BuzzFeed posted "The Most Effective Skin Serums, According To Reviewers And Dermatologists"featuring the expertise of Visha Skincare founder, Dr. Purvisha Patel, explaining the benefits of Mandelic Acid for Acne-Prone Skin.
See the 13 products that reviewers have called “phenomenal,” a “saving grace” and their “holy grail.”
I’ve long been of the belief that if you have one or two really high-quality serums doing a lot of heavy lifting, you don’t need to jam-pack your skin care routine with a ton of different steps. Investing in one or two serums made with dermatologist-approved active ingredients will do much more for your skin than hopping on every internet skin care trend.
Those who are trying to finesse their beauty routine or pare it down to just a couple of powerful and super-effective products should be on the hunt for tried-and-true ingredients like azelaic acid, mandelic acid, vitamin C, retinol and lactic acid — all of which are beloved by both skin care enthusiasts and dermatologists alike. These holy grail ingredients, when formulated carefully and balanced with additional ingredients that stabilize them and improve their efficacy, are absolute game-changers when it comes to common skin issues. They’re known to properly address things like dark spots, melasma, acne, fine lines, wrinkles and dryness.
Below, I’ve rounded up 13 super effective and deliciously luxurious serums recommended by both dermatologists and reviewers. They include splurgey products from high-end brands along with more accessible serums with lower price points.
Keep reading to pick some up for yourself to turn back time for your skin and watch the compliments roll in.
1. iS Clinical Super Serum
I am absolutely devoted to this powerful vitamin C serum. My esthetician recommended adding iS Clinical’s Super Serum to my lineup, and now I can’t imagine my skin without it. It's an oil-based vitamin C-rich serum that not only has the potential to help reduce typical signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage, but can help to reduce scarring as well. While it costs a pretty penny, I think it’s absolutely worth it. Not only are the quality and the results unbeatable, but a little goes a long way, making it less of a financial burden than one might imagine. It’s definitely worth the splurge.
Promising review: "Love this stuff. It might be a tad expensive, but it has done wonders for my skin to even it out and make it so smooth. Lines seem to have almost vanished (I’m 57). I have sensitive skin and this was not harsh, nor did it break out my skin. VERY happy with this product and would recommend this to anyone with sensitive skin who wants their skin to feel soft and look radiant. I get SO many compliments on my skin. Have been using for five months and will continue to do so.” —Kindle Customer
2. Sunday Riley Good Genes serum
I've been using Sunday Riley's Good Genes for nearly a decade, and despite testing hundreds of other comparable products, I always come back to it. I’m particularly obsessed with the high content of lactic acid, a unique chemical exfoliant that encourages quick cell turnover in the surface layers of the skin, leaving it smoother and helping clear up blemishes. It’s paired with licorice and lemongrass in this formula, which can help brighten up the look of dark spots, sun damage and other discoloration, and prickly pear extract that can help soothe redness and calm sensitive skin. It's the perfect example of a product with a fairly common active ingredient that is perfectly formulated with other complementary ingredients to make it even more effective than many other options.
Promising review: "Hands-down, the best skin product I've ever used. Worth the price. I don't write reviews on Amazon but if I can help anyone justify the price given the magic it's done to my skin - worth the time! My 35-year-old skin looks at least 10 years younger. I will buy this for life. (I could care less about the smell, and honestly, don't really smell it. weird?)" —Patricia Izquierdo
3. The Inkey List 10% azelaic acid serum
Dr. Adeline Kikam, a board-certified dermatologist who shares advice on @brownskinderm, is a huge fan of this particular azelaic acid serum. She told HuffPost that "it is gently formulated with azelaic acid at 10% and allantoin at .3% for extra moisture." It can help soothe and calm irritated skin and help to reduce the appearance of redness. It's also formulated with micro-fine green color particles that can help to mask the look of existing redness as well, acting almost like a color corrector. Promising review: "Helped my rosacea and PD. I bought this three days ago and am actually super surprised and impressed with this product. I’ve used azelaic acid before but found it irritating and heavy silicones in those formulas broke me out. I struggle with perioral dermatitis and rosacea. I was going through a pretty bad flare three days ago and as of today it’s 90% gone. I have some tips for how to best use the product: 1. Apply to dry skin only. Applying azelaic acid to wet or damp skin makes it super itchy and can cause irritation. ... I’m super impressed. This really helped clear up my latest flare and I’m excited to have found something that finally works for me. I’ll continue using and buying this as long as these results continue!" —Becca
4. Dieux Deliverance serum
Find out why Dieux's cult-favorite Deliverance serum keeps flying off the shelves. It's formulated to address three main skin issues: irritation, uneven tone, and the look of fine lines. The lightweight formulation helps leave skin soft, soothed, and delightfully glowy. It's a great starter serum for anyone looking to amp up their routine or a wonderful addition to an already-established regimen. It harnesses the power of cannabinoids, niacinamide, peptides, and more to leave skin looking and feeling its absolute best.
