The ten-step Korean skincare routine has taken over the beauty blogosphere in recent years. The routine is based on ten common steps Korean beauty retailers and experts often recommend. One of those ten steps is a facial serum, and we believe it’s the most beneficial and important step in the process.
What Is a Facial Serum?
A serum is a supercharged, lightweight moisturizer. With heavier ingredients like creams or butter left out of the formula, facial serums have a higher concentration of active ingredients. The formulas are usually oil-based and penetrate the skin quickly and thoroughly.
Dermatologists recommend using a serum in conjunction with a heavier, traditional moisturizer (ideally one that also contains SPF.) It’s best to use them at night, so the serum has time to work its magic while you sleep.
And, to truly gauge whether a serum has made a significant impact on your skin’s health and appearance, we suggest giving it a full month of regular use to judge its effectiveness.
The Difference Between Serums, Essences and Ampoules
What’s the difference between serum, an essence, and an ampoule? Serums are often thicker in consistency and more concentrated than an essence. Ampoules are not meant for everyday use and are instead high powered serums to use in times of serious skincare stress. With that being said, the reality is that all three are actually not very different.
While Korean beauty followers may beg to differ, most experts believe choosing just one of the three for your pre-moisturizer step is adequate. All three are lightweight, oil-based, and concentrated with active ingredients targeting a specific skin care concern.
Types of Facial Serums
The number of facial serums on the market today --Korean beauty or otherwise-- can be daunting, especially if you are new to these types of products. Plus, serums tend toward the pricey side, making it a serious skincare and financial misstep if you choose the wrong one!
Luckily, they’re easily broken down into categories based on their major benefits so that you can target your most pressing skincare concern with ease.
Free Radical Eliminating Serums (Pomegranate & Vitamin E)
Environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke, smog, radiation, and herbicides can cause free radicals to form in your cells. Free radicals oxidize your healthy cells, and that oxidation can cause premature aging, sun spots, and hyper-pigmentation.
Antioxidants are free-radical-fighting compounds that are found both in our body and in certain natural substances like pomegranates and Vitamin E. These antioxidant-rich serums for the face are skin-repairing powerhouses and great for all skin types.
Anti Aging Serums (Vitamin C) & Retinol (Vitamin A)
Collagen is responsible for maintaining plumpness in our skin, so it’s an essential component to maintaining a young looking face! As we age, collagen production naturally slows down which is why fine lines and wrinkles start to appear as we get older and why collagen creams are essential in any routine.
Vitamin C helps to stimulate collagen production, making a Vitamin C Serum a perfect choice for those of us who are looking to slow down the aging train. L-ascorbic acid is another way you’ll see a Vitamin C serum listed on a skin care product as it’s the name of the active antioxidant in the Vitamin C compound.
Another common ingredient in several serums is Retinol. Retinol serums are much like Vitamin C serums in that they help increase cell turnover and helps slow down collagen loss. It also evens skin tone and works as a hydrating agent, so you’re getting the added benefit of plumper, healthier looking skin too.
Anti-Inflammatory Serums (Aloe and Green Tea Serums)
In the same way, we use aloe vera to soothe skin after a wicked sunburn; we can also use aloe vera serums regularly as part of our skincare routine to help calm irritated skin and reduce redness. Aloe serums are recommended for all skin types and can be used in the evening or morning.
Green tea serums are another great way to battle skin inflammation. Green tea is a gentle, soothing skincare ingredient that has natural anti-inflammatory properties which can calm the skin.
Hydrating Serums (Hyaluronic Acid, Argan Oil and Rose Oil Serums)
Hyaluronic acid serum may sound scary but fear not as it is actually an incredible moisturizer. The acid helps your skin retain moisture over a long period and gets deep down in your pores, hydrating your skin from within. A pump of this will keep your skin looking plump and fresh all day. Mix with your favorite anti-aging or brightening serum to make this skincare step pull double duty.
Argan oil is probably the most common hydrating serum on the market today. It’s gentle, non-comedogenic, and perfect for all skin types. Argan oil comes from the kernel of a Moroccan tree and is often referred to as “liquid gold” for its skin nourishing properties. If you’re new to the facial serum world and want to dip your toe, an Argan serum is definitely the way to go.
