Skincare basics: Serums

Skincare basics: Serums

Remember back to when you first began to think of skincare as more than washing your face when your mom insisted on it. Ok, so I was in my later twenties, but for most women I’m guessing that you were probably in your teens.

The gold standard for your routine was probably cleanse, tone, moisturize.


Maybe a touch of sunscreen or tanning oil if you were going to be in the sun a lot or at the beach.

 I know that was my routine for years. And it was a good one (except that the sunscreen should have been every day-sorry face and neck).

 Until, in my 40’s (and in the midst of perimenopause), when I started noticing that my skin wasn’t as bright as it used to be and it didn’t recover after the occasional (many) insults of too little sleep, too much sun, or poor diet.

 And then there was that little bit of wrinkling around my eyes. It didn’t particularly bother me, but it did put me on notice that I should probably be doing a better job at caring for my skin.

 That’s when I started to be much more diligent with my sunscreen. It’s also when I discovered serums and what they can do for your face.

 A lot, it turns out. My new routine is cleanse, serum, moisturize, and sunscreen in the am.

What exactly is a face serum?

Face serums are more concentrated, advanced formulas that are designed to penetrate deeper into your skin and deliver powerful active ingredients.

They have the consistency of water, or gel, or even a very light lotion.

Serums are often designed with ingredients that have smaller molecular size. This makes it easier for them to penetrate deeper into your skin.

There they deliver potent ingredients that work “actively” to address the skin condition they’re designed to help.

Why you should use a face serum (or two)

 It would be great if you could get everything your skin needs in a simple moisturizer, but there just isn’t room in a formula (plus there are limits to what ingredients you can combine successfully in a formula).

Even if there were room, a moisturizer, by design, sits in the outer layers of skin to help protect it and seal in moisture.

You want to deliver your active ingredients to the deeper layers in your skin where they’ll do the most good.

This is where serums come in.

Serums are the most potent type of skincare product because:

-they’re not supplying emollients or occlusive (ingredients that help to soften your skin and keep moisture in) like moisturizers do, so a serum’s active ingredients are more concentrated and provide more visible results.

- They have the potential to deliver more noticeable results.

-They’re typically thinner so the smaller molecules can penetrate your outer layers better. They can also be layered if you want to address several skin issues. I always layer my vitamin C (morning) or retinol (evening) serums with a peptide serum.

-they’re more targeted in their focus. You’ll generally have a vitamin C, or a peptide, or a retinol serum to work on a particular issue. Not one that attempts to deal with everything at once.

Serums are your secret weapon (different types treat different things)

To target the things that bother you most, you need special ingredients that are known to help. Here are some common (and proven) ones:

Hyaluronic Acid

If your skin is dry, you’ll want a serum that includes hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid will hydrate and plump up your skin. This is one ingredient that can be combined with others like vitamin C or retinol and actually makes them work even better.

Vitamin C

If you’re outdoors, exposed to pollution, sun, or have some stress (who desn’t?), using a vitamin C serum will keep your complexion bright.

It’s probably the most powerful antioxidant that you can use on your skin. This is because your skin has the highest concentration of vitamin C in your body. Unfortunately, the levels go down as you get older so putting some on every morning makes a big (and clinically proven) difference.

The best and most effective time to use a vitamin C serum is in the morning.


Retinol is probably the most studied and clinically proven ingredient we have for stimulating collagen and elastin, fighting fine lines and wrinkles, helping with hyperpigmentation, and mitigating sun damage (you absolutely must wear your sunscreen faithfully).

Some forms of retinol like all trans retinol have smaller sized molecules that are able to go deeper into your skin and deliver the best results.

The best and most effective time to use retinol is in the evening.


Peptides are great for firming your skin.

Peptides are fragments of proteins that signal your skin to make more collagen or elastin.

They have a few other benefits too. They can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, calm your skin and reduce redness, help to hydrate, and even out your skin tone.

I like to use all of these ingredients because, frankly, I want to have the best skin I can have. All SunWindSnow products have generous amounts of plant based hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate your skin.

To use multiple serums, layer them starting with the thinnest one

Wait a few moments between applications to prevent pilling.

  1. Use vitamin C in the morning.

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and does its best work during the day when it can act together with your sunscreen to fight photo damage.

In SunWindSnow’s line, DewDrops Vitamin C serum comes first because it’s thin and sinks into your skin almost immediately.

  1. Use retinol at night.

You want to deliver the right ingredients to your skin at the right time. Night is when your skin repairs and renews itself. This is when retinol works the best.

SunWindSnow’s StarDrops features all trans retinol plus a small amount of TCA to gently exfoliate your skin and make the retinol work better.Use it right after cleansing.

If you want a very mild retinol serum (especially if you’re trying retinol for the first time), GloDrops is slightly thicker but is absorbed quickly so it’s the first thing to put on after cleansing.

  1. Peptides can be used morning or night, or both.

I use Eclipse 7 in the morning because it also contains a dollop of vitamin C from Kudaku plum.Eclipse 7 is a medical grade serum and very concentrated. A little goes a long way.

SunWindSnow’s SnowDrops is a gel-like serum that becomes liquid on contact with your skin. It’s designed to play well with both DewDrops and GloDrops.

Serums work best when used with a moisturizer

To get the most from your serum, start with a clean slate. That means cleanse your face in warm water and pat dry.

While your skin is still a little damp, apply the serum. If you like to use a toner, use it before you put your serum on.

If you've never used a serum before, there are a few guidelines:

  1. Put a few drops on the (clean) palm of your hand (a little goes a long way).
  2. Use your fingers to dot the serum onto your face (forehead, cheeks, nose, lower face and neck).
  3. Pat or press it into your skin.
  4. Don't use a cloth, cotton ball, or gauze. Don't rub your palms together before applying it to your face, either, or the product will be absorbed onto your hands.

Give your skin a few moments to absorb the serum and follow with a moisturizer.

The moisturizer is important because it seals in the benefits and hydration provided by the serum. Moisturizers are thicker and designed to keep moisture in your skin and prevent it from evaporating outward. Moisturizers can and do deliver important ingredients to your skin.

For the best results, use both a serum and moisturizer morning and night

This combination gives your skin active ingredients, necessary nutrients and optimal protection and hydration.

If it’s daytime, finish with sunscreen. All of your effort and product will be wasted if you’re continually exposing your skin to damaging UV rays and free radicals.

After several years of using serums regularly, I can truthfully say that I don’t ever want to do without them. They’re totally worth the time and investment.  My skin looks much so better than it did before I added serums to my daily routine.

If you’re not using a serum regularly, I encourage you to add one in to your routine.





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