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Hair Serums: What Are They And How To Use Them

photo of woman holding hair serum

If you’re anything like us, you probably have a 10-step hair care routine. However, chances are it’s still missing one crucial product: hair serum. Think of hair serum like top coat nail polish. You could skip it, but who wants a flat, dull manicure? Whether you’re looking for a new serum for your dark brown hair or have no clue what hair serum is, you’ve come to the right place.

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about hair serum and recommending some of our favorite formulas. By the time you’re done, you’ll realize why hair serum is the missing piece to your perfect hair care routine.

What is hair serum?

Hair serums are very similar to face serums in that they provide concentrated and targeted results that address many different hair concerns. Unlike hair oils, which penetrate the hair shaft, serums sit on top of the hair and coat the strands to instantly make your hair look and feel better. Most hair serums are excellent at addressing frizz and adding shine while protecting your strands from environmental and styling aggressors.

Which serum is best for your hair?

While we believe everyone should incorporate a hair serum into their hair care routine, picking the right formula for your hair is crucial. Before heading to the store, identify what hair concerns you’d like the serum to address. Are you battling frizz? Breakage? Dull, lackluster locks? Do you have thick locks? You’ll want a serum heavy enough to coat your plentiful locks. On the other hand, you’ll want a lightweight hair serum that won’t weigh down your locks if your hair is thin.

Once you’ve mulled over your concerns, think about what you do to your hair every day. Do you heat style it? If so, pick up a hair serum that doubles as a heat protectant. Do you wear your hair in the same ponytail every day? If so, pick up a strengthening hair serum to help protect your locks from constant pulling.

Are serums bad for your hair?

Whether or not a serum will work for you and your mane depends on the formula and your hair needs, but no hair serums on the market should damage your strands.

When should I use hair serum?

Most stylists agree the best time to use hair serum is when your hair is damp, right after it’s been freshly washed. The serum will have a better opportunity to address your hair concerns when it is applied to hair that’s free of other products. Apply the serum to your damp locks focusing on the mid-length and ends, the oldest and typically driest part of your hair. Give your hair a few minutes to reap the full benefits of the serum before continuing with your usual styling routine.

Hair serum can also be used on dry hair, but it can be less effective at addressing your hair concerns when it’s applied on top of other hair products. Applying hair serum to dry hair is great for anyone battling frizz, flyaways, static, and hair that looks and feel dry. If you’re suffering from any of those hair woes, simply smooth the serum over your locks until you achieve your desired look.

Because hair serums are so concentrated, it can be tempting to apply tons of product to your locks. However, less is more when it comes to hair serum. Because hair serums typically come in an oil-like formula, applying too much hair serum can not only make your hair look and feel greasy but also can lead to major product buildup.

If you’re convinced your locks need more serum than the package recommends, begin with the recommended amount and wait 30 minutes to see how your hair feels. If you still think your locks could benefit from more serum after half an hour, apply half of the recommended amount to ensure you don’t overload your hair with product.

If you accidentally pile on too much hair serum, a clarifying shampoo will bring your hair back to its former glory.

Now that you know what hair serums are and how to use them, it’s time to find the perfect one for your mane. We’ve rounded up 12 hair serums you’re bound to love.

The Best Hair Serums To Try Now

photo of kerastase nutritive night serum

Kérastase Nutritive 8H Magic Night Serum

Give your mane the beauty sleep it deserves with Kérastase’s Nutritive 8H Magic Night Serum. The nourishing overnight serum is great for anyone battling dry strands. Just apply it to your damp or dry hair before you go to sleep and wake up in the morning with Instagram-worthy strands! The Kérastase Nutritive 8H Magic Night Serum is available in stores May 1.

Kérastase Nutritive 8H Magic Night Serum, $55.00 MSRP

picture of mizani hair serum

Mizani Thermastrength Heat Protecting Serum

If you love heat styling your hair, you need this heat protecting serum in your arsenal. The Mizani Thermastrength Heat Protecting Serum is the perfect primer for all of your heat styling needs. Formulated with shea butter and ceramide, it helps prevent breakage from heat styling.

