Serums are a great addition to any skincare routine, because they deliver a concentration of effective ingredients that help target different skin concerns. While they can be pricey, there are plenty of budget-friendly options. Let’s take a look at some of the best affordable serums available.

Our Recommendations

1. AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon Serum for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

This exfoliating serum combines the power of glycolic acid with other calming ingredients to reveal a smoother skin tone and texture while soothing the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage the product into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This serum contains an 8% concentration of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). Glycolic acid improves skin tone and texture while minimizing signs of aging.

Pros

  • Contains soothing ingredients to counteract irritation
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the glycolic acid, this serum contains a variety of ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin, including aloe, allantoin, castor oil, centella asiatica (tiger grass) extract, and papaya fruit extract.

Water, Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hyaluronate, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Panthenol, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium (Mugwort) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Common Yarrow) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Yellow Gentian) Root Extract, Alcohol, Polyquaternium-10, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

2. Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice Serum for Hydration

Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

This serum combines hyaluronic acid with ceramides and other deeply hydrating ingredients to give the skin an extra moisture boost.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hydration
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Massage a pump of the serum into clean skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Hyaluronic acid is a great skincare ingredient for all skin types, because it pulls moisture to the skin to help it maintain healthy hydration levels. The ceramides in this booster also help restore the moisture barrier and strengthen the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

In addition to the hydrating benefits, hyaluronic acid has been shown to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making this booster a great choice for those looking for anti-aging benefits.

Water (Aqua), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Hyaluronic Acid (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide NP (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide AP (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide EOP (hydration/skin replenishing), Phytosphingosine (hydration/skin replenishing), Yeast Extract (skin replenishing), Adenosine (skin-restoring), Cholesterol (skin replenishing), Panthenol (skin replenishing), Silanetriol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate (hydration), Carbomer (texture-enhancing), Xanthan Gum (texture-enhancing), Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Polysorbate 20 (texture-enhancing), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

3. Moisture Renewal Oil Booster

Paula’s Choice Moisture Renewal Oil Booster

Paula's Choice Serum for Extra Moisture

Paula’s Choice Moisture Renewal Oil Booster

This oil booster contains a blend of nourishing plant oils and renewing ceramides to help moisturize and revitalize dry skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Extra Moisture
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Massage a few drops into clean skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This customer favorite booster contains nine non-fragrant, antioxidant-rich plant oils that alleviate dryness and calm the skin. It also contains ceramides, which further help restore the moisture barrier of the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-irritating

Cons

  • Some reviewers note it feels greasy on the skin

One of the key oils in this booster is jojoba oil, which is anti-inflammatory, can help restore the skin’s barrier, and has the ability to help fight the signs of aging. Another key ingredient in this blend is argan oil, a skin-softening oil that has been shown to improve elasticity and hydration.

Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Echium Plantagineum Seed Oil (non-fragrant oil/skin-soothing/antioxidant/emollient), Ceramide NS (hydration/skin replenishing), Cholesterol (hydration/skin replenishing)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin's own natural moisturizing systems"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

4. Omega+ Complex Serum

Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Serum

Paula's Choice Serum for Strengthening the Skin’s Barrier and Hydration

Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Serum

This award-winning serum contains omega fatty acids and other replenishing ingredients that strengthen the skin’s barrier while reviving and hydrating the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Strengthening the Skin’s Barrier and Hydration
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Massage a pump of the serum into clean skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is one of the best Paula’s Choice serums for all skin types, as it is gentle on the skin and keeps it healthy, hydrated, and strong. It locks in hydration and plumps to minimize the appearance of fine lines while also protecting the skin against environmental damage.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Gentle

Cons

  • May not be suitable for acne-prone skin

This serum contains oils rich in omegas 3, 6, and 9, which strengthen and soothe the skin. It also contains ceramides to improve firmness and protect, as well as hyaluronic acid and shea butter to moisturize.

