Best Face Serums of 2021 - The Dermatology Review

Best Face Serums of 2021



If you were going to splurge on one item in your beauty arsenal, you’d be wise to make it your serum. Why a serum? They’re the workhorses of any skincare routine. No matter what skin issue you’re trying to address, from anti-aging to acne or you just want perfectly glowing skin, there’s a serum that can help. Here’s a look at what exactly is a serum and what they can do, and our top picks of the best serums of 2021.

What is A Serum?

A serum is a highly concentrated liquid that delivers a big dose of nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants to the skin. Most serums are water based and have a thin consistency although some are oil based. Because serums are highly concentrated, they can deliver a big dose of good-for-you ingredients that penetrate deeply into the skin.

There are serums designed for every skin type and condition, and at every price point from wallet friendly drugstore buys to luxury brands, but the most important thing to do is choose the right serum for your skin. Depending on your skincare needs, you may need a daytime serum in addition to a night serum.

Serums do tend to be pricey but they last for a long time; if you break down a bottle into a per use cost, the sticker shock is softened. Another way to think about the price is that serums are highly potent so you’re getting a lot of ingredients for your money.

How to Apply A Serum

Serums need to be applied in a specific way. They should be applied after cleansing but before moisturizer. They should not be rubbed into the face like a cream. Instead, they should be patted or pressed into the face. After applying the serum, let it sink into the skin and get absorbed before moving on to the next step in your routine.

What Can A Serum Do?

Different serums can do different things, and there’s a serum for just about every skin type and concern. Many of them are multi-taskers, addressing more than one skin issue, but they can help with anti-aging, dryness, fine lines, protection and acne. They’re suitable for any age but can be especially helpful for anti-aging and prevention. In a news release from the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Lauren Eckert Ploch, suggests that women in their 30s use “a light antioxidant serum to protect their skin from the elements and improve signs of early skin aging.

Ingredients to Look for in a Serum

What to look for in a serum will largely depend on your skin concerns but if you’re on a mission to get glowing skin, a serum can help. Anyone with dry skin should look for moisturizing hyaluronic acid, which can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, and glycerin, a humectant. Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect the skin, and niacinamide, another moisture booster, can also help thirsty skin. Dull skin can benefit from a dose of vitamin C, a skin brightener, as well as glycolic acid, which helps to gently exfoliate the skin. For anti-aging concerns, look for retinol, which encourages cell turnover, along with peptides. Acne prone skin can benefit from a dose of salicylic acid, which helps unclog prone, along with retinol.

What Are the Best Serums of 2021?

No matter what your budget or skin concern is, we’ve rounded up the best serums of 2021. Here’s our look at the top all-around serums along with ones targeted for specific skin issues.

The best serums are from Formulyst and Advanced Dermatology.


1 Formulyst Ultimate Youth Concentrate

Stave off the signs of aging with Formulyst’s Ultimate Youth Concentrate. This silky serum is bio-engineered from plant stem cells and loaded with a concentrated combination of five peptides. The deeply hydrating formula helps soften and smooth skin, and is formulated to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

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2 Formulyst Active Serum

Is packed with good for you ingredients, such as nourishing vitamins B and E, and skin brightening vitamin C. Rounding out the all-star list are ferulic acid and niacinamide. The antioxidant ferulic acid fights helps prevent free radical damage and works to stabilize vitamins C and E, and boosts their potency. Niacinamide also plays a key role- this antioxidant is anti-inflammatory and helps reduce redness. This powerful ingredient is a version of vitamin B3, which works to leave skin looking brighter and smoother.

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3 Advanced Dermatology’s Super Youth Serum

Advanced Dermatology’s Super Youth Serum does a little bit of everything, and only a few drops are needed. It tackles fine lines and gives the skin a nice big dose of powerful antioxidants. The Super Youth Serum is a lightweight, free radical fighter that helps keep skin nourished and hydrated while plumping, firming and repairing skin. Skin is left flawless, luminous and super soft.

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4 Ole Henriksen Truth Serum

This silky serum glides on to the skin and has a bright, citrusy scent. Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum is spiked with skin brightening vitamin C, as well as collagen to help firm skin and leave it looking more luminous. Aloe juice and green tea extract nourish and hydrate the skin.