Promising reviews: "Phenomenal. I’m still currently using it, but I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and it’s already made such a huge difference in my skin. my redness isn’t as severe, and my skin glows! LOVE this product!" —Grace B.
"Saving grace. I have struggled with hormonal acne for years and have searched high and low for a product to help my skin (also very dry and sensitive). This product has changed my skin, slowly but surely. I absolutely notice more hydration. I’ve started breaking out less, and marks from old breakouts fade quicker than usual. Charlotte never misses." —Mary T.
5. Vintner's Daughter active botanical serum
This award-winning face serum is ideal for anyone wanting to harness the power of plant ingredients. It's chock full of moisturizing fatty acids, nourishing omegas, and antioxidants that fight free radicals and help to restore and strengthen the skin. This active botanical serum leaves skin moisturized, nourished, and renewed — it's as luxurious as it gets.
Promising review: "If I had to choose to reduce my skincare routine to one product and feel confident that my skin will get all the nutrients it needs, it would be the Active Botanical. I have tried many products over the years, I work in fashion and am exposed to quite a bit of them. The active Botanical is the one for me." —Verified customer
Get it from Vintner's Daughter for $195+ (available in two sizes)
6. True Botanicals chebula active serum
Address dull, uneven skin, rough texture, fine lines and dark spots with this powerful True Botanicals serum. This brand is beloved by celebs, skincare enthusiasts, and everyone in between. The chebula serum is a hydrating serum that can help to reduce the visible signs of aging while helping to support and strengthen the skin's natural moisture barrier. It's definitely a splurge, but one that you likely won't regret.
Promising review: "Skin feels great. At 52, I have tried all types of skincare products. Some seem to work for a short time; others feel too thick and heavy. This product feels light and amazing on your skin. It has replaced all other moisturizer products, and my skin feels healthier than ever before. I use less makeup and feel more confident." —Blustar70
Get it from Amazon for $90.
7. The Ordinary mandelic acid 10% + HA
Mandelic acid is a game-changer for acne-prone skin like mine, and The Ordinary makes it easy to pick up a high concentration of this anti-bacterial AHA exfoliant without breaking the bank. It's recommended for sensitive skin by two board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Purvisha Patel in Memphis, Tennessee, and Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of UnionDerm in New York City. The addition of hyaluronic acid brings skin extra hydration, making this a great formula for introducing your skin to mandelic acid. It's ideal for acne-prone skin, reducing the look of fine lines and chemical exfoliation.
Promising review: "I’ve been using this product since last week, I can see major differences on the little pimples I have on my face that are hormonal. This product is a perfect way to control it." —VickyRambo
Get it from Sephora for $7.50.
8. Sunday Riley A+ high dose retinoid serum
HuffPost shopping writer and beauty devotee Tessa Flores swears by Sunday Riley's A+ retinoid serum, and she's not alone. It's a great way to introduce a powerful active ingredient into your routine. And while it's definitely an investment, a little goes a long way. The results also speak for themselves, making it worth every penny.
"Sunday Riley’s A+ retinol serum initially caught my eye because it was advertised as an advanced strength retinoid that was suitable for both individuals with sensitive skin and experienced users of the ingredient that might be in search of a stronger product. The formulation contains a 6.5% retinoid blend, a relatively high percentage compared with other retinol products on the market. After using this product consistently for two months, I’m noticing a significant reduction of my keratosis pilaris in that the texture is smoother, less red, and with fewer clogged hair follicles. I’ve also noticed less congestion in my T-zone, fewer sun freckles, and an overall increase in skin plumpness — all without those telltale signs of retinol-induced irritation."
9. SkinCeuticals C E ferulic acid serum
If you're into skincare, you've likely heard people sing the praises of this cult-favorite serum, and with good reason. The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum has been praised by dermatologists for its ability to help lighten fine lines, firm skin, provide environmental protection and brighten a dull complexion. The stabilized formulation means all ingredients are working at the peak of their powers, in tandem with each other.
