Our favorite is Carrot & Stick The Hydrating Serum.
One of the best ways to take control of dry flaky skin on your face is to restore its hydration. Many people underestimate how much a lack of hydration and moisture can impact the appearance of your skin. Dry skin symptoms include dullness, flakiness, redness, and irritation, possibly leading to premature aging. It can also make people look older than their years.
A simple skincare routine consisting of cleansing, exfoliating, toning, and moisturizing is an excellent foundation for healthy skin. But, for those who have dry skin or are dealing with frustrating dry skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, adding a hydrating serum to your routine is a must. The best hydrating serums for dry skin can help restore moisture, get rid of dead skin cells, and give the skin a plumped, refreshed appearance.
Carrot & Stick The Hydrating Serum, $70
Formulyst Intense Hydrating Serum, $70
Serums Versus Moisturizers
A serum is a concentrate of active ingredients that target specific skin concerns — like dryness.
Despite sharing similar ingredients, serums can penetrate the skin on a deeper level than moisturizers because they’re made up of smaller molecules. The level of active ingredients is higher as well. For example, a moisturizer might be formulated with around ten percent active ingredients, whereas a serum can contain seventy-plus percent. Also, serums are water-based, while moisturizers and facial oils are oil or cream-based, which leads us to our next point.
In the skincare industry, the terms “hydration” and “moisture” are often used interchangeably. While both are essential for optimal skin health, they’re quite different from one another.
Hydration refers to the water content in the skin, while moisture relates to oils. When you use a serum, you’re adding water (hydration) to the skin. A moisturizer seals in all of the vital serum ingredients while providing (you guessed it) moisture. This dynamic duo ensures that the skin remains balanced.
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What Causes Dry Skin?
The skin naturally produces oil (sebum), and an overproduction can cause excessively oily skin and breakouts. When not enough oil is created by the body, the skin becomes dry, characterized as itchy, flaky, bumpy, and even red scaly patches may pop up. Dehydrated skin is lacking water, so it appears rough and dull. Potential causes of dry or dehydrated skin include:
- Excessive sun exposure
- Dry air
- Cold weather
- Overwashing the skin
- Using the wrong skincare products
- An unbalanced skin pH
- Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis
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What is The Best Way to Apply Face Serum?
The best way to apply a serum is immediately after cleansing (and toning if you use a toner or essence in your routine) and right before your moisturizer. As mentioned, a serum is a hydrator, so its function is to add water. If you were to put it on after your moisturizer, it wouldn’t penetrate the skin. The easiest way to remember this simple rule is to apply your products from the lightest consistency to the heaviest.
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The 15 Best Hydrating Face Serums
Carrot & Stick The Hydrating Serum, $70
This intensely hydrating serum contains both high and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid. These two forms continuously draw water to the skin’s surface and lock it in.
Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80
Carrot & Stick’s hyaluronic serum visibly lifts, tightens, and firms while defending against damaging free radicals. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin E deliver an instant boost of hydration, while a blend of synthesized growth factors encourages elasticity, cell turnover, and nutrient absorption to support revitalization.
Seven plant-based neuropeptides enhance the skin’s structural integrity from the inside out, promoting smoother, more resilient-looking skin. Finally, soothing and brightening botanicals impart an ageless glow.
Formulyst Intense Hydrating Serum, $70
Think of Formulyst’s Hydrating Serum as a long, cool drink of water for your face. The lightweight serum sinks into the skin and is loaded with good-for-you ingredients such as antioxidants and moisture magnets like hyaluronic acid and glycerin — Provitamin B5 and microbiome repair complex work to plump up fine lines and leave skin smooth and supple.
Deep Science Hydrating Serum, $60
This serum rejuvenates dry skin with the most efficient skin hydrators. It contains hyaluronic acid-filled spheres and squalane to boost hydration levels support. Squalane replicates the benefits of skin’s natural moisturizers byforming a transparent barrier that locks moisture into the skin.
SkinCeuticals Hydrating b5 Gel, $83
This gel-based formula restores hydration that has been lost due to aging skin. It’s one of the best hydrating serums for dry and mature skin types due to its ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and increase firmness and elasticity. A significant concentration of hyaluronic acid helps to attract and retain moisture to the skin, while vitamin B5 adds moisture and stimulates healing.
Peter Thomas Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum, $52
For those with extremely dehydrated skin, a simple hyaluronic acid serum won’t do. For that reason, this formula is an excellent choice for extra dry skin because it contains a potent 30% HA complex made up of three different molecular sizes of HA. There are two other star ingredients: ProHyal+ (a natural form of hyaluronic acid-based on a high concentration in yeast oligosaccharides) and a 1% Pentavitin formulation that studies show keeps the skin hydrated for 72 hours.
CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $19.99
Developed along with dermatologists, this refreshing gel-cream serum is packed with three essential ceramides, vitamin B5, and their highest hyaluronic acid concentration to replenish and restore the skin immediately. Fine lines and wrinkles immediately seem less visible due to their skin-plumping effect.
Related: Best Niacinamide Serums
SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, $178
The more dry mature skin is, the more prominent fine lines and wrinkles become. This serum is fortified with five different HA and skin-plumping peptides to intensely hydrate, smooth, and soften the signs of age — immediately and over time.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80
As you may have already noticed, the best serum for dry skin is one that contains hyaluronic acid — especially if it’s formulated with a variety of low-, medium-, and high-molecular-weight HA, such as this version from The Ordinary. It also contains a cutting-edge HA crosspolymer at a concentration of 2% and vitamin B5 for optimal, deep-level hydration. While this budget buy is effective, sister brand NIOD offers a more advanced serum (Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex, $35) developed with 15 forms of HA.
Strivectin Advanced Hydration Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturing Serum, $79
As the name suggests, this formula is considered the best serum for dry skin because it also addresses exfoliation, one of the keys to achieving a supple, plump complexion. Alpha-hydroxy acids, vegan lactic acid, blue cypress oil, and an advanced youth-boosting Nonapeptide boost the skin’s natural moisturizing factors while improving skin tone and texture.
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First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Serum, $38
As the name suggests, this serum comes to the rescue for sensitized, irritated skin regardless of type. Hyaluronic acid supports the skin’s hydration levels, colloidal oatmeal and aloe leaf juice soothe, and peptides soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It only takes a few applications to start to notice a less irritated and more hydrated complexion.
PCA Skin Hydrating Serum, $92
This hydrating serum is formulated with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid, skin-soothing aloe vera extract, and collagen-boosting fructose to revitalize a dull and lackluster complexion due to dehydration. Immediately and over time, dry skin on the face becomes a thing of the past.
Vichy Aqualia Thermal Dynamic Hydration Power Serum, $36
Hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, plant sugar, and mineral-rich volcanic water work together to provide even the thirstiest of complexions with 48 hours’ worth of hydration while stimulating collagen production. The addition of citric acid allows for a more targeted approach to hydrating dry spots while decreasing fine lines and wrinkles.
Avène Hydrance Intense Rehydrating Serum, $38
The highlight of this serum is that it promises to provide hydration for an impressive 24 hours, thanks to a patented lipidic trio that helps prevent water loss. Fun fact: Thermal spring water has been clinically proven to soothe, soften, and calm — even irritations such as eczema dry skin.
Related: Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $23.99
Perhaps the best drugstore face serum for dry skin is this one formulated with Neutrogena’s 17% Hydration Complex made up of high and low weight hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and trehalose to attract moisture and seal it in. All skin types will feel weightlessly hydrated for a full 24 hours.
Doctor Babor Moisture Glow Serum, $59
Lightweight yet deeply moisturizing, this serum provides immediate hydration, thanks to pre-and probiotics, red maple bark extract, aloe vera, and hyaluronic acid. Over 95% of the naturally derived ingredients are vegan, so it’s as clean as it is high-performing. The result is balanced, glowing, hydrated skin.
Phyto C Signature Serum, $275
A proprietary IMPA complex and a high molecular weight hyaluronic acid rapidly hydrate even the thirstiest of complexions while reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin perfections over time. The skin is left visibly revived, and skin texture becomes improved. It’s one of the most potent and most premium serums Phyto C offers.
M-61 Hydraboost HA Serum Pads, $68
Don’t let your travel plans be an excuse not to maintain your skincare routine. In fact, from dehydration due to air travel, excess sun exposure, or too much imbibing poolside, hyaluronic acid is a must-have item in your toiletry kit because your skin is drier than ever. M-61’s genius serum pads have all the benefits of triple-action HA, peptides, and vitamins B3 and E, and Centella Asiatica, but in the convenience of a light-weight pad that hydrates for up to 48 hours.
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Best Serum for Dry Skin: The Bottom Line
One of the best ways to take control of dry, flaky skin on your face is to restore its hydration. Dry skin symptoms include dullness, flakiness, redness, and irritation, possibly leading to premature aging. It can also make people look older than their years. For those who have dry skin or are dealing with frustrating dry skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, adding a hydrating serum to your routine is a must.
When the skin doesn’t produce enough oil, it becomes dry, characterized as itchy, flaky, bumpy, and even red scaly patches may pop up. Dehydrated skin is lacking water, so it appears rough and dull. A serum is a concentrate of active ingredients that target specific skin concerns — like dryness. Despite sharing similar ingredients, serums can penetrate the skin on a deeper level than moisturizers because they’re made up of smaller molecules. The best hydrating serums for dry skin can help restore moisture, get rid of dead skin cells, and give the skin a plumped, refreshed appearance.