Are Face Serums Worth The Hype?


You can’t pass a beauty counter without seeing bottles of serums, but what exactly is a serum and do you need one?

At the most basic level, serums are highly concentrated formulas that deliver nutrients directly onto and into your skin. There is an endless variety of brands and concoctions to suit every skin type, every age, and every concern. Sun damage has caused dark spots? Acne scars give you an uneven skin tone? Pores too large? Fine lines and wrinkles? You name it, and chances are there’s a serum out there to address it.

According to a 2015 research study of beauty consumers, “85% of them used a facial serum. Of these women, 70% said that they feel their facial serum is somewhat effective at addressing her facial skincare concerns, and 22% say their serum is extremely effective.” That same year serum sales surpassed the $4 million mark.

But are serums worth the bother? And the price?

To answer the first question, the answer is: depends on who you ask. While detractors claim serums are just one more way for cosmetic companies to get your hard-earned money, fans will passionately defend serums, claiming their favorite has changed their skin. What is true is that decades of research and advances in the science and technology of ingredients and formulations have led to breakthroughs in skincare.

If you’re still wondering whether to invest in a serum, there are a few benefits you should know about according to our research.

1. Serums Can Target Specific Issues

“Serums contain topical antioxidants including vitamin A, C and E. They also contain topical retinol and ingredients that even out skin tone. When layered underneath moisturizers, serums act as targeted treatment for wrinkles, pigmentation and redness,” Dr. Angela J. Lamb, a dermatologist and associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine told The Today Show.

2. Serums Help With Hydration

Another key ingredient that many serums contain is hyaluronic acid, a molecule our bodies contain naturally that is super hydrating and moisturizes the skin while also creating a plumping effect. Serums are used under your moisturizer and actually penetrate the skin, unlike heavier creams that sit on top of skin. This ability to penetrate also helps to increase the hydration of your moisturizer, another benefit to a serum.

3. Serums Hold Highly Concentrated Actives

Serums also don’t include a lot of ingredients that traditional creams do, such as petroleum, mineral oil and other thickening agents. That’s why your serum is thinner in texture. “The beauty of a serum is that most of the fluid is eliminated,” Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist told WebMD. “So what you’re left with is a high concentration of active ingredients… They’re the true workhorses of any product line.”

4. Serums Last For A Long Time

As for the price, because the active ingredients can be more costly when used at more highly concentrated levels, the end product can be expensive. The good news is that you only need to use a few drops per day for the serum to be effective, which can make the bottle last for months. If you’re still concerned about cost, you can find serums for as low as $16 on Amazon, like the vitamin C serum from The Ordinary.

Looking to invest in a serum to add to your skincare routine? Check out a few of our favorites, which have been handpicked by our beauty editors! 


Kim Izzo