The Best Anti-Aging Serums To Elevate Your Skincare

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Best Anti-Aging Serums

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Final Verdict

Beloved by Team Byrdie and our best overall pick, Skinceuticals C E Ferulic is a tried-and-true serum staple that uses a combination of powerful antioxidants to reduce the signs of free radical damage (like dark spots and fine lines). As a more budget-friendly alternative, we love the Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum.

Serums play a pivotal role in any kind of anti-aging routine, perhaps second only to a daily sunscreen when it comes to absolute, must-have products. Why do you ask?

“Anti-aging serums are among the most effective, non-invasive ways to address signs of aging,” explains dermatologist Dr. Annie Gonzalez of Riverchase Dermatology. And that means not only combatting wrinkles and fine lines but also treating other issues such as hyperpigmentation, inflammation, dryness, and more, she adds.

Yes, you could use anti-aging cream for all of these things, but serums pack higher concentrations of active ingredients than moisturizers and lotions, says Dr. Gonzalez, not only making them more effective but also ensuring you get more bang for your buck. And while an anti-aging serum is a great way to treat existing complexion concerns, they’re also a choice preventative measure, points out dermatologist Dr. Ife J Rodney, founding director of Eternal Dermatology & Aesthetics.

The oxidative stress that comes from UV rays of the sun and the pollutants you come into contact with daily can do a number on your skin, and adding in antioxidant serums can be a step towards reducing skin damage long-term. Of course, the anti-aging OG of them all is vitamin A, an example of which is retinol. Not only does it increase cell turnover, but it also stimulates collagen production to boot.

TL; DR: Anyone and everyone can and should be using an anti-aging serum. To find the best for every skin type, skin concern, and budget, we put some of today’s top-rated serums to the test. Our testers used these serums for weeks at a time, rating each formula’s texture and feel ingredient list, and, of course, how well it improved any tell-tale signs of aging. Our team combined these results along with expert recommendations and our research to compile this list.

 Keep reading for the best anti-aging serums money can buy.

Best Overall: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic

4.8
Skinceuticals C E Ferulic
Courtesy of Skin Ceuticals.
What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Very potent

  • Works quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If we had a dollar for every time a dermatologist recommended this serum, well, let’s just say we’d be retired and rubbing elbows with Jeff Bezos. It’s a tried-and-true serum staple that’s worth every penny, thanks to a unique combination of powerful antioxidants that reduce the signs of free radical damage, such as fine lines and spots, says Dr. Gonzalez.

Vitamin C brightens skin and protects against oxidative stress, while vitamin E replenishes and protects the skin, she adds. Rounding out the formula is ferulic acid, a top antioxidant that helps fight against pollution-induced damage and ups the efficacy of vitamin C. FYI, it does have a bit of a funky smell (some have likened it to hot dog water), but you’ll quickly forget about that once you see just how well it works on skin.

Benefits: Improves firmness and texture and neutralizes free radicals | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 4 to 5 drops | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum

Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Fragrance-free

  • Soaks in quickly

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Results aren't dramatic

Yes, you do get a lot of bang for your buck with a serum, making it a good place to splurge. But, you don’t have to shell out the big bucks to find a standout option; this pick is proof positive of exactly that. The classic serum boasts a unique amino-peptide complex to deliver hydrating and firming ingredients deep into the skin, working to leave your complexion smoother and plumped in just four weeks. Also nice: It’s fragrance-free and has a lightweight gel texture that absorbs lightning fast.

Benefits: Boosts elasticity and hydrates | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore, Runner-Up: Vichy LiftActiv Supreme Serum 10

3.5
Vichy LiftActiv Serum
What We Like
  • Effectively plumps

  • Rich consistency

  • Satiny feel on skin

What We Don't Like
  • Has alcohol

“What makes this serum unique are its key ingredients: rhamnose, volcanic water, and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “Rhamnose has been shown to boost skin rejuvenation, improving collagen production, elastin production, and cellular turnover. Volcanic water is packed with essential minerals that strengthen the skin barrier and protect it from UV rays and pollution, while hyaluronic acid hydrates and plumps skin,” she explains, noting that the formula is choice for smoothing, firming, and increasing radiance. What more could you ask for?

