Let’s faceit, the term “serum” is a loaded one. There are hundreds — if not thousands — of different types on the market, which can make choosing a single dropper for your skincare routine quite a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.
At its core, a serum is usually a very viscous product that contains super concentrated amounts of an active ingredient, and those ingredients vary depending on the skin concern at hand. For example, vitamin C serums typically target scarring and hyperpigmentation, hyaluronic acid serums combat dryness and dehydration, and retinol serums work on fine lines and wrinkles — and that barely scratches the surface of what’s available. Not to mention, you can pay anywhere from $9 to $90 or more for one of these tinctures, so it’s important to educate yourself on what they’re all about.
To help narrow down your search for the perfect serum (or two), below is a list of who makes the best quality face serums and how much the best face serums cost — plus some testimonials from their biggest fans. You can buy these face serums at popular retailers like Sephora, Amazon, and Nordstrom.
Get your skin ready for slathering because after reading this, you’ll want to jump right into your skincare regimen.
Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
If you’ve ever spent time on skincare Instagram, you’ve likely heard of this widely acclaimed serum. It’s a pricier one, but thousands of people have deemed it worth the cost. It’s a vitamin C serum that has “antioxidant protective benefits,” per the product description, and helps combat scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles. Also, in combination with an SPF, it “helps neutralize free radicals induced by UVA/UVB, infrared radiation (IRA) and ozone pollution (O3).”
With 3,500 five-star reviews on Dermstore, the serum has reviewers praising its ability to brighten, tighten, and smooth. “This one actually works on reducing the discoloration,” one reviewer wrote. “It instantly rejuvenated my dull skin,” another added.
Best Budget: The Inkey List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum
Retinol is one of skincare’s pricier ingredients, so at just $10 for 1 percent concentration, this Inkey List serum is a steal. Its stabilized retinol releases slowly so as to not irritate the skin. Plus, the formula contains squalane, so it’s hydrating, too.
“Love this retinol! This is my first retinol and I think it’s a great starter retinol,” said a Sephora customer. “It feels very smooth and gentle on the skin. I’ve been using it for about three months now and have noticed a difference in my skin brightness and wrinkles.”
Truth Serum is a longtime fave in the way of vitamin C products, with more than 19,500 likes and a 4.5-star rating on Sephora. Vitamin C and collagen come together to brighten, encourage line reduction, and support the skin’s natural elasticity. It gets a hydrating boost from hyaluronic acid, which also aids in plumping wrinkles and awakening a dewy glow.
“I started noticing wrinkles on my forehead at age 21 and a beauty expert at Sephora recommended this to me,” a reviewer wrote. “Three years later at 24, I no longer have those wrinkles because of this product.” Another shared, “My skin looks better, dark spots are almost gone, and the hydration is much better.”
Best for Dry Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Liquid Gel Cloud Serum
With hyaluronic acid at its base, this hydrating serum from Peter Thomas Roth instantly quenches dryness while improving the overall health and appearance of your skin. It’s formulated with the brand’s 75 percent hyaluronic acid complex, which draws in water and locks it in to prevent future moisture loss. This also gives skin a visible plumping, helping to reduce the look of wrinkles and bumpy texture. Speaking of texture, the serum also features silk proteins to further enhance your skin’s smoothness and softness — hence the cloud part.
“This stuff is great,” an Ulta shopper raved. “It works to attract and retain hydration. I’ve tried everything to keep my skin hydrated. I live in the desert, and I have severely dry skin.” They added that “it’s like a time machine” for how well it softens wrinkles.
Best Anti-Aging: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment
Good Genes is a lactic acid-based exfoliating serum that leaves skin with a refined glow. Potent AHAs work in conjunction with licorice root, lemongrass, and arnica and prickly pear extracts to brighten, tone, and smooth skin, respectively. This powerful team of ingredients can be used to target enlarged pores, uneven texture, dark spots, and fine lines and wrinkles. For some, it acts as an effective skin plumper and tightener, as well as a remedy for breakouts and acne scarring.
