Can You Use Serum As Makeup Primer?

serum as makeup primer

A few weeks ago, we talked about how a serum can double up as a moisturiser (if you have oily skin). But can it do the job of a makeup primer as well?

That’s something I wondered when I came across this video by Paula’s Choice Skincare Team. The lovely Desiree assures us we can, but I am not so sure. I admit the idea makes sense in theory. But problems start when you try to put it in practice. Here’s why:

Why using a serum as makeup primer makes sense

Makeup primers contain ingredients (usually silicones) that create a protective layer on the skin. This layer prevents the oils in your skin to come in contact with your makeup, allowing it to last longer. It also provides a smooth base for foundation to glide on more smoothly. Silicones can also fill in fine lines and wrinkles, thus helping them look temporarily smaller.

A lot of serums, like Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum and Paula’s Choice Resist Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum, are infused with silicones too, so they provide the same benefits.

And more. Serums are also chockfull of anti-ageing ingredients, like antioxidants and retinol, that can help keep new wrinkles at bay. Some are rich in skin-lightening agents that can help reduce the appearance of dark spots too. Primers usually lack these goodies, or contain them in minuscule amounts that don’t benefit skin much.

So using a serum as a primer seems to make a lot of sense. You’re saving money, and time in the morning, but getting double benefits, right? Not so fast.

The Problem With Using Serum As Makeup Primer

In the video, Desiree says that you should apply your skincare routine as normal, and then, at the end add a thin layer of primer. I took this to mean you should apply serum after moisturizer, which is why I have doubts about this method. Then, she says that, if you are using a separate sunscreen rather than a foundation with SPF (you should be using both anyway!), primer goes before that.

Again, I find this order of application odd. The general rule is to apply skincare products with a thinner consistency, like serums, first, and those with a thicker texture, like moisturizers and sunscreens, later. That’s because they contain occlusive ingredients, like petrolatum and shea butter, that moisturize skin by creating a protective barrier that prevents water loss.

But this protective barrier can prevent whatever you are applying next from penetrating into the skin. As we already know, makeup primers rarely contain active ingredients that benefit skin. They just form a nice base for makeup, so you can safely apply them after moisturizer and sunscreen.

But the goodies in a serum may not be able to penetrate skin as well if you apply it last. If you, instead, apply it before moisturizer or sunscreen, then you’ll get its anti-ageing and/or skin-lightening benefits and, if they contain silicones, your wrinkles will look smaller too. But your foundation and sunscreen may not provide as smooth or longlasting base for makeup.

Even if your skin doesn’t need moisturizer, sunscreen isn’t optional. And a primer, as Desiree said, should always be applied before that. So, according to its place in your skincare routine, a serum can usually act only as a serum or as a primer. If you try to use it as both, it is likely you won’t get its full benefits.

The Bottom Line

Although I usually agree with the advice dished out by Paula Begoun and her team, I don’t think that using serum as a primer is as beneficial as they make it out to be. Applying skincare products in the right order is essential if you want to reap their maximum benefits. If you apply primer too soon, it won’t make a great base. Too late and you may compromise its anti-ageing properties. Better stick to a separate makeup primer, if you really need one.

Have you ever used a serum as makeup primer?

3 Signs You Are Overdoing It With Skincare

overdoing skincare

Once upon a time, skincare was only about cleansing and moisturising. Then, toners came along. Now we have exfoliants, serums, facial oils, clay masks, sheet masks… New types of products and ingredients are popping up every year.

But isn’t using them all a bit too much? Don’t we risk overdoing it and hurting our skin? Well, that depends. Your skin doesn’t care much about how many products you use. It’s how often you use them and what they contain that can, sometimes, prove too much for your skin.

And when that happen, your skin is sure to let you know. It won’t be pretty, and it may even be painful. Here are three warning signs you are overdoing your skincare:

1. Your skin is dry

Harsh cleansers and scrubs contain ingredients that can disrupt the skin’s protective barrier. When this happens, skin is not able to retain moisture very well. As a result, it becomes dry and dehydrated. To fix this, switch to gentler cleansers and scrubs that leave your skin soft and clean, not dry and tight.

