As we get older, it seems like there’s an ever-growing amount of skincare products we have to use. In your teens, you (maybe) cleansed, in your 20s, you may have added a good moisturizer to the mix, and then in your 30s—oh boy! Now you’ve got to start thinking about fine lines, but your T-zone is still oily, and all that sun exposure from the past three decades is starting to catch up with you.
We’ve got a great guide to the five essential components of any skincare routine to help you figure out exactly what you need for your skin type, but might I suggest a sixth step? A serum.
What is a serum?
Facial serums are typically an oil- or water-based treatment that delivers highly concentrated, targeted nutrients to address one or more skin problems. You can use one alone, use two together, or use different ones on different parts of your face.
Serums should be used after cleansing, but before moisturizing—although if you have oily skin, you can get away with using a serum as a stand alone product.
How to use a serum
Good serums can be pricey, but since you only use 1-2 drops at a time, they’ll last you quite a while. I apply serums twice a day, after cleansing and toning; put a few drops in the palms of your hands and gently pat the serum onto your face (rubbing it in a little won’t cause wrinkles, skin needs stimulation to strengthen and it doesn’t hurt elasticity) until it’s absorbed. Once the serum is completely dry and absorbed, follow with your favorite moisturizer to seal in those active ingredients so it can work its magic.
How to make your own natural face serum
If the hefty price tags scare you, we understand, and we have a tip for you, too: you might want to go the homemade route! It’s less expensive, totally customizable for your own skin, and as easy as mixing a few oils together. Learn how to make a DIY face serum that tackles various skin issues, from acne to fine lines, and everything in between.
Homemade serums typically combine a face oil with other common skincare ingredients like aloe vera, glycerin or rosewater. We’ll walk through the benefits of each.
First, pick the right face oil
Think about your face type. Is your skin oily or dry? Are you battling acne or redness? This guide can help you pick the right face oil for your skin type.
To address acne you need a serum that can penetrate congested pores and soothe inflamed skin. This face serum for acne uses jojoba, hemp seed or grapeseed oil, three oils that are ideal for acne-prone skin, even when you have a breakout.
If your skin is dry, opt for a richer oil like rosehip, avocado, or evening primrose. This anti-aging face serum uses rosehip oil, an oil that can soothe inflammation and also stimulate collagen production.
You can also combine rosehip with another rich oil pumpkin seed if you’re looking for a repair serum to hydrate scars or address discoloration. Keep any product with rosehip oil in the fridge to increase its lifespan, and treat yourself to a refreshing serum every day.
Jojoba and sunflower seed oil will work for most skin types. They’ll hydrate without feeling heavy.
Other liquid ingredients
Aloe vera helps kill acne-causing bacteria, heal scars and lighten blemishes, plus it provides a major hydration boost. Start the day with this homemade face serum, made with aloe vera, jojoba, and frankincense essential oil, as a base for natural makeup.
If you want to skip oil altogether you can combine glycerin, a natural humectant, with aloe vera. Your face will feel soft and pampered but not unpleasantly greasy.
Anti-inflammatory, hydrating, and calming, rosewater provides tons of skin benefits. Its both astringent and antibacterial so it works for all skin types. The rosewater will separate from the oils so give it a shake to combine before using.
Vitamin C helps repair the underlying layers of skin by stimulating collagen production, which helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles from forming. A vitamin C serum can also lighten age spots and even out discoloration.
You can make a vitamin C serum with a vitamin C powder like L-ascorbic acid or ascorbic acid powder, or you can use camu camu powder, the plant with the highest level of natural occurring vitamin C, if you don’t mind a grittier texture. Start small because these ingredients degrade quickly and lose their potency every time they are exposed to oxygen and light.
The concentrated botanical extracts can be beneficial for all skin types, helping to soothe inflammation, balance oil production, and hydrate skin. This guide to the best essential oils for your skin will help you find an oil for your skin type.
But remember, essential oils pack a potent punch so they need to be diluted in a carrier oil. Facial products that you’ll be using everyday typically need a 1% dilution. That means 4-6 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil.
Basic Homemade Natural Face Serum Recipe
Facial skincare recipes typically use a 1% dilution of essential oil, which is 6-9 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.
- 1 tablespoon of carrier oil
- 1 tablespoon of another carrier oil or liquid ingredient
- 6-9 drops of essential oil(s)
Use a funnel to pour ingredients into a small bottle with a dropper lid.
Shake well before each use and apply to a clean, damp face.
6 face serum formulations
2. Sensitive skin
3. Aging/Mature skin
4. Dry skin
5. Acne-prone skin
6. Oily skin
Not ready to DIY? Our favorite natural face serum picks
Every skin type can benefit from the addition of a serum, but because they’re so concentrated, it’s essential to make sure you’re using one that’s made for your skin type so you don’t exacerbate any skin issues you might have. Here are some of our favorite facial serums for every skin type:
Serums for oily skin
Origins Original Skin Renewal Serum // Combat dullness, rough patches, and large pores with this restorative serum.
BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Acne Clearing Treatment Serum // Salicylic acid helps exfoliate and unclog pores for clearer skin.
Fresh Umbrian Clay Mattifying Serum // If you’re battling shine and large pores, this clay-based serum is for you.
Serums for normal or combination skin
Sunday Riley CEO Rapid Flash Brightening Serum // Vitamin C is a great ingredient to add to your skin routine—it’ll make your skin radiant and improve its tone.
REN Radiance Perfection Serum // A brightening serum that helps correct skin tone, this serum works for every skin type.
Youth to the People Age Prevention Superfood Serum // You might not be seeing signs of aging yet and this firming serum will help keep it that way!
Serums for dry or aging skin
Tahnyc Renew Antiaging Collagen Complex // This serum does it all when it comes to aging: fights fine lines and wrinkles, firms and tones, and restores softness.
Josie Maran Pure Argan Milk Intensive Hydrating Treatment // Microdroplets of argan oil penetrate the skin quickly and deeply to moisturize even the driest skin, while also fighting signs of aging.
Algenist POWER Recharging Night Pressed Serum // When your skin needs some serious TLC, this bedtime serum will give it a refresh in as little as 10 days.
Serums for sensitive skin
REN Evercalm Anti-Redness Serum // If you’re embarrassed by constant facial redness, this gentle serum will help keep irritation and inflammation at bay, all while improving skin tone and moisturizing.
Tahnyc Complex B Concentrated Vitamin B5 Serum // Stressed out skin? Vitamin B5 and peptides combine to heal and calm redness and irritation.
Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Advanced Face Serum // Mushrooms are one of our favorite superfoods—and they can soothe sensitive skin too!
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.