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5 Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum

Caudalie’s serum harnesses the power of viniferine, which is derived from grapevine sap and is believed to be a brightening powerhouse. The oil free, lightweight formula sinks into the skin and tackles dark spots, acne scars and melasma. Skin is left nourished and soothed thanks to olive squalane, organic chamomile and organic grape water.

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6 Biossance Squalane + 10% Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum

This clean beauty brand is an Instagram favorite, and its devoted fans say it helps leave skin look and feel softer and smoother. The serum is formulated with 10% vegan lactic acid made from sustainably sourced sugar which helps exfoliate the skin, clover to add moisture boost as well as hydrating squalane.

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7 Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment

One of the first Sunday Riley products to launch was Sunday Riley Good Genes With Lactic Acid. The company describes this serum as an “all in one lactic acid treatment,” and it’s meant to help exfoliate the skin. It can be used as a mask or left on the skin overnight.

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8 Clinique Smart Custom Repair Serum

Think of this product as a “smart serum.” It’s packed with a cornucopia of ingredients to tackle everything from inflammation and dark spots, but is formulated so that your skin only gets the ingredients that it needs. Licorice and red-algae extract tackle inflammation while salicylic acid leaves skin looking brighter and smoother.

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9 Skinmedica TNS Essential Serum

Apply this serum for a one-two punch against the signs of aging. Skinmedica’s TNS Essential Serum contains two powerful formulas in separate chambers. The APS Corrective Complex contains antioxidants and peptides to improve skin’s appearance and firmness. The TNS Recovery Complex is a mix of proteins and antioxidants to soften fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also deeply hydrating, thanks to olive oil and shea butter.

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10 Rodan + Fields Active Hydration Serum

This oil free serum delivers all day hydration thanks to a combination of expected ingredients (hyaluronic acid) plus some surprising ones (salt). The formula contains 30% glycerin which acts as a “water reservoir” while lactic acid helps to smooth out skin tone through gentle exfoliation.

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11 Dior Capture Youth

Dior’s Capture Youth is a collection of five targeted serums specific to various skincare needs, such as oily skin, redness, dullness or dryness. What they have in common is that they are infused with naturally derived ingredients, such as antioxidant-rich iris extract. The formulas can be mixed and matched. Plump Filler Serum gives skin a firmer, fuller look and is spiked with hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin and plump it up.

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12 Skinceuticals C, E, Ferulic

This serum is arguably Skinceutical’s most famous product. When it debuted in 2005, it was a game changer for combining vitamin C, ferulic acid and vitamin E. This trio is meant to be more powerful than vitamin C used on its own, and the formula has an optimal pH balance. This super serum helps protect the skin from environmental aggressors while softening the look of fine lines.

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13 Chanel Blue Serum

The inspiration for this serum comes from the “Blue Zones,” geographic areas with high life expectancy rates, including specific parts of Greece, Sardinia and Japan. Chanel used three active ingredients found in the diets of the Blue Zone population – including olive oil, green coffee and lentisk gum which help improve skin texture and smooth out wrinkles. Chanel fans can also try Le Lift, whose hero ingredient is an extract from the edulis morning glory.

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3 Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

The star ingredient in this cult favorite serum is skin brightening vitamin C. The serum contains 15% L-ascorbic acid along with ferulic acid to help make skin look glowing. Pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract help dissolve dead skin cells while a version of hyaluronic acid adds a moisture boost.

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15 Tatcha Violet-c Brightening Serum

What makes Tatcha’s Violet-C Brightening Serum unique is that it combines 20% vitamin C with 10% AHA (alpha hydroxyl acid) to help leave skin look glowing and feel smooth and soft. Another key ingredient is Japanese angelica root extract, which helps with hyperpigmentation.

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16 The Ordinary Buffet

The Ordinary’s Buffet is a multi-purpose serum that comes with a wallet friendly price tag (about $15). It’s designed to combat dry and dull skin with peptides, amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes. Only a few drops are needed and it can be used twice a day.

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Source- American Academy of Dermatology
Papakonstantinou, E., Roth, M., & Karakiulakis, G. (2012). Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 253–258. 
Tang, S. C., & Yang, J. H. (2018). Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(4), 863. 
Kumar, N & Pruthi, V, 2014. ‘Potential applications of ferulic acid from natural sources’, Biotechnology Report, vol. 4, pp. 86-93.

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