Water (Aqua), Glycerin (skin-replenishing ingredient), Diheptyl Succinate (emollient), Candelilla/Jojoba/Rice Bran Polyglyceryl-3 Esters (texture enhancer), Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil (flax seed; non-fragrant omega -3, -6, and -9 plant oil), Linoleic Acid (skin-restoring omega-6 fatty acid), Linolenic Acid (skin-restoring omega-3 fatty acid), Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil (non-fragrant omega-6 plant oil, Salvia Hispanica (Chia) Seed Oil (non-fragrant omega-3 plant oil), Ceramide EOP (skin-restoring/replenishing), Ceramide EOS (skin-restoring/replenishing), Ceramide NP (skin-restoring/replenishing), Ceramide NS (skin-restoring/replenishing), Caprooyl Sphingosine (skin-restoring/replenishing), Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables (skin-smoothing antioxidant fatty acid), Caprooyl Phytosphingosine (skin-restoring), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-replenishing/hydration), Cholesterol (skin-replenishing), Ceramide AP (skin-restoring/replenishing), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (antioxidant emollient), Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer (texture enhancer/stabilizer), Prunus Domestica Seed Oil (non-fragrant antioxidant plant oil/omega-9 fatty acid), Lauryl Laurate (skin-softening opacifying agent), Glyceryl Behenate (emollient/emulsifier), Hydrogenated Lecithin (skin-restoring ingredient), Sodium Phytate (chelating agent), Trehalose (hydration), Isohexadecane (texture enhancer/solvent), Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate (emulsifier), Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer (film-forming agent), Xanthan Gum (texture enhancer), Cetyl Alcohol (hydration), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Agar (binding agent), Glyceryl Stearate (emulsifier), Ceteareth-25 (solubilizer), Cetearyl Alcohol (hydration), Behenic Acid (opacifying agent), Glyceryl Rosinate (emollient), Citric Acid (pH adjuster), Benzyl Alcohol (preservative), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative)

5. Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Serum for Fighting Acne and Evening Skin Tone

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

This product from The Ordinary hosts an impressive variety of benefits. Azelaic acid is a brightening skincare ingredient known for minimizing acne, lightening hyperpigmentation, and reducing redness.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fighting Acne and Evening Skin Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This product contains a 10% concentration of azelaic acid, a gentle exfoliator that has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The lightweight gel-cream helps to improve and brighten skin tone, as well as unclog pores and reduce blemishes for clear, smooth skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers note that this product can be drying

In addition to its ability to fight acne, azelaic acid is often used to treat rosacea to promote a more even skin tone.

Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Azelaic Acid, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Isohexadecane, Tocopherol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Azelaic acid"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

6. Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

The Ordinary Serum for Treating Dark Circles and Puffiness

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

This eye serum contains a high concentration of caffeine to reduce pigmentation and puffiness around the eyes.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Treating Dark Circles and Puffiness
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, gently tap the product around the eye contour. Use both morning and night.
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This is one of the best The Ordinary products for those looking to address two of the most common eye concerns: dark circles and puffiness. Caffeine has been shown to effectively reduce the appearance of dark circles and de-puff the eye area.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers complained about the slightly greasy texture

In addition to caffeine, this eye product contains epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (EGCG) from green tea leaves. EGCG is high in antioxidants and can help increase skin hydration and decrease wrinkle formation.

Aqua (Water), Caffeine, Maltodextrin, Glycerin, Propanediol, Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside, Gallyl Glucoside, Hyaluronic Acid, Oxidized Glutathione, Melanin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Xanthan gum, Lactic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Propyl Gallate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Benzyl Alcohol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Skin Protective Effect of Epigallocatechin Gallate"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

7. Buffet Serum

The Ordinary Buffet

The Ordinary Serum for Fighting the Signs of Aging

The Ordinary “Buffet”

“Buffet” is a multi-purpose serum that combines a variety of peptide complexes, amino acids, and hyaluronic acids to address signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Peptides are excellent for reducing wrinkles, improving the skin’s barrier, and promoting skin elasticity. This gel-like serum from The Ordinary pulls out all the stops with six peptide complexes for potent anti-aging benefits.