“[I’ve] been a makeup artist for 15 years, I’m obsessed with this particular product because of its immediate results,” an Amazon shopper said. “It plumps the skin and gives it life.” Another wrote, “Daily use for a month or [so] has reduced lines, improved wrinkles and moistened skin.”
A plant-based formulation made to treat, hydrate, and protect, this serum is among Amazon’s top-rated serums overall. This vitamin C-rich pick boosts collagen, brightens away dullness, and delivers reparative antioxidants directly to the cells so that you can achieve more youthful-looking skin. But its vitamin C efficacy isn’t its only highlight: It’s free of synthetic color additives, fragrance, and stabilizers, instead consisting of aloe vera, botanical hyaluronic acid, witch hazel, and organic jojoba oil.
It has a whopping 10,855 five-star reviews from Amazon shoppers. One wrote, “With or without makeup, my skin is bright, smooth and my spots are disappearing.” Another chimed in: “Two weeks of using this serum, and my 17-year-old tells me I look like I am in my twenties rather than thirties. Fine lines are going away. Acne scars fading. Pigmentation evening out. Even my neck and jawline are smoother. Now my husband wants some for his ‘dad neck.'”
Shop now: $19 with coupon (Originally $30), amazon.com
Best With Hyaluronic Acid: PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum
This serum goes above and beyond to moisturize the skin with its dual-hyaluronic acid formula. Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid works to plump fine lines, and the brand’s HA-Pro Complex penetrates deep into the skin to promote 24-hour moisture retention. This advanced formulation also encourages the skin’s natural hyaluronic acid production, meaning less dryness and more dewiness. Ceramides and niacinamide are also present to strengthen the skin barrier and prevent future moisture loss.
“This is such a soothing, rich product that plumps and adds moisture as well as minimizes the appearance of lines and dryness,” shared one Dermstore reviewer. “This is a keeper and a facial care staple for certain.”
If you struggle with acne-prone skin, look no further than the iS Clinical Active Serum. It’s formulated with pore-clearing white willow bark extract (which is where acne all-star ingredient salicylic acid comes from) to remove breakout-causing dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. Instead of drying out your skin and causing irritation, it leaves behind a moisturizing blend of bilberry and sugar cane extracts. This effective exfoliation also makes this serum an excellent pick for addressing fine lines, uneven texture, and dark spots.
“Holy grail of skincare, almost as good as a retinol,” an Amazon reviewer shared. “Keeps breakouts at bay [and] heals existing ones. It also assists with smoothing out your complexion, just use it consistently and you will see results.”
Best for Oily Skin: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum
This little bottle of magic has earned a seal of approval from more than 3,000 Sephora customers. Its strategic niacinamide-zinc combo calms redness, controls oil, and makes pores appear smaller, translating to a shine-free, breakout-free, and noticeably more even complexion. And did we mention that it’s only $6?
“Oh, man, I am obsessed,” one Sephora reviewer said. “Within a week of using this product my skin was noticeably brighter, and after three weeks, my oil production is significantly lower and my acne scars are starting to fade.” Another remarked, “My Hoover Dam-sized pores have drastically reduced.”
Best Hydrating: Avène Hydrance Intense Rehydrating Serum
If hydration is your main concern, give this ultra-moisturizing serum a try. First stop on the hydration train is Avène’s thermal spring water, which instantly replenishes dry skin and relieves the irritation and tightness associated with it. Then, a trio of lipids binds the moisture to the cells to ensure retention and prevent dryness. They also play a role in improving the elasticity of the skin. What sets the Avène Hydrance Intense Rehydrating Serum apart from its counterparts is its delivery system; both ingredients are housed in hydrating microspheres that are time-released for maximum absorption and efficacy.
