The title of this post should really be “What Goes Under Your Moisturiser.” It is at this point of skincare conversations that people tend to start looking looking a bit panicked. Everyone knows they should be cleansing and moisturising, but when you start talking about adding other steps to the routine, it can all start to seem a bit much…
But here’s the thing. Most of us do not have perfect, issue-free skin. We are usually fighting our own personal Skin Battle; it might be against dehydration, acne, pigmentation, oiliness, fine lines…the list is (alas!) endless. The right cleanser and moisturiser should provide good, day-to-day care that is suited to your skin, but to seriously address problems, sometimes you need to send in the cavalry.
And in this extended battle metaphor, cavalry = serums.
A serum is a treatment product that is usually targeted at a specific skin issue (although some serums are multi-taskers.) Serums should be applied to clean skin before any other products, giving them the best chance to sink straight into your pores and do their work. Serums tend to be more expensive than other skincare products, which can seem alarming, but the right serum is worth its weight in gold.
There are two reasons for the difference in price:
1) Serums usually have a higher concentration of active ingredients than, say, a moisturiser.
2) You use less of them. With a good serum, a little goes a long way, so that expensive bottle should last you a long time.
Once you’ve sent in the serum to target your most pressing skin concern, you can put on your moisturiser/sun screen etc to take care of basic maintenance.
For me, it’s all about hydration
My own personal Skincare Battle tends to be against dehydration, which causes annoying breakouts. Even though my skin is naturally oily, it also gets dehydrated. And when it gets dehydrated, it produces even more oil to overcompensate. This is the delightful irony of my skin, and it’s actually a fairly common problem.
My number one serum is Dermaquest Skin Rehydrating Serum. This does exactly what it says on the box, which is to provide serious hydration via a strong hit of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid (or sodium hyaluronate) is a skin hydrator which holds 1000 times its molecular weight, and is almost terrifyingly effective at getting much-needed moisture into your skin. I apply it to clean skin after I’ve exfoliated, and also on days when I know I’m going to be flying or spending a long time in an air-conditioned environment.
Dermaquest is a fantastic skincare line and tends to be my go-to for fancy things like serums and masques, where you’re targeting specific concerns and want a lot of research and potent ingredients to be involved. Instead of outsourcing research and production, Dermaquest has its own manufacturing facility with on-site consmeceutical chemists, which means that the products are constantly being improved and the quality control is second to none.
The downside of Dermaquest is that you cannot order it online or buy it in shops. Dermaquest is avalable exclusively through salons, so you’ll have to make an appointment at a salon that stocks it and have a qualified beauty therapist assess your needs and prescribe you the right products. While this may seem annoying, it does mean that Dermaquest is able to guarantee the effectiveness of their products by making sure consumers are using the right ones for their own skin concerns.
If this all seems like a bit too much bother, but you would still like a nice, hydrating serum, Dermalogica’s Skin Hydrating Booster is a good option. Based on the same hyaluronic acid, it is less potent (and less expensive) but still effective, and I was happy using it before I moved on to Dermaquest. A nice thing about this booster is that you can also mix a few drops in with your moisturiser to make it a little more hydrating.
For when your skin desperately needs some TLC…
If I’ve done a particularly strong peel or masque (hold your horses, we’ll get to those in another post) and my skin needs some very good aftercare, I ditch the hydrating serum and use a Delicate Soothing Serum, also by Dermaquest. This is a lovely replenishing serum, and is all about calming sensitive skin. It is perfect if you’ve had a strong skin treatment, if you’ve gotten a little too much sun, or your skin is irritated or sensitised for any reason.
For everyday use, when I haven’t been exfoliating or peeling or doing anything fancy, I use Go-To’s Face Hero after every wash, day and night. This is a face oil, not a serum, but I’m including it here because it still goes under your moisturiser and I use it to do a very similar job. This oil is a beautiful, all-around nourishing product, made of 10 different plant/nut oils and packing in a host of essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants that your skin will love. Not only does it do a great job of hydrating, revitalising and general beautifying, it also protects your skin against environmental and sun damage. Use it in the morning to protect your skin for the day (note: This does NOT mean you don’t have to use sunscreen! You still have to use sunscreen. Trust me. None of my skincare advice will be any good to you if you’re continually getting burnt), and in the evening to soothe and heal.
The message to take away from this loving rant about serums and oils is that unless you’re genetically blessed, your skin is probably going to need more help in at least one area than your basic cleanser and moisturiser can provide. Putting a potent, targeted product underneath your moisturiser is a pretty good investment to make in the health of your skin. Everyone’s needs are different, and if you have a magic serum that you swear by, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Next up, I’ll be talking about the wonderful world of moisturiser!