The 19 Best Serums for Glowing Skin

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

08.31.21DISCLAIMER
Best bet. The Carrot & Stick skincare bundle worth up to $240 for $88. Details below

Luminous, glowing skin is a desirable trait that most of us wish to achieve. However, maintaining such vibrancy isn’t always easy to accomplish — especially as we get older. While lifestyle habits can make a big difference, so can the best serum for glowing skin. 

There are numerous glowing skin products on the market. Still, even a glowing skin cream formulated with ingredients like pearl powder can’t replace the immediate and cumulative effects a face serum for glowing skin can provide. 

Even so, it’s important to point out that healthy, luminous skin does not mean perfect skin — that’s impossible for anyone to attain. You can still achieve glowing skin even if you have fine lines and wrinkles, large pores, and occasional blemishes, providing you’re taking care of it from the inside out. 

Along with daily habits, a skincare routine that includes the best products for glowing skin, such as a glow serum, can help you achieve a vibrant complexion. 

If you’re not sure what to look for in a face glow serum, we’ve got you covered. Here at Deep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products under a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a regimen that’s safe and effective. 

Ahead, 19 of the best serums for glowing skin to make it a bit easier for you to achieve a healthy-looking complexion — even after those sleepless nights. 

Best Serum for Glowing Skin: The List 

BEST OVERALL

BEST: Carrot & Stick Defence Serum

Best bet. The Carrot & Stick skincare bundle worth up to $240 for $88. Select 3 products, including our favorite Carrot & Stick Defence Serum. Use code DERM20 for 20% off.

FULL LIST

Formulyst Active Serum Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic + Niacinamide

OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum 

Murad Vitamin C Glycolic Brightening Serum

Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Serum

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten and Firm Vitamin C Serum

Tula Skincare Hello Radiance Illuminating Serum

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHAs

Skin Better Science Even Tone Correcting Serum

Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum

Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum

Urban Skin Rx, Super C Brightening Serum

House of Gro AFTER DARK Anti-Aging Night Serum

BL+ The Serum

What to Look for in a Glow Serum

According to MacLeman, “for glowing skin, ingredients like L-ascorbic acid, retinol, hydroxy acids, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin are all good options. “Retinol, vitamin C, and hydroxy acids help improve the appearance of dull skin by exfoliating or supporting the skin’s natural functioning. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin work by increasing the skin’s water content, giving your skin that dewy, glowy appearance.”

 

Best Ingredients for Glowing Skin

  • Retinol
    Derived from vitamin A, retinol is the gold-standard ingredient for the best serum for glowing skin. It encourages skin cell turnover, which means skin looks smoother and firmer. While most glow skincare products work on a topical level at the epidermis, retinol works at a cellular level. 

What does that mean? Retinol penetrates deep into the dermis, speeding up cell turnover and stimulating collagen production to help your body generate smoother, plumper, revitalized skin. Not only does retinol help new wrinkles from forming, but it also treats the ones you already have, making it a vital ingredient in the best serum for glowing skin.

  • Hyaluronic Acid
    Hyaluronic acid is an aqueous substance that our bodies produce naturally to help maintain the skin’s moisture. We produce less HA as we age, increasing dryness, fine lines, and wrinkles. For this reason, hyaluronic acid is incredibly beneficial in glowing skin products. 

As it’s a humectant, it can hold over 1,000 times its weight in water, so it’s safe to say it’s a super-hydrator of epic proportions — and an excellent addition to the best serum for glowing skin.

  • Vitamin C
    While several antioxidants have a glow effect on the skin, vitamin C tops the list. It protects your skin from elements like the sun (though it is not a replacement for sunscreen), pollution, and cigarette smoke. 

Vitamin C also discourages melanin production in the skin, which helps with discoloration and increases radiance. It’s a popular ingredient in a face glow serum.

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids
    Alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble acids derived from fruits with high sugar content. AHAs are derived from fruit acids that dissolve dead skin cells and produce a peeling action that helps promote glowing skin.
  • Glycerin

Glycerin hydrates, protects against moisture loss, replenishes the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF), heals, and has a plumping effect, all of which contribute to glowing skin. 