Promising reviews: "I have tried many vitamin C serums and keep coming back to this one. It’s been highly effective on my skin, and while it’s pricey, the results have been well worth it. One thing I have especially noticed is that it helps fade my acne scars pretty quickly." —GG
"When I first bought this, I was so apprehensive because of the price. But it really is amazing! You have to use it consistently for a few weeks to see the results, but it’s worth it. My skin has never looked better. A little goes a long way, so the price is worth it." —Emma
Get it from Dermstore for $182.
10. Paula's Choice 10% azelaic acid booster serum
Also recommended by Kikam, this serum from Paula's Choice is a lightweight, oil-free cream-gel formulation with .5% salicylic acid to boost skin brightening. It's great for redness, irritation, acne-prone, or otherwise distressed skin. The formula is lightweight and won't clog pores or leave skin feeling heavy. You can use it as a spot treatment or all over your skin, depending on what it needs.
Promising reviews: "The holy grail. If you had to buy one skin cream in the world, it would be this product. Absolutely love it!!! This product moisturizes my face SOOOO well that I glow, and it minimizes my redness. I definitely will repurchase!!" —Kate
"It works! My dermatologist recommended this product for my sun-damaged face. I cannot believe how great this stuff is! I had hypoplasia, and this moisturizer really works, and my skin looks great now! I will be ordering this again." —Deb O.
Get it from Amazon for $17+ (available in two sizes).
11. Naturium mandelic topical acid 12%
This is also on Kikam's list of must-haves. She explained that it's "a lightweight serum with 10% azelaic acid boosted with other calming ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C and coffee seed extract to help with oil control and discoloration." It's designed to slowly penetrate the skin, encouraging cell turnover and leaving the complexion looking brighter, radiant and more youthful.
Promising review: "Gentle yet effective. Great for those with sensitive skin looking to clear out their pores. I have really sensitive skin. I can no longer use Salicylic Acid. This is what I use now. It's amazing. During the winter though, I'm sticking with the PHA, and may just use this once a week or every other week as I have acne-prone skin but sensitive skin as well." —Jenny Marie
"I have used hydroquinone for a long time, and this fades spots better than any high-end hydroquinone formula I’ve ever used. I have acne scars and sun spots, and both have faded significantly more with this product than clinical hydroquinone products I have used in the past." —Kennedy
Get it from Target for $20.
12. Sunday Riley Luna sleeping night oil
I happen to be obsessed with using Luna oil in conjunction with Sunday Riley's Good Genes; it's a powerful duo that leaves me swimming in compliments and glowing skin. If you’ve been on the fence about trying an oil or retinoid, then this is the perfect place to start. Soothing botanicals like blue tansy and German chamomile are paired with an advanced retinoid ester that supports skin health and elasticity, evens out redness, and fights fine lines and wrinkles. Avocado seed oil plumps up the skin and delivers a healthy dose of antioxidants. It doesn’t clog pores, which is perfect if you are acne-prone like myself.
Promising review: "I’ve been skeptical of Sunday Riley since their review debacle. I use other high-end skincare and wasn’t looking to add anything but this came highly suggested from a friend I trust. Now I can’t go a night without this beauty! The natural scents of chamomile are so relaxing and great part of self care to any nighttime routine to tell your nervous system 'it’s time for sleep.' It’s a very soft texture in the skin that feels nourishing and I love the deep blue tansy color that easily fades into skin as you apply. It’s a gentle retinoid that doesn’t irritate or interact with my other skincare. Overall my skin always looks bright and even in the morning. Love love this product, bought another for my mom for Mother’s Day! Can’t go wrong with adding this to a luxurious nighttime routine!" —shelby
13. Caudalie Premier Cru serum with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid
This lightweight serum from Caudalie is perfect for anyone looking for a deeply nourishing blast of powerful niacinamide. Hyaluronic acid keeps the skin hydrated and quenched while the serum plumps, moisturizes, and helps repair damaged skin.
Promising reviews: "I have noticed a visible reduction in my fine lines since using this product. It also doesn’t leave my face oily or sticky like other serums can and do. I also really love that it has clean ingredients and does not have hardly any fragrance at all for those who are sensitive to fragrances like I am." —Daniii89
"Loved it! Excellent product !!! I've been using it since I bought it and I can see the difference in my skin. Highly recommended." —Kary9103
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