Why Use a Serum?

Answering some FAQs about serums.

Meghan Maupin, CEO

CEO of Atolla

Meghan Maupin, CEO

Meg is the CEO and Co-founder of Atolla. She has a graduate degree in Engineering and Management from MIT, and previously worked in design roles at Patagonia, The MIT Design Lab, and Formlabs.



If you're dealing with a specific skin issue, a serum can help make a noticeable transformation in your skin in a short period of time. The reason is because serums have high concentrations of active ingredients in small molecules that deeply penetrate the skin. Often used between cleansing and moisturizing, a serum made specifically for your skin profile can help with goals like even skin tone, calm/soothed skin, plump/firm skin, and more.

Let's get into some specifics about serums:

What's the difference between a serum and a moisturizer?

While a serum can also be moisturizing, they're usually considered a different category because of their high concentration of active ingredients and what ingredients they don't include. Moisturizers are designed to stay on top of your skin, to seal in moisture. Serums are designed to penetrate your skin and often don't include the sealing particles that are in moisturizers. Most people should use both a serum and a moisturizer for day-to-day skin health.

Atolla serums are small and mighty; because we formulate each serum fresh for you monthly, we don't include extra preservatives that you might find in a drugstore serum. This means less of the ingredients that don't do anything- or worse- cause irritation, and a higher delivery of the ingredients that are actually working on your skin.

How does a serum work?

Most serums (and especially Atolla serums) are used to improve skin health and often address multiple skin issues at the same time. In the case of hydration, serums can often work more effectively than moisturizers because they penetrate skin and hydrate on a deeper level. Together serums can work with moisturizers to boost the impact. For other skin issues, serums deliver potent amounts of ingredients that can have a transformative impact of your skin.

How should you use a serum?

It depends on the specific serum formula, but most Atolla serums are formulated to be used in the morning or at night. It's important to consider interaction effects as well; one exception is serums which have Salicylic Acid in them. It's important to wear sunscreen and make sure you're not using two products with SA in them at the same part of your routine!

How long does it take to see results from a serum?

Often, it takes several weeks or months to fully see the results of your serum working. With an Atolla subscription, you're able to measure efficacy in several ways including visually (with progress selfies) and with your skin data (to see how well your hydration levels actually did increase!).

What ingredients are best for serums?  

If you're concerned about hydration, look for ingredients that help with moisture retention, nourishment and replenishing skin with vital nutrients. Some examples are: Hyaluronic Acid, Coconut Extract, Squalane, and hydrating oils such as Avocado Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil and Rosehip Seed Oil.

If you're concerned about wrinkles and fine lines, look for ingredients that help improve the appearance of your skin through hydrating, plumping and accelerating exfoliation. Some examples are: Alpha Arbutin, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin E, Irish Moss Extract, and Radish Seed Extract.

If you're concerned about breakouts, look for these plant-powered ingredients that can help fight blemishes and inflammation: Salicylic Acid, Turmeric Extract, Vitamin B5, and Tea Tree Oil.

If you're concerned about dark spots and discoloration, look for ingredients that will brighten the dark spots, even skin tone and help prevent future hyperpigmentation. Some examples include: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Diacetyl Boldine, Rosehip Seed Oil, and Rumex Occidentalix Extract.

To see Atolla's full ingredient list, go here.

How do Atolla's serums work?

As a personalized product, we’re keen to support you and your skin. Many factors affect how well your serum works. For example, serums affecting dryness take immediate effect, whereas others stabilize with your skin over the course of several weeks. Atolla works best with routine application and uploading results to help us adapt your formulation.

With your first formulation, we acclimate your skin to the ingredients. After month 1, we adjust and increase the amount of actives as your skin starts to respond. The recommended time to see results is 3 months.

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