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Best facial serum 2023: The top serums for all skin types from £6

best face serum

Boost your skincare regime, whether you have dry, oily or combination skin, with our pick of the best facial serums

A good skincare routine starts with cleansing, toning and moisturising. For an added boost to your daily regimen, a facial serum is the best way to give your skin a concentrated burst of any skincare ingredient.

A serum is a powerful treatment packed with active ingredients; where your moisturiser will primarily hydrate and smooth the skin, a facial serum acts as a targeted treatment for specific concerns – whether that’s dryness, dull skin, fine lines or acne.

Popular ingredients in facial serums include hydrators such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, brightening ingredients such as vitamin C and retinol, and exfoliators such as salicylic acid. These ingredients often pop up in moisturisers, but a serum will deliver them in a much more concentrated form, allowing them to penetrate deep into the skin to produce more noticeable benefits. Serums work hand in hand with the rest of your skincare products, enhancing the effects of your favourite cleanser and moisturiser.

But which one is right for your skin? Read on to discover the best facial serums, whatever your budget.

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Best facial serum: At a glance

How to choose the best face serum for you

What should you look for when buying a serum?

The right serum for you depends primarily on the skincare concern you’d like to address. The majority of serums contain hydrating and anti-ageing ingredients to plump up moisture-starved skin, but there are also serums that tackle blemishes or mild acne by exfoliating the skin and boosting cell renewal. If acne or congested skin is your concern, look for serums that contain salicylic acid to slough off dead skin cells and unclog pores, and retinol to soften and heal the skin.

Tired, dull skins will benefit from a serum containing vitamin C to help bring out your inner glow; for dry skin choose a hyaluronic acid serum for an extra shot of moisture. Retinol is also a great ingredient for softening fine lines and boosting collagen production to give skin a firmer and more youthful look.

How do you use a serum?

A serum is best used after cleansing but before moisturising, to allow the product to sink into the skin and get all the beneficial ingredients to where they need to be. Apply a pump or two of serum to the face and neck with light fingertip strokes, and follow with your favourite moisturiser. If using a serum as part of your morning routine, give the product time to sink in before applying moisturiser and makeup, as serum formulations can be quite runny and may cause your makeup to slide off if not properly absorbed.

Some products, such as retinol and vitamin C in higher concentrations, can cause mild irritation at first and should be used every other day to begin with until your skin builds up tolerance. If your skincare routine includes both vitamin C and retinol, it’s best to use vitamin C products in the morning and retinol products at night – retinol helps cells rebuild overnight but can cause sun sensitivity, whereas vitamin C helps protect from environmental damage so is a good choice for daytime. Salicylic acid can also cause mild irritation so is best used at night; hyaluronic acid can be used at any time of day

What should I use after a serum?

Serums are great at delivering high concentrations of skincare ingredients to the skin, but not so good at adding moisture to the skin or holding it in place. You may find that a serum on its own leaves skin a little dry and prickly, so you’ll want to finish with a nourishing moisturiser to provide emollient (skin softening) and occlusive (moisture-trapping) effects. Simply apply your favourite face cream after your chosen serum at bedtime, or before you start your morning makeup routine.

How much should you spend?

There’s a common misconception that you need to spend hundreds of pounds on a serum to get results and that those products containing the most active ingredients will command a higher price. However, this is no longer the case. The skincare market has recently undergone quite the shakeup, with a number of no-frills brands making their way onto shelves. As such, you’ll easily find a product out there for your skin concern, no matter your budget.

How we test facial serums

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. As such, we’ve personally tested all of the facial serums in the roundup below, making sure to follow the directions on the packaging.

We start by noting all the active ingredients, as well as the particular skin types or conditions the serum is designed to treat. We use each product as directed for one week, considering the skin softening, smoothing and plumping effects of each formula and how comfortable the skin feels immediately after use and after applying a moisturiser as normal. As well as scrutinising the smell of the serum, we also note any issues such as greasiness, stickiness or stinging on application. Finally, we come to a conclusion over how easy a serum is to use, including the package design, and how long the effects of one application last.

