Everything You Need to Know About Serums

This summer, try a lightweight serum that will target your skin-care issues with various ingredients—whether that's a retinol formula for untimely wrinkles, a hyaluronic product for dehydrated patches, or a salicylic acid for acne troubles. Below, find out which serum is right for you, plus get recommendations to add to your shopping list.

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First Things First: What Are Serums?

There are a variety of serums out there, but the actual word "serum" is a pretty general term. "A serum is a liquid usually dispensed from a pump," says Dr. Heidi Waldorf, a New York City-based dermatologist. "Saying serum is like saying 'skirt'—it doesn't tell you if it's wool, taffeta, leather, short, long, etc."

"The reason people like serums is because they tend to absorb quickly and layer well with other products." — Dr. Heidi Waldorf

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This means that you'll want to do research to identify the type (or types) of serums that will work best for your skin. And there are a lot: "A serum may contain retinoids, moisturizers, antioxidants, sunscreen, or many other ingredients," Dr. Waldorf says.

There's something kind of romantic about applying serum from a dropper, no? Photograph courtesy of Getty Images
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Why Should I Use Them?

Serum triumphs over lotion and cream because its consistency is much lighter and easier to work with. "The reason people like serums is because they tend to absorb quickly and layer well with other products," Dr. Waldorf says.

All you need is a couple of drops of serum for each application. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

The light and absorbent qualities of these formulas prevent serums from interfering with other items in your lineup. That means serum application can be the first step in both your morning and nighttime routines without interfering with the other products in your lineup.

Which One Should I Use?

A diverse range of ingredients provide unique benefits to various skin types. See the best products for each below!

Various skin issues can be treated with an appropriate serum. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

For Dry, Flaky Skin

Find a product that will help skin absorb more moisture to prevent future dehydration and dry patches. "Patients with dry skin should look for moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid," Dr. Waldorf says. Use these morning and night to maintain constant moisture on the surface.

For Sun-Damaged Skin

Dr. Waldorf suggests slowing signs of damaged skin with one simple ingredient: retinol. Make sure to use these products at night, and in the morning, apply your daily dose of SPF (or use a serum with SPF) as retinol makes skin more sun-sensitive.

For Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

Alleviate breakouts and pore congestion with an oil-fighting formula that includes salicylic acid, Dr. Waldorf suggests. Apply one of these immediately after cleansing to balance skin.

For Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, you should use a serum that has calming ingredients. "Sensitive skin benefits from anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide, oat derivative, and polyphenols," Dr. Waldorf says. Take a couple of drops and apply at the start of your morning routine, so you can keep redness at bay throughout the day.

From: Seventeen
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