The 15 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.
Sponsored By: Plant Mother
A portion of this piece was created in partnership with Plant Mother, an online retailer that makes organic, clean, nutritious and vegan skincare.
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.
Sponsored: Best organic vitamin C serum
Plant Mother Organic Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C is one of the super star ingredients you’ll find included in some of the best serums on the market. But this organic Plant Mother Vitamin C Serum is boosted with the best. Organic ingredients are pulled from plant-based sources including the rare Kakadu plum, goji berries, prickly pear and hibiscus. Kakadu plums have about 20 times the vitamin C content of oranges, but this formula won’t leave your skin overworked or dry. It’s also formulated with Maracuja oil that contains up to 84% linoleum acid to nourish and hydrate even the most tired, overworked skin. This wonder-serum is ideal for all types of skin, but especially spot-prone, aging and dry types that need a little extra radiance. It also layers especially well thanks to a pill-free formula.
What we liked about Plant Mother Organic Vitamin C Serum
- Made with organic ingredients, free of GMOs and herbicides
- Kakadu plum-derived natural vitamin C
- Added plant-based oils for smooth, velvety feel that leaves skin hydrated and plump
- Vegan-friendly formula
- Designed to treat spots, aging skin and textural concerns
- Layers under and over other products with ease
What we didn’t like about Plant Mother Organic Vitamin C Serum
- It’s easy to use too much, but a little goes a long way—all you need is a pea-sized amount for your entire face
Best serum for evening skin tone
Arcona Youth Serum
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. Each sleek bottle of Arcona Youth Serum is packed with 20% L-Ascorbic acid to brighten the skin as well as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate to guard against future damage. As if that weren’t enough, vitamin C also plays a vital role in collagen synthesis, gives skin that radiant glow and also diminishes the appearance of discoloration. This velvety-smooth formula also contains wine and added grapeseed extracts that promise firmer, more radiant skin.
What we liked about Arcona Youth Serum
- Potent combination of 20% L-Ascorbic acid and protective magnesium ascorbyl phosphate evens tone and protects against future damage
- Diminishes spots and discoloration
- Helps with collagen synthesis
- Designed to combat sun-related signs of aging and damage
- Added wine and grapeseed extracts to firm facial skin and neck areas
What we didn’t like about Arcona Youth Serum
- Luxury price point, but reviewers note the silky texture and easy layering is worth “every cent”
Best bakuchiol serum
Acure Radically Rejuvenating Bakuchiol Serum
The dual-phase formula of Acure Radically Rejuvenating Bakuchiol Serum makes it a major hit with even sensitive skin types. Bakuchiol is known to be the plant-based, all-natural alternative to standard retinoids that can irritate skin in an effort to produce faster cell turnover. This top-rated Amazon find is both affordable and easy to use, and less irritating than many standard retinol formulas.
Devaney, a five-star verified Amazon purchaser writes, “This is my new favorite product. I just ordered my second bottle and after finishing the first. I’ve found that my face is so much clearer and glowing! I didn’t even realize how dry my skin was until I started using this product. I apply after washing my face at bed time and I use in the morning again before putting on my makeup. It is not greasy.”
What we liked about Acure Radically Rejuvenating Bakuchiol Serum
- Plant-based bakuchiol formula
- Affordable price point
- Gentler alternative to standard retinoids
- Over 4,600 enthusiastic Amazon ratings
What we didn’t like about Acure Radically Rejuvenating Bakuchiol Serum
- While it is definitely better for somewhat sensitive skin than typical retinoids, bakuchiol doesn’t have quite as potent of an effect as its stronger synthetic cousin
Best serum for cellular repair
Perricone MD High Potency Growth Factor Serum
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. It’s that skeleton key-effect that makes Perricone MD High Potency Growth Factor Serum one of the best serums on the market for cellular repair and firming. In one clinical study, 89% of users showed improvement in skin redness and the appearance of both skin radiance and brightness.
What we liked about Perricone MD High Potency Growth Factor Serum
- Designed to encourage cellular regeneration
- Clinical studies prove that 89% of users showed improvement in skin redness, radiance and brightness within two months of regular use
- Also contains encapsulated retinoids to brighten, tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Can be used day or night
What we didn’t like about Perricone MD High Potency Growth Factor Serum
- Expensive, but layers with other products in the Perricone MD lineup with ease so it’s easily worth the price if you’re already committed to this skincare collection
Best serum for boosting hydration
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). Adding a bottle of Baebody Hyaluronic Acid Serum to your skincare routine is a brilliant way to soften and hydrate even the most overworked skin. It is just as effective as far more expensive formulas, but at a wallet-friendly price Amazon reviewers can’t stop raving about.
“This product is a very wonderful hyuraluronic acid serum,” writes one verified five-star Amazon reviewer. “I use it twice a day after cleansing, then using a lifting pad. I let that completely dry, then add my moisturizer for day or night. It has helped with wrinkles and lightening the skin. It is my favorite and most effective serum.”
