Though they've become an essential part of your nightly (and sometimes daily) skin care routine, face serums tend to drain your bank account faster than your daily Starbucks fix. And while it makes sense that the high concentration of active ingredients would come with a higher price tag, pricier doesn't necessarily mean better. The best drugstore serums available are still formulated with effective ingredients that work overtime to improve your skin — you just have to know what to look for.
If dry and/or dehydrated skin is your main concern, you'll want a hydrating serum, like one with hyaluronic acid. They're typically lightweight and gentle, and often fragrance-free, making them a great choice for sensitive skin types, too.
For a more heavy duty serum that can do everything from plump, firm, and fight acne, you'll want a serum that contains retinol — just be sure you pair it with a moisturizer at night to counteract any dryness, and use SPF in the morning to avoid irritation and sunburn, as retinol leaves your skin more photosensitive.
Vitamin C serums are another great option. Though pretty much every skin type can benefit from a dose of vitamin C, those trying to even out their skin tone and fade signs of hyperpigmentation will find them especially effective.
No matter what your primary skin concern is, here are six of the best drugstore serums to help get you started.
1. Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum For Hydration
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum
If your skin is in need of extra hydration, try a serum with hyaluronic acid to help your skin retain more moisture before sealing everything in with your richer face cream. The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum is one of my favorite hyaluronic acid serums that doesn't come with a crazy-high price tag. You can also wear it on its own, since it's quite moisturizing in itself, which is a pro tip on days where it's too hot or humid for lotions and creams. The other great thing about this serum is that you only need a few drops, and it sinks instantly into your skin, leaving no greasy or sticky feeling behind. On top of being hydrating, the serum is oil-free and noncomedogenic, so it won't aggravate acne-prone skin.
2. Best Vitamin C Serum To Brighten Skin
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum
To brighten skin, fade pigmentation, and improve your skin's overall texture, you need a serum with vitamin C. L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives includes 10 percent vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid in a lightweight serum that feels silky on skin but leaves a matte finish. Because vitamin C is an unstable ingredient that degrades quickly when exposed to things like water and light, L’Oréal Paris formulates their serum without water and packages it in an air-tight metal tube that minimizes its exposure to light and oxygen. Vitamin C is also a handy ingredient for keeping your skin even more protected from environmental aggressors, like UV light and free radicals, in addition to your SPF. Which leads us to...
3. Best Serum With SPF For Sun Protection
La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum With SPF 50
La Roche-Posay's Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum With SPF 50 is an amazing SPF alternative for those who hate the feeling of traditional sunscreens. Though it's a bit pricier than the other drugstore finds on this list, it's quite a rare product, as it's hard to find other serums that contain SPF. It's also a multi-tasker, because it's formulated with an antioxidant complex to protect the skin in addition to acting as a sunscreen. The fact that it delivers UVA and UVB protection in a lightweight, non-greasy formula and is dermatologist-tested for sensitive skin are just a few more reasons to love it.
4. Best Retinol Serum To Increase Skin Cell Turnover
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum
Retinol is known as the gold standard of skin care ingredients for its ability to accelerate skin cell turnover, increase collagen production, and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. The downside is that it often comes with a higher price tag. For a drugstore take on the It ingredient that's still effective, there's RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum. RoC pairs hydrating ingredients like glycerin and dimethicone with the retinol to combat any signs of irritation like redness and dryness that typically occur when using the vitamin A derivative. It also includes zinc and magnesium, which both protect the skin and can help reduce redness.
5. A Salicylic Acid Serum For Clearer Skin
No. 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum
Restoring and plumping skin may be the No. 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum's main job, but it can also help give you clearer skin thanks to salicylic acid. The popular acne-fighting ingredient is a BHA that works to unclog pores and prevent future breakouts from occurring. This is one of those serums that any skin type can enjoy, since it' treats such a multitude of skin care concerns.
Multiple reviewers say that it's left their skin smooth and silky, and rave about how lightweight it is. One says, "Highly recommend for the daily use in the morning ... it's perfect for the day because it's not greasy." Another writes, "I have sensitive skin and this product is great. Skin is nice and soft for hours and no skin irritation at all."
6. A Serum That Doubles As A Makeup Primer
Aveeno Positively Radiant Maxglow Serum + Primer
For a makeup primer that's formulated with good-for-skin ingredients, Aveeno's Positively Radiant Maxglow Serum + Primer is a hypoallergenic, gentle, and non-comedogenic pick. The lightweight formula includes moisturizing ingredients like sunflower seed oil and jojoba oil, plus kiwi, which is high in vitamins C and E for brightening and skin-smoothing benefits.
One user writes, "Liked the natural glow it gives! I've been wearing it daily and just dust some [powder] on top and the natural shine still comes thru [sic]." Another says, "I have fairly dry / sensitive skin & I love the way this makes my skin feel. It makes my skin appear dewey without it feeling oily."
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