Pros

  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

In addition to the peptide complexes, this serum contains 11 amino acids that help increase the skin’s hydration and further fight the signs of aging. It also contains multiple hyaluronic acid complexes, which attract moisture to the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Pentapeptide-18, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Acetylarginyltryptophyl Diphenylglycine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Trehalose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Urea, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sodium Lactate, Citric Acid, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

8. 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

The Ordinary Serum for Lightweight Hydration

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

This squalane product looks, feels, and acts similarly to a light oil, but is actually oil-free. It is excellent for adding an extra boost of hydration to your skincare routine.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Lightweight Hydration
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing and applying serums, gently massage a few drops into the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer. This may also be used on top of a moisturizer to seal in hydration.
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This squalane hydrator is one of the best The Ordinary products for acne-prone skin, because it is non-comedogenic. Even those who aren’t prone to breakouts will benefit from extra hydration this gentle and lightweight plant-based product provides.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Gentle
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • May not be hydrating enough for drier skin types

Squalene is naturally found in human sebum, which makes squalane (a derivative of squalene) well-tolerated by most. While this option is particularly great for those with normal to oily skin, all skin types can benefit from this gentle hydrator.

Squalane

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Moisturizers: The Slippery Road"

    Accessed Aug. 13, 2021.

9. Anti-Aging Pore Minimizer Face Serum

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Anti-Aging Pore Minimizer Face Serum

La Roche-Posay Serum for Minimizing Pores and Exfoliating

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Anti-Aging Pore Minimizer Face Serum

This serum is packed with chemical exfoliators and additional ingredients that help minimize the appearance of pores, while also smoothing the skin’s texture and reducing fine lines.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Minimizing Pores and Exfoliating
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply two to three drops to the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This serum is excellent for both minimizing the appearance of enlarged pores and reducing fine lines. Lipo-hydroxy acid (which is a derivative of salicylic acid) helps diminish the appearance of enlarged pores, while also brightening and evening tone and texture. Glycolic acid works on the surface of the skin to smooth texture and minimize lines.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the chemical exfoliators mentioned above, this serum contains hyaluronic acid, which keeps the skin hydrated and helps counteract the potentially drying effects of the exfoliators.

Water, Alcohol Denat, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Diisopopyl Adipate, Propylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Ppg-26-buteth-26, Peg-30 Glyceryl Cocoate, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, P-anisic Acid, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Tetrasodium Edta, Polyquaternium-10.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The Use of Lipohydroxy Acid in Skin Care and Acne Treatment"

    Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.

10. 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay Serum for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

This serum contains a potent concentration of vitamin C, which is known for its ability to brighten, diminish post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and even skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum all over the face, neck, and chest.
See on Amazon

Vitamin C is an incredibly effective skincare ingredient that is known to boost collagen production, which in turn brightens, fades hyperpigmentation, and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. This serum contains a potent 10% concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which will help even overall skin tone and texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to ascorbic acid, this serum contains salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates, and hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, which draw moisture to the skin.

Aqua/Water/Eau, Ascorbic Acid, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Potassium Hydroxide, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Polysilicone-11, Dimethicone, Propylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Tocopherol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Adenosine, Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester, Peg-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Poloxamer 338, Salicylic Acid, Polyacrylamide, Toluene Sulfonic Acid, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium Edta, Bht, Laureth-7, Parfum/Fragrance.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health"

    Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.

11. Pigmentclar Serum Visible Dark Spot Reducer

La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Serum Visible Dark Spot Reducer

La Roche-Posay Serum for Hyperpigmentation

La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Serum Visible Dark Spot Reducer

This dark spot corrector is one of the best La Roche-Posay products for acne scars, because it combines lipo-hydroxy acid with other brightening skincare ingredients that diminish dark spots.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum over affected areas.
See on Amazon