What we liked about Baebody Hyaluronic Acid Serum
- High-quality hyaluronic acid that can be used with most of your existing skincare favorites
- Simple to use
- Extremely affordable
- Over 1,300 Amazon ratings with a nearly-perfect 4.3-star average rating
- Helps plump and fill in fine lines
- Can be used on both the face and body
What we didn’t like about Baebody Hyaluronic Acid Serum
- Pure hyaluronic acid formulas like this one are one trick ponies. If you want added benefits like tightening or spot treatment, you’ll need to cocktail it with other products in your collection.
Best serum for minimizing fine lines and wrinkles
PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum
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. Each bottle of PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum is packed is a combination of real peptides, hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to minimize fine lines, spot treat wrinkles, plump and protect against future damage.
What we liked about PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum
- Softens the look of fine lines and wrinkles with potent peptides
- Smoothes and fills in lines with added hyaluronic acid
- Vitamin E protects against future free radical damage
- Layers well under other skincare and makeup
- One of the best serums to use for spot treatment in troublesome areas like crow’s feet
What we didn’t like about PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum
- It’s designed for aging skin, though it doesn’t have any ingredients to fight or repair discoloration
Best serum for double duty (hydration and redness)
ColoreScience All Calm Multi Correction Serum
Redness and irritation from treating breakouts isn’t just for teenagers. 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 or being riddled with red patches. ColoreScience All Calm Multi Correction Serum is made to soothe inflammation at every stage. It delivers anti-inflammatory benefits, soothes redness, and keeps blotchy skin at bay. Those with persistently rosy hues and irritated acne scars report loving this easy-to-layer formula. A bio-available form of vitamin E provides antioxidant support while helping to reduce the appearance of redness both before and after UV exposure.
What we liked about ColoreScience All Calm Multi Correction Serum
- Calms, softens and hydrates inflamed skin thanks to a bio-available form of vitamin E
- Ideal for day or night
- Works to protect against ruddiness caused my sun damage and other environmental factors
- Hydrates and smoothes
- Ideal for even sensitive skin
- Won’t clog pores
- Can be used to calm post-breakout redness
What we didn’t like about ColoreScience All Calm Multi Correction Serum
- It won’t work to combat fine lines, wrinkles or brown spots
Best serum for defense against DNA damage and scarring
RescueMD DNA Repair Complex
Plastic surgeon-developed RescueMD DNA Repair Complex can be used regularly or as a scar treatment. Either way, reviewers note game-changing results. The formula is free of all dyes and fragrances, and can be used on all skin types and tones without worry. It won’t cause breakouts, irritation or sun sensitivity and uses an exclusive Lapachol ingredient that triggers collagen production. Lapachol is derived from a special tree bark that is clinically proven to have strong anti-inflammatory effects that encourage skin cells to repair and regenerate.
“I’ve tried just about every skin-lightening product out there for sun damage spots and adult acne scars, as well as just general dullness that comes with age (I’m 74!),” writes one five-star reviewer, Barbara. “Most complexion improvement products require at least two weeks to work and many even longer. But with RescueMD, I saw results with one application! It immediately lightened acne scars and overall brightened my skin. It’s light to apply, dries quickly and is non-drying.”
What we liked about RescueMD DNA Repair Complex
- Lapachol active ingredient signals skin cells to repair and regenerate
- Can be used as one of the best facial serums or as a spot treatment for scars
- Developed by a plastic surgeon
- Free of all dyes and fragrances
What we didn’t like about RescueMD DNA Repair Complex
- A little goes a long way with this pricy formula, so you may want to use it sparingly
Best plant-based stem cell serum
Naturopathica Plant Stem Cell Booster Serum
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. This popular Naturopathic Plant Stem Cell Booster Serum plumps fine lines and wrinkles while adding rich hydration. The soft, velvety texture makes an ideal base layer for other steps in a full skincare routine and won’t pill below primers or makeup.
What we liked about Naturopathica Plant Stem Cell Booster Serum
- Plumps and fills fine lines and wrinkles with plant-based stem cell technology
- Adds rich hydration
- Won’t clog pores
- Velvety texture is ideal for layering
- Won’t pill below makeup
What we didn’t like about Naturopathica Stem Cell Booster Serum
- Relatively small bottle at a luxury price point
Best serum for banishing breakouts
Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Pore Refining Treatment 4 BHA
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 Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Pore Refining Treatment 4 BHA. While gentler than its cousin alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), BHA is shown to increase skin sensitivity, so be sure to slather on SPF. Have acne-prone skin? These are the sunscreen ingredients to avoid.
What we liked about Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Pore Refining Treatment 4 BHA
- Stops breakouts before they happen by clearing pores
- Strong cocktail of BHA acids gently sloughs off dead skin cells and impurities
- Gentler than AHA formulas
- Ideal for active skin and athletes as well
- Modest price point
What we didn’t like about Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Pore Refining Treatment 4 BHA
- Because BHAs can cause some photosensitivity, it’s ideal to wear sunscreens after—and those many clog pores
Best serum for exfoliation
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. Slather on a good sunscreen after using it because it can cause photosensitivity, like any exfoliant.
