If you’re layering moisturizers and creams in an effort to quench your parched skin but don’t see visible results, you may need a serum. This is a potent skincare product that will take your complexion from dull to glowy. The best serum for dry skin will hydrate, moisturize, and address your skin issues, whether it be anti-aging or brightening. In this mini-roundup, I’ll give you an in-depth review of my favorite serums for dry skin.
Dry Skin Serums: What They Do and How to Pick the Best One
What’s a face serum?
A serum is a skin treatment that’s oil or water-based. It’s often stored in a tiny dropper bottle and you only need a dab or two to cover your face. They’re light, easily spreadable, and quick-absorbing. Despite their small bottles, face serums are often more expensive than a typical cream or moisturizer.
Serums contain active ingredients that address certain skin issues. The small molecules penetrate deep into the epidermis to deliver active ingredients.
What a face serum isn’t is a moisturizer, cream, or lotion. Though serums can have moisturizing benefits, they’re not really what you’d call a moisturizer. Lotions, creams, and moisturizers are richer, thicker, or more emollient and are designed to lock in moisture.
A face serum has a more concentrated formula that injects ingredients that fight aging, hyperpigmentation, inflammation, and other skin concerns.
Do you moisturise before or after serum?
You apply a serum after a cleanser and toner but before your moisturiser. Allow it to sink in for a few minutes before following with your lotion, cream, or emulsion.
What’s the best way to use serums on dry skin?
Serums work best on thoroughly cleansed skin. These allow the serums to be fully absorbed.
After cleansing and toning, place a few drops of serum on your palm (small pea-sized circles) and apply it to damp skin. If your face has dried after toning, mist your face lightly to hydrate it.
For best results and if you’re not feeling sleepy or lazy, wait for 5 minutes to allow the serum to sink in. Don’t forget to bring it down to your neck and decolletage.
Afterward, you can continue with the rest of your routine (spot treatment, eye cream, moisturizer, face oil, sunscreen).
Serums can be used day or night. However, serums should be introduced slowly if you have sensitive skin. The powerful antioxidants and actives are potential irritants. You also should not combine serums that contain retinol and actives like vitamin C and AHAs with other strong actives. For example, using a vitamin C serum the same night that you’re applying retinol can cause stinging and aggravation.
Benefits of Serums for Dry Skin
- Your skin will drink it up.
There are so many types of serum that can benefit dry skin. The most obvious one is a hydrating serum. This supplements your moisturizer by infusing extra hydration to your skin and preventing moisture loss. It will keep your skin looking its best and reduce the appearance of pores.
- Light and fast-absorbing
Even oily and combination skin types can use a serum because they’re lightweight so they’re less likely to clog pores. The thin consistency of serums means they sink in quicker and penetrate deeply. This is convenient in a multi-step routine because you can layer your other products easily on top without pilling or leaving residue. Serums are easy to use during the day for this reason because they sit well under sunscreen and makeup.
- Great for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
Many serums contain actives targeting fine lines and wrinkles. These are great for all skin types because who doesn’t want to turn back the clock? Anti-aging serums usually contain ingredients like retinol, green tea, and hyaluronic acid.
- Shields your skin from damaging free radicals
UV light causes skin cancer, dark spots, sunburns, and free radical damage. Your skin is exposed to this and pollutants every day. The effects accumulate and make your skin look stressed and dull due to oxidative damage. Serums protect you from free radicals through active ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin A (retinol), vitamin E, ferulic acid, and resveratrol. Antioxidant serums have healing benefits and prevent signs of aging.
- All thriller, no filler
Think of serums as efficient carriers of active ingredients. To deliver these actives fast, they need high concentrations of these substances and a simple, pared-down formula so they can penetrate the skin deeply. This is why serums are more expensive than other skincare products. They’re simple without extraneous substances, leaving out the extra baggage to focus on the good stuff that gets the job done.
How to Choose the Best Serum for Dry Skin
Hyaluronic acid is the best for hydration
The best serums for dry skin draw water into the epidermis to prevent moisture loss. The uncontested star ingredient for hydration is hyaluronic acid. This binds to water molecules so they don’t evaporate into the air.
Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in the body used to lubricate the joints. They are attached to collagen but as we grow older, we lose collagen, so we need to apply moisture topically to assist the skin in moisturizing itself.
Hyaluronic acid has immediate effects. It makes the skin look visibly dewy and plump and reduces the appearance of lines for a radiant and clear glow.
Look for other ingredients that increase hydration
B5 is another ingredient to look for in hydrating serums. It heals and repairs skin and acts as a natural moisturizer. Another serum ingredient to consider is ceramides, which work just like hyaluronic acid. Ceramides are lipids that fortify the skin barrier and hold on to moisture.
Tight and flaky skin can also benefit from collagen peptides, epidermal growth factors, niacinamide, vitamin E and glycolic acid.
