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The 12 Best Summer Serums to Solve All Your Skin Problems

Trade those heavy creams and even moisturizers for lightweight serums packed with concentrated active ingredients that target your specific complexion concerns.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

woman holding face serum bottle and pipetteProstock-Studio/Getty Images

The best serums for summertime

Changing up your skin care routine for warmer weather is essential. (Dermatologists do it, too!) You might want to consider adding these serums to fight everything from acne to fine lines and more. Here’s the serum to try based on complexion concerns.

sunday riley vitamin c serumvia amazon.com

Best serum for evening skin tone

$85.99

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Vitamin C is one of the buzziest skin-care ingredients—and for good reason. According to board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, this potent antioxidant absorbs and mitigates the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress on the skin—notably helping reduce inflammation and repair photodamage. As if that weren’t enough, it also plays a vital role in collagen synthesis, gives skin that radiant glow, and also diminishes the appearance of discoloration.

Try: Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum ($85.99) or Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum ($28.89).

plant stem cell booster serumvia naturopathica.com

Best serum for cellular repair

via naturopathica.com

$28

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A staple in any youth-boosting skin-care routine, stem cells boost cellular regeneration and encourage skin cell growth, thus repairing and minimizing the signs of aging. “Like a skeleton key that can open any lock, stem cells can develop into any type of cell,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD.

Try: Rescue Serum Concentrate ($155) or Plant Cell Booster Serum ($28).

pestle and mortar serumvia pestleandmortar.com

Best serum for boosting hydration

$59.00

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Parched skin? Slather on some hyaluronic acid (HA). Dubbed the “moisture molecule,” it can hold 1,000 times its weight in water. So what does that mean for your complexion? Its moisture-binding abilities lock in water, leaving skin plump and supple. But hyaluronic acid’s benefits go beyond hydration—it also promotes healing and restores elasticity (youthful skin is packed with HA).

Try: Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum ($59.00) or Youth To The People Age Prevention Superfood Serum ($62.00).

exlinea peptide serumvia dermstore.com

Best serum for minimizing fine lines and wrinkles

$115

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You may have seen peptides listed on the ingredient labels of some of your anti-aging skin-care products, but do you know what they are or what they do? Peptides are formed by chains of amino acids, the building blocks of protein in the skin. According to research in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, when applied topically, some peptides might stimulate collagen production (loss of collagen contributes to sagging, fines lines, and wrinkles). They’re also a great team player, binding to active ingredients and helping them penetrate further into the skin.

Try: PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum ($115) or Olay Wrinkle Correction Vitamin B3 + Peptides ($28.99)

renee rouleau serumvia reneerouleau.com

Best serum for double duty (aging and acne)

$46.50

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Acne isn’t just for teens. It’s estimated that 30 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 60 struggle with breakouts. But treating blemishes doesn’t have to mean giving up on your anti-aging routine. Niacinamide, a derivative of vitamin B3, is a multi-tasking miracle worker—delivering anti-inflammatory benefits, soothing redness, and helping fade discoloration (so you can say bye to brown spots and acne scars).

Try: Renée Rouleau Skin Correcting Serum ($46.50) and Eva Naturals Niacinamide Vitamin B3 5% Serum ($14.95).

skinceuticals serumvia dermstore.com

Best defense against DNA damage

$153

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Resveratrol—a powerful antioxidant found in red grapes—bolstering skin’s defenses against UVB radiation, inflammation, and oxidative stress, which cause DNA damage and skin aging, according to research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Try: Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Firming Serum ($82) or SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E ($153).

plant stem cell booster serumvia naturopathica.com

Best serum for cellular repair

via naturopathica.com

$28

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A staple in any youth-boosting skin-care routine, stem cells boost cellular regeneration and encourage skin cell growth, thus repairing and minimizing the signs of aging. “Like a skeleton key that can open any lock, stem cells can develop into any type of cell,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD.

Try: Rescue Serum Concentrate ($155) or Plant Cell Booster Serum ($28).

blemish remedy bare minerals serumvia nordstrom.com

Best serum for banishing breakouts

$42

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To keep blemishes at bay this summer, try a serum spiked with salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), derived from willow bark. This magical acne-fighter works to slough off dead skin, increase cellular turnover, and unclog pores.

Try: bareMinerals Blemish Remedy Anti-Imperfection Serum ($42) and Mario Badescu Anti Acne Serum ($20). While gentler than its cousin alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), salicylic acid is shown to increase skin sensitivity, so be sure to slather on SPF. Have acne-prone skin? These are the sunscreen ingredients to avoid.

drunk elephant serumvia sephora.com

Best serum for exfoliation

$90

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As we age, our skin’s natural shedding process slows down, which can lead to dullness. Perhaps, the most popular alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid penetrates deeper to promote and speed up the exfoliation process, revealing new skin. The result is smoother, more radiant, even skin.

Try: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90) and Pixi by Petra Overnight Glow Serum ($24). Like salicylic acid, it can increase photosensitivity, making it even more imperative to use sun protection.

supergoop serumvia birchbox.com

Best serum for sun protection

$42.00

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You already know that UVA/UVB rays contribute to photo-damage and skin cancer. “Sunscreen and safe sun habits are the best thing you can do to prevent skin anti-aging,” says Dr. Tanzi. For those who want to streamline their routine, a serum infused with SPF 30 or higher is a great choice, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Try: Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30 ($42) or La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum with Sunscreen SPF 50 ($42.50). Looking for more SPF picks? These are the sunscreens dermatologists actually use on themselves.

tula deep wrinkle serumvia tula.com

Best serum for strengthening skin’s immunity

$78

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You’ve probably heard about the myriad benefits associated with oral probiotics, but what about topical? According to Dr. Engelman, probiotics optimize skin’s microflora to help strengthen its natural barrier and protect against other environmental assaults. Probiotic-infused topicals are also shown to have a soothing effect, making them particularly beneficial for those with inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, rosacea, and eczema.

Try: Tula Illuminating Serum ($78) and Aurelia Revitalise & Glow Serum ($96).

elemis pro collagen serumvia elemis.com

Best serum for skin firming

$78.50

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As we age, our skin loses collagen, which contributes to loss of firmness and sagging, as well as fine lines and wrinkles. Collagen-infused serums can smooth skin (aka help erase fine lines and wrinkles) and restore that youthful “snap.”

Try: ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Super Serum ($78.50) and Skin Inc. Collagen Serum Elasticity & Suppleness ($35).

Sources
Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, on July 02, 2020