This serum is packed with ingredients that help lighten hyperpigmentation, including lipo-hydroxy acid, which gently exfoliates the skin to help brighten and even out tone and texture. It also contains phe-resorcinol and ferulic acid, which are both antioxidants that further brighten the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this serum also contains niacinamide, which has been shown to help lighten post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Aqua/water/eau, glycerin, dimethicone, alcohol denat, niacinamide, isopropyl lauroyl sarcosinate, octyldodecanol, peg-20 methyl glucose sesquistearate, dimethiconol, cetearyl ethylhexanoate, isohexadecane, sodium hyaluronate, ginkgo biloba extract/ ginkgo biloba leaf extract, phenylethyl resorcinol, poloxamer 338, ammonium polyacryldimethyltauramide/ammonium polyacryloyldimethyl taurate, disodium edta, isopropyl myristate, capryloyl, salicylic acid, xanthan gum, ferulic acid, polysorbate 80, acrylamide/sodium, acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, phenoxyethanol, ci 77891/titanium dioxide, mica, parfum/fragrance.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The Use of Lipohydroxy Acid in Skin Care and Acne Treatment"

    Accessed Aug. 18, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: A review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color"

    Accessed Aug. 18, 2021.

12. Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum

La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum

La Roche-Posay Serum for Hydration

La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum

This serum combines pure hyaluronic acid with other hydrating ingredients that replenish the skin’s moisture barrier.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hydration
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Dispense three to four drops of the serum into your hands, and gently massage into the skin. This serum can be used morning and night.
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Hyaluronic acid pulls moisture to the skin to help it maintain healthy hydration levels. This serum also contains vitamin B5 (panthenol), which acts as both a humectant (meaning it binds to and holds water in the skin) and an emollient (soothing and sealing water in the skin). Additionally, madecassoside works to further repair the skin.

Pros

  • Hydrating
  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the hydrating benefits, hyaluronic acid has been shown to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making this serum a great choice for those also looking for anti-aging benefits.

Aqua / Water, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Propylene Glycol, Panthenol, Pentylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Peg-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Ppg-6-Decyltetradeceth-30, Glyceryl Isostearate, Madecassoside, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Disodium Edta, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Xanathan Gum, Butylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum / Fragrance

13. Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Serum for Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

This is one of the best The Ordinary products to add to your skincare routine, because it contains a potent concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which brightens and evens out overall skin tone while fighting the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

Those looking to brighten their skin tone while also fighting against the signs of aging should turn to this product, which has the highest concentration of antioxidant-rich vitamin C of any of the products the brand offers. Since vitamin C has been shown to help with hyperpigmentation, this option is also great for those looking to even out dark spots. In addition to vitamin C, this product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), which increases moisture in the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

Since this product contains such a high percentage of vitamin C, some users may experience tingling as their skin adjusts, particularly if they’re newer to topical vitamin C.

Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

14. Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary Serum for Minimizing Blemishes and Controlling Sebum Production

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

This multi-tasking product helps minimize blemishes and congestion while reducing redness and regulating the production of sebum.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Minimizing Blemishes and Controlling Sebum Production
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum to the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Niacinamide is an excellent skincare ingredient that has been shown to control sebum production, reduce redness and inflammation, minimize fine lines, and even reduce hyperpigmentation. This product also contains zinc, which further balances sebum production and reduces inflammation.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • May cause flushing in those sensitive to niacinamide (patch test prior to using)

This product is an excellent choice for acne-prone skin. However, those currently fighting acne will also want to introduce other acne-fighting ingredients into their routine, as niacinamide on its own is not an effective treatment for minimizing breakouts.

Aqua (Water), Niacinamide, Pentylene Glycol, Zinc PCA, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Xanthan gum, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production"

    Accessed Aug. 9, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Aug. 9, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review"

    Accessed Aug. 9, 2021.

15. Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

The Ordinary Serum for Hydration

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

This unique hyaluronic acid serum effectively attracts moisture to the skin to leave it feeling hydrated and plump.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hydration
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage a few drops of the serum into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This serum contains low-, medium-, and high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid, as well as a next-generation hyaluronic acid crosspolymer. This allows the serum to deliver much-needed hydration to all layers of the skin.

Pros

  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Oil-free
  • Hydrating
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers complain the serum feels sticky

In addition to the multiple forms of hyaluronic acid, this serum contains vitamin B5, which is anti-inflammatory and further helps hydrate the skin.

Aqua (Water), Sodium Hyaluronate, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Panthenol, Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract, Glycerin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol.

