Serums are your treatment step. What do we mean by this? These are the products that have some sort of intended outcome, be it exfoliating dead skin cells, soothing inflammation, supercharging hydration, smoothing fine lines, targeting acne, brightening tone, and so on. You don’t need a serum, per se, but if you have any skin care concern you’d like to tend to, it’s worth investing in one as they are going to be the most effective way to do so.
“These active ingredients are usually formulated so that they can get through the skin’s barrier and should be as close to the skin as possible. Any other products put on before can limit their penetration,” says Herrmann.
If you are looking for some good ingredients for your serums, “Active ingredients, depending on what skin issues you want to address, include alpha hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, and retinoids,” says King. And as King notes, these ingredients all address different concerns, so our advice is to identify your top skin care goal(s), and then find a serum based on that. (Here’s our favorites with an explanation on who they might be good for given their ingredient structure.)