“This is a soothing, moisturizing serum-lotion that absorbs quickly and makes your skin go, ‘Ahhhhhhh,'” an Ulta reviewer said of the formula. “It is very lightweight and two dots cover the whole face. I put it on as my last step before makeup. Highly recommend if you have persistently dry skin or skin that appears dry.”
With more than 800 five-star ratings on Amazon, this SkinMedica serum is a worthy splurge. The TNS Essential Serum bottle is divided into two chambers that dispense two separate active formulas at once: One is a growth factor that “helps improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone and texture,” per its description, and the other is a blend of peptides, antioxidants, and other anti-aging ingredients that keep the skin firm and protected from free-radical damage. Since it’s designed to support your skin’s natural regeneration process, which occurs at night, it will be more effective in your evening routine. Plus it contains retinol, which causes the skin to become sensitive to the sun — further confirming its usage as a night serum.
“This is by far the best product on the market,” exclaimed a Dermstore shopper. “Instant results when applied; my skin looks plumper, fine lines are gone and it gives me an amazing glow. I cannot live without this serum. I’ve been using it for years. Pricey, but worth every penny.”
Naturally derived alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids make Herbivore’s serum a winner. It also contains rosewater to soothe and hydrate the skin for a well-balanced beam, and since these ingredients work to unclog pores and reduce their appearance, the serum’s a great pick for acne-prone and oily skin types, as well as those seeking a boost in brightness and smoothness. It comes in incredibly Instagram-ready packaging to boot.
“Seven days in and my pores are ‘smaller,’ skin is smoother and less textured, and yeah, genuinely glowing,” a Sephora shopper said. Another shared, “I’ve only been using this for a week and I already see such a difference. For the first time in years, I haven’t felt a need to wear foundation. My skin is glowing and it’s so smooth!”
Best for Sensitive Skin: Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum
Created with sensitive skin in mind, the Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum revives dry, stressed-out skin with its nourishing formula. It restores balance by blanketing the skin in continuous moisture, courtesy of hyaluronic acid, while organic grape water adds hydration ands soothes away irritation. It’s also formulated with grape polyphenols, which infuse the skin with antioxidants to counteract signs of premature aging.
“For me, this is an extra and necessary step to get amazing skin,” an Amazon customer said, noting that they have sensitive skin. “It makes my skin look refreshed… I get compliments all the time that I have a glow/shine on my face and I wear less makeup now because I really like my natural glow going on.”
Best Organic: Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum
22 active organic botanicals combined with essential oils are what’s in this serum with an impressive following. It contains phytonutrients and minerals to help balance skin, along with phytoceramides, nourishing fatty acids, and antioxidants to stimulate and brighten. These nourishing ingredients also boost hydration and strengthen the skin barrier, meaning fewer dry spots over time. Before you apply it, rub the serum in between your palms to activate it, then gently press it into your face, neck, and decolletage.
“It’s like a bottle of love for your skin,” a Nordstrom shopper wrote. “Hyperpigmentation? It fades dark spots. Acne? I haven’t had a zit since I started using it six months ago. Sensitive skin? I can now start using chemical exfoliates, which I’ve never been able to do. This stuff is amazing! It’s expensive, but I no longer need serums and oils and moisturizers — just this stuff.”
Acure Best Splurge: La Mer The Revitalizing Hydrating Serum Rejuvenating Serum Stick
As a brand, La Mer is a known celeb favorite, which may make it worth the splurge on its own. However, the Revitalizing Hydrating Serum is next level. According to its description, “tiny micro-droplets of The Deep Hydration Ferment — with an interactive blend of green, brown and red algae — are designed to penetrate rapidly, revitalizing deep within skin’s surface” to leave your skin freshly quenched.
Even professionals are blown away by its effectiveness. “As a licensed esthetician, this serum has the properties to keep the skin full of elasticity and hydration,” one Nordstrom review read. “I love how viscous and fluid this serum is on my skin. A great investment!”