30/10/2015 3:32 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

What A Skin Serum Actually Does

Cropped shot of an attractive young woman lying on her back via Getty Images
Cropped shot of an attractive young woman lying on her back

Ever wondered if you really need to use a serum, or if they're just a big marketing ploy to get you to by another beauty product? Or, what a serum actually does in the first place?

"Serums were primarily created to help highly active ingredients penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin," Eva Karpati, skin technician and founder of Karpati Medispa told The Huffington Post Australia.

"They are traditionally more highly concentrated than moisturisers, and because of their lighter, finer texture, more easily absorbed for deeper penetration into the lower layers of the dermis."

Generally water-based but occasionally oil-based, they mostly target one specific skin concern -- such as pigmentation, hydration, brightening, lines or problem skin.

"Generally, serums should be applied to freshly cleansed skin before moisturiser," said Karpati.

"I always recommend cleansing the skin with an enzyme-based cleanser to remove any grease or residue prior to applying the serum, as water-based serums cannot pass through sweat and grease and won’t penetrate well."

Once serum is applied, wait a minute or so for it to absorb, then apply your regular moisturiser.

"Depending on the skin type and time of year -- such as summer -- sometimes applying a hydrating serum can be enough and can then be followed with an SPF, without the need for a moisturiser, especially if you're oily," said Karpati.

So light in texture, it's easy to layer two or three serums, one after the other, to tackle a myriad of concerns at once.

"Serums have much higher percentages of active ingredients than creams, so are therefore very effective at treating targeted skin concerns as quickly as possible, including redness, dehydration, wrinkles and excess oil production. Skin issues and concerns generally stem from the deeper layers of the skin and this is where the serums can travel to because of their water-based penetrating abilities," said Karpati.

Karpati suggests looking for the following key active ingredients:

Hyaluronic Acid

This is the primary component in the dermis that prevents skin dehydration through its ability to retain up to 1,000 times its weight in water within the intercellular matrix. Essential in the regeneration of the epidermis, hyaluronic acid plays a vital role in skin density and tone while retaining a natural state inside skin through various molecular weights.


Collagen is one of the main components of the skin and is the key protein in the human body. Helping to keep the skin tissue toned, collagen is known for its soothing effect and anti-aging action. Providing an intense hydrating effect, collagen is also an excellent cellular regenerator and repairer.

Vitamin C

Naturally present in the skin and known for its brightening action, vitamin C reduces the production of skin pigments and therefore helps to keep the skin even and radiant. Energising and strengthening skin, Vitamin C’s anti-free radical power protects skin from external aggression.

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