Other common culprits that can cause dryness are alcohol, retinoids, and AHAs. Alcohol (particularly alcohol denat) is often used to thin out a formula, but if it is at the top of an ingredient list, it can do more harm than good. Do your skin a favour and leave it on the shelf.

Retinoids and AHAs can be very beneficial, but your skin needs time to get used to them. A bit of dryness at the beginning is normal, but if it doesn’t go away quickly and you also experience redness and irritation, see point 2 below.

2. Your skin is irritated

Redness, inflammation and irritation are all common signs that something is wrong with your skincare regime. Some of the best ingredients, such as retinoids, AHAs, and salicylic acid can all irritate skin when used too often or in too high doses. Harsh physical scrubs can be very irritating too.

I personally don’t recommend the use of physical scrubs. Even when they are gentle, they are never as effective as AHAs or BHA based exfoliants. If the latter are irritating your skin, reduce frequency of use. Most people don’t need to exfoliate more than 2 or 3 times a week.

Retinoids need to be introduced into your skincare routine carefully too. Start using them every other day and increase frequency slowly. That way you’ll get all the benefits without the side effects.

3. Your skin breaks out

Some skincare products can cause breakouts. It works like this. Silicones, mineral oil and other occlusive emollients form a protective barrier on the skin that prevents moisture loss, but can also trap in comedogenic ingredients. When that happens, pimples start rearing their ugly heads all over your face. The best solution is to opt for products without comedogenic ingredients. That’s easier said than done.

Just because an ingredient is comedogenic, it doesn’t mean it will cause breakouts. That depends on its concentration (the higher on the ingredient list, the more likely it is to cause pimples), and your skin type (the oiler your skin, the higher the chance of a breakout).

But there’s one case when a breakout is normal. Acid based exfoliants work by removing the superficial layers of dead skin cells that accumulate on the surface. If pimples were already started to form underneath your skin, these exfoliants will bring them to the surface sooner. Hence, the breakouts. But, once healed, continued use of exfoliants, particularly those containing salicylic acid, should prevent further bouts.

The Bottom Line

Too much of a good thing can often be a bad thing. To avoid problems, introduce new products into your skincare routine slowly, and only one at a time. That way, if your skin starts to act out, you’ll be able to figure out quickly what’s causing the problem. Sometimes, all you have to do to fix it is cut back on usage. Other times, the bin is the only option.

Are you overdoing it with skincare?

Can I Skip Moisturizer And Use Serum Alone?

use serum alone

I was a late adopter of serums. For the longest time,  I didn’t see their use. I already had a moisturizer, which I religiously used every day and night. So, what did I need a serum for? Then, I tried one, and was amazed at the results.

Serums are the real workhorses of skincare. They are especially formulated to deliver high concentrations of active ingredients, such as antioxidants and skin-lightening agents, deeper into the skin. Mosturizers can contain those goodies too, but, usually, in lower amounts that work more slowly.

So, then I started thinking about ditching my moisturizer instead. If serums are more effective, wouldn’t it make more sense to only use them, and save both money and time in the morning? Well, that depends. A moisturizer has its uses too, and can be a serum’s best friend.

Moisturizers are especially designed to improve the moisture levels of the skin and repair its natural protective barrier. Cold weather, unprotected sun exposure, and harsh skincare products can all damage this barrier. When that happens, skin is not able to retain moisture well, and becomes dry, flaky, and more prone to irritations. Moisturizers contain ingredients (like fatty acids, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid) that can fix this barrier and seal moisture in, keeping skin hydrated.

If you have normal or oily skin that’s healthy and doesn’t need any additional moisture, you can get away with skipping moisturizer. Sometimes I do. After applying my retinol serum all over my face at night, I only dab moisturizer on my dry areas, skipping the t-zone.

But if you have dry and damaged skin, then following up your serum with a moisturizer is a must. A moisturizer will then seal in your serum, preventing the added moisture that provides from evaporating from your skin, and create a shield to protect your face from the environment.