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles, boosts collagen production, and improves firmness and elasticity | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best With Vitamin C: BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner

4.7
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner

Courtesy of Skinstore 

What We Like
  • Absorbs quickly

  • Attacks aging at its core

  • Visible brightening and firming

What We Don't Like
  • Strong smell

We’re big fans of this skincare line—created by a cosmetic chemist, it utilizes only the most effective ingredients and formulations. Case in point: All of the products center around vitamin C, another anti-aging superstar that’s not only an effective antioxidant but also choice for boosting radiance and collagen production. This serum contains a whopping 20% of a powerful and stable version of the vitamin, which is infamous for being easily inactivated by things such as sun and air. Per all of those vitamin C benefits, it firms, boosts radiance, and smooths your complexion with every use.

Benefits: Boosts radiance, refines skin texture, boosts collagen production, and improves firmness | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner

Byrdie / Jenna Igneri

Best for Fine Lines: Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

4.5
kiehls powerful strength line reducing concentrate
What We Like
  • Smooths skin's texture

  • High quality ingredients

  • Remains effective in skin for 6 days

What We Don't Like
  • May cause irritation on sensitive skin

As we said, vitamin C is a top anti-aging ingredient, and here you get a 10% concentration of the good stuff. It works to boost collagen production and ultimately helps knock out lines and wrinkles, while hyaluronic acid in the formula attracts moisture to and plumps skin, also making it appear smoother.

Benefits: Evens out skin texture, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, boost collagen production, and hydrates | Skin Type: Balanced | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces, 2.5 fluid ounces, 3.4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Exfoliator: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

4
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Courtesy of Drunk Elephant

What We Like
  • Supply lasts a long time

  • Made in the U.S.

  • Non-irritating

What We Don't Like
  • Takes time for effect to show

“This sophisticated blend of glycolic, tartaric, citric, and salicylic acids delivers chemical exfoliation without dryness or sensitization, curbs excess oil, and reveals visible clarity and luminosity,” says Dr. Rodney of one of her picks. The combo of alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids is effective for all skin types, and also has the added benefit of helping ensure that any products you use afterward penetrate better. It is better to use at night, layered underneath a plain moisturizer or mixed with a few drops of the brand’s Virgin Marula Face Oil for extra hydration.

Benefits: Exfoliates and resurfaces skin | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 fluid ounce, 1.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Hydrating: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator

SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator

 Courtesy of SkinMedica

What We Like
  • Very smooth in feel and application

  • Long-lasting results

  • Works well under makeup

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Apply even a small amount of this hydrating serum, and your complexion with instantly look and feel smoother and plumper. It relies on five different ingredients (including, of course, hyaluronic acid) to hydrate skin both immediately and for up to eight hours afterward. Moisturizing enough to use on its own during hot summer days or if your skin skews towards oily, it’s still lightweight enough to layer under moisturizer. It’s also the ideal prep step pre-makeup, thanks to a smooth and silky finish.

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles, moisturizes, and boosts collagen production | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 2 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

For the best results, apply it when your skin is still slightly damp post-washing.

Best Night Serum: ISDIN Isdinceutics Melatonik

Isdin Melatonik
What We Like
  • Stimulates antioxidant defenses

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Speeds up cellular rejuvenation

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't absorb as well as other serums

Load up on this serum come bedtime. “It’s a favorite of mine because it contains bakuchiol, a natural, plant-based alternative to retinol that speeds up cellular rejuvenation—without that irritation that sometimes occurs with retinol,” explains Dr. Rodney. It also contains an antioxidant dynamic duo—melatonin and vitamin C—making it the ideal multi-purpose formula, she adds. Use it overnight to help undo any free radical damage incurred during the day.

