The 20 Best Face Serums of 2022 - The Dermatology Review

The 20 Best Face Serums of 2022

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

01.21.22DISCLAIMER

If you were going to splurge on one item in your beauty arsenal, you’d be wise to make it a facial serum. Why a serum for the face? It’s the workhorse of any routine. No matter what skin issue you’re trying to address, the best face serum can help.

While you may be looking specifically for a face serum for women or a face serum for men, the reality is, a well-formulated product that contains evidence-based ingredients is not gender-specific. When choosing a facial serum, it’s about taking your skin type and concerns into consideration. 

Not sure where to start? No worries. Here at Seep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare regimen that’s safe and effective. Ahead, 20 of the best face serums to help you achieve a healthy, glowing complexion.

Best Face Serum: The List 

Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80

Formulyst Ultimate Youth Concentrate, $129

Formulyst Active Serum, $80

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, $52

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, $79

Biossance Squalane + 10% Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum, $62

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, $122

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum, $105

Clarins Double Serum, $128

iS Clinical Pro Heal Serum, $158

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, $19.99

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $68

Skinmedica TNS Essential Serum, $281

Rodan and Fields Active Hydration Serum, $112

Dior Capture Youth Glow Booster, $95

Skinceuticals C, E, Ferulic, $166

Chanel Blue Serum, $110

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, $78

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum, $88

The Ordinary Buffet, $14.80

The Science Behind a Facial Serum

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

To be clear, serums are made of tiny molecules, so the skin absorbs them quickly and deeply. The thicker, heavier ingredients in creams form a barrier on your skin. Without these obstructions, the active ingredients in a serum penetrate your skin more effectively.

What to Look for in the Best Face Serum

There are serums designed for every skin type and condition, and at every price point, from wallet-friendly drugstore buys to luxury brands — the essential thing to choose the suitable facial serum for your skin type and condition. Depending on your skincare concerns, you may need two different serums for day and night. 

Many face serums are multi-taskers, addressing more than one skin issue. They’re suitable for any age (prevention is essential) but can be especially helpful for those with older, more mature skin.

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.

 

Key Ingredients in a Well-Formulated Serum

The ingredients to look for in a serum will largely depend on your skin concerns, but if you’re on a mission to get healthy, glowing skin, a serum can help. Popular serum ingredients include:

  • Hyaluronic acid: an extremely hydrating ingredient that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.
  • Glycerin: a moisture-binding humectant. 
  • Vitamin E: an antioxidant that helps protect the skin.
  • Niacinamide: another moisture booster that also addresses discoloration. 
  • Vitamin C: a powerful antioxidant and skin brightener.
  • Glycolic Acid: helps to gently exfoliate the skin.
  • Retinol: encourages cell turnover.
  • Peptides: helps promote firmer, younger-looking skin.
  • Salicylic Acid: helps unclog oily, acne-prone. 

How to Correctly Apply a Facial Serum

You’re investing in the best face serum, 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 face 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.
  • Damp Skin Versus Dry: Many experts say that applying a face serum 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. In that case, wait until your face is dry before using. 
  • Less is More: Since face 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 serum and a moisturizer, but wait until your serum fully absorbs (about two to three minutes) before moisturizing. A well-formulated facial will absorb quickly into your skin. If it leaves an oily or sticky residue, it’s not doing its job.

Facial Serum Market Trends

According to Allied Market Research, the advent of COVID-19 has negatively affected the cosmetics face serum market. Consumers didn’t feel a face serum was necessary during the ongoing pandemic. 

Also, the production process for new batches of face serum has become a challenge for companies due to the limited availability of labor, disruption in the supply chain of raw materials, and logistic issues.

On a positive note, pandemic aside, changes in lifestyle, rapid urbanization, and daily skincare habits have increased the demand for face serum over the past few years, forcing the companies to level up their production. Increased demand for middle-aged women’s face serum is also one of the leading sales drivers.

Several cosmetic companies have released face serums approved by dermatologists, projected to strengthen their position in the face serum market.

