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Let’s put it simply: If you have not yet incorporated a face serum into your daily skincare routine, it’s high time you do so. As any dermatologist will tell you, when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck out of your product arsenal, a serum is always going to be your best bet. Why, you ask? Lighter than moisturizers, they’re more highly concentrated and contain higher levels of active ingredients (i.e. all of the ingredients that are actually going to have an effect on how your skin looks and feels). The other great thing about serums? There are so many of them, offering something to address any and every complexion concern from spots to sagging, pores to pimples. Below, our picks for the top face serums.
Best Overall: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic
This oldie-but-goodie remains a staple among dermatologist-recommend products for good reason. By definition, it’s an antioxidant serum, a type of serum that truly can benefit anyone and everyone. (As a quick reminder, antioxidants act like little scavengers, destroying the skin-damaging free radicals caused by exposure to environmental factors such as sun and pollution.)
This particular option may be pricey, but it delivers proven results, thanks to a synergistic combo of vitamins C and E, plus ferulic acid, one of the best antioxidants for combating pollution, which also has the added benefit of improving the efficacy of vitamin C. A little bit goes a long way—you only need a few drops—so one bottle will last quite a while, making it well worth the investment.
Best Budget Buy: CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Cream for Fine Lines & Wrinkles
As a general rule, serums can skew on the pricier side, simply due to the fact that they are so concentrated and effective. Not only does this one come in at under twenty dollars, it also features one of the most proven ingredients out there: retinol. Encapsulated retinol, to be exact, which works to help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, plus three different kind of ceramides to protect your skin barrier. Many of the satisfied users comment on how it works well, even on their sensitive skin.
Best Anti-Aging: No7 Laboratories Line Correcting Booster Serum
When this serum originally launched in the U.K. in April 2018 it did so with a waitlist: A 17,000 person waitlist, to be precise. Credit a unique blend of Matrixyl 3000 technology (as a reminder, peptides are choice for their line smoothing and skin firming benefits). Plus, it also contains moisturizing glycerin, packing both smoothing and hydrating benefits in one tube. Worth noting: Rather than applying this all-over, it’s meant for targeted application, so save it specifically for those areas where lines are starting to bother you.
Best for Dry Skin: Neutrogena Hydroboost Hydrating Serum
Hyaluronic acid is the star of the show here; the tiny molecule has the impressive ability to attract water to the skin, and then hold 1000 times its own weight in water. For your skin, that means not only almost instantaneous hydration, but also a fast-fix plumping and smoothing effect, too. Sign us up. Still, it feels super lightweight, which is what makes this option so nice to use in the morning, as it also creates the perfect canvas for makeup. Happy customers repeatedly report soft and smooth it left their skin.
Best for Oily Skin: John Masters Organics Bearberry Skin Balancing Face Serum
Combining naturally astringent willowbark extract to absorb excess oil with soothing aloe vera, this helps balance out your skin and tamp down excess sheen, without ever leaving your complexion feeling tight or stripped. True to its name, the clean and straightforward ingredient list features plenty of organic ingredients. Also nice: While you can use it all-over, it can also be applied just on particularly oily spots (think your T-zone), or as a spot treatment to help with blemishes.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Both of the namesake ingredients in this blemish buster help to keep skin clear in their own way. Niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3) is a top pick for helping to reduce redness and inflammation (both of which often come with a pimple) , and also brightens skin tone, too.
Meanwhile, zinc is a mineral that helps balance out oil production, always a good thing if you’re acne-prone. Use a few drops all over, though it’s worth noting that if you’re using any other skincare products with vitamin C, it’s best to alternate, since niacinamide can affect the integrity of vitamin C. Reviewers comment on not only how it keeps their skin clear, but also how much it tamps down oil and minimizes the look of their pores.
Best Brightening: L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C reigns supreme in the skincare world, thanks to the triple threat of benefits it delivers, acting as antioxidant, helping to stimulate collagen production, and inhibiting pigment production to brighten skin and help fade spots. But here’s the only downside: The ingredient is notoriously unstable, easily inactivated by exposure to light and air.
That’s why this product was specially formulated without water, produced in controlled conditions to minimize exposure to oxygen, and comes in an air-tight metal tube. Use it daily to improve skin radiance in as little as just one week (and yes, reap the other benefits of vitamin C, too).
Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular face serums on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 40 different serums overall, screened options from 45 different brands and manufacturers, read over 30 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 10 of the serums themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.