The Best Serums Can Sort Out Any Skin Problem (No, Really)

Philippa Pearne


We know serums have been around for a while now but which ones are the best? Despite the mass interest, there’s still a hint of confusion, cynicism, uncertainty—all of the above, really—over whether it is absolutely necessary to add a serum into our regimens. “Everyone knows that a serum is a skin booster, but because it’s more expensive, they think it’s not necessary,” explains Howard Murad, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Murad skincare. However, there’s more to serums than just giving the skin a quick pep talk. If you’re puzzled or just totally over the long-winded, science-packed explanations about why you need one, wonder no more.

Here are the essential things you need to know (without the bits you don’t).

What is a serum?

Just think of it as your hardest-working skincare product. “A serum contains more active ingredients than other products and is more of a targeted skincare treatment,” Murad says. “It helps repair and prevent existing and future damage, meaning it is more powerful than a moisturiser, which is designed to hydrate and protect the skin rather than treat a specific concern.” Although primarily for ageing, you can find one for other skin concerns too: “Use it to tackle things like blemishes, pigmentation and dry skin,” he adds.

Why do I need one?

It’s tricky because the skin needs hydration over anything. So why would you choose spending money on a serum over, or as well as, a moisturiser? Don’t worry, we hear you, but trust us when we say it’s worth it to use both. “What most people may not realise is that a serum also enhances the benefits of the other products you’re using, which means your whole regime is working harder,” Murad says.

Okay, I'm convinced. When do I start using it, and at what point in my regimen?

“You should really start thinking about the ageing process during your 20s,” Murad says. “Your choice of serum needs to reflect your skin concerns to help you see a difference in your skin and get the most out of your product,” he adds. “Apply it after cleansing and toning and just before your moisturiser.”

How do I know which one to go for?

It’s easy—think about what results you want to get from your serum, and check the label for the relevant ingredients. “For example, if you want radiant skin, look for a serum that contains vitamin C for brightness,” Murad says. (We love Murad Advanced Active Radiance Serum, £75.) “Or if you want to target blemishes, go for pore-clearing ingredients like salicylic acid and retinol to speed up cell renewal and improve skin texture.”

Keep scrolling to shop the best serums based on your skin concerns.

Next up: Shop the best affordable foundations.

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