If you think of your cleanser as your stretching, exfoliator as your warm-up and moisturiser as that post-gym protein shake that builds muscle, then serums are the main event. Filled with active ingredients and formulated to make the most impact, the best serums tone, condition and shape your face in a way no other product can.
Like workouts, serums can be concentrated or more holistic, focusing on one singular ingredient, skin type and issue or simply a clever cocktail of ingredients that nourish general skin health.
If you’re not already using one, here’s why you should start.
What Is Face Serum?
Essentially the part of your grooming routine meant to treat your skin, serums hold the active ingredients that address specific skincare issues. That issue can be anything – brightening, clarifying, ageing, hydrating, even strengthening – but it will be sorted with a serum rather than a face wash (meant to wash away the day), an exfoliator (meant to slough away dead skin) or a moisturiser (meant to seal in moisture).
What Does Face Serum Do?
Thankfully serums can be completely tailored to you. Fine lines? Pick a hydrating serum. Pigmentation? A brightening one. Want a bit of everything? There are products that do that, too.
While there has been a recent wave of serums with single-ingredient focuses (look at the success of brands like The Ordinary or The Inkey List), this category of men’s grooming products traditionally combines actives for a more holistic approach to skin conditions.
Not sure what to pick? We’ve laid out our favourites below in the ultimate serum support guide.
The Best Face Serum For Every Skin Type
Best Vitamin C Serum
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Packed with a fantastically potent 15 per cent of the good stuff, Drunk Elephant’s Vitamin C serum is not playing any games. The potent antioxidant will do everything from even tone, tackle pigmentation, stimulate collagen and neutralise free radicals. It has an usual reservoir effect, which means the actives are slowly released over 72 hours – a genius move that limits any potential inflammation. No wonder the brand just sold to Shiseido for a cool £655 million.
Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum
111SKIN Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Booster
Hyaluronic acid draws up to 1000 times its weight in water to the top layers of the skin, making it the absolute hero for dehydrated or dry complexions. Throw in some glycerin, aloe vera, urea and niacinamide (thank you, 111SKIN) and you’ve got a seriously smart complex for soft, supple and bouncy skin.
Best Wrinkle Serum
Anthony Anti-Wrinkle Glycolic Peptide Serum
Glycolic acid is the strongest of all AHAs, sloughing away dead skin without a problem. Peptides, alternatively, are the building blocks of your skin – strengthening and stimulating the dermis to produce collagen, the stuff that makes your skin look fuller and younger. It is no wonder then that Anthony has combined both these anti-ageing saviours in one serum, tackling fine lines and wrinkles with a double-dose of actives.
Best Anti-Ageing Serum
La Mer The Regenerating Serum
Newly reformulated, La Mer’s cult-classic Regeneration Serum now harnesses marine ingredients with its signature Miracle Broth formula. Considering both are collected from some of the harshest parts of the ocean – where life still thrives – it’s hardly surprising that they are packed with youth-restoring vitamins and minerals. Slather the super-luxe texture on and quite soon your phone’s best filters will be surplus to requirements.
Best Anti-Oxidant Serum
The Grey Recovery Face Serum
Formulated for men particularly, The Grey has an easy, all-purpose serum loaded with antioxidants and anti-ageing natural extracts. Think hydration, think firming, think brightening – all held in a cooling gel texture. Definitely a must if your skin needs a bit of everything.
Best Hydrating Serum
Sisley Hydra-Global Serum
Innovative to an extraordinary degree, Sisley’s latest serum actually reactivates your skin into producing more hyaluronic acid autonomously over time. While that biohacking process gets to work, the serum still captures, circulates and conserves hydration for brilliant skin that is fine line-free.
Best Acne Serum
The Inkey List C-50 Blemish Night Treatment
Quickly becoming a cult-favourite, The Inkey List specialises in focused treatments at excellent prices that deliver results. Relatively new to its line up is an acne-focused serum, which combines a stable vitamin C (to handle any post-inflammatory marks) and salicylic acid (that dissolves all the oil in your pores) for a two-step approach to a clear complexion.
Best Serum For Acne Scars
Dr Dennis Gross Professional Grade IPL Dark Spot Concentrate Serum
Designed to fade out pigment and post-inflammatory pigment (basically residual marks you get from spots), the formula of Dr Gross’ newest serum lends itself to dealing with acne scarring too. The mix of lactic, mandelic and glycolic acid will help stimulate new skin and slough away stubborn tissue that tends to make up scarring, while vitamin C, kojic acid and liquorice root lighten the surrounding pigment. Keep it in your night routine though; the strong concoction may increase sensitivity during the day.
Best Night Serum
BioEffect EGF Serum
Speaking of nighttime wonders, BioEffect’s award-winning serum keeps getting snapped up thanks to a clever formula containing EGFs (Epidermal Growth Factors, FYI). The ultimate healing factor for your skin, EGFs stimulate new cells, strengthen the barrier and do it all without causing irritation. If you are looking to skip the botox but want the results, this is your man.
Best Serum For Oily Skin
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid
As a BHA (Beta-Hydroxy Acid) salicylic acid is the only acid that can dissolve oil; hence being the perfect ingredient to tackle greasy skin. It basically works by exfoliating the inside walls of your pores, cleaning out dirt, debris and bacteria and giving the looks of smaller, tighter pores. Blackheads, be gone.
Best Serum For Dry Skin
Aesop Parsley Seed Antioxidant Serum
Dry skin is fundamentally a lack of oil (dehydrated skin is a lack of water) so if you want to effectively tackle the issue it is important to incorporate a serum-oil hybrid. Aesop have long reigned the multi-tasking product market so it is no surprise their Parsley Seed Antioxidant Serum – loaded with hydrating and nourishing actives – is the ideal lightweight oil, conditioning your skin while sealing in moisture. As we head into winter, it will become a lifesaver.
Best All-Rounder Skin Serum
Dr David Jack Good Morning! Antioxidant Super Serum
There is a reason the good doctor called this ‘Good Morning!’. Like a shot of coffee or nourishing green juice, it is exactly what you need to wake your skin up. Made up of 10 per cent Vitamin C (goodbye sun damage! Goodbye uneven tone!) and several hydrators, it will brighten, tighten and fill the skin with moisture. Trust us – Dr David Jack is who you want to wake up with. The serum, that is.
Best Eye Serum
Triumph & Disaster Dichotomy Eye Serum
A good eye cream needs to tackle all the issues that come with that region; dark circles, fine lines, sagging skin and broken capillaries to name a few. It’s a fragile area, so a clever, lightweight blend of ingredients is required. Enter grooming brand Triumph & Disaster, which has a holistic approach of combining anti-ageing natural extracts and synthetic actives. Definitely a must after a heavy night, long flight or little sleep.
Best Retinol Serum
Medik8 Retinol 3TR
If you don’t know, Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that has become the skincare ingredient of the decade. Powerful and multi-tasking, Retinol improves texture, tone, acne and lines to give you the clearest complexion you’ve ever had. Start small (it is rather sensitising) with Medik8’s 0.3 per cent 3TR, which is based in a nourishing body of squalene.