While moisturizers create a barrier over skin, protecting it from harsh weather or environmental aggravants, serums are designed to penetrate deeper into the skin’s layers, carrying revitalizing vitamins, nutrients, and moisture replenishing ingredients. Serums can make a big difference in a skincare routine, upping the effectiveness of age-defying components like hyaluronic acids and retinoids, moisturizing ceramides, and brightening ingredients like vitamin c. Since they’re designed to go to work beneath the skin, you can often use less than with traditional moisturizers. They are also more concentrated, so are often more expensive than a general moisturizer.
- The best for combination skin
- Rated “clean” by Sephora
- Shake before use every time
A resurfacing overnight serum with AHA/BHA and a blend of salycilic, glycolic, and three other acids, Drunk Elephant’s raspberry extract serum works as a spot treatment or full face serum, and blends well with any face oil for improved results. Reviewers rave over it, with 130 thousand “hearts” on Sephora and tons of positive reviews, like “Probably the best product I have tried in years going from Chanel to La mer and hundreds more this one I will have to buy over and over again!!! Just amazing. My skin transformed in 3 weeks…”
- Strong support from user surveys
- Works while you sleep
With one of the best user reviews on the market, and a consumer perception survey where 100% of users report skin looking more hydrated and smooth and 97% claimed a reduction in dark spots and discoloration, The Nightly retinol + peptide works hard for hours with a time-release retinoid. Their proprietary Leontopod Stem Cell™ and ECM Moduline Peptide™ formulas are the major difference between this and other serums on the market, and they claim to repair damage and boost collagen while you sleep.
- Collagen, Oil, and Essence all in one
- Vegan and cruelty free
- Absorbs faster than other serums
Finding effective vegan products can take time and effort, but Tarte gets it right with Rainforest of the Sea. This marine plant collagen earns its user loyalty with fast and effective results, restoring skin elasticity and brightness. With moisturizing Argan oil, this serum delivers powerful hydration, without any of the sticky residues common in other serums.
- Spot treater, not a full face serum
- A little goes a long way
- Best for consistent users with a skincare routine
Advertised as an alternative to toxic hydroquinone, this dark spot correcting serum treats sun damage, age spots, and other discoloring blemishes. Kojic acid lightens dark blemishes while lactic acid encourages rapid turnover and regrowth, and L-ascorbic acid provides an antioxidant buffer against new damage.
- Chemically exfoliates with AHA
- Draws moisture into skin
- Best for use on targeted areas
Move beyond face only serums to this whole body blemish treatment. Enjoy fresh, radiant skin after this moisturizing serum hydrates and exfoliates naturally. Users rave about it’s effectiveness, saying “At first, I almost sent this back because it did not feel as thick and rich as moisturizers I am used to. I am glad I didn’t. This stuff is amazing. After 3 weeks of use, the bumps on my upper arms I have had all my life are gone. My arms have never been this smooth. I love this product so much!”
- One of 6 Dior Capture Youth serums available
- Can be mixed with other face creams for more even application
The perfect serum for early mornings, this antioxidant rich brightener is like caffeine for your skin. Dior reports that “in a use test on 60 women 100% of women saw more luminous and even complexions after 4 weeks.” Fights dullness and uneven texture and skin tone with vitamin C and AHA, and you’ll love how quickly your skin responds.
- Best in humid climates
- Mixes easily into other creams or serums
Over seven thousand reviewers have something to say about this extremely affordable hyaluronic acid serum available from Amazon, and the average review is positive. Hyaluronic acid draws water into the skin, so users in a humid climate experience the most positive effect from using it. Conversely, those in very dry climates can actually see moisture loss from the skin, so consider your environment.
- Best for oily or combination skin
- Pore minimizer
The best serum on our list for those who struggle with acne, blemishes, or an oily t-zone, the Ordinary calls this a vitamin and mineral blemish formula. With a vegan formulation, 10% Niacinamide and 1% Zinc, it delivers a targeted treatment to decongest skin and mitigate visible sebum.
- Great for oily/combination skin
- Pair with daily SPF use for damage prevention
- Strong scent
An excellent all-around choice, Tatcha’s Violet C is great for young users looking for an antioxidant boost to prevent damage, and vitamin C to strengthen skin, but also earns high marks for those looking to reverse existing damage. It’s lightweight and works quickly, with many reviewers noticing preliminary results within the first week of daily use.
“The first week I noticed how much softer and clearer my skin was and then after that it looked brighter and more supple. I highly recommend this to anyone who has dry skin but also acne prone.”