We’d never rip on night creams, but, if you’re looking to get the most skincare benefits at nighttime, you may want to consider swapping out your night cream for a night serum. “Serums can be a great option over creams because they are often formulated with more concentrated amounts of active ingredients for better and deeper delivery,” explains Michigan-based dermatologist Dr. Fatima Fahs.
“Because they are lightweight, serums tend to absorb quickly into the skin and can therefore yield more dramatic results,” adds Dr. Fahs. And here’s the other thing. While there are some that are specifically marketed as nighttime serums, you really can use any serum, day or night. (Just make sure you’re also using SPF after if it’s during the day). The benefit to using one at night, though? This is when your skin (and body in general) goes into repairative mode, meaning it will best be able to utilize all those more concentrated amounts of actives. It’s truly a win-win.
We conducted hours of research on the best night serums, evaluating each on its formula of active ingredients, targeted benefits, skin-feel, and value. With expert recommendations from board-certified dermatologists, we considered dozens of brands for different skin types and concerns. We landed on these top-rated night serums to give you the best in show.
Ahead, find the best night serums for every complexion concern.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex Serum
Visually plumps and fills in fine lines
Available in multiple sizes
There’s good reason why this is one of the brand’s biggest hits and a perennial beauty editor favorite. Long story short, it works to address multiple signs of aging via one convenient formula, thanks to a patented technology that helps to both repair and boost collagen production. It’s full of protective antioxidants, as well as hydrating hyaluronic acid, leaving skin smoother, plumper, brighter, and generally more youthful–looking after every use. Serums can sometimes feel sticky, but this one is so hydrating it melts into skin with a velvety finish.
Price at time of publish: $231
Benefits: Smooths, plumps, addresses signs of aging | Skin Type: Dry, mature | Dosage: One dropperful | Size: 0.2 / 1 / 1.7 / 3.9 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
La Mer The Regenerating Serum
Long list of actives
It may be the La Mer cream that gets all the attention, but this serum is equally as noteworthy. It is extremely expensive, but it does offer multiple benefits. A bio-ferment and marine-peptide ferment claim to support skin’s natural collagen production; it also helps improve skin clarity and brightness. And the silky texture is next-level luxurious, transforming your skincare routine into a truly special self care moment.
Price at time of publish: $410
Benefits: Supports skin turnover and collagen production, boosts radiance | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 1-2 pumps | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Darker Skin Tones
Epara Hydrating Serum
Addresses fine lines
This serum was formulated specifically with the unique skin care needs of women in color in mind. Namely, it’s full of licorice root extract to help combat hyperpigmentation (a common issue for those with darker skin, as well as plant-based oils to address increased dryness.
Price at time of publish: $252
Benefits: Hydrates, smooths fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: Dry, mature | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Pixi Overnight Glow Serum
Helps fade dark spots
This aptly-named pick will indeed leave your skin glowier and more radiant come morning. Credit a 10% concentration of glycolic acid, an exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid, that can help improve texture and tone. (Also nice: Glycolic acid has also been shown to stimulate collagen production for smoother, less lined skin.) It’s balanced out with soothing cucumber and aloe extracts, reducing the likelihood of ending up with redness and/or irritation.
Price at time of publish: $24
Benefits: Exfoliates, smooths, helps fade discoloration | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2-3 drops | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Serum
Powerful combo of ingredients
Doesn’t irritate sensitive skin
Has an unpleasant smell
Retinol is one of the best anti-aging ingredients out there, but it can be inactivated by the sun, making it choice to reserve for nighttime use. You’ll find the powerhouse in plenty of serums, but this is far and above our all-time favorite. The retinol helps to smooth out uneven texture, as well keep clogged pores and blemishes and bay by stimulating cell turnover. Still, it’s not in the least bit irritating; even our super sensitive skin can tolerate it. Plus, it contains ferulic acid, a powerful antioxidant that’s been shown to be particularly effective at combating the damaging effects of pollution.
Price at time of publish: $72
Benefits: Exfoliates, smooths, helps keep pores clear | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 8-10 drops | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum
Good for all skin types
Not clean or cruelty-free
Here’s another great retinol-based option, one that you can nab at the drugstore for cheap. It touts an encapsulated form of the superstar ingredient to help minimize the likelihood of irritation, a side effect retinol is notorious for. In related news, there are also skin barrier-strengthening ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and soothing niacinamide in the mix, all helping to ensure this is a good choice for all skin types.
Price at time of publish: $21
Benefits: Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: All | Dosage: N/A | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Oily Skin
La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum
Layers nicely under makeup if you want to use it morning and night
While this is a good pick for all skin types, it’s especially choice for those with oily skin. (Because yes, you still need to moisturize, even if you’re oily). It’s a favorite of New York City board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, who lauds it for being oil-free yet hydrating, thanks to the addition of hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Both are humectants, meaning they attract water to and trap it in the skin, plumping it and minimizing the look of fine lines in the process, without feeling too heavy on oilier skin.
