Writer Kate O’Brien | January 22, 2013

Serums are the new stars of skincare – promising unprecedented firmness, radiance, wrinkle resistance and much more. Serums contain highly concentrated ingredients chemically formulated into much smaller molecules that are absorbed more quickly and deeply into the skin, giving a more intensive effect. While traditionally water-based and packed with more active ingredients than face creams, newer variants declaring even better results are coming to the market fast. With so many gloriously smelling bottles on the market today, what is it that makes these unguents so sought- after and adored?

Mike Bell, Scientific Skincare Advisor for Boots says that for a serum to be effective, certain credentials are mandatory: it must contain the highest level of active ingredients (within the range), that are clearly matched to the problem they are trying to address (e.g. peptides and Vitamin A derivatives for anti-ageing); it must not be overloaded with any additional ingredients (e.g. sunscreens) which could compromise the active ingredient delivery and performance; the product itself (being a delivery system for these actives) should be optimised in terms of the excipient ingredients it contains; and while performance is the main criteria, the serum needs to be used as part of a skincare regime, so compatibility with day and night creams is essential.

While many in the know will cite the 1982 launch of Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair as the first serum on the market, Boots still claim that their Protect & Perfect was the first to become mass market in the UK – a status achieved because of the independent proof aired on the BBC’s Horizon programme in 2007 and later published in the British Journal of Dermatology. “Protect & Perfect was actually an evolution of an existing product,” explains Bell. “We had already developed the technology a few years earlier, but new research at the University of Manchester allowedustomeasuretheanti -ageing performance of this technology in a way never done before for a cosmetic product.” In fact, at the time of the documentary the company was already working on the next generation serum, Protect & Perfect Intense Beauty Serum (for deeper lines and wrinkles and more mature skin) that launched in 2009.

The future is not about finding new or sexy ingredients, but about demonstrating product performance in new but consumer meaningful ways