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The best facial serums you can buy in 2023

1. Lancome Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Serum: Best luxury facial serum

Price: £65 | Buy now from LookFantastic

Designed to combat the first signs of ageing, Lancome’s Genifique serum contains moisturising castor oil, soothing French Rose extract and hydrating hyaluronic acid to lift and firm the skin, plump up fine lines and boost radiance. The push-top and pipette applicator help you to dispense just the right amount of product, and the formula glides onto the skin smoothly before quickly settling – press in lightly with the fingertips to help the serum sink in. The smell is a little clinical at first, but once you’ve applied your moisturiser it’s hardly noticeable.

Genifique suits all skin types – from oily to dry – and while the soothing and hydrating formula particularly suits dry and mature skins, the serum is suitable for all ages. Apply twice a day, and follow with your favourite moisturiser, and you’ll soon notice a more even-toned, firmer complexion.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml

Buy now from LookFantastic

2. Glossier Super Bounce Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin B5 serum: Best hydrating facial serum

Price: £28 | Buy now from Glossier

Cult brand Glossier’s Super Bounce serum combines the hydrating power of hyaluronic acid with healing and moisturising vitamin B5. The result is plump and bouncy skin that glows from within. An excellent serum for calming irritated or sensitive skin, this fragrance- and paraben-free serum is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and inflamed skin; Super Bounce is also beneficial for acne-prone and scarred skin.

Glossier’s non-sticky serum is quickly absorbed into the skin, making it ideal for morning application before makeup; it’s also a great hydrating serum for winter weather. The £24 price tag is good value for a quality product that will freshen and plump up all skin types; and it comes in a pretty pastel bottle.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml

Buy now from Glossier

3. Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Blemish + Line Correcting Serum: The best facial serum for acne

Price: £39 (30ml) | Buy now from LookFantastic

If you suffer from breakouts and your usual moisturiser and spot treatment just aren’t cutting it, a blemish-targeted serum could be just what you need. Clinique’s oil-free formula with salicylic acid is a good place to start; the oil-controlling formula does a brilliant job of preventing spots from appearing in the first place, and whey protein helps to heal scars and improve skin texture.

A good serum for adult skins where the main concerns are oiliness and blemishes, Clinique’s Blemish + Line Correcting Serum also helps plump up the skin and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. If you’ve outgrown teenage spot treatments, this could be the grown-up serum that helps your skin look and feel its best.

Key specs – Bottle size: 30ml

Buy now from LookFantastic

4. La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum: The best vitamin C serum

Price: £36 | Buy now from Boots

A lightweight and easily absorbed serum, La Roche-Posay’s Vitamin C10 serum combines a mild 10% concentration of vitamin C with the plumping ingredient hyaluronic acid to smoothen skin and reduce fine lines. The non-greasy serum is silicone-based, so it’s a good choice for sensitive skins, and skin immediately feels soft and smooth. Vitamin C10 serum also contains exfoliating salicylic acid to help clear pores and improve skin texture, making this a great all-rounder to get your skin firm, glowing and refreshed.

Key specs – Bottle size: 30ml

Buy now from Boots

5. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: Best budget serum

Price: £7.90 (60ml) | Buy now from LookFantastic

Cult brand The Ordinary is known for its high-quality ingredients in minimalist packaging, making quality skincare affordable for all. This simple yet powerful combination of hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 works deep in the skin, providing plumping hydration from the inside out. The result is soft, dewy skin with fewer fine lines, that feels fresher and more comfortable throughout the day.

The Ordinary’s no-nonsense serum formula is fragrance-free and gentle enough for all skin types; it’s also vegan and oil-free, making it particularly suitable for oilier skins. If your skin is on the dryer side, we’d recommend following the serum with a nourishing moisturiser to hold in the hydrating goodness.

Key specsPack size: 60ml

Buy now from LookFantastic

6. CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum: Best serum for mature skins

Price: £17 (30ml) | Buy now from Amazon

CeraVe’s lightweight gel serum contains the anti-ageing hero ingredients Retinol to improve the texture and radiance of the skin, and hyaluronic acid to help skin retain moisture, alongside plumping ceramides to protect the skin. A gentle 0.1% concentration of retinol helps boost the skin’s natural collagen production, giving a firmer texture and reducing fine lines and acne scars. The milky formula goes on smoothly; it’s slightly sticky on first application but soon sinks into the skin. Unlike some serums, Cerave’s rich formula doesn’t leave skin feeling dry after application, and the serum is gentle enough to be used daily without irritating effects. Expect to see plumper, healthier skin within four weeks.

Key specs Pack size: 30ml

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