6 Common Serum Mistakes You are Making and How to Fix them

Serums are meant to help treat skin concerns and support the skin barrier. Using them in the wrong way, however, may render them useless and ineffective.

person applying serums onto the face
Serums can be great if used right – source

Since serums are usually more expensive and concentrated, it is important to use them right to get the most bang for your buck.

Here are the most common serum mistakes we’ve all made and how to fix them! Learning how to properly apply them can help you improve your skin greatly.

What are Serums

Serums are a concentrated formula that provides higher concentrations of ingredients to deliver more benefits. They may be either water-based or oil-based, though serve different purposes depending on active ingredients.

Serums are usually formulated to sink deep into the skin, offering even more benefits at a faster rate than something like a moisturizer with the same active ingredients.

There are exfoliating serums, hydrating serums, rejuvenating serums, and many more. Here is a list of active ingredients and their purpose to get a full rundown on what ingredients you need to treat your skin concerns! 

6 Common Serum Mistakes Making Your Products Less Effective

Here are the top 6 common serum mistakes you can make and how to fix them. Make sure you aren’t wasting serums or losing out on potential skin benefits!

1. Mixing Active Ingredients Wrong

Most serums are full of active ingredients that are great for treating skin concerns such as oily skin, acne, dryness, sensitivity, or wrinkles. 

An issue may arise when you use too many active ingredients at once, especially if you start mixing active ingredients that do more harm than good. 

The Fix: 

A full list of what active ingredients to avoid mixing can be found here. In general, avoid mixing exfoliating ingredients together, don’t use retinol and vitamin c in the same routine, and avoid acids and retinoids. 

If a product includes two acids, two exfoliating actives, or even a retinol and vitamin c, it should be fine to use as it has been formulated to work together well.

2. Applying them After Moisturizer 

Applying a serum after a moisturizer is like applying the serum onto the sink: useless and a waste of product. The purpose of a moisturizer is to create a seal on the skin that locks in hydration. This means something applied on top of a moisturizer is unlikely to penetrate the skin deeply. 

The Fix:

Apply your serum before a moisturizer to ensure it penetrates deep into the skin! The moisturizer on top will ensure the serum effects last longer as well. 

Using something like slugging from time to time allows your serums to be much more effective.

3. Not Applying Enough

Serums are more expensive and come in smaller bottles. That’s a rip-off. So wanting to save up on serums and use one drop max makes sense. The problem is some serums should be applied more than once a day. While you do only need a small amount, about 2 to 3 drops in the face, some formulations should be used in a morning routine and a nighttime routine for maximum benefit.

Furthermore, remember that the skin of the next exists and also deserves some skincare too.

The Fix:

Read the instructions for products carefully and make sure you are using them as they instruct. Most will recommend 2 or 3 drops, and some require a twice-a-day application.

Remember to bring skincare products to the neck as well, as the skin there is sensitive and also requires support from serums and moisturizers

4. Using the Wrong Ingredients 

Sometimes we use exfoliating ingredients when we should really be using hydrating ingredients. For example, have you ever tried treating flaky skin with an exfoliating mask or scrub (no shame, I’ve been there too)? In fact, doing this can damage the skin further, reducing the health of the skin barrier and making problems worse. 

The Fix:

Find out what active ingredients do what for the skin here, all science-backed and proven.

Have more than one skin concern, like redness and oiliness? No problem! Certain ingredients may be multipurpose superhero ingredients that treat many issues.

Check out something like niacinamide, a full guide for niacinamide here. Azelaic acid is also a heavy-duty active ingredient that can treat many skin concerns as well (here’s that guide).

5. Not Cleansing Beforehand

Cleansing is the act of, well, cleansing the skin. This removed any impurities, dirt, sunscreen, dust, or environmental impurities from the skin, giving you a clean surface to introduce skincare to.

If you don’t cleanse the skin, then all you’re doing is layering on serums that won’t penetrate the skin at all.

The Fix: 

Make sure you cleanse the skin before going in with your skincare. This is very important at night because you are washing away the day. Just think about that coworker that speaks too close and tends to spit. Or think of that fuel exhaust smoke you drove through, windows down. Yeah, we don’t want that on our skin.

Pick a cleanser that is pH balanced, effective, and not too expensive. It’s a wash-off product, no need to splurge.

6. Not Exfoliating 

Exfoliating is the process of removing built-up dead skin from the skin’s surface. If too many dead skin cells accumulate, no skincare ingredient is going to do anything. This makes serums and even moisturizers less effective.

The Fix:

Exfoliate. The end.

Honestly though, make sure you exfoliate safely, testing out different exfoliating products. Start out slow, using it once a week or even 10 days, then move up or down in usage as needed. Also, start with using a gentle one like lactic acid, then move up to either using the product more often or a stronger exfoliating ingredient. The skin should be able to get used to and tolerate exfoliates. 

Also, exfoliating ingredients should never hurt, burn, or irritate the skin. If it’s burning then it’s working is a myth. At most, an exfoliating product should tingle momentarily.

Always do a patch test when testing out new skincare! This means applying it to the skin of the inner arm or side of the neck, then waiting 24 to 48 hours to ensure you don’t have a bad reaction to it.

What Order to Apply Skincare Serums in

Skincare is usually applied from the thinnest consistency (such as a water-based serum) to the thickest consistency (such as a moisturizer). This is because a moisturizer will lock in the serum ingredients to allow for deep penetration into the skin.

Therefore, it’s important for your thin, lightweight products to have good active ingredients. Get the full guide to learning in which order to apply skincare and what ingredients target what skin concern here.

The Takeaway

Skincare is all about progress, not perfection, but there are ways to improve that progress exponentially. Serums are a great skincare product, as they offer a high level of active ingredients in a formula meant to penetrate the skin and treat it. Learn how to properly use these for more benefits.

Being able to properly use them can also help you save time and money, as skin concerns should be treated effectively by the active ingredients in serums.

Remember that health comes from within! What you eat becomes the building blocks for the body to repair, grow, and thrive. Focus on gut health, as the gut microbiota influences metabolism, mental wellbeing, muscle strength, and even the skin!

All those gut health resources are available here for free!

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