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What Is A Serum?

What Is A Serum?


This is Martha Thomas, head of customer care for Tree of Life Beauty, and I want to welcome you to our weekly newsletter where we discuss important ways to age gracefully, “how-tos” for keeping skin healthy as you age, and so much more about your skincare regimen.

Please be advised that we are not doctors or dermatologists, and this article should not be taken as medical advice or any medical statement. Any questions or issues involving your skin-care needs should be discussed with a physician, and we highly recommend you consult with your doctor before taking up any skin-care regimen.


You’ve probably heard everyone in the beauty industry talking about the mysterious and wonderful “serum.” We talk about the incredible benefits, the ease of use, and the importance of incorporating serums into your skincare routine.

But what is a serum? And what does it do for the skin?

What Is A Serum?

A serum literally comes from the Latin word “serum,” meaning whey. This is a protein-rich substance that separates out during blood coagulation.

Don’t worry, that’s not what you’re putting on your face.

A facial serum tends to look like a face oil, feel like a moisturizer, and act like a face mask. And yet, it’s none of the three—although a bit of all three at the same time!

Serums are often water-based, not oil-based like many cleansers and toners. Although they are not a moisturizer, they can help your skin retain moisture by sinking into the dermis rather than creating a barrier on top of the skin. It is also not a face mask because it is not used to remove impurities and be washed away; however, serums are a great way to make your face mask more effective.

So if it’s none of those things, what is it? And how does it do all that?  

A serum is actually made up of smaller, more potent molecules than other skincare products. It’s able to penetrate deeper into the skin to effectively deliver high concentrations of an ingredient.

What Are The Benefits of a Serum?

Because serums are so potent, they are amazing for targeting and attacking trouble spots effectively and powerfully. 

Serums are also great for people with oily skin who want all the benefits of toners, moisturizers, and creams—but their skin can’t handle the heaviness of those traditional products. Serums are non-greasy and weightless, making them feel and look wonderful on the skin—no matter how oily or dry your face may be.

How Do You Use A Serum?

You should apply a serum to your skin after cleansing but before your moisturizer. Because a serum penetrates so deeply into the skin, you want to ensure your face is clean and clear before the serum goes on to do its magic (you don’t want any grime or pollution sinking further into the dermis). Also, a moisturizer tends to sit on the skin, so if you put a serum on afterwards, it will not be able to get past that barrier.

Generally, you should be using a serum once a day. (Nighttime is often preferred, since your open, luscious pores are not later exposed to makeup, grime, and dirt throughout the day.) Check on the bottle for more instructions, as some serums are more intense and should not be used daily.

Check out our extensive list of serums to find the one that will empower your skin with all the best ingredients it craves!

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