The 11 Best Serums That Improve Skin, According to Top Doctors
Serums are to skin care as Whole 30 recipes are to Pinterest boards. Vital, but also overwhelming to absorb all at once. To make the serum-selection process easier, we tapped six top dermatologists, facial plastic surgeons and plastic surgeons and asked them which bottle is 100-percent worth adding to our carts. Their skin-transforming answers, below.
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Best for: Repairing Skin and Boosting Hydration
“I love SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum ($320) because of its combination of growth factors, peptides and antioxidants,” says Chicago plastic surgeon Niki Christopoulos, MD. “It’s really done wonders for improving fine lines and wrinkles thanks to hyaluronic acid.” Fresno, CA dermatologist Kathleen Behr, MD, agrees, contending she’s been using it personally for more than 17 years. “I try other serums, but keep returning to my TNS.” Another long-time user: Grand Rapids, MI plastic surgeon Bradley Bengtson, MD. “I’ve used it since it launched. As a guy, it’s really difficult to start a new pattern and spend the time to put five or six products on my face daily, so I love TNS. It’s a one shot deal and works.”
Best for: Estrogen-Deficient Skin
“I love the Emepelle Serum ($175) because it contains MEP, a non-hormonal ingredient that stimulates estrogen receptors to replenish collagen and moisture levels in estrogen deficient skin. MEP is an exciting new ingredient and there’s nothing like it available right now,” says New York dermatologist Diane Berson, MD. “The serum is lightweight, fast-absorbing and applies well under makeup.” Other potent ingredients include antioxidants, peptides and hydrators.
Best for: Before and After a Procedure
“Alastin Regenerating Skin Nectar ($195) is usually recommended for pre- and post- facial procedures, but it’s also great on its own as a serum,” says Dr. Christopoulos, adding that the brand’s proprietary TriHex Technology not only supports the skin’s healing process but helps stimulate new collagen over time.
Best for: Immediate and Long-Term Hydration
“SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator ($178) uses five different molecules of hyaluronic acid to make skin extra skin and hydrated,” says Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD. “There’s no such thing as winter skin with this serum,” she adds. Facial plastic surgeon Jennifer Levine, MD agrees, adding that it’s her go-to for plumper skin. “It gives such a dewy glow and has made a real difference in my skin,” she says.
Best for: A Potent Protector
"A newer serum I’ve really enjoyed is SkinBetter Science Alto Defense Serum ($145)," says Norwalk, CT dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD. "It is an antioxidant powerhouse containing 19 different antioxidants to provide broad-spectrum coverage that helps protect and repair against environmental, free-radical and oxidative stresses."
Best for: An All-Around More Youthful Glow
According to New York dermatologist Sejal Shah, MD, Drunk Elephant C-Firma Serum ($80) is a must for tackling multiple skin concerns—namely boosting your skin's radiance—at once. "It combines 15 percent vitamin C with ferulic acid and vitamin C, as well as hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump, peptides, and fruit enzymes. It protects skin against free radicals, improves fine lines and wrinkles, and moisturizes the skin. The fruit enzymes remove dead skin cells and further improve texture and pores."
Best for: Brightening Dull Skin
"I think the one serum everyone should use is a vitamin C antioxidant serum," explains Dr. Shah. "Vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidants we have and has a number of skin benefits. Revision Vitamin C Lotion 30% ($115) is one of the strongest concentrations of vitamin C available. Combined with a number of other antioxidants, as well as squalene to moisturize the skin, it protects the skin against free radicals, improves fine lines and wrinkles, and moisturizes the skin."
Best for: De-Aging Skin
"Alastin Restorative Skin Complex ($195) is a worthwhile purchase because it helps to promote new skin elastin and collagen, reduces appearance of fine lines and helps to even skin tone, all through potent antioxidants and peptides," explains New York dermatologist Ritu Saini, MD. "After sunscreen, it's a one stop shop for topical anti aging." West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD agrees, adding that its formula helps restore elastin and collagen while boasting a high concentration of antioxidants. "My patients like that it goes on nicely and gets into the skin quickly. I like it so much, I invested in it myself."
Best for: Helping Your Filler Last
“Hyaluronic acid is the hero ingredient in skin care right now. Whether it’s used in skin care products or in the office by your doctor, hyaluronic acid acts like a sponge that pulls hydration into the skin to offer both moisturizing and plumping benefits and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," explains New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. Whenever your doctor uses a hyaluronic acid filler like Restylane, make sure to use a serum that includes hyaluronic acid at home to help maintain improvements between visits. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Serum ($20) is an affordable option that does the job well.”