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

BY Jessie Quinn · January 7, 2020

face serums group 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 standalone hydrating gel for oily skin. With continued use, serums offer visible results that may not be realized with most creams and lotions alone. Crafted to target common skin concerns, here are some of our top face serums to try.


The best anti-aging face serums out there feature ingredients that speed up cell turnover 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 and stem cells

Try: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

FOR LOSS OF FIRMNESS: Collagen-Boosting Serum

For skin that’s lost its resilience, reach for a collagen-boosting serum that features the restorative properties of peptides. Known for its ability to refine tone and texture, peptides also improve firmness and elasticity, unveiling a revitalized complexion.

Key Ingredients: Peptides, human growth factors, sodium hyaluronate and glutamine



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: Vitamin C, arbutin, kojic acid, licorice extract and alpha hydroxy acids

Try: iS Clinical White Lightening Serum

FOR DRY SKIN: Hydrating Serums

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, ceramides and niacinamide

Try: PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum


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

Key Ingredients: Herbal extracts, chamomile, aloe and calendula

Try: SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Gel

FOR DARK SPOTS AND LARGE PORES: Radiance-Boosting Serums

Enhanced by ingredients like aloe, lemongrass and licorice, a radiance-boosting serum gives you a more even complexion while reducing the appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation. And when used daily, a multipurpose lactic acid treatment gives you smoother, more radiant skin, so get ready to receive endless compliments.

Key Ingredients: Lactic acid, licorice, lemongrass and aloe vera

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

Jessica Quinn | Dermstore Blog

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is a writer and editor with work published in NYLON Magazine, StyleCaster.com, Girlboss.com, Marvel.com, and more. She is a graduate of Academy of Art University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Journa... Read More >

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