9 Face Serums That Will Plump and Hydrate Dry Skin

BY Janeca Racho · December 6, 2018

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When you’re constantly dealing with dry, tight and flaky skin, the quest for the right skin care products can be a tad frustrating. While moisturizers usually do a good job of keeping skin plump and hydrated, there are days when your skin craves some extra pampering and attention—especially when snow season kicks in and your skin gets blasted with icy cold air and indoor heating on a daily basis. And that’s where serums and boosters come in.

No longer as intimidating as they once were, serums have now become the weapon of choice of skin care junkies everywhere. And for good reason. These bottles of potent active ingredients are formulated to address just about every skin concern and are particularly known for their ability to deliver intense hydration. That’s because serums are lighter in consistency and smaller in particle size, making them more efficient in penetrating the layers of your skin, explains board-certified dermatologist Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD.

How Serums Help Dry Skin

While we typically rely on moisturizers and face oils for our daily dose of moisture, those looking for serious hydration may need to add a more targeted approach that serums and boosters offer. “The main difference is that serums penetrate deeper into the dermis,” says board-certified dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, MD. “Moisturizers, on the other hand, act more on the surface of the skin, repairing dry skin and decreasing scaling,” he explains.

“For dry skin types, especially during winter months, a serum that contains ingredients that can bind water to the skin or create a protective layer that holds water in the skin can be a noticeably helpful addition to your skin care routine,” adds board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD

How to Choose the Best Serum for Dry Skin

As with all things skin care, taking stock of your skin’s needs and concerns is the first step in choosing the right products. So is paying close attention to the ingredients listed on the labels. While most serums contain multitasking ingredients that promote better skin health, you’ll want to be on the lookout for powerful humectants—ingredients that retain and draw moisture from the air and the dermis to better quench the topmost layer of the skin. “Think hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, argan oil and ceramides,” says Dr. Ilyas, adding that when it comes to consistency, water-based serums are best as they “tend to spread quickly and absorb into the skin with ease.”

To help you pick out the best face serum for dry skin, here are the top ingredients that deliver mega-moisture and hydration.

  • Hyaluronic Acid — This moisture-binding ingredient is arguably the best player in the hydration game, thanks to its amazing ability to hold up to 1,000x its weight in water. It works by attracting moisture and delivering them to the outer layers of the skin, making it appear dewier and plumping away fine lines and wrinkles, explains Dr. Shainhouse.
  • Glycerin — One of the most common ingredients found in products for dry skin, glycerin is a lightweight hydrator that works similarly to hyaluronic acid and absorbs moisture “like a sponge,” says Dr. Ilyas. Studies also show that glycerin mimics the skin’s natural moisturizing factor—a group of water-retaining molecules that maintain the skin’s moisture levels and protect from severe dryness.
  • Panthenol — While it’s more common to find panthenol in hair care products, it also boasts a number of skin benefits, including hydration. As a humectant, panthenol delivers moisture to the skin and at the same time, strengthens and seals its protective barrier, helping to reduce water loss.
  • Niacinamide — Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is a known anti-inflammatory ingredient that can help prevent irritation and reduce redness in sensitive, dry and stripped skin, explains Dr. Shainhouse. “It also helps to balance sebum production, which can sometimes go into overdrive in dry skin that is trying to ‘hydrate itself’ the only way it can,” she adds.
  • Botanical water/oil — Plant-based oils and extracts are loaded with soothing, skin-plumping nutrients and often have the added benefits of toning and balancing the skin. Despite their lightweight consistency, botanical waters and oils deliver intense hydration to the skin. In Asian skin care, botanical waters, which are often used as toners, are applied in multiple layers to boost moisture underneath the skin, resulting in a dewy “glass-like” visage.

How to Use Face Serums for Best Results

Starting with a clean base is key when using any skin care product, so it’s best to apply your serum after gently cleansing and toning your skin. “A serum should be the first thing you apply. If your skin is very dry and you’re looking to repair it quickly, layer a moisturizer right on top,” explains Dr. Ilyas. “Your moisturizer will seal it in and provide it with moisture to hold on to,” she adds.

It’s also important to make sure your serum doesn’t contain ingredients that may aggravate dry skin. Retinol and exfoliating acids, for example, are powerful anti-aging ingredients that can increase sensitivity on already parched skin, says Dr. Ilyas.

