Q: What can a serum do that a moisturizer can’t?
A serum is lighter than a lotion or a cream. It’s usually liquid and contains more concentrated active ingredients, says San Diego dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio, MD. So while a moisturizer can give your skin the hydration it needs, a serum is typically better for providing treatment benefits.

Q: Which ingredients should I look for?
Serums are great for delivering amino acids and peptides (to help stimulate collagen), antioxidants like vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid (to block damage from free radicals), retinoids or alpha hydroxy acid (to help exfoliate your skin and reduce fine lines), and vitamin B (to help strengthen the skin barrier), says Benabio.

Q: How should I work a serum into my skincare routine?
To get the most benefit, apply it just after cleansing your face and before applying anything else, says Benabio. A moisturizer, sunscreen, or foundation could block the penetration of your serum—a waste of a great product! If you have sensitive skin, wait till it’s dry before applying a serum, as damp skin may absorb the active ingredients too quickly, causing irritation.

Q: But I'm always rushed! Do I need to wait between applying products?
Yes, you should wait, but just till the serum dries, before you layer on anything else. This avoids mixing it with another product that might dilute or dull its efficacy.

Savvy Strategy: Apply a rich moisturizer after a serum to lock in hydration and increase the benefits of treatment ingredients.

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