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How To Apply Serum On Face: The Correct Order For Your Skin Care

by Beverly Hills MD

April 15 2021

If you’re looking to step up your skin care routine, it may be time to learn how to apply facial serum. A facial serum delivers a powerful dose of potent ingredients. But what is a serum, and what should you look for when choosing one? Read on to learn more.

What Is A Serum?

A facial serum is a lightweight product that contains concentrated ingredients that may help with a variety of skin issues. A facial serum can be a great option if you have concerns such as sun damage, wrinkled skin, dry skin, and more.

How Do Serums Work?

When it comes to serums, size really does make a difference. Molecular size affects the way skin care products penetrate your skin.1 Serums are made up of very small molecules that are designed to cross the skin barrier and work on a deep level. Because serums go beneath the surface of your skin, they’re great for cellular issues, like visible signs of aging and sun damage.2

What Ingredients Are Typically Used?

The effectiveness of a serum depends on the active ingredients it uses. A facial serum may contain a wide variety of powerful ingredients, such as:


  • face serum | Beverly Hills MDAntioxidants, including fruit extracts and ginkgo biloba
  • Soothing ingredients, like aloe leaf extract3
  • Smoothing ingredients, like snow algae powder
  • Hydrating ingredients, like palmitoyl peptides
  • Cell renewing ingredients, like CytoRegulin

Some serums contain one key ingredient, while others contain a mix of many. Some people choose one favorite serum and stick with it. It’s also possible to layer serums for added benefits.

How Are Face Serums Different From Moisturizers And Oils?

Moisturizers Vs. Serums

Moisturizers, night creams, and night moisturizers are usually thicker than serums. While serums penetrate below the surface of the skin, traditional moisturizers do their work on the surface. Moisturizers bolster the top layer of skin and create a barrier to help seal in hydration.


Some moisturizers contain anti-aging ingredients. But for best results, you’ll want to combine your moisturizer with a serum.4

Face Oils Vs. Serums

Face oils are also designed to work on the top layer of the skin. Face oils tend to have large molecules, so they sit on the surface of the skin. They help soften and seal the surface of the skin to help prevent water loss.5


Both moisturizers and face oils make great accompaniments to skin-penetrating serums.

Face Serum Benefits: How Can Serums Benefit Your Skin Care Routine?

face serum | Beverly Hills MD


If you’re already using a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer, you may be wondering why you should add a facial serum to your skin care regimen. Here’s a list of potential serum benefits.


  • If You Dislike Heavy or “Greasy” Products, You’ll Love Serums. Most types of serums, even oil-based serums, feel non-greasy and are easily absorbed into the skin.
  • Because Ingredients In Serums Are Concentrated, You May See Visible Benefits Quickly. The high level of concentration makes for a potent product that gets right to work.6
  • Serums May Help With The Appearance Of Visible Fine Lines And Wrinkles. Some serums contain key ingredients like retinol, which supports cell turnover.7 Others contain hyaluronic acid which supports skin with moisture.8
  • Using A Serum At Night May Help With The Appearance Of Environmental Skin Damage. Studies show that using vitamin C serums, day or night, may help with the appearance of wrinkles or discoloration caused by caused by UV light and sun exposure.9,10

How To Apply A Face Serum

Wondering how to apply a facial serum? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply apply a quarter-sized amount to clean skin using an upward, circular motion.

face serum | Beverly Hills MDWhen To Apply A Face Serum

Serums work best when applied near the start of a skincare regimen – after cleansing and before moisturizing. Cleansing first may make it easier for the serum to penetrate. Applying a moisturizer after may help to “seal” it in.11

Follow This Order When Applying Skincare Products:

As discussed, serums work by penetrating deeply into skin – below the surface where moisturizers do their work. To help your skin products work as well as they can, it’s helpful to apply products that penetrate before products that work on the surface.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to apply products starting from the thinnest to the thickest. Here’s a simple order that works with most skincare routines.


  • Cleanser: creamy cleanser, foaming cleanser, gentle cleanser, or cleansing oil
  • Exfoliative treatments
  • Toner
  • Serum: antioxidant serums and anti-aging serums
  • Treatment: a spot treatment or an evening treatment
  • Eye Cream
  • Facial Oil
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen (for daytime use)
  • Night cream (for nighttime use)12

Depending on the type of products you use, and the ingredients they contain, the order of your skin care routine may look a bit different. If you aren’t sure, you can always ask a dermatologist or esthetician.

What Types Of Serums Are There?

face serum | Beverly Hills MD

No matter what the skin concerns, there’s a facial serum that may be able to help.

Wrinkle-Fighting Serums

Wrinkles may be caused by internal factors, like aging and hormones, or external factors, like the environment. These factors lead to lines, creases, thinning, and loss of elasticity in the skin.13


Serums that contain retinol, glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid may support collagen production and an improved appearance in skin texture.

Free-Radical Fighting Serums

Free radicals are unstable chemicals that are produced by stress, the environment, UV rays, pollution, and other sources. On the skin, free radicals can lead to oxidative stress, which can damage cells.14


Serums with antioxidants, like lemon and cucumber fruit extracts, may help reduce the effects of oxidative damage.15

face serum | Beverly Hills MDAnti-Aging Serums

As you age, your skin cell turnover and collagen product slows. Mature skin may also begin to show some signs of sun damage, like dark spots.


Applying a serum at night that contains retinol may support cell turnover and collagen production. This may help with the appearance of visible signs of aging.16

Hydrating Serums

With age, it’s common for skin to become more dry. Without proper hydration, your skin may lose that radiant glow it once had.17


Serums that contain quality ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, provide deep moisturizing benefits.18

Go Deep With Serums

The word “serum” may conjure images of mystical potions for a reason. When shopping for a serum, do some research on the active ingredients, and pay attention to quality.


Learn More:
Vitamin E For Skin Care: What Are The Potential Benefits And How Do You Use It?
What Does Face Toner Do And How To Use It?
The Ultimate Morning Skin Care Routine That You Should Not Miss


Beverly Hills MD Dermal Repair Complex