There are so many facial care products available to us. So many steps to beautify and stay beautiful. You cleanse. You tone. You moisturize. You masque. You repeat. Maybe there's even a facial oil you use, or scrub, or peel, or . . . or . . . or . . .

Yeah. You get the picture!

It's mystifying sometimes, trying to decipher dermatologist and cosmetologist recommendations, all while you're standing in the middle of store aisle shelves full of so many choices you don't know what to do with yourself.

The idea of a serum may sound a bit exotic, or strange, but a facial serum can be one of the most powerful, beneficial tools you can use. Serums are some of the most effective skin care products on the market.

We'll demystify for you!

What Is a Facial Serum?

Or, maybe, what is it not?
A serum is moisturizing, but is not a moisturizer.
A serum is not an oil, but it might seem oily.
A serum is watery, but it isn't an essence.

Hmmmmm. Confused yet?

Serums are thin, liquid-based products that are much lighter than creamy moisturizers. They're something that you apply to your face after cleansing but before moisturizing, and they deliver a potent layer of ingredients directly into your skin. They're lightweight, nutrient-packed, and are a key ally in battling for healthy, beautiful, glowing skin.

Think of it as a supplement shot for your skin because serums are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants to protect you from the ravages of free radicals, which contribute to the premature aging process. Because they have such a high concentration of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and hydrators, serums are great for targeting specific concerns like wrinkles, dullness, acne, or dehydration.

They're very efficient, so just a few concentrated drops of the product will do. Serums are made up of very small molecules, so the skin absorbs them quickly and deeply. They have a lipid-soluble base, so they can dissolve/mix/interact with fat. This allows the active ingredients to penetrate into the skin instead of just lying on the surface. That means highly-concentrated doses of beneficial antioxidants and such can be delivered directly to the inner layers of skin. "By leaving out many of the heavier ingredients that are found in traditional moisturizers, [face serums] contain a much higher proportional concentration of active ingredients," say Dr. Carlos A. Charles, Founder and Medical Director of Derma di Colore in Chelsea.

Your regular moisturizer isn't able to do that. "The thicker, heavier ingredients in creams form a barrier on your skin," Wilson says. "That's great for locking moisture in. But it can also lock active ingredients out. Without these hindrances, the active ingredients in a serum penetrate your skin faster and more effectively.

Are Facial Serums Right For You?

Serums are the perfect delivery system for most people. "They're great for people with oily skin, or those who prefer a weightless feel to their skin care products," shares Jessica We, MD, a Santa Monica dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days. "Serums have a non-greasy finish and they don't leave behind a sticky residue."

Not all serums are for everyone. It's important to find one that targets your specific skin concerns. For instance, because of the lighter liquid or gel-like texture, a serum with retinoids or exfoliants may cause irritation for those suffering from chronic skin conditions like rosacea or eczema. These problems weaken the skin barrier, so a serum that contains ingredients like retinol may cause irritation by penetrating too quickly.

There are serums out there, though, that can be used as a calming treatment and are designed specifically to target sensitive concerns like rosacea. Glowbiotics Calming Restorative Treatment is a perfect fit for the job and also contains anti-aging peptides and hyaluronic acid, as well.

If you still react poorly to products containing retinoids, but still want the benefits of the ingredients, seek products that utilize specially-formulated delivery systems that help the retinol penetrate the skin barrier without causing the normal side effects like redness or dry flaky skin. Glowbiotic's Smart Retinoid Complex is also time-released so that the active ingredients aren't all used at once. The skin is able to take what it needs, and store the rest for later.

Others may rely on the hydration that a thick day or night cream adds. "If you have mature or dry skin, you can't get away with using just a serum," says Wilson. Those people will use a serum as a supplement to their skin care regimen, layering it under their moisturizer. They don't necessarily want to skip out on a serum. "There's a lot of benefit to serums, from smoothing fine lines to reducing age spots, that you can't reproduce in any other formulation," she says.

There's a Serum For Everyone

Many serums are formulated for specific purposes to target skin problems at the core. There are so many variations on the market, choosing one may prove to be difficult, but that also means you have plenty of options. Check your ingredients to choose the best serum for concerns like aging, brightening, or sun damage. Keep your skin problems in mind when you select your serum. Some may be specifically formulated for nighttime use, so you wake up with maximum results.

Products containing Vitamin C, retinol, and salicylic acid are a great go-to for anyone prone to acne because they help to reduce inflammation, act as an antioxidant, and unclog pores.

Those suffering from dry skin should gravitate towards serums containing Vitamin E, glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid for extra moisture, elasticity, and gentle exfoliation.

"Serums contain the most potent dose of anti-aging ingredients - antioxidants, peptides, anti-inflammatories, and hydrators like ceramides and fatty acids, and skin brighteners such as kojic acid - you can find in nonprescription products. They're the true workhorses of any product line," Wilson says.

Glowbiotics has a variety of serums to gently and effectively treat just about any skin problem.

Serums tend to be a bit pricier than most of your other skin care products, but there's a really good reason. Keep in mind that they are full of super-concentrated beneficial ingredients and are really potent. Remember how they blend nicely, so a little bit goes a long way. Serums are your secret weapon to targeting your skin concerns. Pound for pound they're more expensive, but they are definitely giving your more bang for your buck!