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Cleansers purify, moisturisers hydrate and serums, well, what do they do again? It’s easy to be baffled by these mercurial treatments since they target so many different concerns—from dryness to redness to general meh-ness. The trick is to identify your most pressing complexion issue, and choose one or two accordingly. As serums have smaller molecules than moisturisers, they penetrate skin to deliver active ingredients where they’re most required. If you haven’t already added a concentrated serum to your daily routine, we’ve highlighted some of our favourites according to four common requests.
Most of these serums tap hyaluronic acid to drench skin in moisture—like a large gulp of Evian for your face. Our bodies produce this skin-boosting acid but it diminishes as we age. Hyaluronic works like a moisture magnet, binding water to the skin and quenching dry patches. Purists would appreciate Susanne Kaufmann’s Hyaluron Serum. It has just five ingredients and a splashy dose of the renowned plumper. The jury is still out on whether this new Too Faced serum will make you “good in bed”, as the name wryly suggests, but it will give you a sensual glow. This Korres serum blends hyaluronic with a dash of organic saffron—the precious spice is rich in antioxidants—to firm and lift skin. Apot.care, the brainy French brand, has a potent hyaluronic serum too, but you could also try its DMAE Serum to alleviate lines and wrinkles. The star ingredient is dimethylaminoethanol, a molecule believed to add back bounce to your complexion. Or you could go the plant-based, vegan-friendly route with Elemis Superfood Facial Oil. It uses antioxidant- and omega-rich broccoli, flax seed and daikon radish to seal in moisture.
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Who doesn’t want supple, even skin? Thankfully, there are numerous ways to get there. If you’re not already using an alpha-hydroxy acid, that’s a logical place to start. Sunday Riley’s Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment is a stellar choice for AHA novices. It fuses brightening liquorice, soothing arnica and lactic acid (the gentlest acid) to retexturise skin. As a night-time prescription, Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum can make your skin dreams a tangible reality. It combines AHAs and BHA (salicylic acid) to resurface while you slumber. A completely different stimulus for smooth skin is an antioxidant booster. Essence 27 Bio-Vitalising Cell Hydrating Fluid from Cosmetics27 is an ultra-light emulsion that reduces minor irritations and reboots your complexion. Or you could try a retinol-fuelled serum to create smoother skin by triggering cellular turnover and collagen production.
If dullness, discolouration or hyperpigmentation is an issue, a brightening serum can help you see the light. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is the pivotal player in these illuminators. One of the most potent prescriptions is Dr. Dennis Gross’s Professional Grade IPL Dark Spot Concentrated Serum, a cocktail of ascorbic acid, lactic acid and liquorice root that improves skin tone. Glow Recipe’s latest wonder uses three powerful forms of antioxidant-rich vitamin C, including 22% pineapple juice, to combat acne scars, dark spots and hyperpigmentation. This Tatcha serum pairs Vitamin C with Japanese angelica root, a herb known for its brightening abilities, while Kiehl’s added extracts of white birch and peony to its dark spot vanquisher. Probiotic-rich options, such as Lancôme’s updated Advanced Génifique Serum, strengthen your skin’s protective barrier. It offers an alternative road to dewier skin.
Infused with soothing ingredients, these serums target redness, dehydration and irritation. One standout is Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Calming Serum, which uses a complex of plant extracts, including purslane, to quell problematic skin and reduce redness. Hailey Baldwin is reportedly a fan, especially after long-haul flights. British brand Ren Clean Skincare has an entire capsule devoted to treating sensitive skin. Its Evercalm Anti-Redness Serum uses a blend of milk protein, seaweed extract and arnica extract to mollify stressed skin. French brand Darphin is also committed to relieving redness. Its Intral Redness Relief Soothing Serum has a mix of three calming flowers (hawthorn, peony and chamomile) known to reduce irritation. Originally designed for post-surgery patients, 111Skin’s Y Theorem Repair Serum NAC Y2 heals damaged skin with calendula extract and aminocaproic acid, an anti-inflammatory. The message in this bottle: Keep calm and carry on.