What is Serum Foundation? Here's Why It's a Must-Have

Skin Care

What is Serum Foundation? Here's Why It's a Must-Have

by Neutrogena
September 13, 2023

If you want a dewy, hydrated glow that also nourishes your skin from the inside out, consider adding a serum foundation to your arsenal. These lightweight foundations don't leave skin looking dry or flaky — instead, they provide buildable long-wear coverage that avoids looking caky. As a bonus, they also benefit the health of your skin.

What Is Serum Foundation?

What do you get when you combine skincare and makeup into one product? A two-in-one product that simplifies both of your beauty routines.

So, what is serum foundation? This hybrid makeup product combines the coverage benefits of a foundation with the skin-penetrating abilities of a skincare product.

Serum foundations offer a lightweight alternative to traditional heavy foundations, which sit on top of the skin and may clog the pores. Providing a "your skin but better" look, these foundations usually offer light to medium coverage and feel light and airy on the skin.

Also known as foundation fluids or skin tints, these formulations can include lipids, antioxidants and vitamins to hydrate the skin hydrated while offering just enough light coverage for a fresh-looking complexion.

What Are the Benefits of a Serum Foundation?

Depending on the formula of a serum foundation, it can help with a myriad of skincare concerns, such as dryness and hyperpigmentation. Most serum foundations are hybrid products; made of an oil or silicone base, they can help lock in lasting hydration and are less likely to clog the pores and cause breakouts. These foundations are usually blended with serums that contain active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, squalane and SPF in order to nourish, protect and repair your skin barrier.

Think of it like using your favorite skincare product, except that it also happens to give you a flawless finish.

Unlike regular foundations, serum foundations address your skin's needs inside and out. They offer much lighter coverage with a weightless, velvety, skin-like finish. They're typically buildable up to medium coverage, but they do not offer full coverage like a thicker foundation would. A good serum foundation is the key to an effortless "no makeup" makeup look that blurs — not completely conceals — your complexion. If you're looking to achieve a more full-coverage makeup look with a lightweight feel, dab concealer on specific spots to hide them; then, apply the serum foundation to the rest of your skin.

Which Skin Types Can Use a Serum Foundation?

  • Dry skin. Serum foundations that contain active ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide are best for drier skin types, as they're more hydrating and nourishing for the skin throughout the day. These types of serum foundations help to make the skin appear more vibrant, keep flakes away and fight dryness. For those with dry skin, thicker foundations may dry down and make the skin appear more flaky and dull.
  • Aging skin. Layered on mature skin, a serum foundation offers a strong alternative to regular foundations by helping to replenish natural oils that the skin typically produces less of with age.
  • Sensitive skin. Easily irritated skin can benefit from using a serum foundation that contains ingredients like niacinamide, which is known to calm skin and soothe inflammation. Serum foundation for sensitive skin such as the Neutrogena® Sensitive Skin Serum Foundation with Moisturizing Vitamin-B5 help to keep skin calm and hydrated throughout the day.
  • Oily skin. Everyone should patch test new products, but it's particularly important for those with oily skin to check how a serum foundation's oils, serums and silicones in the formula last throughout the day and whether they clog pores.

How To Apply a Serum Foundation to Your Skin

Serum foundations have a different consistency than traditional formulations. They're usually oil-based, meaning that these foundations tend to be on the thin side. So, how do you apply them?

  • Prep the skin. Start with cleansed skin, and complete your entire skincare routine to ensure your skin is hydrated and ready for makeup. You can apply a few drops of the Neutrogena® Hydro Boost Glow Primer + Serum to your skin to prime your skin for a flawless application.
  • Ready your product. Before applying serum foundation, give it a good shake to ensure that the foundation and oils mix together. Use a dense flat foundation brush to spread the product around your face rather than a beauty blender, which can easily soak up the watery formula of a serum foundation.
  • Drop it on. Many of these serum foundations come with a dropper top that allows you to deposit the product on your skin without product spillage. Move quickly when spreading serum foundation around your skin, as its thinner texture can begin to slide down your face once deposited from the dropper. Using the flat brush, dab the serum foundation into your skin in the areas you need coverage in and allow the product to dry and set into the skin.

If you're skeptical, try your hand at making your own blend. Take a serum already in your arsenal, like the Neutrogena® Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum, and mix in a few drops of your favorite foundation. Start by adding both a pump of foundation and one to two drops of serum onto the back of your hand. Then, simply mix them together and apply the combination all over your face. If you're new to serum foundations, look for soothing, hydrating and calming serums that let your beautiful skin shine through.

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