The Bottom Line

Although they sometimes share the same ingredients, serums and moistruizers have different functions. Serums deliver higher concentrations of antioxidants and other goodies into the skin, while moisturizers seal in moisture and repair the skin’s protective barrier. Unless your skin is oily or in perfect condition, both are a must.

Have you ever used serums alone?

Can A DNA Test Prevent Skin Ageing?

geneu dna skincare

Can a DNA test prevent skin ageing?

Geneu certainly thinks so. The brand claims to be able, with the help of a microchip, to “assess human genetic variation in skin ageing” and provide a treatment, tailored to your own skin’s needs, that defies your genetic destiny.

It all sounds very sci-fi, but it is the beginning of the future of skincare. It is just too soon to invest in it. Here’s why:

How Skin Ageing Works

Ageing is inevitable, but the rate at which it happens isn’t. It can be slowed down. But it is not easy. Skin ageing is a complicated process that involves lots of factors, including the breakdown of collagen and elastin, two substances that keep our skin firm and elastic. As they deplete with age, skin becomes looser and saggier.

There are many things that can harm collagen. One of the main culprits is unprotected sun exposure. A diet poor in antioxidants and rich in sugars and high alcohol consumption play a part too. But there is also a genetic component to this. In some people, collagen and elastin naturally start to deplete sooner.

Smart lifestyle choices and antioxidant rich skincare products can help us slow down premature ageing somewhat, but we have no control over genetic factors yet. By understanding how the genes that control collagen levels in the skin work, we can figure out how to modify them so that we can prevent or retard the ageing process.

By this is not what Geneu does. And thank goodness. Messing with genes is a very risky business. Do it wrong, and it could lead to mutations, cancer, and other serious health problems. For a product like this to be approved for sale, it would have to undergo years of very strict tests to prove it is harmless to human health.

So, what does Geneu do?

First of all, Geneu takes a sample of your DNA. But don’t worry. This is not painful nor unpleasant. There are no needles, scalpels or other instruments of torture involved. Using a cotton bud, the people at Geneu simply collect a swab of your inside cheek.

This swab is analyzed by their “DNA BeautyLab on a microchip”, which identifies how high or low your levels of natural antioxidants and collagen breakdown are. The man behind this technology is Professor Christofer Toumazou at London’s Imperial College, who has also invented an artificial pancreas and hearing implants for deaf people, so there’s actually a chance this microchip is more than a gimmick.

30 minutes later, the results are in. They are used to formulate a personalized serum featuring the right concentrations of active ingredients your skin needs to enhance its natural antioxidant protection and collagen levels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the list of ingredients anywhere. Their website only mentions it contains hylauronic acid and a plant-based active complex (probably antioxidants with collagen-boosting properties).

How much does Geneu costs?

As you have probably guessed, Geneu isn’t cheap. The test, which can only be done in their salon in Bond Street, London, and two week’s supply of serum costs a whopping £600! Refills can be purchased online at, and will set you back £300 a month. You can also get a Geneu Annual Subscription, which includes 52 weeks’ worth of serum plus a complementary re-test, for £3300.

Is Geneu worth it?

As much as I like the idea of personalized skincare, Geneu isn’t so innovative to justify its high price tag yet. If may be able to tell you what the levels of antioxidants and collagen in your skin are, but you could still get a pretty good idea of that by looking into a mirror.

The expensive serum may be personalized, but it doesn’t contain any innovative ingredients you can’t find anywhere else. Antioxidants, such as vitamin c, ferulic acid, green tea, and retinol, do a great job at keeping premature wrinkles at bay, and they are found in a lot of serums at much lower prices. But, just like Geneu’s pricier option, they will only do so much if you don’t follow a healthy diet and wear sunscreen regularly.

For now, I can only recommend Geneu to wealthy women who can’t be bothered to research cosmetic ingredients and hunt down state-of-the-art anti-ageing serums and moisturizers. For them, the convenience of a bespoke serum may be worth its high price.

