Serums are an incredibly popular skin-care category and the best serums can provide truly remarkable results. In order to make the Best Products list, a serum must:
- Contain ingredients that fight environmental damage
- Be loaded with antioxidants proven to help skin become healthier
- Contain ingredients that stimulate healthy collagen production
- Treat skin to essential repairing and cell-communicating ingredients so it can look and act younger
- Contain minimal to no fragrance
- Not contain needless irritants such as fragrant oils or mint
- Be packaged to ensure the efficacy and stability of the ingredients
Formula-wise, serums have made great strides! The best among them contain a blend of sophisticated ingredients with substantiated research proving their benefit for skin of all ages. Such ingredients include those mentioned above, along with anti-irritants to soothe and calm skin.
Because many serums have a texture that is suitable for oily or breakout-prone skin, they can be a brilliant way for those with this skin type and/or condition to obtain the benefits of antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients, including retinol (serums containing an impressive amount of retinol in stable packaging are listed separately).
You will notice that the list of serums is on the expensive side. We wish this weren’t the case, but it is. There are two reasons for this:
- Most cosmetics companies position serums as specialty or targeted products, almost always with an anti-aging angle. Therefore, as the perceived (or the claimed) benefits increase, so does the price.
- The more real-world reason for the high prices is that it is expensive to create serums (most are non-aqueous, and water is the least expensive yet most pervasive skin-care ingredient around) that contain the level and range of state-of-the-art ingredients needed to improve skin.
The cost of several of the ingredients in these serums is, on a pound-for-pound basis, staggering when compared to the cost of ubiquitous ingredients such as triglycerides, glycerin, or mineral oil. Although most of the best serums are costly, at least you know you’re getting an intelligently formulated product whose ingredients have a proven track record of improving skin’s health and appearance.
Note: Whether you apply any serum before or after your moisturizer is a matter of personal preference. Generally, the serum can be applied before moisturizer, but experiment with order of application to see which works best for you. Those with oily or combination skin will likely find a serum is the only "moisturizer" they need. Also, most serums can and should be applied around the eyes.