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If you’re going to splurge on just one skincare item, make it a serum. Dermatologists would agree that serums are the workhorses of the skincare world, especially when it comes to anti-aging. Sure, moisturizers are crucial too, but serums have a lighter formula and are specifically designed to penetrate deeper into the skin barrier to deliver the active ingredients, making them much more effective. A solid serum is quite the multitasker: It can tackle everything from dullness to firmness, fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, redness, texture, and dryness.
To keeps the effects of time away, your routine should have a serum applied immediately after cleansing, followed by a moisturizing cream.
Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
The gold standard of vitamin C serums, this formula tops practically every dermatologist’s list. Packed with the power of antioxidants—and 0.5% ferulic acid to make them even more effective—it has pure vitamins E and C to guard your skin against environmental damage and free radicals. It can also brighten the skin, fight fine lines and wrinkles, protect from oxidative stress, boost firmness and even the skin's tone. Pretty impressive, to say the least.
Best Budget: No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum
When this serum first launched in the UK, it almost instantly sold out of stores when a BBC documentary aired and said that independent researchers found it to be the only skincare product on the market that truly had proven anti-aging benefits. And not only that—dermatologists have said that this budget serum is more effective than many of its prestige competitors. It's been clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, protect from future signs of aging, and make skin look younger overall. Try it out for yourself to see if it's worth the hype.
Best Drugstore: Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum
Don’t let the price tag fool you—this potent serum can firm, fight lines, and plump just as well as some of its much more expensive competitors. From the first day you use it, you’ll see visibly younger, smoother skin. After four weeks of regular use, skin looks firmer and fine lines and wrinkles are minimized thanks to an amino-peptide complex that delivers its hydrating ingredients 10 layers deep into the skin’s surface. It’s also fragrance-free, making it suitable for sensitive skin.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: True Botanicals Cellular Repair Serum — Clear
This multitasker turns back the clock while treating adult acne. The anti-inflammatory formula wards off bacteria to prevent blemishes while preventing free radical damage and wrinkles. It contains black willow bark extract, dubbed nature’s version of salicylic acid, which is super gentle. To top things off: Hyaluronic acid keeps skin hydrated by retaining water, strengthening the barrier function.
Best for Dry Skin: Caudalie Premier Cru Serum
Talk about a French beauty secret: This powerhouse serum is an ace at boosting natural collagen while majorly hydrating skin. It activates skin cells to act younger, triggering them to work faster and harder, resulting in skin that’s more toned, firm, smooth, and bright, courtesy of resveratrol. Meanwhile, grape seed polyphenols guard against environmental aggressors, and niacinamide, aka vitamin B3, protects skin from UV damage, age spots, and hyperpigmentation.
Best for Dull Skin: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment
The killer combo of AHAs and BHAs team up to gently exfoliate dead skin cells that can make your complexion look dull and clog pores, leaving you with fresh, smooth, younger-looking skin in its place. The purified lactic acid also plumps skin to minimize fine lines and wrinkles and tackles hyperpigmentation, preventing dark spots from forming and evening out the skin's texture.
Best for Eyes: Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Brightening Eye Serum
No matter how many hours of sleep you got last night, this eye serum will help you look wide awake. Your peepers will pop thanks to vitamin C and other antioxidants that boost collagen production and elasticity, and brighten and firm the delicate skin. To maximize the anti-aging results, apply this lightweight, quick-absorbing serum before eye cream.
Best for Night: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
Apply this serum before bed and you'll wake up to a clearer, brighter complexion. The glycolic acid removes the outermost layer of (dead) skin, and in doing so, it improves the appearance of pigmentation and softens the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Best Natural: Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum
Mother Nature can really help turn back the clock, as this anti-aging cocktail that does it all proves. The award-winning, super-concentrated formula infuses skin with hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and vitamins to firm, boost elasticity, moisturize, and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin A from rosehip seed oil gives skin a youthful look, vitamin C from date palm extract boosts skin barrier protection, and jasmine essential oil provides its sweet floral fragrance.