Benefits: Repairs skin, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, improves firmness, and neutralizes free radicals | Skin Type: Dry | Dosage: 3 to 4 drops | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Natural: Tata Harper Skincare Rejuvenating Serum

tata harper rejuvenating serum

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Recyclable packaging

  • Natural formula

  • Peptide-powered to target aging

What We Don't Like
  • Smell may be too strong for some

Clean beauty queens will appreciate that this formula relies on all kinds of natural, plant-based ingredients to turn back the clock. “With repeated use, this powerful, all-natural serum boosts moisture for firmer plumper skin,” says Dr. Gonzalez, who is a fan. “It also helps temporarily relax the look of fine lines and wrinkles, thanks to peptides sourced from Spanish lavender,” she adds. Other natural youth-boosting ingredients include vitamin A from rosehip seed oil and vitamin C from date palm extract. Even the subtle fragrance is natural, derived from jasmine oil.

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles and hydrates | Skin Type: Dry, combination | Dosage: 1 to 2 pumps | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Natural, Runner-Up: One Love Organics Botanical A Bio-Retinol Night Serum

One Love Organics Botanical A Bio-Retinol Night Serum

Ulta

What We Like
  • Plant-based alternative to retinol

  • Very potent

  • Dermatologist-tested

What We Don’t Like
  • May cause irritation on sensitive skin

Clean beauty queens will appreciate that this formula relies on all kinds of natural, plant-based ingredients to turn back the clock. Namely, there are three different natural acids (lactic, phytic, and salicylic) for gentle exfoliation, a bio-retinol for line-smoothing purposes, and purple clay, rich in magnesium to help promote a smoother skin texture. FYI, this may be natural but it is potent, so it’s best to start by using it only every other night, and only using it four nights per week, max.

Benefits: Boosts skin cell turnover, gently exfoliates, and smooths skin texture | Skin Type: Balanced | Dosage: 2 to 4 drops, four times per week, max | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best With Retinol: Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Serum

Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Serum
What We Like
  • Renews the skin texture

  • Works quickly with visible effectiveness

  • Tackles hormonal acne

What We Don’t Like
  • Needs less breakable packaging

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it—in the world of anti-aging ingredients, retinol reigns supreme. The vitamin-A derivative touts a long and proven track record of delivering all kinds of youth-boosting benefits. The only problem? That potency comes with a high likelihood of side effects… but that’s not the case with this serum. Even our super sensitive skin—which historically does NOT do well with retinol—has absolutely no issue with this formula. Instead, it leaves our complexion smoother and clearer, thanks to a pairing of retinol and ferulic acid, a potent antioxidant. Plus, it works quickly; we see changes after just a week of regular use.

Benefits: Boosts skin cell turnover, offers antioxidant protection, and minimizes the look of pores and uneven texture | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 8 to 10 drops, twice daily | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum

Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum

Ulta

What We Like
  • Multi-purpose product

  • Exfoliates and quickens cell renewal

  • Works with skin's natural microbiome

What We Don’t Like
  • May make skin a bit rough

For those dealing with the misfortune of battling both breakouts and wrinkles (adult acne is a very real thing, people), this serum is choice. It’s ideal for acne-prone skin because it contains salicylic acid, which penetrates oil glands to help clear up clogged pores. And on the anti-aging side of things, it contains niacinamide and a proprietary brightening complex.

Benefits: Exfoliates and smooths fines lines | Skin Type: Acne-prone | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Soothing: Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Serum

Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Serum

Dr. Jart

What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Gentle enough for sensitive skin

  • Strengthens and balances

What We Don’t Like
  • Not as good at absorbing into skin

The namesake ingredient in this formula is the colloquial term for an ingredient known as Centella Asiatica (Tiger Grass), well-known for its astounding skin-soothing and wound healing properties. To that point, this is ideal for red, irritated, or generally stressed-out skin. (And while it’s not something the brand calls out, in our experience, the subtle green tint of serums like this one also helps to instantly camouflage redness, too.) There’s also anti-inflammatory niacinamide in the mix, plus a proprietary blend of ingredients that help keep the skin’s microbiome balanced and better able to block out potential irritants.