The Bottom Line

The future of skincare is in bespoke, personalized products. One day, I’m sure, technology will allow us to figure out with even more precision what condition our skin is in and what problems we are predisposed to, and create treatments tailored to our own personal need. It will also allows us to modify genes to prevent or slow down ageing. But that day is still far away. Now, it is still too early to invest in Geneu. This technology isn’t as impressive as it is made out to be yet.

Would you give Geneu a try?

Pat or Rub: Which Makes Skincare Products Work Better?

skincare pat rub

Image courtesy of stockimages at

Do you rub in or pat on your skincare products?

I’m a patter, but not for the reason you think. Clarins, Hada Labo and a dozen other brands want us to believe that patting your lotions and potions on helps them to penetrate our skin better. I’m sorry, but that’s just nonsense.

The patting technique doesn’t enhance penetration (and neither does rubbing)

Our skin is a very underrated organ. We often think about how to prettify it, but rarely of what it does for us. Its outermost layer, called the stratum corneum, has a very important function. It forms a barrier between our body and the rest of the world.

This barrier is very difficult to penetrate. And that’s a very good thing. If getting through it were easy, pretty much anything we come in contact with would enter our bodies, and, worse, our insides would spill out!

When this barrier is broken (that may be due, for example, to severe dryness and irritation, strong acid peels, or laser vaporizations), our creams, but also bacteria, and other substances can more easily get inside our bodies. But this often causes irritations, infections, and other problems we’d rather not deal with.

There are also ways to get through a healthy skin barrier. Substances like propylene glycol and linalool can help other ingredients better penetrate into the skin. Applying creams to damp skin increases absorption by about 10% too. But to the stratum corneum, it doesn’t make any difference whether you rub in or pat on your creams. Either way, they seep in slowly, at the rate the stratum corneum allows them to.

skincare tips 30s

Why patting is really better than rubbing

Patting may not enhance penetration, but it can help you age better. How? Rubbing too vigorously stretches skin, causing the breakdown of elastin and collagen. This, in turn, promotes sagging.

It’s true, though, that a gentle massage, using circular motions, can be beneficial for skin too. It help increase blood flow, which gives your skin a pretty natural glow. But there’s an exception. If you have rosacea or overly red skin you should avoid rubbing. It can aggravate the condition.

Patting is also a better way to apply sunscreen. Sunscreen is not skincare. It is not meant to be absorbed. To work properly, it needs to sit on top of the skin and form a protective layer against UV rays. Rubbing gets in the way of that. A 2006 study has shown that rubbing sunscreen in vigorously can affect the formation of this even layer, leaving tiny holes that are impossible to detect with the naked eye but allow UV rays to get through and damage skin.

The bottom line

Neither rubbing nor patting enhance the penetration of your lotions and potions. But patting is gentler on the skin, and, unlike rubbing, doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of your sunscreen.

How do you apply your skincare products?

Can A Pillow Prevent Wrinkles?

wrinkle prevention pillow 01

Did you know that the way you sleep may actually cause wrinkles?

Yep, it’s not enough to wear sunscreen daily, eat a healthy diet, and use products chockfull of antioxidants. We also need to pay attention to how we sleep. Why? “No matter how soft your pillow, it puts pressure on your face each night,” explains Dr Matthew Hoffman. “Over years, this can etch lines into your chin, cheeks or forehead. Your personal pattern of sleep lines depends of how you tend to rest your face on the pillow.”

Dermatologist Neal Schultz agrees: “If you sleep on your side or front, rather than your back, it’s like you’re folding over your skin – except it’s sustained pressure. It’s breaking the collagen, which can give you wrinkles and make your skin look saggy.”

The solution? Sleep on your back. Problem is, that’s no solution at all to me, and, I guess, to many of you. I’ve tried many times to sleep on my back, but I’ve always given up up after a few minutes. It’s just so uncomfortable! I can only sleep on my side, but at least I alternate between my right and left, so, hopefully, I’m getting the same amount of damage everywhere.