Price at time of publish: $37
Benefits: Hydrates | Skin Type: All, oily | Dosage: N/A | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dry Skin
Mary Kay Clinical Solutions HA+ Ceramide Hydrator
Good price point
Dermatologist-tested and non-comedogenic
There are two different types of hyaluronic acid in this formula; each has a different weight, meaning they penetrate different layers of the skin, meaning you get even more hydrating benefits. A skin-mimicking ceramide helps to support skin barrier function, while Verbena Officinalis Extract, a natural moisturizing factor both hydrates and bolsters the skin barrier. Point being, if you have dry skin, you need this.
Price at time of publish: $38
Benefits: Hydrates | Skin Type: Dry, mature| Dosage: 6-8 drops | Size: .5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No| Byrdie Clean: No
Runner-Up, Best Splurge
Defenage 8-in-1 Bioserum
“The technology of this serum is mind-blowing,” says Fahs of another one of her recommendations. It has a patented complex that works to activate dormant young cells to rejuvenate and promote new, healthy, smooth skin, she explains. More specifically, it targets prominent pores, discoloration, redness, laxity, dullness, wrinkles, and more. So although this pick is a bit more expensive, its multi-tasking proprietary formula makes it well-worth every penny.
Price at time of publish: $198
Benefits: Smooths, helps fade discoloration, targets laxity | Skin Type: All | Dosage:1 pump | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best with Vitamin C
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
Great price point
Clean and cruelty-free
Some reviewers note that it pills under moisturizer
Jaliman raves about this formula for relying on sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of Vitamin C and a powerful antioxidant. It also contains antioxidants vitamin E and ferulic acid, the latter of which increases the effectiveness of the vitamins C and E, she says. In short, this serum not only gives your skin a hefty dose of protective antioxidants, it also hydrates, improves wrinkles, and discoloration, Jaliman says.
Price at time of publish: $34
Benefits: Offers antioxidant protection, helps fade discoloration, improves wrinkles | Skin Type: All | Dosage: N/A | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Dark Spot Serum
Very effective at brightening skin
Good alternative to vitamin C
On the pricier side
“I love this serum for improving hyperpigmentation and evening skin tone,” says Dr. Fahs. She adds that because it relies on a patented vine sap viniferine and olive squalane, it’s a great alternative to traditional vitamin C serums, which can be irritating for some. It’s so effective that, in a clinical study, 63% of dark spots appeared reduced after using one bottle.
Price at time of publish: $82
Benefits: Brightens, helps fade discoloration | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2-3 drops | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Sensitive Skin
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment
Great for all skin types
Can be used different ways
Comes in two sizes
On the pricier side
Fahs recommends applying this serum in the evening if you want to wake up to glowier skin: “It’s a great option for non-irritating exfoliation,” she says. Credit lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid that’s the gentlest of the bunch (and has the added benefit of acting as a humectant, attracting moisture to the skin as well.) That’s not the only reason why it earns our vote as best for sensitive skin; it also contains skin-soothing prickly pear extract, and, for those who are super sensitive, this can instead be used as a wash-off mask. Although this pick is on the expensive side, we love that the formula contains clinically proven benefits, so you know it's working.
Price at time of publish: $85
Benefits: Exfoliates, smooths, helps fade discoloration | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 1-2 pumps | Size: 1 fl. Oz.; 1.7 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Our top pick is the classic Esteé Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex Serum, which delivers a host of different youth-boosting benefits in one bottle and contains such hydrating actives, it feels velvety smooth on your skin. For a more affordable pick, consider CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum, which contains a concentration retinol to help with skin turnover without irritating sensitive skin.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Debra Jaliman is a New York City board-certified dermatologist. She’s an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai, and the author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist.
Dr. Fatima Fahs is a board-certified dermatologist in Michigan. She’s best known on Instagram as Dermy Doctor, and is the creator of the Dermy Doc Box, a seasonal subscription box of dermatologist-selected skincare.
What to Look For in a Night Serum
Night serums that provide moisturizers and moisture-protecting ingredients are key. Moisture support will help your skin stay plump and replace any moisture lost when cleansing or from makeup use. Look for emollients, occlusive, and humectants—ingredients like hyaluronic acid and nourishing botanical oils.
Boosting your skin's collagen and elastin will help keep it looking plump, fresh and may prevent or minimize fine lines. Look for marine peptides, and vitamin C. Retinol and ferulic acid are other effective anti-aging and free-radical fighting ingredients to look for in your night serum.
Chemical exfoliants in your night serum can work to resurface and replenish your skin's surface. Look for serums that include ingredients like glycolic acid, ferulic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid.
What does night serum do?
Night serums vary but most will increase skin's moisture, provide skin boosting ingredients, and help fight signs of aging. Many night serums are heavier than day serums or lotions since they have time to sink in and work overnight. This means they typically contain nourishing oils. Many night serums include ingredients like retinol that increase photosensitivity and should be avoided during the day.
Should I use a night serum?
If you want a highly effective and potent product that will work while you sleep, a night serum is an excellent choice. Night serums are useful for a variety of skin concerns from hydration to blemish fighting.
Do I need both serum and moisturizer?
You can find serums that provide moisturizing ingredients but a moisturizer is also a good idea. Moisturizer contain ingredients that help to lock this moisture in, creating a barrier to prevent dryness. Most serums provide moisturizing oils but lack the ability to lock in the hydration.
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. Serums are her second favorite skincare category (behind sunscreen); she uses one nightly. Currently, the Dr. Dennis Gross option featured on this list is her go-to.
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