry level anti-ageing serum is another one from Vichy, the Vichy Lift Activ Serum 10 Youth Enhancing Serum. The firming and smoothing formula has an impressive 7 patents and is so named for the number years spent on its development. The biggest in the category, however, is the Clarins Double Serum, a multi award winning intensive anti-ager, which regenerates and protects the skin to make it more resilient. It’s the best selling premium anti-ageing serum in the UK!


Specialist Serum

The targeted treatment

What’s it all about? This category is populated by a medley of different skincare concerns that you’ll find aren’t easily addressed by your usual skincare products, or indeed any of the serums mentioned so far. Specialist serums are precisely tailored to offer maximum active ingredients in a single product, targeting widely different concerns such as hypersensitivity or hyper-pigmentation.

Who is it best for? If you have an affliction or a long-term concern such as rosacea, areas of pigmentation of extremely reactive skin, them a specialist serum could be what you’re looking for to calm and restore balance. There are plenty out there – it’s a very diverse category, as you can imagine – so you may like a little more help with this one. Comment below and we’ll be more than happy to advise you of the best type for your skin.

Try: If you have extremely reactive skin that is in a bad way from unsuitable products, or you’d like to use a potent skincare product and need some protection beforehand, then the Guerlain SOS Serum will strengthen and improve resilience. It’s like armour for the skin! The La Roche-Posay Pigment Control Concentrated Conditioning Serum is an intense pigmentation correcting treatment that uses micro-exoliants and melanin controlling ingredients to minimise discolouration.


Men’s Serum

Hardier treatments 

What’s it all about? Although far more streamlined than the offering available for women, the men’s serum category is growing in popularity. Men are increasingly venturing  outside of their usual cleansing and moisturising routine as they find their skin needs more specific care, and serum is often an ideal first choice for those seeking deeper skincare benefits.

Who is it best for? All men! A man’s skin is generally thicker and oilier than a female’s, so these serums are tailored towards reducing greasiness and brightening a dull complexion. The textures are exceptionally lightweight, though, allowing for no-frills application and a comfortable, natural looking finish.

Try: The Jack Black Protein Booster Skin Serum has an anti-ageing angle, working to boost collagen production and protect skin from premature ageing. The Lab Series Power Brightening Serum is all about the healthy look, tackling dullness, pigmentation and an uneven complexion with its potent formula.

Discover all of the serums available at Escentual right here.

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