From serums to balms - skincare explained

Do you remember the days when television had three channels, coffee had one flavour and moisturiser was, well, cream in a jar? Ah, wasn’t the world a simpler place?

Well, maybe so, but those were also the days when our mums looked at least ten years older than their true age, and not just because from the day they got married they dressed like your granny. Ponds, Oil of Ulay or lard; if you liked ruddy red cheeks with a greasy film on top you were happy. It’s a look that just wouldn’t cut it with us modern ladies, though. Nowadays, you could get fired for less.

Skincare in 2015 comes in more varieties than Lady Gaga has funny hats; serums, oils, creams, balms. Chuck in a few acronyms too (anyone for BB?) and before you know it you’re in need of a guide to the different skincare types. Well, it’s your lucky day…


What is it? Serum has a lighter formulation than a cream and is more easily absorbed into the skin.

They key to understanding serums is this; compared to moisturisers, which tend to target the general health of your skin, a serum is your secret weapon for dealing with particular skin issues, from skin brightening and plumping through to spots.

Products will be more suited to particular complaints, or for use on specific parts of the body (eyes, neck and bust) so check before you buy. It’s also possible to buy day and night versions.

Use your serum after cleansing and before moisturising.

Suitable for? Try a serum to tackle a specific skin problem, such as rosacea, sun damage, acne or dehydrated skin, or for anti-ageing benefits, such as reducing lines and wrinkles or firming up the skin.

Our serums at are especially suitable for problem skins because they are derived from natural ingredients and contain none of the chemical nasties that can irritate.

Budget buy: Avalon Organics Vitamin C Vitality Facial Serum

Bigger budget: Nourish Balance Nutritious Peptide Serum

Blow the budget: Dr Hauschka Regenerating Serum

See all serums

Beauty Oil

What is it? If a serum is for tackling a particular skin complaint, an oil is for supporting the general health of your skin, adding hydration and nutrition.

Made from 100% natural oils, it’s lighter than both moisturiser and serums and is absorbed easily into the face, body, hair and nails.

It can be a blend of a few oils or from a single source such as argan or avocado oil. It is likely to be packed with different vitamins and antioxidants for different benefits, from boosting radiance to plumping. Natural oils are best because added synthetics can reduce the efficacy, it’s claimed.

Use beauty oil instead of your moisturiser if you like a lighter feel, or beforehand for extra hydration. Remember that an oil won’t contain SPF like a moisturiser, so it’s essential to use sun protection too.

Suitable for: Beauty oil is suitable for all skin types. Don’t shy away if you have oily skin as a beauty oil can have a balancing effect and actually help the skin to regulate its own oil production. They also don’t clog the pores. They can be especially good for dry or ageing skins too.

Budget buy: JASON Vitamin E Oil 5,000 I.U.

Bigger budget: Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil

Blow the budget: Alva Sensitive Anti-Stress Oil

See all beauty oils

BB cream

What is it? BB cream has been one of the biggest beauty stories of the last five years. The trend boomed in Asia first, but soon spread to Western markets.

Put simply, the BB stands for Blemish Balm, or Beauty Balm, and the product both treats the skin and provides light coverage too. It’s not, as the name might suggest, just for blemishes.

BB creams are claimed to be miracle multi-taskers, evening up skin tones, hydrating like a day cream and covering up minor imperfections.

Suitable for: There’s a convenience element to BB creams, so are great for anyone with little time to spare to faff with separate moisturisers and foundations, or those tempted by a lighter make-up bag. Treat it like skincare and find one that’s right for your skin type first.

Budget buy: Organic Surge Million Dollar Anywhere Balm

Bigger budget: Human+Kind BB Cream (Light to Medium) ... or for Medium to Dark skin

Blow the budget: Alva Sensitive BB Cream

See all BB creams

Day cream

What is it? We’re back on well-trodden ground now, with classic day creams. These are moisturisers as our mums knew them, but with hundreds more variations.

