How To Find The Right Face Serum For You

From what it is to how to use it

You’ve probably heard of a face serum by now. But in a land of moisturisers, essences, and oils, you may wonder where a serum fits into the routine.

Even more pressing, how do you find the best serum for you?

Traditionally high in active ingredients, serums are on the more expensive end of skincare products. Due to this ingredient concentration, they also should pull a lot of weight in hydrating your skin and treating any concerns, from ageing to brightening and beyond.

Here’s your 101 guide to skin serums.

What Is A Serum?

Think of a serum as your skincare investment piece (depending on the level of active ingredients, it could end up being one of the pricier items in your regimen). Made up of smaller molecules, “serums deliver potent ingredients deep into the skin for targeted benefits with quick results”, explains Charlotte Turner, head of training for Clarins in Australia. 

Image: Getty

How To Use A Serum: A Step-By-Step Guide

1. Cleanse and tone as usual. Be sure to use the right products for your skin type to avoid stripping it of it’s natural moisture.

2. Dispense a few drops of serum between your palms, rub together to warm up the formula and then “press into the skin to maximise absorption and assimilation by the skin,” explains Turner.

3. Even if your serum contains hydrating ingredients, always finish with moisturiser to create a barrier and seal in the serum’s benefits.

Is Face Serum Good To Use Daily?

A serum should be fine for daily use, but it depends on the product and ingredients. For example, serums containing harsher ingredients, like retinol and Vitamin C, may require sporadic use, especially when starting out. Either way, it pays to check the instructions on your product and patch test before committing to use.

But what about the best time of day for your face serum?

According to Charlotte, serums can be incorporated into both day and night routines. However, the key purpose of this serum should differ.

“Apply a protective serum in the morning and a repairing serum at night to synchronise with the skin’s 24-hour cycle,” she says.

The Best Face Serums in 2024, According To Your Skin Type

A quick guide to the best face serums, and the skin concerns they address.


Best Face Serum for Ageing Skin

Clarins Double Serum, $120 (30ml)

Clarins Double Serum combines both water and oil-based ingredients to hydrate and regenerate skin. Its key ingredients include hyaluronic acid and katrafay/katafray for hydration, rosehip oil, green tea, pistachio, kiwi, green banana, and survixyl.

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Best Face Serum For Sensitive Skin

SkinCeuticals Serum 10 AOX+, $142 (30ml)

Combining Ferulic acid and Vitamin C (also known as L-ascorbic acid), this SkinCeuticals serum is high in antioxidants. While Vitamin C can irritate some sensitive skin types, the Ferulic acid can help stabilise this ingredient. This face serum is also free of parabens, fragrance, alcohol and dyes.

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Best Face Serum For Dry Skin

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $16 (30ml)

This cult hyaluronic acid serum is amazing for both skin hydration and your budget. Containing five types of hyaluronic acid (HA), the Ordinary’s HA 2% serum will leave your skin looking more supple and plumper. At less than $16, The Ordinary is ideal face serum for those looking for maximum hydration at pharmacy prices.

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Best Face Serum For Oily Or Acne-Prone Skin

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Blemish + Line Correcting Serum, $78 (30ml)

This Clinique Face Serum is designed for more mature women experiencing acne, along with other sides of ageing. It contains salicylic acid, which is a key ingredient in skincare to aid with acne treatment, and will help exfoliate while unclogging pores. It’s oil-free, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), and fragrance free.

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Best Face Serum for Dull Skin

Medik8 C-Tetra Lipid Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum, $86 (30ml)

Vitamin C is the key ingredient associated with brightening. However, one fair criticism of Vitamin C is that, when exposed to air (and when more air gets into the bottle), it becomes corrupted and no longer works. This Medik8 serum claims to avoid that thanks to its use of Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate – a fat-soluble form of Vitamin C. Add Jojoba oil as a moisturising agent and carrier for Vitamin C, this product stay more stable for longer. It’s also vegan and cruelty free.

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A version of this article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of marie claire.

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