I've Tried Hundreds of Face Serums—These Are My 14 Favorite

I’ve become a low-key beauty connoisseur. When I was younger, I would go to my local drugstore and sift through all the new beauty finds and fads for hours and insist I had to try them. My vanity essentially became a mini Walgreens teeming with beauty products. What started as a mere hobby quickly transitioned into a minor obsession (okay, maybe a major obsession). My latest craze? Face serums. From correcting skin texture to plumping your skin without filler, face serums act as your best friend in a bottle.

Today, as consumers, we are constantly overwhelmed with new life-changing products, expert opinions, trends, and tutorials, and it can be rather intimidating to start your skincare journey. Fortunately, I’ve done my due diligence through trial and error, a lot of products, and testimonies to ease your search for the perfect face serum. Take the time to educate yourself on the ingredients and complexities of the products, and be mindful of your skin’s specific needs. After consulting the top skincare experts and beauty insiders, below, I broke down what exactly face serums do, why they’re an important step in your skincare regimen, and how to use them.


(Image credit: @adriennefaurote)

What do face serums do?

Think of face serums as medicine for your skin. Serums address and treat specific skin stresses such as hydration and anti-aging through antioxidants and humectants (that’s vitamins C and E and ferulic acid). "Serums are like the treatment step of your regimen. They are potent doses of highly concentrated active ingredients that target specific skin concerns,” explains natural-skincare pioneer Tata Harper. "I think serums are the best investment you can make when it comes to your skin. Serums are important because they’re hyper-targeted treatments. They’re made up of smaller molecules that can penetrate deep into the skin and directly deliver a potent dose of ingredients, whereas moisturizers and face oils are made up of larger molecules that can’t penetrate the skin as deeply, and the ingredients work on the top layers of the skin. If you want to see real results, you need a serum,” she adds. Basically, serums ensure that the effective ingredients are being absorbed into the skin while also penetrating deeper.


(Image credit: @tataharperskincare)

So why are face serums important?

According to Michelle Ranavat, founder of the botanical-based skincare line Ranavat, "serums are where you see the biggest difference in your skin and how you can get the most actives in it. Cleansers wash off, toners are limited to certain ingredients because they are meant to balance and hydrate, and creams are loaded with emulsifiers and texture enhancers. So serums are really where you can have a skin-changing ingredient shine.”

Quick tip: Look at the first five to six ingredients on the ingredient list and research which skin concern they are known for helping because those are the most highly concentrated ingredients.


(Image credit: @adriennefaurote)

What's the protocol for using serums?

Like anything in life, consistency is key here. Hold yourself responsible for staying strict to your skincare regimen in order to see optimal results. "Serums should have their place in the daily care routine between face cleansing and day or night cream,” advises Barbara Sturm, a renowned specialist in aesthetic medicine and the founder of Dr. Barbara Sturm skincare. Lock in the serums by applying your moisturizer after the serum has been absorbed. If you’re layering multiple serums (yes, you can apply more than one), always apply the water-based (clear) serums before lipid serums, and be sure to wait until each serum has dissolved into the skin before adding the next.

Now that you've been informed, see below for the 14 best serums to introduce to your routine. 

Freelance Editor