The best facial serums that really work to apply in your 20s, 30s and 40s

Face serums are like the Floyd Mayweather of skincare. They may be lightweight, but don’t underestimate their power. Aside from your cleanser and SPF, using one of the best face serums is the most valuable player in your skincare routine.

That said, tracking down the best facial serum for your age, skin type and budget is not always easy. Whats’ the best facial serum for ageing skin? What’s the best facial serum for dry skin? What’s the best hydrating serum? Enter: our comprehensive guide that’s sure to answer all of your questions.

First up, what does a serum do for your face?

In short, a serum is a more lightweight and potent moisturiser. The best face serums contain the targeted skincare ingredients your face craves the most, in their most concentrated and hard-hitting form, and they have the ability to penetrate much deeper into the skin than your face cream ever could. Serums come as either a gel or a liquid (dependant on the ingredients they contain).

Basically, if you want to make one skincare investment, it’s with a face serum that you want to spend your money.

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Is a serum good for your skin?

Yes. Serums do work. Since they can penetrate much deeper than your moisturiser, they’re the best way to customise your skincare routine and target a particular skincare concern. You’ve just got to make sure you choose the best serum for your age and skincare concern (be that ageing, acne or pigmentation) if you want it to be effective. For example, if you’ve got dry skin, you need a moisturising serum. Something packed with hyaluronic acid would do the job, because it plumps skin and is the equivalent of giving it a big old drink of water. If you want to target ageing, pick up a retinol serum (like The Ordinary’s Retinol 0.5%). More on that later.

Can we use face serum daily?

Absolutely. It’s recommended that you use your face serum twice daily. 

Where in my routine do I apply a face serum?

You should apply your facial serum twice daily, both morning and night, after cleansing, exfoliating and toning to your face and neck. A face serum can be used alone, but since they tend to be so lightweight, they’re easy to layer. You can wear your face serum underneath a moisturiser, neck cream, face SPF or your favourite foundation.

Do you need moisturiser after serum?

Yes. Moisturisers and serums are the main way we can treat our skin to an injection of potent ingredients, and using both will only maximise the benefits. Moisturisers fortify the top layer of your skin, increasing hydration at the surface, while facial serums use active ingredients to penetrate the skin more deeply and target specific skincare concerns (like brightness, dark spots or ageing). 

How do I choose a serum?

Everyone’s skin is different – if you suffer from dry skin and you’re hoping to get some hydration going, look for a serum containing hyaluronic acid. If it’s an anti-aging serum you’re after, retinol is the gold standard, and to brighten your complexion, anything with Vitamin C is a sure-fire hit.

However we asked Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at Skin 55 when it’s best to introduce or amp up these ingredients in our routines. Here’s what she said:

Best serum if you’re in your 20s:

“In your 20s your skin is still youthful, but after mid-20s collagen levels start to fall so incorporating vitamin A [or retinol] serums at night to help with cell turnover can be beneficial in reducing early development of fine lines especially in fair skin.”

The retinol rulebook: it’s the one ingredient that can transform your skin so here’s your simple guide to finding the right one

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Best serum if you’re in your 30s:

“Signs of ageing of the skin start to develop for most people in their 30s, such as fine and deeper lines and wrinkles as well as uneven skin tone or pigmentation. Adding in a vitamin C serum under sunscreen can help with skin brightening as well as additional benefits of acting as an antioxidant.”

Vitamin C is the most Googled skincare ingredient of all time. Here’s what it can do for your skin, and the best serums and supplements to invest in

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Best serum if you’re in your 40s:

“As we proceed through our 40s, oestrogen levels start to decline which can result in dryness. Incorporating a hyaluronic acid serum under a moisturiser and layering the products can help prevent dryness and create the appearance of more supple looming skin.”

Hyaluronic acid is a must-have ingredient for your autumn-winter skin products. Here’s our pick of the bunch

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What is the best facial serum for ageing skin?

If you’ve started to notice the first signs of fine lines, then you’ll want to reach for The Body Shop’s Drops of Youth Concentrate: a gel-like serum enriched with supercharged plant cells. This hardworking facial serum moisturises, firms and refines the overall surface of the skin – plus the gorgeous green bottle will look pretty good on your bathroom shelf, too. In fact, it’s so popular that one bottle sells every 23 seconds.

For more from Glamour UK Commerce Writer Sophie Cockett, follow her on Instagram @sophiecockettx, and for more from Deputy Beauty Editor Elle Turner, follow her on Instagram @elleturneruk

Which serum is best for face? Scroll for our full edit of the best facial serums to shop today.