Best Face Serums and Boosters for Dry Skin

Ready to amp up your hydration game? Here are our top picks for best face serums and boosters for dry skin.

1. SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier

There are plenty of great reasons this ultra-potent face serum has hundreds of five-star reviews on Dermstore. With its powerful formula that features hyaluronic acid, proxylane, licorice root and purple rice, it improves texture, restores elasticity and increases the skin’s hyaluronic acid levels by 30 percent. One Dermstore shopper, who calls herself “a big believer in Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier,” says, “[This serum] keeps my skin hydrated and balanced. I continue to get compliments on my complexion and often share this secret.”

2. SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator

One of the best-reviewed serums on Dermstore, the HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator draws its skin-restoring and hydrating powers from hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and peptides. It provides up to eight hours of continuous hydration, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and protects skin from free radicals. No wonder one Dermstore customer says she was “blown away by the results,” adding, “It not only leaves my skin feeling amazing but it also works instantly. My skin is no longer dry or tight, and I get loads of compliments on how soft and dewy it appears.”

3. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum

It’s hard to top the intense hydration this serum delivers with its 75 percent hyaluronic acid formulation. Add sodium PCA, silk proteins and a mineral complex to that potent formula and you’ve got yourself a skin-smoothing and hydration powerhouse. It’s the “best dry skin repair,” says one Dermstore customer. “In less than two weeks, my skin looks less cracked from dryness.”

4. Avene Hydrance Intense Rehydrating Serum

Infused with a potent lipidic trio, this ultra-hydrating serum restores and strengthens the skin’s barrier to help seal in moisture and prevent water loss. It delivers up to 24 hours of hydration, smooths away dryness-related lines and soothes tightness and sensitivity. According to one Dermstore shopper, “It sinks into the skin fast, leaves no residue and is easy to use on top of or underneath other skin care products.”

5. PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum

This Cosmo Beauty awardee deserves all the rave reviews it continues to rack up! With its potent skin-perfecting formula that blends ceramides, niacinamide and a proprietary hyaluronic acid complex, it repairs and strengthens the skin’s natural barrier, plumps away fine lines and delivers up to 24 hours of hydration. It’s a game-changer, says one Dermstore customer, who adds, “I’ve been using this for one month, and it has tremendously helped the texture and tone of my skin.”

6. Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster

This intensely hydrating booster is formulated with hyaluronic acid, panthenol and algae extracts to alleviate all signs of dryness and dehydration. It minimizes the appearance of fine lines, repairs the skin’s barrier and softens and smooths the complexion. It’s the go-to winter serum of one Dermstore shopper, who says, “It’s the first concentrated moisture treatment I can use in the winter for dry areas that keeps my skin feeling supple all day.”

7. Caudalie S.O.S Thirst-Quenching Serum

There’s no dry skin emergency that this oil-free face serum can’t handle. In fact, one Dermstore reviewer claims, “This product saved my dehydrated skin last winter. It was only an added bonus that the scent is heavenly, very fresh and clean. I woke up each morning with my skin feeling and looking more balanced, hydrated and softer.” That shouldn’t be a surprise considering that its formula is infused with organic grape water, which restores moisture balance and has been clinically proven to increase hydration by a whopping 127 percent!

8. Thank You Farmer True Water Deep Serum

If you haven’t been initiated into the wonders of Korean skin care or K-beauty, then let this ultra-hydrating serum be your introduction. Featuring hyaluronic acid, licorice root and adenosine, it deeply soothes and moisturizes skin while promoting a brighter and more radiant complexion. According to one Dermstore shopper, this serum is not only “very hydrating and weightless,” it also “provided a moisturizing barrier for my sensitive skin.”

9. Bioderma Hydrabio Serum

With glycerin and niacinamide as its star ingredients, you know this serum takes hydration seriously. Ideal for dry and sensitive skin, it relieves signs of dehydration while restoring smoothness and radiance. “Dry patches are gone, and my skin is so smooth. I also love that it plays well with others if you add a booster,” says one Dermstore shopper.

Janeca Racho

With over 10 years of writing and editing experience, Janeca Racho has worked with clients in the fashion, entertainment, food, health and travel industries. An adventurer at heart, she will gladly trade her heels for ... Read More >

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