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You probably see the word “antioxidant” on many of your skincare products. We all know it’s a good thing to have in a day cream or serum, but not everyone can tell you why. In fact, the role antioxidants play in your regimen is almost storybook-worthy; they’re the heroes that ride in to save the day when a villain’s on the loose. Hear us out: The villains are the free radicals that metabolize when the skin is exposed to certain aggressors. These include pollutant particles, sunlight, certain medications, and cigarette smoke.
Free radicals are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron, and they’re looking to brace themselves by attaching to the nearest healthy cell. Therefore, they turn that once-healthy cell into another free radical, and then you have two unstable cells wreaking havoc and damaging skin tissue.
Antioxidants—the heroes in our story—forage these free radicals and donate an electron to them, thus preventing any further damage to your skin. Just as crucially, they also help to reduce acne scarring, even out skin tone, soften wrinkles and amp up long-term radiance in a way that makeup cannot match.
Ready to find yourself one of these skin heroes? Keep scrolling for some of the best antioxidant serums.
Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
SkinCeuticals is known for its potent serums, and C E Ferulic is up there as one of its most popular formulas. It’s pricey, yes, but if you’re looking for radiance-boosting effects that are noticeable from day one, this cult classic serum really delivers.
Best Budget: THE ORDINARY Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%
If the cost doesn’t thrill you, The Ordinary’s formula will. This is serious skincare (with a not-so-serious price tag) that harnesses two of the hardest working antioxidants: resveratrol and ferulic acid. Three percent is a high concentration for these powerhouse ingredients, too. Wear layered over a water-based serum or underneath heavier creams and oils.
Best Anti-Aging: Caudalie Premier Cru The Serum
One Byrdie editor admits that she has never used a serum she’s enjoyed more than Caudalie’s. It contains polyphenols, which provide the hit of antioxidants, but also resveratrol and hyaluronic acid. It’s technically an anti-ager, but even if you’re just looking for skin that has visible bounce, this serum serves it up in spades. And all without pilling under moisturizer or SPF. It’s just magical.
Best for Dry Skin: KYPRIS Antioxidant Dew
Replace “serum” with “dew” and you’ve got, perhaps, the loveliest-sounding antioxidant around. Kypris’s product puts as much focus on protecting your skin as it does on plumping pores and quenching thirst. Use it if your complexion is particularly parched, and the cocktail of plant extracts will prove hardy allies in the battle against dryness.
Best With SPF: Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield
Smother your face in this lotion daily and you won’t be disappointed. It’s a true multitasker that spans the roles of an SPF, an antioxidant serum and a tinted primer. The coverage is minimal, but it’s great for no-makeup days, as it lightly blurs the appearance of pores without masking your natural skin tone. One for the suitcase, for sure.
Best Natural: Grown Alchemist Detox Serum Antioxidant+3 Complex
Perhaps my favorite thing about this serum is that it’s as thin and fuss-free as water, meaning it’s instantly absorbed into the skin and holds no threat of pilling under makeup. It’s perfect for those living in a city, as its broad-spectrum formula detoxes pores in the face of pollutant particles.
Best for Eyes: Sukin Naturals Antioxidant Eye Serum
The delicate skin around your eyes needs as much (if not more) protection from pollution as the rest of your face. That’s where this plant extract–powered eye serum steps in. It was designed to reduce the appearance of fine lines and improve the skin’s texture. It also comes with the added bonus of making a great base for under-eye concealer.