Once upon a time, skincare was simple; cleanse, tone, moisturize, and go. Today, not so much. In the past 10 years there’s been an explosion of new products in new categories — serums included — that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. The best face serums, many of which you may have never heard of, are designed to focus on one task or ingredient and, when applied to a clean face, deliver their powerful formulas directly to your skin for maximum effectiveness. Think of them like a daily vitamin, protein shake, or espresso shot for your skin — they're specific, powerful, and usually the best way to give your skin exactly what it needs.
Serums, which typically come in small glass bottles, have the consistency of a light gel, lotion, or oil, and are designed to be applied after cleansing and toning, but before any moisturizer, oil, or essence. They can also be layered, depending on your needs on a particular day. The best way to apply them is by gently tapping them into the skin and allowing them to absorb before moving on to the next steps in your routine.
So far, the most popular uses for serums are to clear acne with ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acids, to aid in deeply hydrating the skin with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and thermal water, and to tone, tighten and brighten with antioxidants, vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't be — the seven serums on this list are some of the best on the market.