What Are Face Serums and How to Choose the Right One for You

BY Gracee Tolentino · January 16, 2017

sunday riley good genes texture shot

In skin care, face serums are used as potent enhancements to many regimens. These products are formulated with greater amounts of active ingredients, and because they are generally lighter than your traditional face creams, they can penetrate your skin deeper to truly make a difference. Typically applied daily as the last step before moisturizing your skin, these products are versatile and can be used in numerous ways: They can be added to moisturizers, night creams and masks to enhance their potency, used as a spot treatment for problem areas, or utilized as a stand-alone hydrating gel for oily skin. With continued use, serums offer visible results that may not be realized with most creams and lotions alone. There truly are serums for every skin condition. Here are just some of them.


The best anti-aging face serums out there feature ingredients that speed up cell turnover, boost collagen production and improve your skin’s elasticity. Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, help fight free-radical damage that leads to premature aging. Some also offer skin-firming benefits, making lines and pores less visible.

Key Ingredients: Retinol, antioxidants, peptides, stem cells and growth factors

Try: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum


Depending on the active ingredient, brightening serums work by either inhibiting some steps along the melanin pathway (different ingredients inhibit different steps along the pathway, not just production) or by accelerating cell renewal, improving skin tone and texture and illuminating a dull complexion.

Key Ingredients: Hydroquinone, vitamin C, arbutin, kojic acid, licorice extract, niacinamide and alpha hydroxy acids

Try: iS Clinical White Lightening Serum


Hydrating serums offer a two-pronged approach to restoring your skin’s moisture level. First, they repair your skin barrier to prevent moisture loss. Then they bind and seal moisture to your skin. Use this to boost the effects of your moisturizer, or try it alone if you have oily skin.

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, essential fatty acids, vitamin B-5, glycerin and essential oils

Try: SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel


Designed to reduce redness, itch and burning sensations usually associated with reactive or intolerant skin, calming serums are generally mild, formulated with natural anti-inflammatory ingredients and without potential irritants.

Key Ingredients: Chamomile, lavender, aloe, arnica and calendula

Try: Eminence Calm Skin Arnica Booster-Serum

FOR DARK SPOTS AND LARGE PORES: Radiance-Boosting Serums

For those of us who desire ”good genes,” Sunday Riley offers a stellar solution that gives you just that. Enhanced by ingredients like aloe, lemongrass and licorice, this multitasking product gives you a more even complexion while reducing the appearance of fine lines, hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. And when used daily, this multipurpose lactic acid treatment gives you smoother, more radiant skin, so get ready to receive endless compliments.

Key Ingredients: 5% lactic acid, licorice, lemongrass and aloe

Try: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment

Gracee Tolentino

Gracee Tolentino is the managing editor of the Dermstore Blog. After spending 10 years of her writing and editing career working in the travel and food industries, she finally found her true calling: beauty, health and wellness. In her spare time ... Read More >

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