You’ll find a ton of serums at the drugstore, but finding the options that will work best for you can get a bit tricky. Below, we’ve created a guide to the best drugstore serums for sensitive skin.

Our Recommendations

1. 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.

2. 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)

3. 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.

4. 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.
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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.

5. 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)

FAQs

Are serums bad for sensitive skin?

No, not all serums are bad for sensitive skin. In fact, there are many serums that target the skin issues that people with sensitive skin commonly deal with (like redness and irritation). There are also serums specifically formulated with sensitive skin in mind that target a variety of skin concerns. It’s just important to find the right serums for sensitive skin, and to avoid products with ingredients that may aggravate your skin.

Which serum is best for dry sensitive skin?

If you have sensitive skin that is also dry, all of the options mentioned on this list are suitable for your skin type. One of the best options is the Paula’s Choice Moisture Renewal Oil Booster, which contains oils and ceramides that hydrate and support the skin’s barrier. Another great option from Paula’s Choice is the Omega+ Complex Serum, which contains oils rich and omegas, shea butter, and hyaluronic acid to strengthen the skin’s barrier and hydrate. Additionally, if you’re looking for a simple, oil-like hydrating serum, the 100% Plant-Derived Squalane product from The Ordinary is an excellent choice that is also super affordable.

Is hyaluronic acid serum safe for sensitive skin?

Hyaluronic acid is generally well-tolerated by all skin types, but keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different. In general, when testing out a new product (whether it contains hyaluronic acid or not), it’s not a bad idea to first do a patch test to see how your skin reacts and to make sure you don’t experience any negative side effects. This is a particularly good idea for those with sensitive skin, since this skin type can be so reactive to new ingredients.

The Bottom Line

There are some super effective serums available at the drugstore, including options for those with sensitive skin. Add one (or more!) of the above products to your routine to support your overall complexion.