5 Skin-saving Facial Serums for a Flawless Complexion

Use serums to lighten, tone, moisturize and fix any skin problems you might face on your face

Credit: Vichy

Serums, like Vichy’s LiftActiv Serum 10, can do wonders for your skin’s complexion

In the skincare world, facial serums are like a vitamin boost for your daily regimen

Serums have come a long way in recent years and are now backed by expensive research and development that is producing products that deliver real results. Any problem that concerns the skin on your face can be addressed, and quite effectively, if you choose the right one.

Because they’re so potent and full of carefully balanced ingredients, I avoid layering them over other face lotions that also contain active ingredients, and almost never layer serum over serum. These are essentially chemical cocktails formulated to work at their best with a specific pH level on clean, dry skin. Don’t use your face as a chem lab; layering actives could result in an unfortunate reaction or simply reduce their efficacy. And given how they’re so expensive, that’d be a waste of money and time.

When to Use Serums

The general rule of thumb is that if you have a serum with antioxidants, especially Vitamin C, use it in the morning as it’ll help fight off free radicals and boost the performance of your sunscreen.

If you’re using a serum with alpha or beta hydroxyl acids or retinols, use it at night and be sure to use a good sunscreen with good UVB and UVA coverage. A good sunscreen is a good idea, regardless, since many serums can make your skin photosensitive, so don’t undo all your hard work (and waste all that money) by exposing your skin to harmful rays. Many serums work on the concept of an accelerated skin cell turnover rate, which means your surface skin is very fresh, very soft, very vulnerable.

Serums will probably be the most expensive items you have in your skincare arsenal, but considering how concentrated they are, you’ll end up using very little and a tiny bottle often will last you six months or more. So do your research before plunking down the dollars. There are serums for every need: lightening, luminosity, hydration, hyperpigmentation, acne, reducing signs of wrinkles, etc. Of course, no product will ever actually remove wrinkles. At best they’ll soften them temporarily. For something more permanent you’re looking at injectibles or surgery, so don’t expect the impossible from your bottle of serum. While it can do wonders, it can’t work miracles.

Top 5 Serums

There are dozens and dozens of serums available at all price points, but here are five that I’ve tried and liked.

Eminence Bamboo Firming Fluid (35 ml/1.2 fl oz, $58.00)
Eminence Organics is a little-known brand in North America, but in Europe it’s a highly regarded skincare line that uses organic fruits, herbs and flowers. This serum features bamboo (for firming), coconut oil (full of antioxidants), and a natural alternative for retinol (for those who find retinols too harsh) courtesy of chicory root and tara tree.

Available in-store and online at Spa Boutique, 3630 W. 4th Ave. Vancouver, 604.734.7114

Kiehls’ Clearly Corrective; Dark Spot Solution (30ml/1 fl oz, $54)
As the name suggests, this serum minimizes the appearance of dark spots and helps unify and brighten the skin tone. It contains a potent complex of Vitamin C (an excellent antioxidant), white birch (for hydration and luminosity) and peony extracts (known as “the King of Flowers” in China). Smells pleasantly of gin.

Available at Kiehl’s stores and counters.

Vichy LivtActiv Serum 10 (30ml/1 fl oz, $55)
This serum is targeted at aging skin, formulated with 10% Rhamnose (hence the “10” in its name, I presume), a plant sugar proven to boost skin rejuvenation and increase cellular turnover. It’s hydrating but lightweight and does definitely soften the appearance of wrinkles and pores. There’s also a lovely firming effect that helped my skin look and feel a lot brighter. I use this especially when getting ready to go out after a long day, when I need a pick-me-up.

Available at London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart and other pharmacies across Canada.

Giorgio Armani Luminessence Bright Regenerator Concentrate (30ml/1 fl oz, $160)
Luminessence is Armani’s new hybrid skincare range using “Bright Regen” technology, a brightening regenerator that boosts radiance by minimizing pores, dark spots and wrinkles. Long-term effects will reduce the size and appearance of spots and overall redness. In the short-term, the serum uses an optical technology – diakalytes (mircro-bowls of silicon and polymer) – to create a very flat and smooth texture resulting in the perfect surface, allowing light to reflect softly and beautifully.

Available exclusively at Holt Renfrew.

Peter Thomas Roth Vizz 1000 (30ml/1 fl oz, $75)
This is a super-concentrated hydrating serum, with 75% hyaluronic acid complex. This is a life-saver for those with dry skin. It achieves hydration by attracting 1,000 times its weight in water from the moisture in the air. On this note, because it relies on the relative humidity in the surrounding air, if you live in the dessert, this serum’s not for you as it’ll actually pull moisture from your skin. You need to be in a relatively humid area in order for this work. And when it works, it’ll leave your skin beautifully plumped and hydrated without a trace of oiliness.

Available in-store and online at Sephora. (Click on the tiny Canadian flag located at the bottom-left corner of the site to access CA prices.)