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.
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.
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.
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.
I had to see what the Sunday Riley hype was about, and I have to say I'm impressed. Combined with turmeric, this has become my go-to vitamin C serum because it never fails to leave my complexion glowing.
If you're like me and have spent one too many hours in the sun, you need this serum. This serum works to eliminate dark spots and discoloration, and trust me it works.
This is a "worth-it" product. I've rejected treating acne with harsh chemical peels and now opt for this serum infused with bistort root extract, which reaches deep into the pores to clarify and clear your skin.
Expensive? Yes. I've become a huge advocate for investing in personal care. The Elixir Vitae has 72 natural super ingredients that work like a daily dose of injectables. If you think about it, it is cheaper than Botox…
Don't let the name scare you. Although, I will say this one is rather potent. This is a repairing serum ideal for healing acne-prone skin and dark circles.
Composed of botanical ingredients, including Ayurvedic saffron, this serum enhances your natural, youthful glow. It's a great serum to begin with if you're confused about where to start.
Who doesn't want to revert to their most youthful skin? This serum protects the skin against genetic and environmental aging and stress. Living in New York, I've found that it is imperative to have this kind of protection from the environment.
Skincare has recently tapped into the CBD trend, and for good reason. CBD's three biggest benefits are soothing (reduces redness), balance, and hydration, and according to Superflower co-founder Olivia Combemale, not only is your skin calmed after using it, but thanks to the essential oils and knowing that the serum is clean, so is your mind
This is my favorite drugstore brand. La Roche-Posay is reliable and super affordable for high-quality ingredients, so I had absolutely no doubts when trying this serum, and you shouldn't either.
This is the newest addition to my skincare collection. Made with a dynamic duo of hyaluronic acid and CBD, this serum promises hydration and elasticity.
Having combination skin, I always run the risk of looking and feeling a bit oily. Luckily, the lightweight watermelon seed oil and hibiscus absorbs rapidly, leaving my skin moisturized but not greasy.
You can't go wrong with La Mer. This revitalizing blend consists of sea-sourced ingredients, including green, brown, and red algae, leaving your skin refreshed.
When traveling, packing the right skincare products in your carry-on is essential. Flights tend to dry out my skin, so this Chanel hydrating serum has become a must while I'm traveling.
If you're still unsure if face serums are for you, ease into trying them without breaking your bank. This $11 serum is just as good as the $500 serums, if not better.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.