Magic in a Bottle: How to Pick Your Serum

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Serums are all kinds of great ingredients highly concentrated in a small, pricey bottle. Just like essences, these ingredients can penetrate deep into the skin thanks to their small molecules. Serums are a bit thicker in consistency, though, which is why you apply them after the essence.

Picking a serum or essence is a bit more complicated than picking a moisturizer. Unlike moisturizers, serums and essences have many different uses. You might need a serum to hydrate your skin, clean your pores, restore your skin’s natural balance, fight acne, heal post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (“PIH”, acne scars), or help with one of many other problems you might have.

That’s why there’s a myriad of serums available, at all kinds of prices. But the more expensive ones aren’t always better, because they might not be what you need. In other words, once you know what you need, it becomes easier to find an affordable product that will give you the most results for your money.

Let’s just dive right into the world of serums and their ingredients!

Skin Brightening Serums

If your skin is generally fine, without excessive oiliness, dryness, or blemishes, you might want a serum to further improve your skin’s tone and glow.

Brightening serums improve your skin’s general appearance, fade any age or sunspots, even skin tone, and diminish hyperpigmentation. This gives your skin a natural, radiant glow.

These particular serums usually contain extracts such as green tea, licorice root, and grapefruit or antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin C.

Acne Fighting Serums

If you are prone to acne, use these kinds of serums. Not just when you are breaking out, but every day to prevent breakouts from even appearing. Acne fighting serums tighten your skin, unclog and minimize your pores, absorb excess oil (especially for oily skin), and minimize any redness or irritation from your breakouts.

Beneficial acne fighting ingredients are salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), glycolic acid, citric acid, zinc, and botanical extracts like tea tree oil, thyme, cucumber, and green tea.

Hydrating Serums

Especially if you have dry skin, a hydrating serum is incredibly helpful. It hydrates your skin, giving it back the moisture and softness it lacks. With a good moisturizer on top of it, your skin will soon be back to the healthy, dewy skin you want it to be!

Look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, argan oil, glycerin,aloe vera, rosehip oil, ceramide, rosewater, sea kelp, jojoba, and vitamin E.

Also read: How to Pick the Right Exfoliant for Your Skin

Reparative and Renewing Serums

If your skin shows signs of aging, reparative and renewing serums are just what you need. If you suffer or suffered from acne, you might still have some scars of it. (PIH aren’t technically scars, but commonly called “acne scars” anyway) Your skin might be wrinkly or even damaged from unprotected sun exposure, or even worse, tanning beds. (You know better now, right? Always wear sunscreen and don’t use tanning beds!)

These serums help you regain a natural, flawless skin. Look for ingredients like seaweed, noni extract, flower water, green tea, ceramides, retinol, Resveratrol (from Japanese knotweed), antioxidants, essential oils, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Anti-Aging Serum

If you are still young and want to look young for many years to come, this is the serum for you. These are usually applied overnight, since the most common ingredient, retinol, works best without the sun’s harmful UV rays on your face.

Other common anti-aging ingredients include:  fruit stem cells, evening primrose, grape seed extract, Vitamin C, peptides, growth factors, and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs).


As a general guide, these are the ingredients you should be looking for, depending on your skin type:

If you have oily skin, serums with AHA, BHA, or glycolic acids are great to keep your pores clean and prevent breakouts.

If you have dry skin, look for hydrating serums with ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Apply it in the morning and at night before your moisturizer.


Learn more about serums and all the other skin care products – check out my book Skincare on a Budget! It’s all about helping you achieve glowing skin without investing a ton of time or money into skincare.


Magic in a Bottle How to Pick Your Serum -

How to pick your Serum -

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0 thoughts on “Magic in a Bottle: How to Pick Your Serum

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