Rose serums are yet another option that delivers major moisture benefits to the skin. A regular rose serum regimen can keep your skin feeling soft and hydrated throughout the day.
Acne Fighting Serums (Salicylic Acid)
Salicylic acid serums are the grown-up version of supermarket face wash products. This popular, effective ingredient is many people’s first line of defense when it comes to clearing up the occasional pimple or preventing acne breakouts. You can find salicylic acid in a full spectrum of products, from face wash gels to spot treatment creams.
DIY Facial Serums
Because the best facial serums are meant to be free of unnecessary ingredients, making a DIY facial serum at home is actually quite simple. Making your own DIY facial serum can be as easy as buying a bottle of Vitamin E oil and Vitamin C oil and adding a few drops of each to your regular daily moisturizer.
For the following DIY skin care serums, be sure to use amber colored glass bottles to shield the ingredients from sunlight. If using clear containers, many of the active ingredients can become unstable if exposed to direct sunlight.
DIY Hydrating Serum
Let’s start with our own DIY facial serum created by the Gold Mountain beauty experts. It contains Pomegranate oil, Jojoba oil, Castor oil, Rosehip oil, and Vitamin E which help to repair and moisturize while you sleep.
This is a recipe for a luxurious, fragrant, deep treatment facial oil. Rich in essential fatty acids and combination of vegetable oils it nourishes and soothes the skin as you sleep. The blend of essential oils in this recipe has skin regenerating patchouli oil, balancing ylang-ylang oil, and soothing orange essential oil.
- 20 ml Jojoba oil
- 10 ml Castor Oil
- 10 ml Pomegranate seed oil
- 10 ml Rosehip Oil
- 2 Vit E capsules
- 2 drops Patchouli Essential oil
- 1 drop Ylang ylang essential oil
- 1 drop Orange essential oil
Directions:To make, combine ingredients in a small dark-colored bottle. Shake gently to mix well.
To use, apply a few drops to the fingertips and massage into the face and neck, using upward sweeping motions, avoiding the delicate eye area. Use at night to help nourish the skin while you sleep, especially if your skin needs additional hydration.
Simple DIY Argan Oil Facial SerumBecause it only includes Argan oil, jojoba oil, and lavender essential oil, this DIY serum is light on your skin, time, and wallet. If you’re not ready to commit to an expensive store-bought serum and need to experiment a bit first, try this one. It smells good, is super hydrating and won’t break the bank.
This DIY facial treatment contains macadamia nut oil, meadowfoam seed oil, frankincense essential oil, lavender, and myrtle essential oil— lots of potent and healing oils we’ve not yet discussed (and not readily found in store-bought serums) but effective nonetheless.
Macadamia nut oil contains palmitoleic acid which is a compound that is naturally found in our skin, though it diminishes over time. It helps to decrease how quickly the skin ages and is also full of natural antioxidants.
Meadowfoam seed oil creates a natural barrier between your skin and the sun, decreasing your exposure to sun damage and limiting the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
DIY Serum for Acne
This DIY serum is so gentle and nourishing that you don’t even need to follow up with a traditional moisturizer. It’s especially nice in the summer months when your skin is craving something lightweight.
Squalane oil is the main ingredient in this one. This nourishing oil was first discovered in shark liver but has since been found naturally occurring in olives as well. It’s antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It has also been found to penetrate the skin better than many other popular oils that simply sit on top of the skin.
This DIY acne facial also includes bergamot oil and tea tree oil, both of which are antibacterial and tone the skin— two key components of keeping your skin clear. Balanced with nourishing Argan oil, this serum works as a simple spot treatment or all over serum for those days when you’re feeling extra oily.
For an every day, nourishing facial serum, we love this simple formula. Aloe vera calms while Vitamin E moisturizes— and with a few drops of essential oil, the custom options are endless! Lavender, chamomile, and rose help calm your skin and reduce redness and irritation.
Serums: Your First Foray into K Beauty?
We hope now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of what specific serums and ingredients can do to transform your skin. Give these a try and let us know how your skin improves in the comments below!