The Best Anti-Aging Serums for Every Budget

Along with sunscreen and a great retinol cream, every person concerned about keeping her/his skin in great shape should consider investing in a decent skin serum. 

The word "serum" gives off the impression of adding moisture. But the best thing about the serums on the market today is that the really good ones not only add moisture, but they are chock-full of yummy things like antioxidants (think vitamins), glycolic acids (wonderful for natural exfoliation), hyaluronic acid (skin-plumping) and anti-inflammatories. 

I've done the research to find the most loved and most effective skin serums on the market today. All contain some of the following, which is what you want in a serum:

  • Antioxidants such as Vitamin E, ferulic acid, and Vitamin C, all of which help improve the appearance of sun damaged skin and uneven skin tone. Vitamin C, in particular, is excellent when used under sunscreen. 
  • Glycolic acid acts as a mild exfoliant, breaking down dead skin cells and helping create new cell turnover. Use these often and you're left with smoother skin, a clearer complexion, and fewer blackheads.
  • Hyaluronic acid is wonderful for dry, aging skin. It works to boost your skin's ability to retain moisture making it particularly wonderful in skin-zapping winters. 
  • Plant and nut-base oils add moisture to the skin. 

This is a great, affordable (!!!) serum that's packed with antioxidants and skin-repairing ingredients making it perfect for sensitive skin and oily skin. It's considered a lightweight serum so it's also perfect for oily skin, which still needs antioxidants. If you have dry skin, there are better options for you. 

It contains hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal. collagen, allantoin, and feverfew. And it doesn't contain fragrance.

I first learned about Drunk Elephant's lovely day serum from makeup maven and YouTube sensation Lisa Eldridge. This serum's main ingredients is 15% concentration of vitamin C, but added to this are a potent mix of antioxidants, anti-irritants, and nut oils.

This is the serum I use in winter to combat my dry, itchy skin. Hyaluronic acid is the main ingredient in this serum, which goes on kinda sticky, but dries immediately. It doesn't feel moisturizing, but the way hyaluronic acid works is it helps the skin retain moisture so it actually works with your creams and oils. Use it by day under your makeup and night under a moisturizing cream. 

This product was recommended to me by NY Dermatology Group's Dr. Jessica Weiser who says they can't keep the product stocked in the office because they sell out in winter. The only con is it doesn't have added antioxidants like Vitamins C or E. You'll have to get that in another serum. 

This is an excellent and well-known brand of serum containing 15% ascorbic acid, which is a type of Vitamin C. It also contains (hence the name) Vitamin E and ferulic acid, both of which are also wonderful antioxidants. Use this under your sunscreen for added potent effect.

This is a wonderful glycolic acid serum that also contains some antioxidants. Glycolic acid improves the skin's texture by acting as a natural exfoliant.  

Because this is an exfoliant, you'll want to use it at night, not during the day while it's moisturizing (if you have dry skin you might want to apply a moisturizer over it). 

This is another wonderful glycolic acid serum meant to be used under moisturizer and makeup. 

This works beautifully on all skin types to improve the skin's appearance. It contains 14% glycolic acid, which is quite high and therefore quite effective, but it also contains some anti-inflammatories which will offset any irritation. 

This is a pricey serum from Cindy Crawford's skincare line, but it's expensive because it contains potent growth factors that have been extracted from human non-embryonic stem cells to repair skin damage. Do they work? People seem to think so. I know a dermatologist who uses it herself and the reviews online are very good. 

This is a decent serum to use at night underneath your moisturizer. Contains some good antioxidants. 

Kiehls
Kiehls. Courtesy of Nordstrom.com

Unlike many of the other serums here, this one is moisturizing thanks to a bunch of botanical oils making it wonderful for dry skin. But those oils, while moisturizing, can be irritating to sensitive skin so if you suffer from breakouts or extreme redness, skip this for another product. 

If you do have dry skin, add a few drops to your body moisturizer and use this to moisturize hands in the winter. 

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     This serum is Clarins' bestseller and is beloved by users for adding moisture to dry skin and improving the skin texture of aging skin. It contains 20 potent plant extracts and molecules. It's marketed as having some sort of dual water and oil system, which might be marketing mumbo-jumbo, and the plant extracts may irritate sensitive skin, but the high marks from users and consistent 4-star rating earned this serum a spot on my list.