4 Genius Ways to Make Your Serum Work Better

It’s no secret we’re big fans of face serums, which are the targeted, super-potent skin-care products with high concentrations of active ingredients. And because they’re so powerful, the ability to maximize their efficacy — and therefore their results — can go a long way in giving you the skin you want; it just takes a few tweaks to your skincare routine. And since the five (!) face serums in our lineup each offer unique benefits, putting in the prep work can help you get brighter, smoother, clearer skin that much faster. Here, how to make the most of them. 

Prep with a gentle cleanser

While some would think a deeper, purifying cleanser would help serums penetrate more effectively, that’s actually not the case. Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, recommends a freshly but gently cleansed face to maximize the efficacy of serum. She explains certain active ingredients don’t mix well with certain chemical exfoliants often found in those formulas.

Good example: While vitamin C and chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs can be used in the same overall skincare routine, they shouldn’t be used at the same time; here’s our guide to pulling it off. And if you’re using retinol in your skincare routine, be mindful of using AHAs or BHAs on those days, too.

Our Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm, which changes to a milky oil when water is added after application, effectively removes makeup, dirt, and grime while leaving skin soft and hydrated. One of the key ingredients, papaya oil, naturally exfoliates without typically harsher AHAs and BHAs to minimize disruption of certain serum’s efficacies.

But if you’re not using a doesn’t-play-nice ingredient in your skincare routine, consider our equally gentle (but AHA-containing for the perfect amount of pore refinement) Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser. It hydrates the skin without stripping it, helping to combat blemishes and breakouts over time. It will also help the rest of your skincare products — including your serum — work a lot better.

Stack serums smartly

Into the double-serum method? You’re already ahead of the game. “Some serums work really well together,” says Dr. Nazarian. In the morning, she recommends any combination of hyaluronic acid-, vitamin C-, and niacinamide-based formulas. “Hyaluronic acid is hydrating and vitamin C protects from free-radical damage,” she explains, “while niacinamide helps offset any irritation from the vitamin C, as niacinamide is an anti-inflammatory that helps to minimize redness.” The natural trio: Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum, Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum, and Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops, applied in that order.

Dr. Nazarian’s nighttime combo also contains the ubiquitous hyaluronic acid (and rightfully so, as it hydrates all complexions), but she also likes adding in ceramides and salicylic acid. The star active in our  Strawberry Smooth BHA & AHA Salicylic Serum, salicylic acid, is excellent at unclogging pores and improving skin texture.

After applying that exfoliating and brightening serum, follow with the nourishing combination of barrier-saving ceramides and hydrating hyaluronic acid work to improve the quality of the skin and hydration, decreasing potential for any dryness that may come from the salicylic acid, explains Dr. Nazarian. Double down with the duo of Avocado Recovery Ceramide Serum and Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum for a nightly skin-soothing treat.

Employ the assistance of SPF in the AM

Say it with us again: The benefits of sunscreen know no bounds. This naturally rings true when trying to maximize the efficacy of serum, as its protective nature defends skin from the visible aging effects of UV rays. (The EPA says that the sun is responsible for up to 90% of it. Yikes!)

Dr. Nazarian loves pairing a vitamin C serum with a moisturizing sunscreen for a simple-but-effective AM routine, layering the two in that order, she says — it’s a synergistic combo that gives skin peak protection. Our Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen SPF 50 also incorporates Dr. Nazarian’s advice to use niacinamide after a vitamin C serum without having to stack on another serum. Pretty genius, right?

Seal the skin with an emollient-rich moisturizer

If you’ve been on the Internet in the past few years you’ve heard lots about slugging — and probably tried it yourself. But just in case you haven’t (hey, no judgment) the tl;dr is that “it enhances penetration of the serums and locks in additional hydration by preventing its evaporation from skin into the environment,” explains Dr. Nazarian.

As we’ve covered, however, slugging isn’t for everyone. While the OG K-beauty technique that first went viral uses Vaseline as the final occlusive coating, it’s better to use an emollient-rich moisturizer with ingredients like ceramides — meaning they smooth and lock in moisture without feeling heavy or potentially leading to clogs. A moisturizer tailored to your skin’s needs can help seal in your carefully concocted serum cocktail’s hard work before you hit the sack.

Keep reading about how to maximize the efficacy of serum:

SHOP THE LOOK

Glow Recipe

Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum

$42

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/avocado-ceramide-recovery-serum

Glow Recipe

Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

$34.00

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/glow-recipe-blueberry-bounce-gentle-cleanser

Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen SPF 50

$34

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/watermelon-glow-niacinamide-sunscreen-spf-50

Glow Recipe

Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm

$32

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/papaya-sorbet-enzyme-cleansing-balm

Glow Recipe

Strawberry Smooth AHA+BHA Salicylic Serum

$40

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/strawberry-smooth-bha-aha-salicylic-serum

Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops

$34

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/watermelon-glow-niacinamide-dew-drops

Glow Recipe

Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum

$45

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/guava-vitamin-c-dark-spot-serum

Glow Recipe

Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum

$42

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/plum-plump-hyaluronic-serum