The classic skincare regime essentially comprises a simple wash, toner, moisturiser and sunblock. With more advanced technology now, pre-moisturising with super serums has become an essential extra step.
Virtually every skincare brand seems to have added a serum to its arsenal of products, trotting out scientific lingo that's convincing enough for you to part with your money.
From their original incarnation as ampoules delivered mainly in beauty salons, serums have entered the mainstream market. These highly concentrated potions are made up of very small molecules, formulated to hold active ingredients for more ready absorption and deeper penetration to the skin.
Serums are usually light and water-based, targeting specific skin issues and used as a booster or treatment underneath a cream.
Moisturisers or creams are typically oil-based with larger molecules, says Sothys' country representative. They usually function only as a surface-level skin treatment and applied on top of serums, they form a protective barrier on the skin to help retain and lock in moisture. "Serums deposit nutrients; moisturisers deposit moisture and hydration to your skin," she notes.
Among its intensive serums, Sothys' Hydradvance Intensive Hydrating Serum is its bestseller.
"This fresh and gel textured serum immediately hydrates the skin to regain suppleness, leaving the skin soft and smooth. It also enhances the performance of creams and boosts their effectiveness for long-lasting results," says the spokeswoman.
Serums usually contain the most potent dose of anti-ageing ingredients - and normally antioxidants, peptides, and skin brighteners such as kojic acid.
In Asia, brands such as Sulwhasoo are blazing the trail with the the use of local products such as Korean ginseng.
The latest addition, launched this month is its capsulised ginseng fortifying serum which targets deep wrinkles. Deep wrinkles are apparently caused by the weakening of the "DEJ" (dermal-epidermal junction). It's the area where the dermis and epidermis connects.
A healthy connection between the two ensures smooth cellular communication, nutrient exchange and other skin functions, explains Kwon Min Kyung, Sulwhasoo brand science manager. As we age, the DEJ becomes thin and flat, and becomes more susceptible to the pull of gravity.
Without proper care, this can cause skin to develop deep set wrinkles and expression lines because the skin has lost its ability to "bounce back".
Ginseng saponins and polysaccharides help strengthen the dermis, explains Mr Kwon. Sulwhasoo's proprietary micro Ginsenisphere allows the skin to better absorb the benefits of ginseng by four times, while the macro Ginsenisphere is a capsulated form of red ginseng extract that will deliver the polysaccharides in their safest, freshest state.
Besides addressing wrinkles, the Korean brand also has serums for anti-ageing, whitening and hydrating respectively. Serums are designed to work on specific skincare needs, for example, lifting, fine lines and wrinkles or pigmentation, notes La Mer's Singapore office representative.
"They are highly potent skincare solutions, used on targeted areas on the skin. And each of our serums contain different technology to ensure the benefits of the serum are delivered directly to the skin."
La Mer's Lifting Contour Serum is meant to stimulate natural collagen and elastin to enhance skin's density, dimension and definition. The Regenerating Serum accelerates the skin's natural renewal process with marine plant stem cells and The Regenerating Ferment visibly diminishes lines and wrinkles for a younger-looking complexion.
The Whitening Essence Intense targets spots and hyper-pigmentation and diminishes pores to help skin look clear, more lifted and firmed.
Beautician Lily Kew says that because serums can penetrate deep into the lower dermis layers, they can do more than a temporary job of improving the skin; they can reverse sun damage, repair and treat different skin conditions and slow down the inevitable ageing process.
She uses Black Chicken Remedies' organic products at her Beaute by Kew salon, where its Love Your Face serum contains oils including jojoba, Argan, Rose Hip and Ylang Ylang. "Just remember to apply serum before moisturisers, because otherwise the serums won't be absorbed into the skin," Ms Kew points out.
Ultimately though, there's nothing better for your skin than to have a healthy diet, adequate sleep, regular exercise and sufficient water intake - all of which are necessary for glowing skin, at no extra cost.
This article was first published on May 23, 2015.
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