Benefits: Soothes skin, promotes a healthy microbiome | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.01 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge: Lancôme Rénergie H.C.F. Triple Serum

Lancôme Rénergie H.C.F. Triple Serum

Sephora

What We Like
  • Multi-purpose product

  • Unique packaging and delivery system

  • Very potent

What We Don’t Like
  • Has a sticky, glue-like texture

Yes, this pick is pricey, but it’s also packed (and we mean packed) with effective, active ingredients. We’re talking super moisturizing hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid for a powerful punch of antioxidant protection, and a combo of radiance-boosting vitamin C and niacinamide. But what’s perhaps most noteworthy is the unique packaging and delivery system; each of those three ingredients is housed in separate chambers and only gets mixed once you dispense the product, maximizing both their potency and stability. 

Benefits: Hydrates, boosts radiance, targets volume loss | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2 to 4 drops, four times per week, max | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

If you’re in the anti-aging game, a serum is an absolute must. The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is a true classic, beloved by dermatologists and Byrdie editors alike for its potent combo of protective antioxidants. It’s well worth the price tag, but you can also find great options for less. The Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum (view at Amazon) is a proof positive, packed with a wrinkle-fighting amino-peptide complex to help smooth lines, as is the Vichy LiftActiv Supreme Serum 10, which earns big points with derms for its unique combo of smoothing, firming, and radiance-boosting ingredients. And if you’re looking for a clean option, be sure to check out the Tata Harper Skincare Rejuvenating Serum (view at Sephora), which relies on naturally-derived youth-boosters, such as rosehip seed oil.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Annie Gonzalez, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, Florida. She specializes in both general and cosmetic dermatology and has written various articles in dermatology journals.
  • Dr. Ife J. Rodney, MD, FAAD, is the founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics in Fulton, MD. She is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist and has extensive experience in cosmetic, surgical, and medical dermatology, including a focus on skin rejuvenation and anti-aging.


What to Look for in an Anti-Aging Serum

Antioxidants

No matter whether your anti-aging goals are preventative or treatment-focused, choosing a serum that contains antioxidants is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck. They’re a universally great choice for all skin types and complexion concerns, offering protection against skin-damaging free radicals. Plus, there are a plethora of great ones to choose from, including (but not limited to) vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid, green tea, and more.

Retinol

Retinol is the undisputed anti-aging champ, the vitamin A-derivative works both on the surface of the skin, promoting a more even skin tone and texture, and on the deeper layers, stimulating collagen production to help combat lines and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic Acid

This humectant is a great way to add (lightweight) hydration, as it attracts and traps water in the skin. The added benefit? It also makes for an instantaneous plumping effect that makes your complexion appear smoother.

FAQ
  • Do anti-aging serums work?

    When it comes to finding an effective anti-aging serum, you’ll want to make sure it has at least one of a few key ingredients proven to work. According to a biology professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, the ingredients you should look for are vitamin C, vitamin A (retinol), AHAs and BHAs, sunscreen, and epidermal growth factor—though note that that last one’s safety is debated, so consult a dermatologist if you’re interested but uncertain.

  • When should you use anti-aging serums?

    You can start to integrate anti-aging serums into your routine before you even see much damage and when to use them depends on the active ingredient. Vitamin C serums are good for the daytime because they neutralize free radicals and can counteract uneven skin tone that comes from sun damage. On the other hand, retinol is best used at night to smooth fine lines and increase cellular turnover while you rest. Any serums using AHAs and BHAs are also best for nighttime use, and be sure to use SPF during the day no matter what your routine looks like, as sun damage is the leading cause of aging and many of these products increase your skin’s sensitivity to it.

  • How do you apply anti-aging serums?

    Apply anti-aging serums after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing. Be sure you’re aware of what active ingredients are in all your products, so you don’t mix any that may cause your skin to react badly when applied together.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. A skincare enthusiast, an anti-aging serum was one of the first products she ever started using regularly when she started working in the beauty industry. Fun fact: It was the SkinCeuticals one featured on this list, one she still uses to this day.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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