A guide to hair serums (and how to choose the right product)

Whether you have frizzy, dry or dull tresses, hair serums and oils can work wonders. Here’s your essential guide to these liquid treatments.

Hair serums are fast becoming a haircare staple.

While these liquid treatment products may never take the crown from shampoos and conditioners, a global report notes that hair serums are a growth category in hair care, projected to be worth US$2.2billion by 2028.

But what exactly are hair serums? How do they work and how do you choose the right one for your hair type?

Here is what you need to know.

What are hair serums?

“Hair serums are liquid treatments that work to deliver healthier and shinier hair,” Adelaide hairstylist Yovanka Loria says.

The Yovanka Loria Salon founder adds that serums have long been embraced by professionals for their ability to “tackle frizz, add shine, create smoothness and provide protection.”

Hairstylist Amy Gaudie, of Urban Chic salon in Brisbane, notes that unlike other haircare products such as shampoos and many conditioners, serums are designed as a “leave-in treatment.”

How do hair serums work?

Serums are typically composed of a “blend of oils and nourishing ingredients,” Yovanka says.

She explains that when applied, they coat the hair and smooth down the cuticles to create a protective barrier around each strand.

Serums can also contain silicone, Yovanka says, which offers protection from heat damage and environmental stressors, as well as assists with locking in moisture.

Are serums good for your hair?

A hair serum’s ability to help smooth down cuticles and protect the strands offers several potential benefits, according to Amy.

For instance, she says, dry or dehydrated hair is better able to lock in moisture after a hair serum is applied.

The expert adds that this is also useful for weakened hair because “nourished hair is vital for strengthening.”

For those who regularly use heat stylers, Amy says serums can offer protection from “heat damage resulting from styling tools or even UV rays.”

Serums also help tame frizz, she notes, thanks to their dual ability to smooth the hair and encourage hydration, making strands more manageable.

Finally, Amy says, serums can help boost shine and smoothness – which is something almost all hair types can benefit from.

With hair serums available in a variety of formulations, Yovanka suggests selecting one with a specific purpose suited to your individual haircare needs.

How often should you use a hair serum?

Ideally, Yovanka suggests applying a hair serum a few times a week – but beware of overuse, which could make hair appear greasy and weighed down.

“Chat to your regular stylist about the ideal serum type and application routine for you,” she advises.

How do you correctly apply a hair serum?

Yovanka says a hair serum should be applied to clean, damp hair but shouldn’t be applied before using heat tools “as it can conduct heat and cause split ends.”

“Instead, apply it after styling to keep hair protected and shiny,” she advises.

To dispense the product, simply rub a small amount of serum together in your hands before smoothing it over the mid-lengths and ends of the hair, avoiding the roots.

Which serum is right for your hair type?

Thick hair

“Use a lightweight serum that provides moisture without weighing hair down,” Yovanka says.

Frizzy hair

“Try a cream-based frizz-control formula with smoothing and moisturising ingredients,” Amy suggests.

Curls or waves

Yovanka recommends using a lightweight, hydrating serum for curl definition that reduces frizz without weighing down curls.

Dull hair

“Look for a weightless serum, which will enhance shine, gloss and vibrancy,” Amy says.

Dry hair

“Select a deeply hydrating serum with nourishing oils and moisture-locking ingredients,” Yovanka advises.

Coloured hair

Yovanka recommends a colour-protectant serum to help prevent fading and preserve shine.

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Written by Sharon Hunt.