Skincare Step 3: The Essential Guide to Serums

Skincare Step 3: The Essential Guide to Serums
Reading: 5 minutes

There’s one product that takes center stage in a skincare routine. With sink-into-skin textures and concentrated ingredients, serums are some of the hardest-working products in the business.

And the roles they can play are plenty: from brightening and hydrating to softening fine lines. The tricky part? Deciding which formula deserves top billing.

We’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look at serums, including how they work, how to use them, and what to look for on the ingredients list.

Do face serums really make a difference?

If any skincare product can make you a believer, it’s a serum. Serums are typically powerful yet minimalist formulas, focusing on specific ingredient combinations to provide your skin with targeted care.

Let’s take a look at what these results-focused formulas can do:

  • Provide a high concentration of potent ingredients: You’ve likely seen serums boasting antioxidants, peptides, hyaluronic acid, or vitamins (such as C and E). These components combat typical concerns such as dehydration, fine lines, sagging, and more.
  • Customize your skincare routine: There’s a serum for every need — allowing you to focus on different objectives from AM to PM and adapt your routine to skin changes over time.
  • Target past, present, and future concerns: Ideal for working towards current skin goals, serums are also powerful allies in preventing future damage. An example? Antioxidant formulas that protect against environmental stress or photoaging.

Ingredients with star power

Hyaluronic acid

With an impressive water-retaining capacity, hyaluronic acid supplies your skin with deep hydration. Serums including this moisturizer work to make skin look and feel good — helping to blur fine lines and visibly plump.

ISDIN hyaluronic acid

ISDIN Vitamin C

Vitamin C

Antioxidant par excellence, vitamin C helps protect your skin against harmful free radicals while brightening. What else can it do? Routine use also minimizes the look of sun spots and evens out your skin tone.

Retinal

Without a doubt, the star of nighttime routines everywhere. This age-defying agent boosts skin turnover to help blur fine lines and redefine texture. The result? Smooth, ageless skin.

Depending on the formula, retinal can be gentle enough for all skin types. But it’s best to start slow and consult your dermatologist.

ISDIN Retinal

ISDIN Peptides

Peptides

Peptides are regenerating compounds that help to build crucial connections between the layers of your skin. These messengers are in charge of improving elasticity and firmness. Another plus? Peptides do their best work when combined with other ingredients, offering antioxidant and repairing benefits.

Niacinamide

This form of vitamin B3 works to support your skin barrier and balance natural oil production. It’s a true multitasker that, like peptides, gets along with most ingredients. You’re likely to find it alongside retinal in rejuvenating serums.

ISDIN Niacinamide

How to apply a face serum correctly

As the third step in your skincare routine, serums should be applied to clean, dry skin so they can get straight to work. After cleansing and smoothing on your favorite eye cream, apply a small amount of serum to the palm of your hand or directly to your face. Then, gently distribute the product over your face and neck with your fingertips.

Tip: After applying the serum, gently massage your face in upward, circular motions. This helps promote absorption and can even offer a temporarily lifted look.

The search for the perfect serum starts here

Looking to soften dark spots and discoloration?

After long days spent in the sun, you might notice some new shapes, colors, and patterns on your face. How come? Melanin is the natural pigment responsible for your skin, hair, and eye color. And sun exposure can trigger your body to make more of it. When this melanin production increases, some little changes in skin pigment can pop up.

Each harmless sun spot is a part of your skin’s story — not calling for worry or removal. But if you’d like to work towards more even, radiant skin, there’s a serum for that.

Our recommendation: Melaclear Advanced

Star ingredients: Tranexamic acid, niacinamide, and Spot Corrector Complex, which help correct, brighten, and unify skin tone.

Recommended use: Morning (always with sunscreen) and night, for at least three months.

ISDIN Melaclear Advanced Spot Corrector Serum


Targeting fine lines and wrinkles?

Fine lines are friendly reminders of jokes told and memories made. Much like sun spots, they’re nothing to worry about. But if you dream of rejuvenating and renewing your skin’s texture, a retinal serum is the ideal choice (take it from supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio).

Our recommendation: Retinal Advanced

Star ingredients: Retinaldehyde, niacinamide, melatonin, and bakuchiol to help renew, repair, and calm your skin.

Recommended use: Nighttime, followed by sunscreen the next morning.

ISDIN Retinal Advanced retinaldehyde serum


Ready to brighten and revitalize?

Enter vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant helps to illuminate your skin from the inside out. In addition, it helps protect your skin against the effects of daily skin stressors — AKA the exposome.

Another suggestion? Get familiar with serums-in-ampoules. Vitamin C is most effective when it’s kept out of contact with the air around it, avoiding oxidation. Sealed glass ampoules do just that. Plus, they omit the need for the emulsifiers or stabilizers that larger serum formats can require — allowing for straightforward results.

Our recommendation: Flavo-C Ultraglican

Star ingredients: Vitamin C, UltraGlycans, and hyaluronic acid to help protect, moisturize, and illuminate.

Recommended use: Morning. Vitamin C is a direct antioxidant, meaning it can help fight against free radicals. This protective action is most effective in the morning — preparing your skin for daily aggressors, such as solar radiation.

ISDIN Flavo-C Ultraglican serum ampoules


Searching for deep hydration and plumping action?

Is your skin feeling dry and tight? It might be sending you a message: more moisture, please! Aging, weather, and even stress can cause your skin to lose more water than usual. Luckily, a hyaluronic acid serum can deliver hydration and then some. This moisturizing agent boosts elasticity, supports collagen and elastin, and helps repair skin damage.

Our recommendation: Hyaluronic Concentrate

Star ingredient: Low and medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid to hydrate both the skin’s surface and deeper layers.

Recommended use: Day or night, although AM use can help minimize transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Plus, you can fill the spot in your nighttime regimen with a rejuvenating or resurfacing formula.

ISDIN Hyaluronic Concentrate hyaluronic acid serum


Just the FAQs

What are the five basic steps of skincare?

Here’s a simple breakdown of a skincare routine:

Step 1: Cleanse

Step 2: Apply eye contour cream

Step 3: Apply your serum

Step 4: Moisturize

Step 5: Protect skin with sunscreen

✨ Not sure what your skin type is or how to start building a routine? Take our quick skincare routine quiz!

What comes first, eye cream or serum?

When it comes to skincare layering, there’s one rule you can usually follow: go from light to dense. But eye contour creams break the rules. The skin around the eyes is some of the most delicate on your face. So applying eye cream as the second step in your routine (after cleansing and before serum) can help protect it from more potent ingredients.

Then, apply your serum to clean dry skin, ensuring its powerful compounds sink in without any barriers. The mantra? Get the most out of every skincare product by layering them correctly.

At what age should I start using serums?

In general, it all depends on your skin type and needs. But around your 25th birthday, your skin starts to slow down on collagen and elastin production (the essential proteins that provide structure and bounce). Starting with rejuvenating serums in your late 20s or early 30s can help support your skin’s natural processes.

ISDIN Guide to Skin Serums

What there isn’t? An age limit for loving and caring for your skin. It deserves the starring role no matter your years.

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Article written and reviewed by:

Amy is a content strategist who turned a part-time obsession with skincare into a full-time passion. Her experience as a creative storyteller includes a range of lifestyle and technology topics across Washington D.C. and Barcelona. What's in her travel bag? Eye contour cream and sunscreen, always.

Editorial Team

Our namesake embodies the spirit of embracing life and all its wonder. As wellness journalists, we explore topics that invigorate the senses and keep curiosity alive. We believe that glowing skin is the result of a healthy body and mind. Weaving beauty with science, we aim to inspire you to live young at every age.

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