Using a serum can seem like nothing but an expensive time-suck in your morning routine—especially to all of us who seem to be constantly on the go, rarely having any extra time before we’re rushing out the door. But that one additional step can be the key to hydrated, bright, even-toned skin—and who doesn’t want to be glowing?
Still, figuring out which serum is right for you isn’t always easy. Here’s a quick breakdown: If you want more hydrated, dewy skin, you’ll want to look for a formula with hyaluronic acid, a water-binding molecule that can hold up to 1,000-times its weight in moisture.
If bright, even-toned skin is what you’re after, vitamin C (a.k.a. L-ascorbic acid) is your new best friend. The antioxidant is any derm’s gold-standard for lightening acne marks and sun spots, as well as lending skin a lit-from-within glow. If you’re looking for a powerful anti-ager, look for a serum with peptides or retinol, and save those for nighttime since they can break down in the sun.
We culled 20 of our favorite, most potent formulas that promise to bring you closer to bright, even-toned, dewy skin—no matter your budget. The best skin serums to add to your skin-care routine, ahead.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2017.
Murad Advanced Active Radiance® Serum
This powerful serum has a Resilient-C Complex that not only reverses visible signs of environmental damage, but also improving brightness, clarity and radiance.
$90 at Murad
Glossier. Super Bounce
With a name like Super Bounce, you bet this serum boasts the ability to bring back elasticity to your skin. But our favorite part of the product description is this: "Good for skin depleted from hangovers, long layovers, blasting A/C, or high-high heat." Count us in.
$28 at Glossier.
PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum
According to PCA Skin's website, this serum "encourages the skin to create its own hyaluronic acid, resulting in long-term anti-aging and hydration." Long-term anti-aging is exactly what everyone wants, right?
$115 at PCA Skin
Indeed Laboratories Hydraluron Serum
You can use this serum day or night, leaving you with plump skin and a dewy glow.
$24.99 at Indeed Laboratories
CAUDALIE Vine[Activ] Glow Activating Anti-Wrinkle Serum
This serum visibly smooths initial signs of wrinkles and restores a healthy glow to the skin, all the while not leaving a sticky residue behind. Win-win-win!
$52 at CAUDALIE
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum
In four weeks, 96 percent of users said their skin felt more hydrated and appeared to have a youthful appearance, according to a consumer survey conducted by Peter Thomas Roth.
$65 at Peter Thomas Roth
Peter Thomas Roth
Bluemercury SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
This serum is a small bottle that packs quite a punch: Not only does it defend against environmental aging and help build collagen, but it also delivers antioxidant protection.
$165 at Bluemercury
Nip + Fab Dragon’s Blood Hyaluronic Acid Shot
The heck is Dragon's Blood, you ask? Glad you asked: It's a sap found in the Croton Lechleri tree in the Amazon, and it protects and heals skin from all external factors. In short, if your skin is thirsty and dry, then give this serum a shot.
$24.95 at Nip + Fab
Nip + Fab
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare C+ Collagen Brighten + Firm Vitamin C Serum
This serums fights dullness, dark spots, rough texture, and expression lines. According to its website, 92 percent of users
said their face looked smoother and felt softer after just 21 days.
$78 at Dr. Dennis Gross
Dr. Dennis Gross
ELEMIS Hydra-Boost Serum
According to independent user trial results based on 105 people over two weeks, 87 percent agreed their skin felt instantly hydrated.
$72 at ELEMIS
Pixi Overnight Glow Serum
As its name suggests, this serum works while you sleep to exfoliate and soothe your skin for a brighter complexion.
$24 at Pixi
Ole Henriksen Truth Serum
With over 100 reviews, 91 of which giving the product a 5-star rating, this is Ole Henriksen's No. 1 age-defying serum, described as a "daily multivitamin for the skin."
$48 at Ole Henriksen
Estée Lauder Perfectionist [CP+R] Wrinkle Lifting/Firming Serum
According to Estée Lauder's website, 96 percent of users' skin looked redensified and reclaimed "a youthful firmness and suppleness." Impressive.
$68 at Estée Lauder
E.l.f. Facial Hydrating Serum
Soothe and nourish your skin with this serum's jojoba, aloe, vitamin E, grape, and shea butter formula.
$12 at e.l.f
Youth to the People Age Prevention Superfood Serum
This serum contains a potent youth complex of peptides, age-defying antioxidants, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin.
$62 at Youth to the People
Youth to the People
A Complete Youth Preserve Serum
Not only is this product oil-free, but it also contains a moisturizer to rehydrate dry skin.
$54 at A Complete
Jurlique Herbal Recovery Advanced Serum
Based on its website, 87 percent of women surveyed saw a significant improvement in skin dullness in just seven days. If that's not impressive, we don't know what is.
$69 at Jurlique
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Night Serum
Overnight, you'll go from a drab complexion to a luminous one.
$90 at Drunk Elephant
Perricone MD H2 Elemental Energy Hydrating Booster Serum
Because this product is powered by hydrogen, it "penetrates the surface layers of the skin with a boost of hydrating vitality," according to its website—leaving your skin purely radiant.
$100 at Sephora
Vichy Liftactiv Serum 10 Supreme
In just 10 days, you should see reduced fine lines and wrinkles, and feel tighter, plumped skin.
$45; at Vichy
Best Skin Serums to Try for a Clear, Even-Toned Complexion | @stylecaster