But what if you don’t want any damage at all? Isn’t there another solution? Maybe. Some experts recommend you sleep on a tall, silk pillow, such as About Face The Wrinkle Prevention Pillow.

The Wrinkle Prevention Pillow

The Wrinkle Prevention Pillow was invented by Patty Colman, Beauty Sleep Expert and President of About Face Products. Understanding the importance of a good night’s sleep and its benefits, Patty wanted “to help people rest assured knowing that they no longer are causing permanent sleep wrinkles while sleeping.”

Apparently, this pillow help you sleep on your back, prevent wrinkles and eye puffiness, and even make your skincare products and treatments last longer! No wonder it has been copied by several rivals, launching a new category of products in the anti-aging industry. But does it work? Let’s investigate:

wrinkle prevention pillow 02

Can it prevent wrinkles?

Made of memory foam, the Wrinkle Prevention Pillow features a contoured center that makes sleeping on your back more natural and comfortable. So, if, like me, you find it impossible to sleep on your back on a normal pillow, this may help. But what if you sleep on your side or stomach?

According to the website, “if and when you do turn on your side or stomach, position your head so that it is at the edge of the C curve of the pillow [the right and left edges of this pillow are C-shaped]. Position the top ‘leg’ of the pillow so it supports the top of your head, and the bottom “leg” so it supports the bottom of your chin.” That may be easy to do as soon as you get into bed, but if you change position during the night?

Apparently, even then a silk pillowcase would lessen the chance of lines forming by allowing the skin to move on it with less friction. On a cotton pillowcase, your skin doesn’t move as well, so lines tend to form more easily. But, as Paula Begoun points out, this theory has never been tested in any serious study, so no one knows if it really works.

She doesn’t think it hurts to try it, although she warns us about another “danger”. Paula tried a silk pillowcase (not sure it was by About Face, though) but she kept sliding off of it: “really, I wake up in the morning and the pillow is somewhere else. It’s like on the floor.” That kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? It’s a shame, cos I really like the idea of sleeping on a silk pillowcase, even if it shouldn’t help prevent wrinkles.

Can it make skincare products work better?

As the pillow helps you sleep on your back comfortably, your face won’t touch it. This prevents your lotions and potions from getting absorbed by the pillowcase rather than your skin. Silk is also slightly less absorbent than cotton. It also, as we’ve seen above, causes skin to move on it more easily, with less friction. Because of these benefits, even if you sleep on your side, most of your night cream should remain on your skin anyway.

These benefits also help hair form less knots during sleep, and your eyelash extensions and derma fillers (if you regularly have them done and sleep on your side, have you noticed how that side loses its fullness faster?) last longer.

wrinkle prevention pillow 03

Can it prevent eye puffiness?

Eye puffiness can be caused by several factors. One of them is fluid retention. When you keep your head flat during sleep, fluids collect in the tissue around your eyes. Luckily, there’s a very easy fix for this. Sleep with your head slightly raised. The wrinkle prevention pillow helps sleep like that. But, if your eye puffiness is caused by something else, like allergies or a diet high in salt, this pillow won’t help at all.

Where can you get the Wrinkle Prevention Pillow?

The Wrinkle Prevention Pillow by About Face is available in in ivory, purple, and pink, so you can choose the one that best matches your sheets. On their website, the pillow ($65.00) and pillowcase ($28.95) can be purchased separately, whether on Amazon, they are available together for $89.00 (but only the pink and purple versions are available there).

Should you get The Wrinkle Prevention Pillow?

While there is some evidence that sleeping on your back and with your head raised can prevent wrinkles, reduce eye puffiness, make your skincare products work better, and treatments such as derma fillers last longer, no study has confirmed the alleged anti-aging benefits of The Wrinkle Prevention Pillow or silk pillowcases yet.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to try one. If you’re on a budget, you may want to invest in just a silk pillowcase for your regular pillow. At the very least, it’ll add a touch of luxury to your sleep. As long as your pillow doesn’t end up on the floor!

Have you tried the Wrinkle Prevention Pillow, or even just a silk pillowcase?