It’s impossible to pick a single best face serum because no two guys have the exact same skin care needs—it makes sense that no two of us should have the exact same skincare regimen. Sure, there’s a reliable baseline regimen that should be in place for everyone, but we all need to build our own unique steps on top of that foundation—to target whichever unique hurdles our own skin faces (like acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, irritation, inflammation, rough texture, and so on).
Serums are one of the best ways to add some customization to your skincare routine. If you are acne-prone, for example, a good salicylic acid serum (applied 2-3x weekly) might help mitigate the matter. Someone with dry skin will benefit tremendously from a hyaluronic acid serum, used in hot, humid months. Dull, tired skin can be reversed with Vitamin C serum applied each morning. The list goes on.
Applied after you wash your face and before moisturizing, serums typically seep into the skin as opposed to resorting atop the outermost layer (like a moisturizer does). As such, they work on the skin from deep within, helping to play a long game with your skincare regimen. Serums are chock full of whichever nutrients are needed to target your skin conditions, and usually a drop or two goes a long way—so don’t be put off my 1-oz. vials that cost twice that of your moisturizer. After continued use (typically a few months), you should see drastic changes to your overall complexion.
Below are the 11 contenders for the title of best face serum, each with its own hero ingredient to target a specific skin concern.
Best Hydrating Serum
This gel serum uses everyone’s favorite hydrating ingredient, the ultra-absorbent hyaluronic acid, to attract moisture into the skin. It doubly hydrates with Vitamin B5, which also helps expedite the healing of any acne marks or blemish scars.
Best Brightening Serum
Use this Vitamin C serum every morning to harness its ascorbic acid and in turn promote brighter, more radiant complexion. It’s one of those products you didn’t know you were missing, until the compliments start rolling in on how healthy your skin looks.
Best Pore-Clearing Serum
This serum combines the pore-clearing powers of salicylic acid with the anti inflammatory qualities of zinc to help prevent and treat breakouts. People with acne-prone skin will appreciate a two or three-times weekly use of this, to help mitigate oil production and keep dead skin cells and bacteria out of your pores.
Best Texture-Smoothing Serum
The good doctor is at it again with this brand-new rejuvenating serum. He uses both retinol and its herbal, skin-smoothing counterpart, bakuchiol—in addition to hydrators like hyaluronic acid and squalane, plus antioxidant-rich ferulic acid. Apply it before bed to wake up with smoother, tauter, glowier complexion, and use it continually to firm fine lines and prevent breakouts. It’s smooth sailing ahead.
Best Firming Serum
This carefully balanced serum is foremost steered by retinol, to help reduce and thwart signs of aging (like wrinkles, rough texture, and dark spots). It adds various lipids to the mix—as in, some ceramides and soybean oil—to help counter any irritating side effects of said retinol, while also hydrating and firming dry or aging skin. It’s a terrific winter serum, for use opposite your seasonal warm-weather/humid-climate hyaluronic acid serum. (Since the latter should be avoided when the air is too dry.)
Best Antioxidant Serum
One of the best general serums your money can buy, Schwanen Garten’s antioxidant serum does far more than simply block the skin-aging effects of pollution and toxins. It uses niacinamide to smooth skin, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, the antioxidant-rich centella asiatica to soothe and calm.
Best Toning / Balancing Serum
Xuyoni’s refillable serum pumps are a draw in and of themselves, and this Synergy serum is both a toner and skin balancer. It helps reset your skin’s pH levels to their stablest state, which in turn keeps skin from becoming too irritated or dry.
Best SPF Serum
if you aren’t using an SPF moisturizer, then apply this SPF serum daily beneath your standard-fare hydrator. It provides SPF 50 broad-spectrum coverage while absorbing quickly into the skin. It also uses Vitamin C to brighten skin and ceramides to firm and plump. It’s terrific for acne-prone skin as well as a base SPF layer for makeup and concealer wearers.
Best Cooling + Calming Serum
Fueled by oats, botanical extracts, primrose oil, hyaluronic acid, collagen, and peptides, this serum nourishes and soothes easily or freshly irritated skin, and positions it for quick recovery. Use it after shaving, or following a day in the sun, or whenever your skin needs a splash of calm.
Best Eye Serum
Copper peptides keep the skin around eyes firm and taut, which in turn prevents crow’s feet as well as sagging and puffiness (the latter two are caused by lack of resilience which allows the fat deposits under the eyes to droop down). Meanwhile, black tea ferment helps keep your delicate skin smooth and bright.
Best Custom Serum
Atolla customers complete a survey to determine which custom ingredients should be put into their unique serum recipe. So, not only do you get a product that targets more than one condition (since most of us want to prioritize multiple things with our skincare regimen), but Atolla is also more affordable than most retail serums. It’s a great starting point for first-time serum users.