If cleansers, toners and moisturizers are the basics of skin care, then serums, oils and concentrates are the high-level superstars. Building on the simple skin care routine, serums, oils and concentrates add the powerful extras your complexion needs to optimize its health. They deliver potent benefits directly to the skin by correcting concerns, nourishing the skin and boosting hydration.
With the wide variety of products available, you want to pinpoint the best serum, oil or concentrate to target your concerns. Here’s a handy guide to help you choose the best one for your unique complexion.
Serums, Oils & Concentrates
First things first: What are the differences between serums, oils and concentrates?
Serums are lightweight treatments brimming with a high concentration of active ingredients that target specific skin conditions and concerns. They are fast-absorbing and penetrate deeply into the skin, delivering potent skin-restoring and hydration-boosting ingredients. Serums have a light fluid or gel-like consistency and should be applied after cleansing and toning.
Oils are chock-full of essential fatty acids and lipids that restore and enrich the skin’s moisture barrier. They are often comprised of plant oils like jojoba, rosehip or seabuckthorn which are rich in antioxidants and replenishing emollients. Facial oils can be beneficial for all skin types (even oily) and should be applied as the final step before moisturizer.
Concentrates are similar to serums in that they contain - you guessed it - a concentrated amount of actives. Unlike serums, which have a gel-like consistency, concentrates are lightweight lotions with both absorbent and protective qualities. Because of this versatility, they can be layered with serums and moisturizers, or simply used on their own.
Read on for the best oil, serum and concentrate for your particular skin type and concerns.
By Skin Type
Your skin type comes down to genetics. Your genes determine the amount of oil secreted by your sebaceous glands, the size of your pores and the texture of your skin. Each of these factors contributes to the dryness - or oiliness - of your complexion and, in turn, dictates how your skin looks, feels and behaves. Your skin type cannot be changed, but it can be managed with active ingredients that are beneficial for your complexion.
Normal skin can best be described as “well-balanced”: It has even sebum production and moisture content. According to Dermascope, "Normal skin displays a smooth texture and rosy, clear surface, with fine pores. There are no visible blemishes, greasy patches or flaky areas.
All skin can benefit from potent antioxidants that can improve the visible signs of aging. We recommend the Eight Greens Youth Serum to protect skin from the drying and aging effects of environmental stressors like pollution, blue light and UV rays.
Dry skin produces less sebum than normal skin. This skin type lacks the lipids needed to retain moisture (which is what gives skin its soft and supple feel) and therefore appears tight, flaky and dull. Those with dry skin often have nearly invisible pores and display more prominent visible signs of aging.
Oils are the perfect addition to a dry skin routine. These treatments are comprised of essential fatty acids and other beneficial ingredients that boost skin’s hydration and moisture. We recommend our Rosehip Triple C+E Firming Oil which includes rosehip, jojoba and seabuckthorn oil to improve moisture, soothe dry skin and fight the visible signs of aging.
The opposite of dry skin, oily skin has overactive sebaceous glands. These produce an excess of oil which enlarges pores as well as coats the skin’s surface. For this reason, oily skin is often shiny and can be prone to breakouts.
For oily skin, we recommend a lightweight option like the Citrus & Kale Potent C+E Serum. This fast-absorbing advanced serum immediately sinks into the skin to deliver potent antioxidant- and vitamin-rich ingredients.
Combination skin is neither oily nor dry; it’s both. This skin type is characterized by non-uniform oil production: more active oil glands in the T-zone and less active oil glands elsewhere. As a result, it tends towards oiliness on the forehead, jaw and nose, and dryness on the cheeks, jawline and hairline.
Believe it or not, combination skin can benefit from the addition of balancing oils like jojoba and clary sage. Try our Facial Recovery Oil, infused with clary sage oil and ylang ylang to keep skin even and perfectly balanced.
