Whether searching the internet or scanning magazines, you'll find endless articles singing the praises of facial serums . And for good reason. Lightweight and luxurious, serums are ideal for targeting various skin concerns, thanks to their unique structure and concentrated delivery of vitamins, antioxidants, and other actives.
Velvety and fast-absorbing, serums can target everything from pigmentation to dryness, acne, and wrinkles. But have you ever wondered whether anti-ageing serums really pull their weight when it comes to fighting lines and wrinkles?
To help answer all your questions and guide you towards smoother, plumper skin we've created this go-to guide. Read on to learn exactly how serums address fine lines on the face, the most powerful anti-ageing actives, and some simple steps for adding a serum into your skincare routine.
What are serums and how do they work?
To understand how anti-ageing serums work, let's look at something you're probably more familiar with – moisturisers. Whether lightweight or thick and nourishing, moisturisers essentially perform two main roles: promoting hydration and supporting the skin barrier.
Serums, on the other hand, perform dozens of different tasks. They typically contain more concentrated doses of active ingredients and have a lighter, thinner consistency than a moisturiser. While sometimes oil-based, the majority of face serums are water-based with a fluid or light, gel-like texture.
With a smaller molecular structure and a lighter texture than moisturisers, they are able to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. This means serums are effective at targeting specific concerns, from dryness to dullness, and - of course - fine lines and wrinkles.
Targeting fine lines with Hyaluronic Acid & Vitamin C
There are countless serum ingredients that address different signs of ageing. Below are some of the dermatologist-approved actives you're most likely to find in serums for fine lines.
Known to brighten the complexion and boost hydration, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant – and one of the most popular ingredients in anti-ageing serums. By scavenging the free radicals caused by UV and pollution exposure, Vitamin C can help reduce the onset of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of premature ageing.
It also promotes collagen synthesis. Meaning? It's your golden ticket for plumper, smoother, youthful-looking skin.
With pure Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), salicylic acid and Neurosensine™, this antioxidant serum targets wrinkles, dullness, and uneven skin texture and is specially formulated for sensitive skin.
A naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan (or sugar moleule ) in the body, hyaluronic acid helps our skin retain moisture. Alongside collagen, it also plays a key role in giving our face its volume. Unfortunately, however, our natural stores of HA declined quite as we age.
Topical hyaluronic acid can therefore be useful to increase hydration, plump the skin, and help soften the look of wrinkles and fine lines.
Featuring two types of hyaluronic acid for intense re-hydration and re-plumping, the refreshing water-gel formula also boasts Vitamin B5 to help soothe and smooth.
Also known as panthenol, Vitamin B5 is a soothing, moisturizing ingredient that's particularly suited to dry, sensitive skin. By supporting the skin barrier and helping improve moisture retention, panthenol may be beneficial for those bothered by fine lines caused by dry skin.
Targeting fine lines with retinol & hydroxy acids
While ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and panthenol support hydration and re-plumping, others address wrinkles by encouraging cell turnover.
Widely regarded as the gold star active ingredient for anti-ageing, retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that helps refine and renew the skin. Enhancing skin cell turnover and helping to promote collagen production, it delivers a visibly smoother, more even, and radiant-looking complexion. Regular use can also help to refine pores and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
With both pure and progressive-release retinol, this serum is formulated for maximum efficacy, with minimal irritation. It also contains glycerin to combat dryness, and soothing niacinamide to visibly reduce redness and support the skin barrier.
Serums for fine lines and wrinkles also often contain alpha-hydroxy or beta-hydroxy acids. AHAs such as glycolic acid help to resurface and smooth the skin, while salicylic acid (the BHA commonly used in skincare) dislodges dead skin cells and penetrates pores to dissolve breakout-causing plugs. In other words? Salicylic acid is popular in both anti-ageing AND anti-acne products.
With salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and beta-lipo hydroxy acid (LHA), this concentrated serum works hard to improve the appearance of fine lines, reduce acne marks, and help reduce future breakouts.
What about fine lines under the eyes?
Face serums can be used on the cheeks, forehead and chin – but can they also be used to address fine lines under the eyes? The answer is, 'it depends'. The skin in the eye contour is very fine and delicate, so it's vital you check your face serum is suitable for this area before applying.
Some face serums may be gentle enough for application around the eyes, while others are not. If this is the case, don't despair. There are various eye creams and serums designed to target dullness, dehydration, and fine lines around the eyes. In the La Roche-Posay range, these include anti-ageing retinol and Vitamin-C enriched options, as well as formulas for sensitive and dull or dark eye contours.
How should you apply serums?
For optimal absorption, serums should be applied to clean skin after cleansing, or exfoliation. Using your fingers, apply the prescribed amount of product to the face and neck - avoiding the eye area unless specified. Gently pat the serum into the skin, then massage any excess in an outward direction.
Wait a few minutes for your serum to absorb before applying further products. As a rule of thumb, these should be applied from thinnest to thickest. So, your serum (or serums), then moisturizer and/or sunscreen.
While moisturiser is not always essential with a serum, it can really help to seal in hydration and enhance absorption of your active ingredients. Sunscreen is non-negotiable and should be applied as the last step of your routine, after moisturiser and before makeup.
A few other tips. Firstly, if your serum's slow to absorb, you're probably applying too much. (Remember that serums are concentrated and a little really does go a long way.)
Secondly, if you're using a hydrating serum, such as a hyaluronic acid serum, this is best applied to damp skin. Apply immediately after cleansing (or using a hydrating mist ) to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and maximise hydration.
Should you use your serum morning or night?
The ideal time to use a serum depends on its texture, your lifestyle, and your skincare regime overall. A lot has to do with personal preference, and thicker or oilier serums, for instance, might be better layered under your night cream than your morning sunscreen.
The active ingredients also matter, and certain serums are designed for use at a particular time. Antioxidant serums containing ingredients such as Vitamin C have protective benefits, so they're ideally applied in the morning, before sun or pollution exposure.
Retinol, on the other hand, is always best used at night. This is because the skin enters an intense repair phase overnight, and retinol helps enhance skin renewal as you rest. It can also increase sun sensitivity, so retinol is usually best restricted to a PM routine.
Other ingredients including hyaluronic acid or niacinamide (Vitamin B3) are equally beneficial and can be applied morning or night.
Serums for wrinkles are redundant if you skip the SPF!
While serums can help to re-plump and rejuvenate the appearance of the skin, there is no single anti-ageing product as powerful as sunscreen! To help reduce unwanted signs of ageing and sun damage, add a broad-spectrum SPF50+ sunscreen to your morning routine – and don't forget to reply throughout the day.
More questions? Our SERUM 101 article contains more essential serum knowledge and usage tips.