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The Truth About Facial Serums

Serum Costs, Serum Benefits continued...

Jessica Wu, MD, a Santa Monica, Calif., dermatologist, and author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days, recommends serums to many of her patients. "They're great for people with oily skin," she says, "or those who prefer a weightless feel to their skin care products. Serums have a non-greasy finish and they don't leave behind a sticky residue."

Still, serums aren't for everyone. Wu says the liquid or gel-like texture of a serum can be a poor match for people with chronic skin conditions like eczema or rosacea, which weaken the skin barrier. For these people, serums may penetrate too quickly, causing irritation. 

Others need the hydration that a rich day or night cream provides. "If you have mature or dry skin, you can't get away with using just a serum," says Wilson. Instead, she recommends a serum as an add-on to your skin care regimen, layered under your moisturizer. "There's a lot of benefit to serums, from smoothing fine lines to reducing age spots, that you can't reproduce in any other formulation," she says.

How to Apply Serums

Adding a serum to your daily beauty routine? Here's how to apply these lightweight elixirs for maximum effect.

1.  After cleansing your face, apply a pea-sized amount of serum, patting it evenly over skin with your finger.

2. If you have sensitive skin, wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face before using serum. "When your skin is damp, applying a water-based product is more likely to lead to irritation," says dermatologist Wu. "Allowing your skin to dry completely slows down penetration."

3. You don't need to skip the moisturizer you love. Just pat on your serum first, so it isn't blocked from penetrating your skin. 

4. Is your serum too pricey for twice-a-day use? Borrow this trick from cosmetic chemist Wilson. Use the serum as a booster either a.m. or p.m., adding a couple of drops to your moisturizer.

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