I get asked so often about what a serum is, and how to properly use it. Serums are a super innovative, very modern part of a skincare routine and should be in everybody’s bathroom. Here we’ll take a closer look at this vital skincare step and how to choose the serum that’s right for your skincare needs.
What is a serum?
Serums play a fundamental role in your skin’s overall health and appearance. They are hydrating, skin-strengthening and ultra-nourishing concentrates which can be water- or water-lipid-based. Serums should be used after face cleansing and before a day or night cream; they precede but do not replace a moisturizer.
What do they do?
A serum delivers a concentrated form of ingredients into your skin, either to target a specific skin condition such as increasing hydration, calming irritation, and helping to even out dark spots and hyperpigmentation, or to help you accomplish your skincare goals, such as increasing radiance or adding a layer of protection against UVA/UVB rays or HEV blue light pollution. I call serums the “power tools” of skincare because of their ability to penetrate deep and fast into the skin to address concerns with active ingredients, which are either a certain molecular size or are specially encapsulated to reach a specific skin layer.
How is a serum different from a moisturizer?
Serums are not intended as a substitute for a day or night cream, but rather an important addition. For example, while Hyaluronic Acid in creams is good for supplying the superficial layers of the skin with moisture, it cannot, however, support the skin’s fundamental moisture reservoirs because of the blocking effect of the lipids in a cream. Serums are usually formulated with concentrated amounts of active ingredients; their constituent ingredients have either a certain molecular size or are specially encapsulated to deliver active ingredients to deeper skin layers. So, while creams should be used to nourish the skin with precious lipids and seal the skin as a final step against external influences, serums have a different focus.
How to apply serums
Most of the serums in my Molecular Cosmetics line should be used before one of my face creams to ensure optimal absorption, but there is a specific order in which to apply them. There are two types of serums: water-based (clear) serums and water-lipid-based serums. I recommend applying the water-based serums (they look transparent/watery) before the FACE CREAM, with the exception of the LIFTING SERUM, which is applied last in your skincare routine, but before makeup and the SUN DROPS SPF 50 which should also be a last step. The water-lipid serums work well on their own, or can be mixed into your moisturizer. And if you want to combine both, use water-based first and the water-lipid-based serum afterwards - and then moisturizer. Whenever you are applying a serum ensure that it has absorbed into the skin before applying the next layer. Then, to ‘seal’ in the serum, you should always apply a moisturizer or face cream over the top. Of course, you may decide to use just one serum and that’s fine too – it’s the ingredient science that’s important for it to be effective and provide your skin with the best benefits.
HOW TO USE: THE GOOD C VITAMIN C SERUM
How to choose the correct serum
I designed a lot of different serums for addressing certain skin needs; calming, clarifying, brightening, hydrating, anti-aging, sun protection, anti-pollution etc. so depending on your specific needs – i.e if you want anti-aging and skin calming benefits, you might decide to include both serums in your skincare routine and they should be applied individually. Here is a brief description of all the serums in the collection:
1. Lip Balm
The LIP BALM is formulated without mineral oils and instead contains a hydrating blend of butters, waxes and plant-based oils which double up as a fantastic moisturizing balm for your cuticles and dry patches on your hands or elbows. It can be used as a nightly nail treatment before bed and is also light and absorbent enough to be used throughout the day. Alternatively, apply the LIP BALM on the high areas of your face, such as the cheekbones and temples for a natural and dewy highlight over makeup or on its own. Our new mini-size version makes it easy to carry around with you, even in the tiniest bags.
THE TREATMENT ROOMS
The LA Boutique & Spa accommodates three treatment rooms, two express facial rooms and two infrared saunas where customers can enjoy treatments from Dr. Sturm’s wide-ranging spa menu, including the Super Anti-Aging Facial, Instant Glow Facial, Clarifying Facial, Brightening Facial, Darker Skin Tones Facial and Men’s Facial. Dr. Sturm will also be premiering advanced beauty and wellness technologies at the LA Boutique & Spa.
2. Brightening Serum
Dr. Barbara Sturm’s EYE CREAM effectively targets puffiness and fine lines – but did you know the BRIGHTENING SERUM can be used to combat dark circles with an almost instant brightening effect? It contains a special extract of Cress Sprouts to brighten the skin, Hyaluronic Acid for hydration and Allantoin to soothe and calm – truly a secret weapon for anyone struggling with dark under eyes and dry skin.
8. Face Mask
The FACE MASK acts as an effective 15 - 20 minutes boost of rich hydration and doubles as an overnight treatment. Apply it after your normal night-time routine and remove it in the morning by gently rubbing it off, to reveal moisturized, glowing and refreshed skin. Because the mask is fast-absorbing and becomes clear once it has soaked into your skin, it is comfortable and mess-free for sleep. Pro-Tip: If you have a big night out or a special event, applying the mask before makeup (or without makeup!) will give you an unbeatable, healthy and glowing complexion.
THE GOOD C VITAMIN C SERUM
This serum deploys my proprietary formulation of Vitamin C in three skin-friendly forms and at an optimal concentration of 5% that is easily absorbed, safe and gentle on the skin. It also contains Zinc, which helps to increase the absorption of Vitamin C into the skin. Used regularly, it will help to reduce uneven pigmentation, boost collagen production, improve tone and provide anti-oxidative protection from free radicals and environmental stressors. It will also leave your skin more radiant, fresh, firm and youthful-looking.
