Beauty FAQ: What to Know About Serums

Everything to know about serums and skincare.
The superhero of our skincare regime.

Skincare is arguably the most important part of one’s beauty routine. We all know by now that your makeup will only look as good as the base it is placed on. In a standard skincare regimen, we start with cleansing, followed by toning, and then moisturizing. However, there are many steps in between that can be done to elevate your routine to give you added hydration, oil control, to minimize pores, or to brighten the skin. All of these #skingoals can be achieved by the added use of a serum.

Serums are super concentrated liquids that are able to penetrate deeper into the skin to target specific skin concerns such as dehydration, redness, or dullness. Used as a treatment, they usually come in smaller packaging because they pack a powerful punch with just a few drops. Depending on what is needed, a serum can be infused with high concentrations of different vitamins, hyaluronic acid, essential oils, and natural ingredients. For example, vitamin C is known to smoothen and brighten dark spots on the skin, while ingredients like chamomile sooth and reduce inflammation. In short, serums can be an impactful addition to your skincare routine, whether you are looking for an instant skin fix or thinking more long term.

How are serums different from my regular moisturizer?
Most moisturizers offer hydration, first and foremost. While they can also contain vitamins and essential oils, the smaller molecules of a serum reach deeper into the skin with active ingredients to better target specific skin problems. Moisturizers also offer a layer of protection that can include SPF, therefore they are actually best used in conjunction with one another.

When do I use serum?
Serums can be applied daily, and depending on their job, they can be applied day or night. When the serum has reparative ingredients such as glycolic acid, it may be better to apply it at night. The general rule when applying your skincare items is that you go from the lightest to the heaviest texture. Serums are traditionally water-based and should be applied after the toner and followed by a face-oil or moisturizer. The last step should be your SPF.

How do I know which one to choose?
For extra hydration, anything with hyaluronic acid will retain and draw moisture into the skin. To reduce redness, look for serums with calming ingredients like chamomile or aloe (this would be great for anyone dealing with acne). There are serums that also work best at night to help with cell repair and exfoliation, and these usually contain lactic or glycolic acid. At the end of the day, most serums are high in anti-oxidants and will boost hydration. It is important to assess your skin carefully before deciding on a serum due to the fact that serums are so concentrated, and on that note, always try to do a patch test on the skin or get a sample first.

So, what products should I try?
First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum ($45 at Sephora) offers plenty of hydration while also soothing the skin with aloe and their signature ingredient, colloidal oatmeal.  Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum ($57 at Sephora) not only rehydrates skin, but it also offers plenty of free-radical protection with its high concentration of anti-oxidants via grade seed derivatives.  

For those who deal with occasional breakouts, pigmentation, and redness, Skin Inc’s Vitamin B3+ Niacinamide Serum for Troubled Skin ($56 at Sephora) is perfect because of the Vitamin B3 and panthenol.  Also, our Editor in Chief Tia claims that Glossier Super Pure Serum ($28 at has saved her skin over the last three weeks - thanks to acne-fighting zinc and soothing niacinimide.

Main Image via @alwaysjudging

Read more: Here's how to conquer second day hair.  Or if you're on a makeup hunt, these are our top 5 brow gels of all time.

Alyssa Manuel is our Senior Beauty Editor, as well as a professional makeup and hair artist in Toronto. She is a low-key collector/hoarder of old magazines and truly does enjoy long walks on the beach. Click here for a masterlist of her work with Couturesque.

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I founded Couturesque Magazine when I was 15 years old because like many of my peers, I felt ignored and talked down to by all of the other teen fashion publications out there. I figured that at the end of the day, the people who knew the most about my generation, were the people who belonged to it. The fashion industry is becoming increasingly dependent on the creativity of younger voices who challenge the status quo and make us rethink what we wear and why we wear it. And that is exactly what Couturesque set out to celebrate - authenticity, intelligence, originality, and diversity... in other words, what makes Gen-Z tick. Fast-forward to 2016 and we now have a staff of more than a dozen fashion distruptors contributing to our daily content from all around the globe, 100K+ readers following us from Toronto to New York, to London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, and a plethora of big-wig industry fans and collaborators. But what matters to us the most is the responsibility that our publication has to make a positive impact in the lives of those who come across it - we stand against retouching our photoshoots and we stand for sharing the beautiful, individual, complex voices of everyone, especially those who feel marginalized by mainstream fashion media. We hope that you love our site as much as we do and that you take the time to follow us (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Tumblr / Snapchat / YouTube) throughout our journey to make fashion accessible to the powerful young adults of today.

Tia Elisabeth Glista
Editor in Chief