For years, I ignored serums. I just had no idea what they were supposed to do and so saw no point in buying one. Once I did, though, I never looked back. These days, a serum is an integral part of my skincare routine, both at morning and at night.
Why? Serums, which usually come in gel or lotion forms, contain a higher concentrations of active ingredients, such as antioxidants and skin-lighters, than moisturizers. That makes them more powerful. But also more expensive.
While not a must have, serums are powerful allies in the fight against premature aging. But, with so many on the market, how can you choose the right one for your skin’s needs, especially when these keep changing with age? Here’s a quick guide to help you:
For 20s somethings
In our ’20s, skin looks great. It is well-hydrated, soft, and supple. Wrinkles and dark spots are far in the future. There’s no damage to fix. But a lot to prevent. For that, you need a serum rich in antioxidants that can fight free radicals and prevent the signs of aging.
One of my favourites, and cheapest, options is Skin Actives Vitamin C Serum ($15.50). It features Vitamins C and E, and Ferulic Acid, all powerful antioxidants on their own. But, used together, they work even better. They enhance one another’s efficacy, and can help prevent damaged caused by oxidative stress and UV rays.
If you have oily skin, you may also like Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($34.00). The lightweight formula is infused with a bunch of antioxidants, including Vitamins C and E, Quercetin, and Resveratrol. It also contains niacinamide, which can reduce water loss and keep skin hydrated. Dry skin? Try Andalou Naturals Fruit Stem Cell Revitalize Serum ($24.95). Stem cells don’t work, but the blend of antioxidants, humectants, and emollients will keep your skin soft and hydrated, and premature signs of aging at bay.
For 30s somethings
It’s in your early ’30s that fine lines start to appear. If you haven’t already, it’s now time to incorporate retinoids into your skincare routine. Retinoids can reduce fines lines and wrinkles by stimulating the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, which keep skin elastic and firm. They can also prevent new ones from forming.
But there’s a catch. Retinoids can irritate skin when you first start to use them. To avoid this, apply serums with retinoids only every other day or less, and increase frequency slowly. If your skin is very sensitive, retinoids may just not work for you. Before giving up, though, try Future Derm Time-Release Summer Retinol 0.5 ($32.50). It releases retinol over a period of several hours, rather than all at once, thus minimizing the risk of irritation.
Another favourite of mine, which is currently part of my skincare routine, is Paula’s Choice Resist Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum ($40.00). In addition to retinol, it contains a bunch of antioxidants, including Vitamins C and E, to help prevent wrinkles, and anti-irritants to soothe skin. Retinol and antioxidants can also be found in Dr Dennis Gross Clinical Concentrate Hydration Booster ($36.00). Very hydrating, it’s more suitable for dry skin.
For 40s somethings
AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, are beneficial at any age, but even more so as we get older. They exfoliate skin, thus helping reduce the appearance of wrinkles and dark spots, hydrate it, and even stimulate collagen production. All things our skin badly needs now that it is getting dryer, less firm, and uneven.
A simple AHAs serum, which contains glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid, plus hyaluronic acid for some much needed hydration, is Cellex-C Betaplex Line Smoother ($72.00). If, instead, you want both the benefits of glycolic acid, antioxidants, and retinol, try MD Formulations Vit-A-Plus Illuminating Serum ($65.00).
Now may also be the time to start using peptides. While there is no independent research yet showing they work well to reduce wrinkles, it certainly won’t hurt using an antioxidant rich serum that contains one or two of them. Just in case. One such serum is Dr Denese New York Wrinkle Rx Extreme Pro-Peptide Gel ($64.56). Not only it is loaded with any peptide you can think of, it also contains retinol and antioxidants that can help improve the signs of aging and stimulate collagen production.
For 50 and older somethings
At 50s, you should look for serums that can fight wrinkles, improve skin texture, and lighten sun spots. Proactiv & Proactiv+ Dark Spot Corrector ($22.00) does it all. The combination of hydroquinone and glycolic acid fades dark spots, while Vitamins A, C, and E help fight free radicals and stimulate collagen production.
Another excellent, but more expensive, option is Peter Thomas Roth De-Spot Plus ($78.00). It also contains hydroquinone to lighten sun and dark spots, and antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and caffeine to fight wrinkles. If hydroquinone isn’t your thing, try Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution. It contains a bunch of skin-lightwning agents, such as licorice exrract and arbutin, as well as antioxidants and retinol.
Do you use serums? Which ones are your favourites?