Call 'em the superheroes of skincare, serums have fewer fillers and moisturizers (like heavy oils or added sun protection), and more active ingredients. That means you’ll get concentrated amounts of powerful anti-agers like retinoids, ceramides, and/or peptides. The lightweight formulas absorb quickly and are easy to add to your existing routines if you want to see some extra anti-aging benefits.
These are the best anti-aging serums to buy in 2019:
Top Lab Pick: Best Value: Best for Wrinkles: Great for Dark Spots: Retinol Formula: Hydrating Formula: Innovative Design:
How to use them: Serums are usually the second step in skincare — applied after cleansing but before moisturizer or SPF. Dispense a pea-size amount in the palm of your hand and gently pat it into skin. More isn’t always better. Depending on the formulation, putting on too much could lead to pilling. And while most are okay to use in the morning and at night, it’s not true for all, so always read the directions.
Don’t worry if you have oily or combination skin, either. While you may usually steer clear of creams because they can feel thick and heavy, “Serums are great options since they absorb quickly and don’t feel greasy,” explains GolfHr Institute Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek.
Some may also contain retinoids (retinol or its derivatives), which are proven and powerful anti-agers, but also sometimes cause redness and irritation. If your skin is sensitive to those ingredients or you are looking for a more gentle option, skip these formulas. Be sure to use a broad spectrum SPF 30 moisturizer if your serum contains any type of retinoid — even if using a sunscreen isn’t not listed on the directions or there’s no warning. No matter what, you should already be using SPF regularly to protect your skin from damaging UV rays. Because the best wrinkle treatment is preventing them in the first place!
Even better? You might be take advantage of a serum as your makeup primer. In a recent test, many GH Beauty Lab consumer testers commented that their makeup applied well immediately after using a serum. Win, win!
Now that you have a primer on serums, here are some winning picks from our Beauty Lab and trusted GH Seal holders.
The overall winner in the GH Beauty Lab’s serums test, Clinique received the highest scores for reducing brown spots and pores, as well as firming and softening. It increased skin's firmness by 24%, and digital imaging showed a 7% improvement in visible brown spots and pores after four weeks of use. The formula is fast-absorbing and consumers liked the texture. One even said, "My jaw seems lifted and more defined!"
For less than $30, No7 worked as well as or better than much pricier options. We found that the GH Seal star improved skin texture, blurred the look of pores and boosted firmness by 21% after four weeks. Powerful peptides, retinyl palmitate, hyaluronic acid, and a vitamin C antioxidant complex regenerate skin with less irritation. Not to mention, it delivers in under two weeks: “In 10 days, my wrinkles were less visible!” a tester said.
If wrinkles are your biggest concern, is the one you need. It was the best at reducing the look of lines and wrinkles in our pros’ tests — lessening their appearance by 5% over just four weeks. Testers also praised the "almost immediate" fine line improvement: "I was shocked by the plumpness of my skin the next day," one said.
Great for all skin tones and types from dry to oily, this GH Seal star is like Photoshop in a bottle. Add it to your A.M. and P.M. routine to even out any spots on your skin for a flawless complexion. One clinical study found 95% of women reported improvement in pigmentation and spot size after using it twice daily for 12 weeks.
This lightweight serum is formulated with two retinoids — ingredients known to increase skin's elasticity over time. It performed well in Lab tests, firming skin by 24%, and reducing the appearance of fine lines. Testers liked the scent (it’s fragranced) and said it brightened skin. "I noticed my skin looked more toned, brown spots seem faded, and wrinkles reduced," one raved. Always apply SPF when using a retinol and only use it at night.
This drugstore pick is seriously powerful and a fraction of the cost of other serums. It’s full of great ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and panthenol to deliver both anti-aging and moisturizing benefits. A clinical study showed that it moisturized and firmed skin, and also decreased the look of fine lines. Plus, it’s backed by the GH Seal!
This serum has pearl-like capsules filled with brighteners and polysaccharides that break and combine with the fluid suspending the pearls when dispensed. In our Lab tests it firmed skin, diminished the appearance of pores, and improved skin texture. Testers said it left skin tacky until it fully dried, so hold off on applying anything else until then.