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Skin serum: What it can and can’t do

June 12, 2018

About the Author

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Kelly Bilodeau, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Kelly Bilodeau is the former executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later went on to become a managing editor at HCPro, a Boston-area healthcare publishing company, … See Full Bio
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August 4, 2018

Can Niacinamide and Vitamin C Be Used Together?

July 10, 2018

A serum should not contain “stem cells”. What is the author thinking?

Mary Dawes
July 2, 2018

Excellent information; I will pass on to my trainees. Thanks, highly appreciated.

Suely Guimaraes
June 23, 2018

Thanks so much for this post. It is very helpful!! Of course I would love to know about brand names, but I understand it is not possible. Thanks again and, please, keep posting this kind of information!

June 20, 2018

Dr. Beckett makes a good point. But “serum” does seem to be the term used to market these kinds of products. If it means “watery fluid” in Latin, it is not a complete misnomer.

Johanna Lenneberg
June 20, 2018

Please email names of recommended serums for dry, aging, brown/spotted face skin. Thank you.

Joshua Miller
June 20, 2018

We all run behind having a skin that looks gorgeous. We religiously follow a skin care routine, which includes cleansing, toning and moisturizing. But sometimes, we forget to include a very important component – serum. I have found an informative article regarding this with entitled “Anti-aging Serums for Oily and Sensitive Skin — Their Working and Impact” at zovon.

Elizabeth. vey
June 19, 2018

How do these serums work? How long does it take to see results? Lots of questions that were not explained in article. Recommended brand names???

Eva SantAngelo
June 19, 2018

what foods contain vt.C or do pills with C do the same?

Laurie Hoagland
June 19, 2018

also Dermadoctor Kakadu C. at Costco, Walmart $56, and Amazon. results in one week of use.

Alexandra King
June 19, 2018

I agree with previous comments that express concern about which serums accomplish what and what scientific evidence supports these claims. I, for one am interested in serums that support the development of collagen. What are the proportions of which ingredients have been shown in clinical trials to accomplish this?

Thank you,
Alexandra King, Ed. D.

June 19, 2018

Looking for recommendations? I have used 2 different C serums over the last 20 years — Cellex C (one of the first, a product made in Canada) and Obagi C serum. I get compliments from many people about my skin. It looks 20 years younger than me!

The Obagi comes in 3 strengths; start with the mildest. Tretinoin is also great! Obagi alo has this. (I think you canget it on the internet now). I just saw that Dior makes a “lifting”serum. I plan to try it.

Cassi Janzek
June 18, 2018

I agree with all of the comments posted. The article was like a teaser.

Audrey McCarthy
June 18, 2018

Phytoceuticals is a reputable serum line. Owned by chemist Dr Mustapher Omar. Dr Omar holds that patent on stabilizing L ascorbic acid(vitamin C).

Taphy Asava
June 18, 2018

What does a cream containing quinones do for the skin and what are the dangers of using it? I have been using serums for years and to tell the truth I bought this hell made from berries and what a difference it made to my skin! I use it in conjunction with a serum has caviar, torricellum and gold. An anyone comment?

Martha Sachs
June 18, 2018

I too would like to learn brand names that have close to the formulations you discuss. For the article to be helpful, I would need more specific direction, would not expect only one specific brand to be recommended but certainly a list of possibilities. The idea of the reader checking formulations with all the product out there is not really practical. You could make a disclaimer to cover liability. Otherwise your good information is not really helpful.

June 18, 2018

Please recommend some good serums. We don’t know which one to buy.

Judith Spiegelman
June 18, 2018

Dear Nurse Patricia Quigley:
How kind of you to mention that you’d heard high praise about one serum brand via a nurse in a plastic surgeon’s office and had even gotten samples for the serum!
I would be SO SO grateful if you would share the name of the serum and how to get samples of it. My email is

With many thanks and warm appreciation, wishing you much success in your own good efforts,

Judith Spiegelman

Brian Simblist
June 18, 2018

Some time ago, I read that tretinoin and l ascorbic acid are the only two ingredients in skin products that are evidence proven. What evidence is there for any other ingredients?

Isabel Leonard
June 18, 2018

This article would have been much more helpful if it had pointed to brand names that follow the recommendations. My next stop is to see whether Consumer Reports has an article on skin serums. I too wish they’d come up with a better term than “serum.”

Vina Richards
June 18, 2018

It would be nice to see a list of name brands that work for each condition. Serums with the right ingredients may not have the correct proportions to be effective. Trial and error can be both time and cost consuming.

Dr. Suzanne Marshall
June 18, 2018

I would like to see specific brand recommendations but maybe that’s advertising!

June 18, 2018

What the doc said. This was no help. Where was the what it will and won’t do part?

Patricia Quigley, PhD RN
June 18, 2018

I support the comment made by Dr. Beckett as I have been hearing accolades for a serum brand from a nurse who worked in a plastic surgeon’s office. I have received samples of the products. I have no interest in plastic surgery but would like to trust the products that I buy for my aging skin.

James Limber
June 18, 2018

Dr. Beckett is correct in requesting specific scientific documentation for claims of beneficial therapies. In today’s society, many informational propositions are without verifiable references. Not only does this promote chaos in the cultural memetic going forward, but when infiltrated into actionable medical praxis, poses a potential danger to individual well-being- and thus to society at large.

William Beckett
June 15, 2018

1. it would seem a good idea to note that the term “serum” here is a bit of a misnomer as a serum is defined as an animal or human protein derived material.

2. It would be helpful to cite blinded controlled clinical trials showing efficacy for even one of these products, and in fairness citing studies which have failed to show a beneficial effect.

thank you,

William S. Beckett MD MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine, HMS

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