Best Face Serums of 2022

Regardless of your budget or skin concern, we’ve rounded up the best serums of 2022. 

Here’s our look at the top all-around serums, along with ones targeted for specific skin issues.

The best serums are from Carrot & Stick and Formulyst.

Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80
Apply this serum daily to keep skin hydrated and protected from free radical damage. The Repair Serum by Carrot & Stick helps lift, tighten and firm the look of skin thanks to seven plant-based neuropeptides, while synthesized growth factors help keep skin looking its radiant best.

Formulyst Ultimate Youth Concentrate, $129
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 potent 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.

Formulyst Active Serum, $80
Ferulic acid, a powerful antioxidant, helps prevent free radical damage while stabilizing vitamins C and E and boosting potency. Niacinamide, another potent antioxidant, reduces redness because it’s an anti-inflammatory. This robust ingredient is a version of vitamin B3, making the skin look brighter and smoother.

Related: Best Vitamin C Serums

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, $52
This silky serum glides onto the skin and has a refreshing, 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.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, $79
Caudalie’s Vinoperfect Radiance 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 other forms of discoloration. Skin is left nourished and soothed thanks to olive squalane, organic chamomile, and organic grape water.

Biossance Squalane + 10% Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum, $62
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, and hydrating squalane.

Related: Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, $122
One of the first Sunday Riley products to launch was Sunday Riley Good Genes, a lactic acid treatment that is said to deeply exfoliate the dull surface of the skin for clarity, radiance, and younger-looking skin. It also visibly brightens the appearance of age spots and discolorations and instantly plumps the look of fine lines and wrinkles in three minutes. It can be used as a mask or left on the skin overnight.

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum, $105
Advanced Night Repair is a face serum developed by Estée Lauder over thirty years ago. This product is credited with being the industry’s first serum. The concept behind Night Repair is that the best time to repair and heal the skin is while you sleep. 

Key ingredients in this face serum include Bifida ferment lysate, baobab seed oil, tripeptide-32, and sodium hyaluronate. This pioneering serum is said to help with loss of firmness lines and wrinkles, dryness, dehydration, dullness, loss of radiance, and uneven skin tone.

Clarins Double Serum, $128
Double Serum is Clarins’ #1 best-selling anti-aging serum that visibly firms, smoothes, and boosts radiance in just seven days. This serum comes in a dual chamber that provides the perfect ratio of water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients, similar to the skin’s hydrolipidic film. Once dispensed, the two concentrates combine into one serum that is said to quickly absorb into the skin and effectively target all visible signs of skin aging.

Honestly, we doubt that dispensing the ingredients separately really matters for the skin. Instead, what truly matters is the ingredients in this serum. Unfortunately, many “key” ingredients are used in deficient concentrations (less than 1%).

iS Clinical Pro Heal Serum, $158
iS Clinical Pro Heal Serum claims to treat everything from acne to rosacea to aging skin and even insect bites. The formula is pretty simple, featuring a blend of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E and olive leaf extract. 

Unfortunately, this serum contains a high concentration of denatured alcohol. While alcohol gives the product a weightless feel and helps reduce excess oil, continued use of alcohol-based products can lead to skin dryness, irritation, and even disruption of the skin barrier over time. Alcohol can dry out the skin, causing it to produce more oil to compensate for the dryness. This can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, $19.99
CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum is formulated to help address post-acne marks, uneven skin tone, and visible pores without compromising its protective barrier. It contains encapsulated retinol, which is retinol that has been housed in a delivery system to protect its integrity and improve its ability to penetrate the skin effectively. 

Additional key ingredients include niacinamide, ceramides, and dipotassium glycyrrhizate. This facial serum is non-comedogenic, paraben-free, and fragrance-free.

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $68
Think of this product as a “smart serum.” It’s packed with a cornucopia of ingredients to tackle everything from inflammation and dark spots. It is formulated so that your skin only gets the elements it needs. Licorice and red-algae extract tackle inflammation, while salicylic acid leaves skin looking brighter and smoother.