16. Redness Relief Repairing Serum

Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Repairing Serum

Paula's Choice Serum for Redness

Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Repairing Serum

This calming, lightweight serum helps to reduce redness while also hydrating and fighting the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Redness
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the booster to the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is one of the best Paula’s Choice serums for soothing sensitive skin and reducing redness. It contains a potent blend of antioxidants and other skincare ingredients that hydrate and calm the skin. This serum is gentle on the skin, and even appropriate for skin prone to rosacea.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Gentle
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May not be suitable for acne-prone skin

Some of the hydrating and soothing skincare ingredients in this serum include hyaluronic acid, sea whip extract, ceramides, licorice extract, and willow herb.

Water, Glycerin (skin replenishing), Hyaluronic Acid (hydration/skin replenishing), Beta-Glucan (skin-soothing/antioxidant), Sea Whip Extract (skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide NP (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide AP (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide EOP (hydration/skin replenishing), Cholesterol (skin replenishing), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (licorice extract/skin-soothing), Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (willow herb/skin-soothing), Phytosphingosine (skin-renewing), Sodium Cocoyl Amino Acids (skin replenishing), Chrysanthemum Parthenium Flower Extract (feverfew extracts/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Glycine Soja Seed Extract (soybean extract/skin-soothing), Ubiquinone (antioxidant), Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate (texture-enhancing), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin replenishing/emollient), Magnesium Aspartate (emollient), Potassium Aspartate (emollient), Sarcosine (emollient), Xanthan Gum (texture-enhancing), Carbomer (texture-enhancing), Polysorbate 20 (texture-enhancing), PEG/PPG-14/4 Dimethicone (texture-enhancing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

17. 10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula's Choice Serum for Refining Pore Size and Improving Skin Tone

Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster

This super light niacinamide product is one of the best Paula’s Choice serums. It delivers a multitude of benefits, including minimizing the appearance of pores, controlling sebum production, smoothing fine lines, reducing redness, and brightening.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Refining Pore Size and Improving Skin Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the booster to the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Niacinamide is a powerful skincare ingredient that offers a wide variety of benefits, which makes this another great multipurpose serum. In addition to minimizing the appearance of pores, it has been shown to control sebum production, smooth fine lines, reduce redness, reduce hyperpigmentation, and brighten the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May cause flushing in those sensitive to niacinamide (patch test prior to using)

In addition to the 10% concentration of niacinamide, this booster contains allantoin and licorice extract, which calm the skin. It also contains vitamin C, which brightens. It’s important to note that users should patch test niacinamide first, because some people are sensitive to it, and it may make acne or flushing worse.

Water (Aqua), Niacinamide (vitamin B3, skin-restoring ), Acetyl Glucosamine (skin replenishing/antioxidant), Ascorbyl Glucoside (vitamin C/antioxidant), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Phospholipids (skin replenishing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (skin-soothing), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (skin-soothing), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (licorice extract/skin-soothing), Ubiquinone (antioxidant), Epigallocatechin Gallate (antioxidant), Beta-Glucan (skin-soothing/antioxidant), Panthenol (skin replenishing), Carnosine (antioxidant), Genistein (antioxidant), Citric Acid (pH balancing), Sodium Citrate (pH balancing), Sodium Hydroxide (pH balancing), Xanthan Gum (texture-enhancing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

18. 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice Serum for Evening Tone and Texture

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

This booster combines azelaic acid with other brightening ingredients that work together to fade post-acne marks, minimize blemishes, brighten, and even out tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Tone and Texture
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the booster to affected areas or all over the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is a great multi-purpose serum to have on hand. If you have hyperpigmentation, this is a particularly excellent product for you, as azelaic acid has been shown to help fade dark marks. It’s also great for smoothing the skin for a more even texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This booster contains salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliator that further minimizes the appearance of blemishes and evens out skin texture and tone. It also contains licorice root, which calms redness and brightens.