What we liked about Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
- Potent combination of AHAs and BHAs exfoliate skin without harsh particles
- Penetrates deep below the top layer of skin
- Rapidly radiant, smoother skin
- Ideal for nighttime use and layering under rich hydrating creams
What we didn’t like about Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
- Causes photosensitivity, and should be used with sunscreen the following morning
Best serum for sun protection
La-Roche Posay Anethelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum SPF 50
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.Trye La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum SPF 50 on its own or layered below makeup for full protection you can rely on. A few drops is enough to cover an entire face with strong UV-fighting powers for several hours at a time.
What we liked about La-Roche Posay Anethelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum SPF 50
- Strong SPF 50 goes above and beyond average formulas to protect against harmful UV rays
- Layers well with other skincare products and makeup
- Moderate price point
- Added antioxidants nourish the skin
What we didn’t like about La-Roche Posay Anethelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum SPF 50
- Chalkier feeling than non-SPF serums, but after a few minutes the skin acclimates and other products can easily be applied
Best plumping serum
Filorga Hydra-Hyal Intensive Hydrating & Plumping Face Serum
Step up plumping game up with this Filorga Hydra-Hyla Intensive Hydrating & Plumping Face Serum that uses the power of hyaluronic acid and clarifiers to give you your best skin yet. Instead of simply adding hydration with a pure HA formula, this rich and creamy serum also brightens and tones. It boils down several important skincare steps into one pea-sized dose each day.
“This product is highly effective, and it works quickly,” shares Laura, a verified Amazon purchaser. “I have a visible line on my brow line, and it disappears with a very small drop of this product. My forehead looks smooth and my laugh lines are less noticeable.”
What we liked about Filorga Hydra-Hyal Intensive Hydrating & Plumping Face Serum
- Combines the power of HA with clarifying ingredients for radiant, plump skin and filled lines
- Easy to use on the entire face or for spot treatment
- Over 700 Amazon ratings with a nearly-perfect 4.6-star average
- Creamy formula layers well and won’t pill
What we didn’t like about Filorga Hydra-Hyal Intensive Hydrating & Plumping Face Serum
- Somewhat expensive
Best serum for skin firming
Asterwood Naturals Triple Repair Matrixyl 3000
The hydrating, regenerating properties of Asterwood Naturals Triple Repair Matrix 3000 make it one of the best serums for firming. It cocktails powerful peptides, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and Matrixyl 3000 as a hero ingredient that reviewers call “the best nighttime routine.” We love that a little goes a long way—all you need is a few drops of this silky-smooth serum to spread on your entire face and neck. It firms, brightens, tones and plumps for a well-rounded effect. It’s also safe for most sensitive skin types thanks to a fragrance-free formula.
“I love this product,” shares Cathy-Ann. “I had been using a similar product that costs five times as much and found this to be more effective. It gives me a slight lift in my face to help correct my sagging jowls and reduces pore size. The difference is noticeable to me. My friends comment on how good I look but it’s so subtle they don’t know why. I am now purchasing it for the third time and have my mother trying it too!”
What we liked about Asterwood Naturals Triple Repair Matrixyl 3000
- Combines several active ingredients like peptides and HA for superior skin firming
- Brightens and hydrates thanks to antioxidants
- Only four to six drops are needed to cover the entire face and neck
- Hero ingredient, Matrixyl 3000, won’t irritate or clog pores
- One of the best serums on this list for tight budgets
- Easy to travel with
- Over 6,500 Amazon ratings with a nearly-perfect 4.4-star average
What we didn’t like about Asterwood Naturals Triple Repair Matrixyl 3000
- Ideal for nighttime use and won’t layer well under some types of silicone-based makeup formulas
Best CBD serum
Uncle Bud’s 15mg CBD Eye Serum
A bottle of paragon and GMO-free Uncle Bud’s 15mg CBD Eye Serum contains real hempseed oil and 15mg of pure CBD oil. It is ideal for most skin types and works to calm skin, tame dark circles and puffiness and increase elasticity. It’s a rich, hydrating serum formula that contains no THC, so you don’t have to worry about any extra eye-opening effects. We love the formula’s lightweight feel that offers nearly-magical rich hydration and extremely affordable price point.
What we liked about Uncle Bud’s 15mg CBD Eye Serum
- 15mg of high-quality CBD oil
- CBD has a calming effect on puffy, tired eyes
- Hydrating ingredients like hempseed oil plump and firm the skin
- Improves elasticity and texture
- One of the best serums for tight budgets
- No THC
What we didn’t like about Uncle Bud’s 15mg CBD Eye Serum
- The formula is so good that we’re sad to see there’s no general-use serum
- Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, board-certified dermatologist
- Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologist
- Indian Dermatology Online Journal: "Vitamin C in dermatology"
- International Journal of Cosmetic Science: "Role of topical peptides in preventing or treating aged skin"
- Dermatologic Surgery Journal: "Niacinamide: A B Vitamin That Improves Aging Facial Skin Appearance"
- American Academy of Dermatology: "SUNSCREEN FAQS"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Resveratrol as a Multifunctional Topical Hypopigmenting Agent"