I urge everyone to include the HYALURONIC SERUM first and foremost in their regime. I call it the “white t-shirt” of the line because it provides essential hydration and powerful anti-aging ingredients that benefit every skin type. It contains two molecular weights of Hyaluronic Acid to flood skin with hydration both on the surface and deeper layers, while delivering my anti-aging powerhouse Purslane to calm irritation and help support barrier function.
DARKER SKIN TONES
Formulated especially for more melanin-active skin tones, which are increasingly susceptible to hyperpigmentation and discoloration caused by inflammation. This variation of the HYALURONIC SERUM contains Lumicol, a compound that adds radiance by helping to even out skin tone for a healthy, glowing complexion.
ANTI-POLLUTION DROPS are formulated to protect skin against particulate pollution, UV rays and HEV blue light from digital devices. They contain a Skin Protect Complex that strengthens the skin’s defenses, Cocoa Seed Extract that forms a shield to protect against UV rays, and Purslane to help calm irritation. Hyaluronic Acid provides hydration on both deep and surface levels, which is essential to maintaining healthy barrier function.
SUPER ANTI-AGING SERUM
SUPER ANTI-AGING SERUM contains a cocktail of powerful antioxidants and anti-irritants to nourish skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Long and short chain Hyaluronic Acid provides deep hydration that helps active ingredients to penetrate and Glutathione, Skullcap and Purslane protect against oxidative damage, help calm redness and irritation, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Daily use helps strengthen skin’s matrix for a supple, younger-looking complexion.
At night, our skin goes into repair mode, producing more collagen and growth hormone and less skin-harming Cortisol. NIGHT SERUM helps promote this renewal process, using Cotton Thistle Extract to support and stimulate collagen and regenerate the skin barrier, potent antioxidants that boost the skin’s natural defenses against UV-induced damage and oxidation, Hyaluronic Acid that drenches skin with hydration, and Purslane, Beta Glucan and Poria Cocos Extract to calm irritation.
LIFTING SERUM is applied last in your skincare routine before makeup to provide an intense and instantly beautifying ‘lifted’ effect to the skin. Biopolymers form a matrix that physically elevates the skin’s surface while Red Algae and Plankton Extracts fill in fine lines and wrinkles to plump and smooth skin and support collagen and elastin. Hyaluronic Acid penetrates deeply to provide hydration and deliver active ingredients to calm irritation and support cell health and barrier function.
CLARIFYING SERUM alleviates redness and sensitivity in the skin as well as replenishes moisture levels (it’s a myth that oily skin needs to be dried out). It contains Albatrellus Ovinus Extract to soothe skin, Hyaluronic Acid to help hydrate and smooth fine lines, as well as Zinc, a compound that has been widely studied for its anti-inflammatory properties. With continued use this will balance the skin, reduce breakouts, and treat existing blemishes.
The SCALP SERUM revitalizes the scalp, soothing irritation with a combination of Panthenol and power-antioxidant Purslane, while low and high molecular weighted Hyaluronic Acid provides scalp skin with deep, lasting hydration. ATP, Algin and Papaya Extract help maintain the scalp's vital moisture balance and Indian Kino Tree Extract acts as a potent anti-aging ingredient, helping to boost hair strength and promoting overall scalp health.
This multi-use serum helps rebalance irritated skin by calming redness and burning while helping to support skin’s barrier function. It’s enriched with an active, plant-based complex of Cardiospermum, Echium and Sunflower to soothe and hydrate skin, while protecting against free radical damage, as well as Purslane to calm irritation. It’s ideal for helping to reduce redness associated with rosacea, after treatments and waxing, soothing sunburned skin, and preventing razor burn post-shaving.
BRIGHTENING SERUM imparts an even glow immediately upon application and over time, a selection of active ingredients helps to reduce the visible signs of pigmentation. Cress Sprouts Extract helps to brighten the skin while fading the appearance of dark and yellowish spots, while Ginseng Extract protects against oxidative damage and environmental stress. Hyaluronic Acid replenishes skin's moisture reservoirs while soothing Allantoin helps calm irritation.
GLOW DROPS are a makeup/skincare hybrid which revitalizes tired, dull skin instantly. Hyaluronic Acid plumps skin with moisture on both the deep and surface layers, while anti-aging Purslane calms the visible signs of irritation. Wild Rose Extract refines pores, and potent anti-ager Polygonum Bistorta Root boosts skin tone. Light-reflecting mineral pigments leave skin with a subtle glow.
SUN DROPS SPF 50
SUN DROPS SPF 50 provide a combination of broad-spectrum protection and anti-aging skincare to shield skin against UVA and UVB rays while nourishing with healing, hydrating and antioxidant ingredients. Cassia Extract, Vitamin E, Beta Glucan, Purslane and Hyaluronic Acid help hydrate and soothe skin, while Green Tea Leaf Extract and Chamomile flower protect against oxidative damage. Apply liberally 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply frequently, especially after perspiring, swimming or drying off with a towel.
If you’d like to get in touch with questions, or to schedule a virtual consultation to help decide which serums to incorporate into your routine, contact us here.
DR. BARBARA STURM DIGITAL MASTERCLASS: SERUMS & ANTI-AGING