Best Serums For Glowing Skin

BEST OVERALL

BEST: Carrot & Stick Defence Serum
Packed with antioxidants, this revitalizing serum helps promote collagen production and visibly brightens skin. Three distinct vitamin C derivatives work together to fight visible free radical damage and enhance cellular longevity. Regular use transforms dull, uneven-looking skin into clear, radiant beauty.

FULL LIST

Formulyst  Active Serum Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic + Niacinamide
This potent serum contains the highest concentration of pure vitamins C (20%), B, and E, ferulic acid (an antioxidant that works to boost the effects of other antioxidants.) Additionally,  niacinamide — one of two primary forms of vitamin B3 — helps manage acne, rosacea, and pigmentation issues while softening wrinkles and imparting a healthy glowing complexion.

OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum
The brand’s cult-favorite Banana Bright Eye Cream pairs perfectly with this supercharged serum that, along with hyaluronic acid for hydration, contains 15% vitamin C to brighten and energize. Vitamin E nourishes while exfoliating polyhydroxy acids promotes a more even glowing skin tone. 

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid
This dermatologist-recommended serum has won copious awards, features patented ingredients, and continues to be a consumer favorite all over the world. While the medicinal smell puts some off, it dissipates almost instantaneously. What that scent is telling you is that you’re applying pure vitamin C (15%), vitamin E (1%), and ferulic acid (.5%) that’s working hard to neutralize free radicals in just 4-5 drops each morning. It’s the ultimate glow serum for the face.

Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum
Don’t be fooled by the cheeky packaging. There are three potent forms of vitamin C (22% Pineapple Juice, pure Ascorbic acid, and stable 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic acid) to combat acne scars and hyperpigmentation. Skin-soothing aloe and chamomile ensure that the skin gets that “from within” looking glow minus any irritation. 

Murad Vitamin C Glycolic Serum
This unique serum harnesses the power of gold-stabilized vitamin c and glycolic acid to provide optimal glowing skin results — 83% of users noticed a difference in four weeks. Vitamin C also helps with uneven skin tone while the glycolic acid increases cell turnover, removes dead skin cells, and promotes a smooth and radiant, glowing complexion. This formula has no fragrances or artificial colors, so it’s suitable for all skin types.

Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Serum
This serum is one of the brand’s best-selling products — and with good reason. It’s formulated with Bifidus prebiotic, vitamin Cg, and hyaluronic acid to visibly smooth, hydrate, even out skin texture. Used morning and night, it helps strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier to defend against environmental aggressors. The skin’s radiance improves in just one week, and fine lines and wrinkles are reduced after one bottle. 

Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten and Firm Vitamin C Serum
While technically vitamin C is vital for collagen synthesis, this serum takes it to another level with the addition of collagen amino acids. There are also lactic and mandelic (a form of alpha hydroxy acid) acids to dissolve dead skin cells and a proprietary Energy Complex (CoQ10, superoxide dismutase, carnitine, and niacinamide) to boost radiance and improve the overall look of the skin.

Tula Skincare Hello Radiance Illuminating Serum
This popular serum gives the skin a noticeable from-within glow every day. It’s formulated with light-reflecting pearlescence to instantly illuminate the skin, while Japanese mandarin brightens lackluster skin over time. Additionally, rice peptides firm, and prebiotic and probiotic extracts balance and nourish. 

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHAs
The bottle may be beautiful, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Suitable for all skin types, this lightweight serum combines 20% vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, and mild fruit acids to increase cell turnover and gently exfoliate the skin while imparting a healthy glow. The addition of Japanese beautyberry helps boost the effectiveness of vitamin C while helping to stabilize the formula. 

Skin Better Science Even Tone Correcting Serum
A hydroquinone-free serum that brightens and evens the appearance of skin tone thanks to ingredients like alpha arbutin and hexylresorcinol. Both of these ingredients improve hyperpigmentation through inhibition of tyrosinase. There are also hydrating ingredients such as hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid and bisabolol to encourage a healthy glow.

Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum
Key ingredients include two alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs): glycolic and lactic acid. AHAs exfoliate the skin by enhancing the breakdown of dead skin cells and increasing the rate of cellular turnover, which leads to smoother, brighter skin and a more even complexion. 

Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum
This skin-perfecting serum retexturizes and smooths and reveals a visibly brighter, more radiant complexion. It contains three forms of vitamin C — ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid — for enhanced stability. Vitamin C brightens uneven skin tone while diminishing the look of fine lines. Sodium hyaluronate and collagen combine to moisturize and smooth, resulting in skin that appears luminous and glowing.

Urban Skin Rx, Super C Brightening Serum
Urban Skin Rx is known for developing results-driven products that visibly brighten the skin. This particular serum is part of the brand’s luxury collection of professional-strength formulas (initially developed for estheticians to use at their first medical spa) that target hyperpigmentation and dullness. A combination of 20% L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), ferulic acid, and kojic acid work synergistically to promote a healthy, glowing complexion.

House of Gro AFTER DARK Anti-Aging Night Serum
As the name suggests this intensely hydrating serum works overtime while you’re sleeping, delivering fresh, glowing skin upon waking up. Chaga, organic full-spectrum cannabidiol, and a cocktail of antioxidants visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while protecting the skin against environmental aggressors. 

BL+ The Serum
This three-in-one super serum harnesses the power of vitamin C, three forms of hyaluronic acid, and a proprietary BL+ Complex to brighten, moisturize, and protect the skin visibly. Over time, the skin becomes stronger, firmer, and deeply hydrated on a cellular level, resulting in a healthy, glowing complexion. The formula is oil- and fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and has been dermatologically tested. 

Best Serum for Glowing Skin: The Bottom Line

Our favorite serum for glow skin is Carrot & Stick Defence Serum.

Glowing skin can be described as different things to different people, but generally, it refers to healthy and awake skin versus dull and dry skin. 

Even so, it’s important to point out that healthy skin does not mean perfect skin — that’s impossible for anyone to attain. You can still have glowing skin even if you have fine lines and wrinkles, large pores, and occasional blemishes, providing you’re taking care of it from the inside out. 

A face glow serum can help promote a healthy complexion. Look for ingredients such as L-ascorbic acid, retinol, vitamin C, hydroxy acids, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. 

Just remember that if you’re not making crucial lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, managing your stress levels, or skipping out on moisturizer and SPF, even the best serum for glowing skin won’t make much of a difference. 

What’s the best serum for glowing skin, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.

FAQs
“Serums are a great way of introducing some extra key ingredients, antioxidants, hydration, or targeted ingredients into your routine without adding heavy, moisturizing products,” says Elle MacLeman, biochemist, skincare specialist, and head technical writer for The Derm Review. “Serums are designed to do a little more of the heavy lifting in your routine. However, keep in mind that serums vary significantly in quality and efficacy.”
No. Even though many serums are formulated with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, that doesn’t mean they can replace your moisturizer in the traditional sense. Face lotions and creams are more decadent and create a barrier on top of the skin to seal in the benefits of a serum.
“Straight answer, no,” says MacLeman. “Day and night serums are more of a marketing tool than anything else. While it is true that some key ingredients, such as retinol, are better to use at night, the idea of having a day and night serum isn’t necessary. It is best to choose your serums based on the needs of your skin.”
Fruits rich in vitamins A, C, B1, K; flavonoids, polyphenolics, beta-carotene, and xanthophy; and other antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are best for glowing skin. For example, oranges, lemons, apples, watermelon, mangos, strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranate, to name a few.
As with any skincare product, avoid potentially harmful ingredients like sulfates, parabens, phthalates, synthetic colors and fragrances, triclosan, toluene, talc, etc.
Around the age of 20, the skin begins to reduce the production of essential elastin and collagen. You’ll have to continuously adjust your glow serum with age to address more noticeable skin changes and concerns.

While you can’t fight chronological age, here’s the thing: Even the best serum for glowing skin can’t make up for poor lifestyle habits. Consider the following.

Intrinsic (Chronological) Age
If you’re over the age of 30, dull skin begins to surface. Your skin naturally exfoliates approximately every 27 days, resulting in a fresh, youthful complexion when you’re younger. When you’re older, the period is extended, which is why regular exfoliation (chemical or physical) and glow serums are essential.

