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Ask Belle: Serum Advice for Newbies

Dear Belle,

I turned 34 last month and while I’m not afraid of getting older in theory, practice is something different.  The acne I had in my teen years (and still get sometimes) scarred my nose and chin.  And now, wrinkles, why?!?  Can you help me find a serum to fight the advance of time?

Sincerely, Lyndsey

Serums are a mystery to many women, even a decade after they gained popularity.  A serum is a light, fast-absorbing solution meant to treat skin imperfections.  But it’s no wonder why we’re confused, when there are so serums many on the market.  Here are a few recommendations.

Acne. I like iS Clinical Active Serum for acne sufferers.  But the product I am most excited about is Paula’s Choice BHA 9.  It’s not a serum per se, but it treats blackheads, acne scars, and reduces redness.

Wrinkles. They’re coming for us all.  Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair is my favorite serum for wrinkles.  It works, it’s not heavy, or overly perfumed or medicine-y.  And before you dive in, you can buy a $16 bottle that will allow you to try the product without a big commitment.

Anti-Aging. To protect against many signs of aging, including wrinkles, many dermatologists recommend Vitamin C.  I keep a bottle of Paula’s Choice C15 serum and its powerful anti-oxidants on hand.  (They also offer a $9 sample size.)  If you need more punch, Obagi Professional C-Serum comes in several strengths so that you can choose regular or high test.

For something in the $20 range, Kiss My Face sells their Potent & Pure Ester C serum.

Brightening. Does your skin need some help in the glow department?  Skinceuticals C E Ferulic can kick it into high gear.  I prefer to do a weekly treatment like the Dr. Jart Brightening Sheet Mask or Tony Moly Radiance Mask.

Affordable Serums. If you’re on a budget, my favorite brand for under-$25 skincare is Boots No.7.  They’re products pack more punch than their price suggests.  They Yes to brand also offers a few serums that are paraben-free and at least 95% natural.  I’ve also read a few positive reviews about Olay Micro-Sculpt Serum, just $9.

Give Your Serum a Boost.  If you want your serum to reach maximum effectiveness, I recommend a micro-needle roller.  It looks scary, like something out of a Medieval torture chamber, but it can improve your results.

Michelle Phan explains what needle rollers are and how to use them in greater depth.  But basically, the needles create tiny channels in our skin that allow product to penetrate more deeply and stimulate collagen production.  I use one (when my acne isn’t flared up), and I notice better results when I do.  However, you need to keep your roller clean or you are just asking for problems.

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  1. sherry @ save. spend. splurge. says:

    I’m a huge fan of Paula’s Choice serums for sure. I’ll check out the BHA one you mentioned.

    January 26, 2016/Reply
    • Michaela says:

      I’m so intrigued!This could be awesome on those stubborn nose blackheads…

      Belle–have you used it, or are you excited about the possibilities of it? What did you use it to treat?

      January 27, 2016/Reply
  2. Meg says:

    Belle — Do you use the advanced night repair and the vitamin C serum together nightly, or do you use the vitamin C in the AM and the advanced night repair in the PM?

    January 26, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I only use the advanced night where I’m getting wrinkles (forehead and laugh lines) at night. I use the C serum in the morning. iS Clincal also at night.

      January 26, 2016/Reply
  3. Kate says:

    Get thee to a dermatologist for a prescription retinoid. Nothing over the counter will work as well for anti-aging.

    January 26, 2016/Reply
    • Valerie says:

      Also make sure that your health insurance plan covers the prescription- some of the retinoids (like Retin-A) are insanely expensive out-of-pocket ($200-$300). In some cases, your derm may be able to get you a sample.

      January 27, 2016/Reply
  4. Nicole E.W. says:

    I highly recommend the Paula’s Choice C15 Booster acne prone skill as well. I have fair skin, with acne, but the bigger problem is hyperpigmentation. It makes my acne look much worse than it is. When I am not using the C15 on a daily basis, the hyperpigmentation lingers even longer. I really notice the C15 helping to lighten prior marks much more quickly.

    January 26, 2016/Reply
  5. Nancy says:

    I have often thought about trying the Advanced Night Repair but then a bit overwhelmed about which one…Complex? Synchronized? Is one better than the other? What is the difference>

    January 27, 2016/Reply
    • Bunny says:

      Your best bet is to go to your local large department store with an Estee Lauder counter and have an in depth chat with a trained EL specialist — this is the time of the year that counter managers and full time staff at all the beauty counters are doing training for spring launches, so they will know their stuff.

      January 27, 2016/Reply