Mizani Thermastrength Heat Protecting Serum, $17.00 MSRP

picture of matrix mega sleek serum

Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Mega Varnish

If it’s shiny strands you’re after, Matrix has got you covered. The Mega Sleek Mega Varnish serum provides high shine as it controls rebellious, unruly hair.

Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Mega Varnish, $17.00 MSRP

redken curvaceous serum

Redken Curvaceous Full Swirl Curly And Wavy Hair Cream Serum

Serums often claim to make hair look sleek and smooth, which is usually a discreet way to say straight. Redken knows not everyone has straight hair, so they made a serum just for curly girls. This two-in-one curly and wavy hair cream serum formula fights frizz, seals in moisture, and locks out humidity.

Redken Curvaceous Full Swirl Curly And Wavy Hair Cream Serum, $21.00 MSRP

redken frizz dismiss serum

Redken Frizz Dismiss Instant Deflate Oil-In-Serum

Stop frizz and humidity before they ruin your style with Redken’s Frizz Dismiss Instant Deflate Oil-In-Serum. The formula helps prevent excess volume, puffiness, and frizz while increasing manageability.

Redken Frizz Dismiss Instant Deflate Oil-In-Serum, $28.00 MSRP

pureology hydrate serum

Pureology Hydrate Shine Max Weightless Flyaway Serum

If serum tends to weigh your hair down, Pureology’s Hydrate Shine Max Weightless Flyaway Serum is perfect for you. The lightweight serum adds shine and smooths flyaways with just two drops.

Pureology Hydrate Shine Max Weightless Flyaway Serum, $27.00 MSRP

shu uemura hair serum photo

Shu Uemura Ultimate Reset Duo Hair Serum

Damaged hair needs extra TLC and Shu Uemura’s Ultimate Reset Duo Hair Serum is here to provide just that. Formulated with Japanese rice extract, the serum helps to restore and solidify the hair fiber.

Shu Uemura Ultimate Reset Duo Hair Serum, $38.00 MSRP

picture of hair serum

L’Oreal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Night Anti-Breakage Serum

If you’ve been patiently waiting for your hair to grow longer but it feels like your strands just won’t budge, chances are good you’re dealing with breakage. Help your mane reach its full potential by adding L’Oreal Professionnel’s Serie Expert Inforcer Night Anti-Breakage Serum to your hair care routine.

L’Oreal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Night Anti-Breakage Serum, $20.00 MSRP

picture of alterna-caviar-serum

Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Three-in-One Sealing Serum

Split ends can take your blowout from sleek and smooth to raggedy and tragic in no time. If you don’t have time to head into the salon for a trim, use the Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Three-in-One Sealing Serum to temporarily seal and mask the appearance of split ends.

Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Three-in-One Sealing Serum, $38.00 MSRP

photo of vita serum

Rossano Ferretti Parma Vita Rejuvenating Serum

If you have fine, fragile hair, you need a serum that will not only help your hair feel stronger, but also look healthier. The Rossano Ferretti Parma Vita Rejuvenating Serum helps fine, thin hair appear thicker and fuller while also supporting its strength.

Rossano Ferretti Parma Vita Rejuvenating Serum, $59.00 MSRP

picture of herstyler serum

HerStyler Hair Repair Serum

You don’t have to break the bank to add a game-changing serum to your arsenal. This $12 serum recently went viral after thousands of stellar reviews hit the internet. Don’t believe the hype? Head over to Amazon and try the serum out for yourself.

HerStyler Hair Repair Serum, $16.00 MSRP

qhemet biologic serum

Qhemet Biologics Castor And Moringa Softening Serum

If you have coarse, curly hair, you know just how quickly your wash-and-go styles can begin to look dry and brittle. Soften your ringlets with Qhemet Biologics Castor And Moringa Softening Serum. Formulated with castor and moringa oils, the serum is a natural humectant and possesses hair conditioning, thickening, and softening properties—protecting ends and moisturizing dry, brittle, and coarse hair.

Qhemet Biologics Castor And Moringa Softening Serum, $14.50 MSRP

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