Our ultimate guide to face serums

We get it. Building the perfect skincare routine can be tricky. Everyone tells you what works for them, and that you need 100 different products to achieve flawless skin. You’ve most likely blown your paycheck buying lotions and potions that gave you less than desirable results.

Creating a regime that delivers is difficult, and with everyone’s skin being so different, it can be hard to figure out what works for you. Most of us know to use a cleanser, toner and moisturiser, but what about the extra stuff that helps target specific concerns? That’s where we come in.

Adding a serum to your routine is one of the best ways to tackle skin issues. Whether it’s fine lines you’re wanting to diminish, acne you're hoping to banish or pigmentation that you wish would just fade already.

But the skincare world is overwhelming. Every product promises to do what you hope it would do, only to leave you with irritated skin for a month after. So, before we start recommending products, there’s a few rules to abide by.

Start slow. We know it’s tempting to use your new serum twice a day, everyday from the get go, but the truth is, it’ll do more harm than good. Serums are packed with potent ingredients, and to get the best results, you need to get your skin used to it. 

Start by applying your chosen serum once a week, then increase it to two times a week, and slowly build up your tolerance so you can apply it every single day. The only exception is hyaluronic acid, which is gentle enough to be used twice a day, every day from the minute you open the bottle.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the serums you should add to your skincare routine.

If you need hydration

etat pur Hyaluronic Acid acts as a wrinkle filler, it plumps and hydrates the skin. Thanks to its two molecular weights, this active acts at different levels of the epidermis. It smooths the skin surface and plumps up facial wrinkles as well as fine lines caused by dehydration. The high molecular weight hyaluronic acid provides a moisturising effect on the surface level of the skin, whereas the low molecular weight penetrates deeper to increase skin firmness. Usage: Use for 8 weeks as a replacement for serum. In the morning and evening, before applying your moisturising cream (do not mix). Apply to the entire face, concentrating on wrinkles. Apply to dry, thoroughly cleansed skin. Use as the final step before moisturising to get the best benefit out of all your skincare products.

If you want to tackle pigmentation

The inimitable SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum is gold standard in advanced Vitamin C facial serums. This high potency anti-aging treatment provides 8 times the skin protection against photoaging so skin is more youthful, radiant, and protected. This serum contains L-ascorbic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Ferulic acid and Alpha Tocopherol.

Apply once daily (ideally in the morning), using fingertips, 4-5 drops of C E Ferulic to face, neck, and chest.

If you want to smooth out texture

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment is a multi-tasking targeted lactic acid treatment that rapidly exfoliates and boosts natural youthful radiance, while visibly reducing the look of fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. High potency, purified grade lactic acid exfoliates dull, pore-clogging dead skin cells to instantly clarify and reveal smoother, clearer skin. One of the most hydrating alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), lactic acid exfoliates the surface layers of the skin, revealing a more clarified, fresher, smoother, younger-looking complexion. Lactic acid also helps diminish the look of discoloration and dark spots. Good Genes is balanced by licorice to help improve skin radiance, prickly pear extract that instantly soothes skin, and lemongrass for a more even-toned complexion. Sunday Riley is proudly sustainable, B Corp certified and cruelty free.

If you have sensitive skin

Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides Retinol Alternative Peptide-Infused Serum is a serum that is formulated with bakuchiol, a plant-derived alternative to retinol. Formulated with 1.25 per cent pure bakuchiol, with continued use, not only will users experience retinol-like results in terms of skin rejuvenation and a reduction in fine lines (without the side effects), they can also expect to improve the tone and clarity of their complexion, resulting in beautiful, glowing skin. Lipid-soluble brightening peptide precursors penetrate the skin with ease, helping prevent production of pigment in the skin, resulting in a visibly brighter, more even complexion with less hyperpigmentation. Centella asiatica is perfect for visibly soothing and calming inflamed, sensitive skin. Inka omega oil is also rich in omegas 3, 6 and 9, and is able to slip into the gaps in the stratum corneum to help restore the skin's natural barrier and block moisture loss.

If you want to eliminate fine lines

mesoestetic age element® firming concentrate is a concentrated serum with lifting effect. With a high concentration of firming active ingredients, it provides the skin with visible elasticity, while helping to plump the appearance of the complexion. Suitable for skin with loss of firmness and facial definition, flaccidity, lack of elasticity and visible lines and wrinkles.

If you’re struggling with acne

Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum is a highly-concentrated clearing serum. The serum exfoliates to help prevent breakouts and accelerates cell turnover to help reduce signs of skin ageing. Formulated with salicylic acid to reduce breakouts and clear skin, phytoactives from resurrection plant to hydrate and smooth skin and niacinamide combined with white shiitake mushroom to promote brighter and more even skin. The serum works with the skin’s natural microbiome for clearer, brighter skin.

If you want something soothing

The Body Shop Aloe Protective Serum is a fast-drying, lightweight pre-moisturiser treatment, which sinks into the skin to form a blanket of soothing protection, reinforcing the skin’s natural defence system and helping to protect against irritants. Containing soy oil, it soothes the discomfort associated with sensitive skin and leaves the skin feeling soft, silky and completely cushioned. Use as a daily pre-moisturiser treatment in the morning and at night. For best results, always apply serum to skin in between the tone and moisturise steps of a regime.

If you need something for underneath the eyes

Dr. LeWinn’s Line Smoothing Complex S8 Intensive Action Caviar Eye Serum is a lightweight and super potent gel serum formulated with powerful scientifically proven actives to transform the eye area. Clinically tested peptide Snap-8™ is proven to help reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles by up to 63%*, while nutrient-rich Caviar Extract is captured inside each gold millicapsule and is crushed upon dispensing to release a concentrated serum. Enriched with a superior form of Hyaluronic Acid to intensely nourish and hydrate skin, while Golden C, the next generation of Vitamin C is supercharged with Gold to maintain 100% potency* and works to brighten skin and boost collagen. Meiview™, a concentrated ferment extract improves microcirculation and helps diminish signs of dark circles, puffiness and upper eyelid sagging with visible effects in just 7 days*. Upon application, skin feels instantly hydrated and re-energised revealing smoother, brighter and healthier-looking eyes.

*Results based on a 7 and 28 day independent clinical and consumer study involving 25 participants.