Sensitive skin is caused by a genetic predisposition to skin sensitivity and irritation. According to Eminence Organics Product Support Representative and Certified Esthetician Josie Barton, it is typically described as “skin that endures the regular occurrence of unpleasant sensations such as heat, stinging, burning and tingling caused by forms of stimulation that wouldn’t normally create this type of reaction in a ‘normal’ skin type.”
If your skin is the sensitive type, opt for a gentle treatment like our Cornflower Recovery Serum. This serum is enriched with results-driven, Biodynamic® ingredients like cornflower and chamomile to calm and soothe dryness.
By Skin Concern Or Condition
You may struggle with a skin concern or condition on top of your general skin type. Skin conditions are influenced by various internal and external factors such as hormonal changes, lifestyle choices and environmental stressors. Unlike skin types, they can be changed and treated, and it is not uncommon to tackle more than one at a time (for example, breakouts as well as an uneven skin tone).
Fine Lines & Wrinkles
As we age, intrinsic and extrinsic factors contribute to a depletion of hyaluronic acid, elastin and collagen in the skin. These materials are essential for a plump and firm complexion and, as they diminish, skin begins to sag and fine lines and wrinkles start to set in.
You can counteract the visible signs of aging with skin care reinforced with botanical peptides and natural retinol alternatives. Our Marine Flower Peptide Serum delivers concentrated plant peptides to plump skin and smooth wrinkles. The Bamboo Firming Fluid is infused with a Natural Retinol Alternative Complex derived from chicory root and tara tree to improve firmness and elasticity.
Uneven Skin Tone
Do you struggle with dark spots? Whether from sun damage, hormonal changes or bouts of acne, hyperpigmentation can be tricky to tackle. When your skin is exposed to stressors, it protects itself by going into overdrive and releasing melanin - a type of pigment in the skin. The result: spots and uneven skin tone.
Before you reach for hydroquinone to solve your hyperpigmentation woes, try a natural alternative. Our Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster-Serum contains bearberry and licorice root extracts, tara tree, African potato and Gigawhite™ to work against hyperpigmentation and erase dark spots.
Large pores are a common skin concern. While everyone has visible pores, some naturally produce more oil, causing them to stretch and enlarge. Pore size can also increase with age as skin loses its elasticity and ability to “bounce back.”
You can’t “get rid of” pores, but you can shrink them down to size. Our Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Concentrate includes a lactic acid (an AHA), ribose and red clover flower extract to remove pore-clogging buildup and minimize pore size.
Up to 85% of Americans report having experienced acne-related symptoms at some point in life. For many, breakouts persist into adulthood and depending on the cause, may manifest as the occasional breakout or a more chronic, lifelong condition.
Whether you tackle tiny whiteheads or painful cysts, acne is treatable and you can find relief. We recommend adding the Clear Skin Willow Bark Booster-Serum to your skin care routine. This concentrated serum is infused with willow bark and tea tree oil to improve the look of breakouts and problem skin.
Dryness and dehydration are two separate skin care issues. While dryness pertains to a dry skin type and is characterized by a lack of moisture (sebum), dehydration is a skin condition that is caused by insufficient hydration (water). Dehydrated skin often suffers from itchy patches, increased sensitivity, inadequate turnover and accelerated signs of aging.
Hyaluronic acid is a miracle worker for dehydrated skin. Our product pick is the Strawberry Rhubarb Hyaluronic Serum, which is infused with botanical hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate skin and replenish the look of moisture.
Find out more from our Lead Skin Care Trainer Natalie Pergar about how to choose a serum:
How To Layer Serums, Oils & Concentrates
Now that you’ve chosen your skin care superstars, it’s time to layer them properly. We recommend limiting your selection to one to two serums, oils and/or concentrates so they can effectively absorb into the skin.
We advise layering in order of consistency: from lightest to richest:
Apply one to two drops or pumps to the palm of your hand and gently press the product into your complexion (don’t forget your neck area!). Follow up with your favorite Eminence Organics moisturizer to lock in the goodness.
This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.