Water (Aqua), Azelaic Acid (skin-brightening/tone-improving), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing), Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Cetearyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), Dimethicone (hydration/texture enhancer), Salicylic Acid (exfoliant), Adenosine (skin-restoring), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Cyclopentasiloxane (texture enhancer), Xanthan Gum (stabilizer), Sclerotium Gum (stabilizer), Propanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

19. 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

Timeless Serum for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

This affordable vitamin C serum contains a 20% concentration of vitamin C, which helps brighten and fight signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
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This lightweight serum contains a 20% concentration of l-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that works to brighten and provide anti-aging benefits. It also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, two skincare ingredients that protect the skin from environmental stressors and have also been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers complain about the pump

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this serum contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts moisture to the skin to keep it hydrated.

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Alpha Tocopherol, Polysorbate 80, Panthenol, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Benzylalcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in Dermatology"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

20. Vitamin C Serum

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum

TruSkin Serum for Brightening and Anti-Aging

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum

This gentle and affordable serum contains vitamin C, which brightens and fights signs of aging, as well as other soothing and hydrating skincare ingredients.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
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This vitamin C serum contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C that helps brighten and provide anti-aging benefits. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts moisture to the skin, and vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against free radical damage to the skin.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some acne-prone reviewers noted that it broke them out

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this serum contains jojoba oil, which moisturizes, and witch hazel, which soothes.

Organic Deionized Herbal Infusion, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), MSM, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid (Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), Vitamin E (d-alpha Tocopheryl Acetate), Carbomer, (2s)-2-Amino-5-guanidinopentanoic Acid, Organic Gotu Kola, Wildcrafted Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense), Wildcrafted Dandelion, Wildcrafted Geranium, Organic Jojoba Oil (Organic Simmondsia Chinensis), Phenoxyethanol, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Sodium ascorbyl phosphate in topical microemulsions"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

21. Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

Derma E Serum for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

This affordable vitamin C serum contains a stable and effective form of vitamin C, as well as additional ingredients that help hydrate and soothe the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

Vitamin C – an antioxidant that fights free radicals that can damage the skin – is key for a rounded out skincare routine, and this option is affordable and effective. It contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C that doesn’t deteriorate as easily as other forms. It is able to brighten the skin and fight signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to vitamin C, this serum contains a blend of ingredients that hydrate, soothe, and nourish the skin, including hyaluronic acid, green tea leaf extract, rosehip oil, and aloe vera extract.

Purified Water, Glycerin (Vegetable Derived), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C, Stay-C 50), Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Organic Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Microcrystalline Cellulose (Plant Derived), Cellulose Gum (Plant Derived), Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide (Vegetable Derived), Polymnia Sonchifolia (Yacon) Root Juice, Maltodextrin, Lactobacillus (Probiotic), Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil, Organic Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Extract *, Allantoin, Panthenol (Provitamin B5), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Plant Derived), Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Natural Fragrance Oils

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Pharmacological attribute of Aloe vera: Revalidation through experimental and clinical studies"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Sodium ascorbyl phosphate in topical microemulsions"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

FAQs

Should you use a face serum everyday?

Many serums can be used everyday, and using one daily may help you more quickly address your skin concerns. That said, some serums contain a higher concentration of ingredients that are not suitable for daily use. Refer to the instructions on the product label to decide whether you should use that serum daily. You may also choose to alternate between different serums each day if you’d like to add more than one serum to your routine.

How do I choose a face serum?

When choosing a face serum, look at the concerns you’re looking to address (dullness, fighting signs of aging, controlling oil production, etc.), and then look for serums containing effective ingredients that target those concerns. It’s also important to consider your skin type when looking for a new serum. Some serums are suitable for all skin types, but there are others that are specifically formulated for certain skin types.

Do I need both serum and moisturizer?

Regardless of your skin type, you should be using a moisturizer daily to maintain the skin’s moisture barrier and keep your skin hydrated and supple. While a serum is not necessarily an essential in a skincare routine, it’s a great way to give your skin a concentrated boost of ingredients that target certain skin issues. If you choose to add a serum to your routine, apply it first (after cleansing), and then follow up with your moisturizer.

The Bottom Line

Adding a serum to your routine is a great way to target specific skin concerns. Consider adding one or a few of the best affordable serums to your routine to achieve a clear and radiant complexion without breaking the bank.