While you can’t control the aging process, you can adopt a skincare routine that helps provide your skin with the nourishment and hydration it needs to stay healthy, vibrant, and glowing.

Dehydration
When your body is dehydrated, it affects your entire body — including the skin, the body’s largest organ. Studies have found that drinking enough water is linked to having healthy skin. According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men should drink approximately 3.7 liters and women 2.7 liters. Limit your intake of caffeine as it zaps the body of water.

Alcohol is even more destructive because it causes oxidative stress that leads to premature aging. Also, fill up on watery fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, melon, celery, etc.

Not Using a Moisturizer
A serum does not replace a moisturizer.

Skimping on moisturizer, especially if your skin tends to be dry, can affect the health and vitality of your skin. Use a moisturizer twice a day to help hydrate, protect, and seal in your serum.

Skipping SPF — Daily
The sun is responsible for 90% of the visible changes to the skin, so something as simple as making sunscreen a regular part of your routine can significantly impact the development of marionette lines.

Remember, you still need to protect your skin on cloudy days too. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that, even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays can penetrate the skin.

Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep can stand between you and glowing skin because it’s the crucial period during the 24-hour cycle that your skin regenerates and repairs itself. Depriving yourself of this process can lead to dry, lackluster skin. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night, which should be accompanied by a solid skincare routine — including the best serum for glowing skin.

A Poor Diet
Adopt a healthy diet with anti-inflammatory foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables; fish; healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, and omega-3 fatty acids (a key to glowing skin); and whole grains. Stay away from salty and sugary processed foods. Along with being unhealthy, they promote fluid retention and are significant culprits of dull skin.

Smoking
The nicotine in cigarettes causes the blood vessels to constrict in the outer layers of the skin, impairing blood flow. Decreased blood flow means your skin isn’t getting as much oxygen or vital nutrients like vitamin A.

Stress
According to Dr. F. Clarissa Yang, Chief of Dermatology at Tufts Medical Center, “Mental stress or anxiety can result in physical manifestations, such as deeper wrinkles or frown lines. Stress increases cortisol levels, which speeds up the aging process.” Carve out a few minutes each day to de-stress by engaging in an aromatherapy bath, mindful breathing, a yoga session, or meditation.

You’re investing in the best serum for glowing skin, so you want to get the most out of it, right?

Cleanse Thoroughly: While it should go without saying, start with a clean canvas before applying your serum. After washing your face, rinse with tepid — not hot or cold water. Hot water could inhibit the absorption of the serum, while cold water will close pores, making it more difficult to penetrate.
If you don’t typically wash your face in the morning (and assuming you don’t sleep with your makeup on), at least make sure you’re sweeping a cotton pad saturated with micellar water, essence, or toner suitable for your skin type.

The Damp Skin Debate: Many experts say that applying a face serum for glowing skin to damp skin can increase its efficiency up to ten times. While this is true, this rule does not apply to all ingredients like actives such as vitamin C, retinol, and exfoliating acids — all of which can be found in many glow serum formulas.

Less is More: Since glow serums are super concentrated, you only need a few drops — no more than the total size of one pea — for your entire face and neck. Any more product and it’s a waste of your money. Press the serum into your skin with an open palm to release active ingredients.
Wait to Moisturize: Yes, you need a face glow serum and a moisturizer, but wait until your serum fully absorbs (about two to three minutes) before moisturizing. A well-formulated serum for aging skin will absorb quickly into your skin. If it leaves an oily or sticky residue, it’s not doing its job.

Sources:
Dietary Water Affects Human Skin Hydration and Biomechanics,” Dovepress, May 2015.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating,” Mayo Clinic.
Photoaging: What You Need to Know About the Other Kind of Aging,” Skin Cancer Foundation, January 2019.
Sunscreen FAQs,” American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Smoking: Does it Cause Wrinkles,” Mayo Clinic.
Gray Hair and Wrinkles,” Tufts Medical Center, March 2019.
Effect of Vitamin C and Its Derivatives on Collagen Synthesis and Cross-Linking by Normal Human Fibroblasts,” National Library of Medicine. 

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