Skinmedica TNS Essential Serum, $281
Skinmedica’s TNS Essential Serum is formulated with two powerful formulas in separate chambers. The APS Corrective Complex contains antioxidants and peptides to improve the skin’s appearance and firmness. The TNS Recovery Complex mixes proteins and antioxidants to soften fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also deeply hydrating, thanks to olive oil and shea butter.

Rodan and Fields Active Hydration Serum, $112
This face serum delivers all-day hydration thanks to a combination of common ingredients (hyaluronic acid) plus some surprising ones (salt). The formula contains 30% glycerin which acts as a “water reservoir,” while lactic acid helps smooth out skin tone through gentle exfoliation.

Dior Capture Youth Glow Booster, $95
Dior’s Capture Youth is a collection of five targeted mix-and-match serums specific to various skincare needs, such as oiliness, redness, dullness, or dryness. They are infused with naturally derived ingredients, such as antioxidant-rich iris extract. The Youth Glow Booster acts as an illuminating serum. This serum includes Murunga Plum, AHA’s, and Iris Extract, which work to brighten up the skin while also evening out skin tone.

Skinceuticals C, E, Ferulic, $166
This facial serum is arguably SkinCeuticals 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 potent 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.

Chanel Blue Serum, $110
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 tone.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, $78
The star ingredient in this cult favorite face serum is skin-brightening vitamin C. It’s formulated with 15% L-ascorbic acid along with ferulic acid to give the skin a from-within glow. Pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract help dissolve dead skin cells, while a version of hyaluronic acid adds a moisture boost.

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum, $88
What makes Tatcha’s Violet-C Brightening Serum unique is that it combines 20% vitamin C with 10% AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) to help leave skin looking glowing and feeling smooth and soft. Another critical ingredient is Japanese angelica root extract, which helps with discoloration.

The Ordinary Buffet, $14.80
The Ordinary’s Buffet is a multi-purpose serum with a wallet-friendly price tag. It’s designed to combat dry and dull skin with peptides, amino acids, and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes. Only a few drops are needed, which can be used twice a day.

Facial Serum: The Bottom Line

Overall, the best serums are Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum and Formulyst Ultimate Youth Concentrate, $129

A facial serum is the workhorse of any routine. No matter what skin issue you’re trying to address, the best face serum can help. 

While you may be looking specifically for a face serum for women or a face serum for men, the reality is, a well-formulated product that contains evidence-based ingredients is not gender-specific. When choosing a facial serum, it’s about taking your skin type and concerns into consideration. 

Many serums are multi-taskers, addressing more than one skin issue. They’re suitable for any age (prevention is essential) but can be especially helpful for those with older, more mature skin.

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.

When shopping for the best serum, look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, niacinamide, vitamins C and E, glycolic acid, retinol, and peptides.

What’s the best face serum, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

 

FAQs
Most face serums are safe to be applied twice daily — morning and night — but just make sure to read the instructions on the package first. Some face serums are better in the a.m. versus the p.m. and vice versa.
Most dermatologists and estheticians suggest prioritizing your skincare routine (a face serum included) around the age of 25 — a few years before you have to start thinking about collagen and elastin depletion and increased dryness, both of which lead to the signs of aging skin.

Sometimes, a serum’s liquid or gel-like texture can be a poor choice for skin conditions like rosacea or eczema because they weaken the skin’s barrier. Since serums penetrate quickly and deeply, they could cause further irritation. A rich moisturizer is a better match in this case.Also, powerful serum ingredients can irritate sensitive skin, so always conduct a patch test first — especially when combining face serums that contain acids along with other acid-containing products (think vitamin C and retinol.)

To allow serums to absorb fully, wait approximately five minutes before applying your moisturizer. You’ll know if a face serum is well-formulated if it absorbs quickly and disappears into your skin.
There’s no such thing as a one-sized face serum. How well a facial serum works depends on the formulation. You’ll find experts who believe that price doesn’t matter either. It’s all about the quality of ingredients and their concentration.


Sources:
Cosmetic Face Serum Market Size,” Allied Market Research.
What a Serum Can and Cannot Do,” Harvard Health Publishing.

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