A NEWBIE GUIDE FOR FACIAL SERUMS
Establishing a well-rounded, effective, healthy skin routine is tricky business. And as we get older, skin care becomes more and more important, and more and more complicated. It’s not just face wash and moisturizer anymore. We have serums, scrubs, acids, oils, and all of their ingredients to decipher through. And when you look at these long, scientific sounding words, it can sound like a language all of its own.
None of us really want to spend our cherished time at Sephora with our phones out, Google searching every other word on the bottle. (But really, who hasn’t been there?) Do yourself a favor and conduct your own research beforehand. One of the best things you can do is speak to a doctor about your specific skin needs. We reached out to the renowned, board certified dermatologist and co-founder of FACILE dermatology + boutique, Dr. Nancy Samolitis to answer some of our questions. Comment more questions below and we will get back to you!
Vitamin-C based products are all over the skincare market. What is the best way to use these types of serums?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant which means it prevents the process of oxidation in skin cells. Oxidation is what occurs when damaging effects of pollution and sun come in contact with the skin. Think of antioxidants as having a protective effect that works best in combination with sunscreen. Vitamin C is an unstable molecule and is usually packaged in a serum that must be protected from extreme light and temperatures (usually in a dark glass bottle or airless pump). It should be applied to clean skin before application of other product layers. Ideally, it should be applied daily in the morning followed by moisturizer (if needed) and mineral-based sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
At what age should women start using Anti-Aging Serums? Is there a risk to using it too soon? How many times per week?
It is NEVER too early to start using anti-aging products and there is absolutely no risk to starting too soon. There are numerous different ingredients that are marketed as anti-aging, but there is still a very short list of actually effective ingredients that can be backed up by scientific studies. As we age, our skin’s natural ability to repair itself slows down and damage from the sun and environment accumulate causing skin to appear dull, dry, and discolored. Truly effective anti-aging products such as retinol actually stimulate the cell to repair itself therefore maintaining a healthy balance. Unfortunately, retinols can be poorly tolerated in sensitive skin types, but they can often be used in conjunction with other products that help restore the skin barrier and reduce inflammation to prevent irritation and develop tolerability over time (see next question for additional details).
What is the best way to use Retinol?
Because retinol is extremely effective as an acne treatment, it is often started at a very young age (has been studied in patients as young as 12 years old). It is frequently prescribed for daily use and is most effective when applied at night. If the user experiences any irritation such as redness/dryness/flaking, the product can be applied less frequently, but tolerance often increases over a few weeks. Products used in combination with retinols that increase the efficacy and tolerability include those containing niacinamide and moisturizers containing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or ceramides.
Can you break down the different types of Hydrating Serums?
There are 3 key types of moisturizers that are often combined in skin care products to maximize hydration via different mechanisms. 1. Humectants are ingredients that have a strong attraction for water molecules and draw hydration into the top layers of the skin. The most commonly used humectants include hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Hyaluronic acid is also the most common ingredient in injectable fillers which are used to plump up skin and tissue at deeper levels. Contrary to popular belief, topical hyaluronic acid does not penetrate through top layers of skin and can not duplicate the result of injectable products! 2. Occlusive/barrier moisturizers provide a physical barrier on the surface of the skin to reduce water loss and hold water into the skin. They provide a temporary smoothing effect (think pre-makeup primers containing dimethicone), but do not increase the skin’s inherent hydration. Healing ointments such as Aquaphor and Vaseline are useful to protect skin that has been injured and speed up healing. They are also used in patients who have skin disorders such as eczema to protect their skin’s barrier. 3. Emollients are usually lipids (fats) or oils that help hold the skin cells together (building blocks of the epidermal skin layer). These include ceramides, squalene, shea butter, and argan oil. These ingredients help the skin to build it’s own healthy barrier which improves hydration. Unfortunately, as “natural” oils have become more popular for skin care, we are also seeing and increase in allergies to these products. Natural ingredients can be damaging – think poison ivy for example, and citrus oil causes extreme sun sensitivity usually leading to a painful rash.
What should I look for in an under-eye product to avoid wrinkles later in life?
I recommend the same general anti-aging ingredients as listed above for the under-eye area. This skin can be more sensitive, so very light application is recommended! I love Sente Bio-Complete Serum which contains an extremely gentle retinol and skin boosting heparin sulfate.
What should I look for in a product for a morning under eye brightener?
There are many different factors that cause darkness in the undereye area including volume loss, thin skin, prominent blood vessels and pigmentation. In a perfect world, we need multiple modalities (injectables, lasers, brightening ingredients, etc) to address all of those factors, but for a quick fix, undereye creams that contain light reflecting particles can brighten in a pinch. My new favorite daily eye product is Colorescience Total Eye which contains an eye cream, tint, and mineral sunblock in one!