Essentially, the job of a day cream is to protect your skin from environmental factors such as UV rays and pollution, and to provide a light hydration. Some will include added ingredients to help protect against the signs of premature ageing, or to improve plumpness.

Made from bigger molecules than oils and serums, they won’t penetrate as deeply into the skin.

Suitable for: Everybody, though it’s important to choose a day cream suitable for your skin type and age. For example, some are better for balancing younger oily skins while others are more hydrating for older, dryer skins.

Budget buy: Jason Aloe Vera 84% Moisturising Cream

Bigger budget: Barefoot SOS Repair and Renew Daily Replenishing Cream

Blow the budget: Dr Hauschka Regenerating Day Cream

See all day creams

Night cream

What is it:
No prizes for guessing that night cream is like a day cream but richer and more intense, for night time repair work.

Suitable for: Dryer, older skins, especially in the winter. It might be better to avoid a night cream if you have particularly oily skin as they can be quite heavy and may exacerbate blocked pores.

If you have been prescribed medication for skin complaints like acne and rosacea avoid doubling up with night creams containing ingredients targeting the same complaints as you might experience overload. We only sell natural night creams at

Budget buy: Dead Sea Spa Magik Night Cream

Bigger budget: Weleda Wild Rose Night Cream

Blow the budget: Korres Black Pine Anti-wrinkle & Firming Night Cream

See all night creams

SPF face

What is it?
It’s a blend of sun protection cream and face cream, providing moisture and a shield against damaging UV rays.

Really, every face cream should contain SPF. Apart from protecting against skin cancer, clearly the most important benefit, it can also help slow the signs of premature ageing and prevent against uneven pigmentation caused by the sun.

SPF can be found in many creams, and even make-up.

Suitable for: Everyone, everyday. Get on it, people! Typically a product with SPF 15 blocks about 92% of UVB radiation while one with SPF 20 blocks about 95%, SPF 25 about 96% and SPF 50 about 98%.

Choose from any of these

Face balm

What is it? A balm would give more intense moisturising than a cream, and is best used on specific areas in need.

You only need to use a small amount, and it can help to warm it in your hands before applying. As well as your face, try smoothing into the ends of your hair to combat frizz, or on lips. Pick the right balm and it really can be multifunctional.

Organic brands like balms because they don’t need preservatives to keep them fresh.

Suitable for: Dry patches or night time use. Try rubbing a balm into your nails or the soles of your feet at bedtime before popping on a pair of socks and hitting the hay.

Budget buy: Barenaturals Balms

Bigger budget: Balm Balm Rose Geranium Face Balm

See all face balms

Eye cream

What is it? The area around the eyes is extremely delicate and is the first to show signs of tiredness, illness or ageing. It’s the one area of your face that really benefits from products especially formulated for it.

Eye creams can offer different benefits, such as firming for skin that’s lost its suppleness, hydrating for dry skins, reducing puffiness and dark circles and smoothing wrinkles. Some eye creams are infact serums or gels.

Suitable for: Young eyes don’t need eye cream regularly – save it for the morning after the night before. More mature eyes might benefit from a little rejuvenation and help preventing further damage.

Budget buy: Skin Blossom Reviving Eye Cream

Bigger budget: Lavera Faces Wild Rose Eye Gel

Blow the budget: Madara Time Miracle Eye Cream

See all eye creams

Lip balm

What is it? Your lips can’t moisturise themselves because they have no sebaceous glands. Natural lip balm does the job for them, helping to protect against chapping, flaking, dullness and that stuck-together dry feeling otherwise reserved for job interviews and X-Factor auditions.

Suitable for: Anyone with lips! Dryness and chapping does affect some more than others, and can be especially troublesome in very hot or super cold weather. If you’re comfortable in your own lips, don’t feel you have to use a lip balm, though some do add colour and shine, and contain an SPF, too.

Budget buy: Dr Bronners Organic Lip Balm

Bigger budget: EOS Lemon Drop SPF 15 Lip Balm

Blow the budget: Korres Mandarin Lip Butter Stick SPF 15 in Pink

See all lip balms