Ruth Griffin: The beginner's guide to serums
It's time to add an essential fourth step to your beauty regimen.
The cult-status Korean skincare regime has a mind-boggling 17 steps, but is our much more streamlined, oft-promoted three-step beauty routine (cleanse, tone, moisturise) too little? I think it is. If you're over 25, dermatologists recommend using an eye cream, and if you're over 35, you should seriously consider adding a serum to your daily skincare ritual.
A serum is a highly potent, deeply penetrating, activated skincare formulation that has smaller molecules that go deeper through the epidermis to achieve much more targeted results than your normal moisturiser. A serum is what will up your skin game from good to great.
Serums are used as handy little helpers to target specific skin issues you may have. A general rule of thumb is to use a serum with hyaluronic acid for dry, ageing skin. Dull, flat, grey skin needs a serum full of antioxidants and exfoliating acids, and skin prone to breakouts needs a serum with salicylic acid. Crepiness and neck wrinkles require a serum with progeline to help stop sagging.
I'm aware that there seems to be a never-ending array of skincare steps and products we're told we should be using by the beauty industry, but I would really urge anyone over the age of 35 to try out a serum for one skin cycle (a month) and see yourself the difference it can make to your complexion - I think you may be surprised by the results! I admit the one downside to using serums is that they tend to be expensive but I've found a gem of a budget beauty brand in The Ordinary (see opposite), which packs a mega beauty punch for under a tenner - so no excuses, ladies!
Thandie Newton, above, actress and mum-of-three, looks amazing at 44. She keeps her skin glowing by creating her own bespoke skincare — a drop of Eminence Organics Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster Serum, €52, into her normal moisturiser. From buynaturalskincare.com
Treat VS Cheat
La Prairie White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion Serum
An absolutely indulgent skin treat: this new serum has oil-soluble vitamin C and DGA (diglucosyl gallic acid) for tackling sun spots, pollution, dullness and redness. From Brown Thomas nationwide
Nivea's Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Serum Pearls
A decent aternative. From stores and pharmacies nationwide
Serums at a glance
● You use a serum after your normal cleansing routine and before your usual moisturiser.
● Serums are highly potent and deeply penetrating.
● They use smaller molecules to go further through the epidermis than your regular moisturiser.
● Serums combat specific skin issues and are particularly good at tackling skin ageing, pigmentation, dullness, and face and neck sagging.
● If your skin is dry, look for a serum with hyaluronic acid.
● If your skin is grey or dull, look for a serum with antioxidants and amino and exfoliating acids.
● If you want a neck serum to combat sagging and crepiness, look for the ingredient progeline.
● Serums can be used on the face, neck and eye area.
● Some serums can be mixed with your normal moisturiser, while other serums need to be applied before your moisturiser and given a minute or two to absorb (read the directions to see which type you have).
● A little goes a long way with serums, so apply sparingly.
● If your serum comes in a dropper bottle, do NOT apply the drops to your hands first before applying the liquid to your face and neck. Serums are full of active ingredients, so you want them to be activated on your face, not your hands. Instead, drop the serum directly onto the skin on your face, then massage in gently.
8 of the best serums
● Best value
The Ordinary is a no-nonsense, no-frills, budget cosmeceuticals skincare line that delivers serious skincare results at a very wallet-friendly price. For a moisture boost, try The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, €8. From ebay.ie and asos.com
● Best serum for wearing under make-up
For a multi-tasking serum option that looks amazing under make-up and gives your complexion an extra skincare helping hand plus skin-blurring qualities, check out the new Hourglass No 28 Primer Serum, €30. From Harvey Nichols
● Best serum for face and neck area for those who are 50+
No7's Restore & Renew Face & Neck Multi Action Serum, €36, was created with specific ingredients to combat loss of firmness of the neck (or crepiness). From Boots nationwide
● Best facial serum for those in their 40s
111Skin was formulated by a Harley Street plastic surgeon and space scientists, and this Y Theorem Repair Serum NAC Y², €320, is the cult classic in their range. Apply under your normal moisturiser for hydration and skin-toning help. From Harvey Nichols
● Best eye serum
Over the age of 25, you should be investing in an eye cream. From your 40s onwards, adding an eye serum into your skincare routine is a great way of easing expanding crow's feet. Try the new Armani Crema Nera Youth Memory Eye Serum, €160 - a gel-to-oil-texture serum that is mixed in with your own normal eye cream. From Brown Thomas nationwide and The Loop, Dublin and Cork Airports
● Best growth serum for lashes and brows
Serums are not just for skincare - check out the new Brow and Lash Enhancement Serum, €64, from Image Skincare for fuller, longer, healthier brows and lashes. Apply daily under mascara and brow make-up. See renaissance-skincare.com/image for stockists
● Best natural/best for those in their 20s
This oil-based, natural skincare line has been making waves in the beauty world over the last few years. Mix Votary Toning Serum, €80, in with your usual moisturiser for a 100pc natural skin boost. From votary.co.uk
● Best moisturing serum for those in their 30s
Most women should think about adding a serum into their skincare routines by their mid-30s. If you're thinking of trying out a serum, look no further than Indeed Laboratories' Hydraluron The Ultimate Moisture Booster, €35, for an injection of deep hydration that will make you a serum convert for life! From Boots nationwide
Serum Foundations A new, and very welcome, addition to the serum family is the serum foundation. Basically, this is a skincare and make-up hybrid that cares for your complexion while it covers imperfections. These hardworking, multi-tasking options also have the added benefit of SPF.
BareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation SPF 20 €31 This has a non-chemical SPF and is hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. A great option for problem skin. Department stores nationwide
Diorskin Nude Air SÉrum de Teint spf 25 €52 This is talc-free and made from oils that evaporate on contact with the skin, creating a glowing, luminous finish. Department stores nationwide
Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40 €50 This has the highest level of sun protection and is a great option for fairer skins this summer. Department stores nationwide