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Best face serum 2021: Get glowing skin with the best serums for dry, oily or combination skin

Jade Vincent Philippa Pearne
29 Jan 2021
best face serum

Looking to take your skincare regime to the next level? Here are the best face serums from £5.90

The best facial serums are powerful skincare players packed with active ingredients. While a moisturiser will primarily hydrate and smooth the skin, a serum acts as a targeted treatment for specific concerns, helping to prevent future damage while also addressing any existing concerns.

In short, it works harder than any other product in your skincare arsenal, plus it enhances the benefits of those other potions too. But which one is right for your skin? Read on to discover the best facial serums, whatever your budget.

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How to choose the best face serum for you

What should you look for when buying a serum?

Consider three things: your main skin concerns, the results you want to see and your budget. The majority of serums tackle anti-ageing, but there are others on the market that tackle other concerns. For example, if you suffer from blemishes or mild acne, serums containing salicylic acid and retinol can help to clear up your complexion by boosting cell renewal. For added radiance, opt for a serum containing vitamin C to help bring out your inner glow, or for dry skin choose a hyaluronic acid serum for an extra shot of moisture.

How do you use a serum?

If you’re a first-time serum user, it can be difficult to work out exactly where it should slot into your skincare regime. If we’re talking layering then it’s the goodness in the middle – cleanse and tone first, then apply your serum, and then massage your moisturiser over the top. A serum can be used morning and night – but if you’d prefer to apply it only once a day, then it’s best as part of your bedtime routine. Some formulations can be quite runny, and remember that a little goes a long way.

How much should you spend?

There’s a common misconception that you need to spend hundreds of pounds on a serum to get results, and that those products containing the most active ingredients will command a higher price. However, this is no longer the case. The skincare market has recently undergone quite the shakeup, with a number of no-frills brands making their way onto shelves. As such, you’ll easily find a product out there for your skin concern, no matter your budget.

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The best face serums you can buy

1. Lancome Advanced Genifique: The best facial serum

Price: £59.50 (30ml) | Buy now from Feel Unique

This is another serum that you’d assume would be more expensive. Its handy push-top and pipette applicator help you to dispense just the right amount of product, whilst the slightly runny formula glides onto the skin smoothly before quickly settling and drying beautifully. The instructions advise that you press it into the skin. The smell of the serum is a little clinical, but once you’ve applied your moisturiser over the top, it’s hardly noticeable.

It suits all skin types – from oily to dry – and can be used for all skin concerns and ages, the results are very satisfying. On application twice a day, and with the corresponding moisturiser, you’ll soon notice a more even-toned, firmer complexion.

Buy now from Feel Unique

2. Ren Radiance Perfection Serum: The best vitamin C face serum

Price: £39 (30ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Despite this product appearing to tackle just one problem – dull skin that’s in need of radiance – it actually goes beyond awakening that inner glow (which it does very well by the way, with the help of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid). It’s also fantastic at fading acne scars, blemishes, and pigmentation; you’ll notice an improvement in your skin tone after around six weeks.

The smell doesn’t disappoint, either – the citrus tones help your skin to feel fresh and energised on making contact. The texture is rich without being too heavy, hydrating beautifully without feeling greasy. It’s an all-round great find – as long as you’re not looking for an anti-ageing product, but every little helps.

3. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: The best drugstore facial serum

Price: £5.90 (30ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty

If it’s ultra-hydration you’re looking for then a hyaluronic acid-packed, oil-free formulation such as this will do nicely, especially at such an affordable price. It’s the ultimate serum for super-smooth skin, especially when teamed with an equally hydrating moisturiser. The only downside is that it feels a little tacky – sticky even – when it first makes contact with the skin, and its texture is fairly thick.

However, it will eventually absorb into the skin, so if you’re happy to wait a few minutes before applying your moisturiser then you’re onto a winner. It’s gentle enough to be applied twice a day and sits comfortably under moisturiser and makeup. Be warned, though: this product has proved popular, so don’t be surprised if it proves difficult to get hold of.

4. Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum: The best facial serum for over 50

Price: £75 (30ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty

The fact that this anti-ageing facial serum has been created by a highly respected skin doctor – Dr Howard Murad – should be enough to convince you that you’re not wasting your money here. In fact, on trying it you’re likely to be surprised that it isn’t more expensive.

It contains Murad’s Retinol Tri-Active Technology, which tackles wrinkles, dull skin and uneven skin tone. And it works – amazingly quickly. In no time at all, you’ll benefit from firmer, smoother and younger-looking skin – likely noticeable within two weeks (just imagine what it will look like after four!). Bear in mind that the serum is quite runny, and that you don’t need to apply much. It doesn’t feel sticky or leave an unpleasant residue, with skin looking instantly plumper. Note that Retinol is a powerful ingredient and could cause irritation in sensitive skin, but if it's used only at night, your skin will soon reap the benefits.

Buy now from Cult Beauty

5. Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Blemish + Line Correcting Serum: The best facial serum for acne

Price: £39 (30ml) | Buy now from Look Fantastic

If you suffer from regular breakouts and your moisturiser and spot treatment just aren’t cutting it, a blemish-targeted serum could be just what you need. This oil-free formula is a good place to start. While it won’t eradicate spots altogether, it has a decent attempt at fading existing blemish scars and does a brilliant job of preventing spots from appearing in the first place.

Even if blemishes aren’t a huge concern, and you’re simply at the point where using just a cleanser and moisturiser doesn’t quite feel enough, or you’re taking those initial steps with anti-ageing products, this will do the job. For example, while it helps to blur fine lines, it doesn’t contain high-tech ingredients that will prove too much for younger skin. 

6. Glossier Super Bounce Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin B5 serum: Best hydrating facial serum

Price: £24 (30ml) | Buy now from Glossier

Looking for hydrated, plumped and bouncy skin? All it takes is the regular application of Glossier's moisture-boosting Super Bounce serum. The facial serum's hero ingredients — hyaluronic acid and pro-vitamin B5 — offer deep hydration without that annoying tacky feeling when applied to the skin.

Its fragrance-free, paraben-free formula sits perfectly underneath makeup and is great for perking up parched skin post-long-haul flights, or if it's feeling tight from cold weather or central heating. Overall, Glossier delivers on its promises with this pastel-coloured serum; its £24 price tag sweetens the deal, too. 

Buy now from Glossier

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