Consider your skincare concerns and goals
Aside from hyaluronic acid, you should look for ingredients that address your skin issues. This will depend on your goals.
Vitamin E and C are popular antioxidants that prevent free radical damage and target a lacklustre complexion so you have a more even skin tone. Serums containing chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid speed up skin turnover so you look radiant and fresh. For anti-aging, retinol is a go-to for many skincare enthusiasts because it’s scientifically proven to combat fine lines and wrinkles.
The 6 Must-Try Serums for Dry Skin
SkinCeuticals – Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier
This hydrating serum contains a medley of ingredients that work to refine skin texture and boost moisture and elasticity. It increases your skin’s hyaluronic acid levels by 30 percent by infusing it with 1.3 percent hyaluronic acid as well as proxylane, licorice root extract, and purple rice extract.
Beyond amplifying skin moisture levels, it also helps the skin create more hyaluronic acid. It works more than a topical treatment and actually targets the cells to replenish hyaluronic acid.
This SkinCeuticals booster serum is for people who have skin that’s flaky, itchy, or dry or are looking to reduce their crow’s feet, laugh lines, and forehead creases. The non-comedogenic formula also contains salicylic acid, which is a bonus if you’re struggling with spots.
This product is more than just a hyaluronic acid serum because it has these supporting ingredients that maximize the potential of HA, amplifying its effects. That means visibly dewier, hydrated skin with a smooth, supple texture.
The serum feels thick but not as heavy as a moisturizer. It’s stored in a dark dropper bottle which protects it from light degradation.
SkinCeuticals, known for its CE Ferulic serum, isn’t a drugstore brand so expect to fork out a couple of dollars for this. If money is not an issue, this is an easy recommendation.
- A hydrating serum booster that increases skin moisture
- Contains 1.3 percent hyaluronic acid, a humectant, and hydrator
- Proxylane reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
- Licorice root extract and purple rice extract lock in the hyaluronic acid in the skin
- Perfect for people with dry skin and have acne
- Can target crow’s feet, laugh lines, and other signs of aging
- Stored in a dark dropper bottle that’s functional and easy to use
- It costs a lot for a small bottle
Pixi Beauty – Hydrating Milky Serum
The Pixi Hydrating Milky Serum is a thin, lightweight serum that delivers moisture using plant-based oils and glycerin. It has a milky consistency so it absorbs lightning fast. I think it’s best for daytime use as it layers well under sunscreen and doesn’t feel tacky.
This has jojoba oil, squalane, rosehip oil, and vitamin C and E but the key ingredient is glycerin which is excellent for trapping moisture. The simple ingredient list also contains aloe vera which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
The cruelty-free serum has a rosy fragrance so if you’re reactive to scent, beware. I also wish the bottle was designed better because the dropper tends to spill excess product.
The serum isn’t intensely hydrating nor does it claim to be. Its strength is in its lightweight consistency that’s versatile. It’s great for oily skin types, too. It works like a facial oil without the oiliness because it draws water into the surface of the skin. To lock in moisture, follow it up with a moisturizer.
If you’re looking for an everyday hydrating face serum for dry skin that feels lightweight and doesn’t break the bank, check out this one by Pixi.
- A moisturizing serum with glycerin, jojoba oil, squalane, rosehip oil and vitamins C and E
- Fortifies the skin moisture barrier with simple ingredients
- Versatile use and can be layered under makeup and sunscreen
- Hydrates without feeling tacky
- Comes in a dropper bottle
- Has an affordable price
- The rosy fragrance may be offputting to some users
- The dropper tends to waste product
KORA Organics – Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum
This is a potent hydrating and antioxidant serum with 12 percent vitamin C for skin that looks glowy and fresh. It reduces hyperpigmentation, brightens dark spots, and protects the skin from harmful free radicals.
Kora Organics uses a Vitamin C Superfruit Complex that includes ascorbyl glucoside (vitamin C), kakadu plum, acerola cherry, orange peel, lemon peel, and noni. The serum has an organic formula and a pH of 3.8 which allows the ingredients to work more effectively in the skin.
Ascorbyl glucoside is a stable form of vitamin C, so it keeps its active properties for longer. The Superfruit Complex refines skin tone, minimizes the appearance of fine lines, supports skin elasticity, and defends against environmental pollutants that contribute to aging.
This cruelty-free vitamin C serum also has hyaluronic acid, which draws moisture into the skin and enhances skin health from the inside so skin looks soft and plump. In addition, there are also olive leaf extracts that repair and firm up the skin so it has anti-aging benefits as well.
I love the bright pink pump it comes in which perks up my mornings, as well as its citrusy scent. It does leave a slight tackiness on the skin but I’ve come to expect that from vitamin C serums. Some may find the price is quite steep but excellent skincare is worth the price. This vitamin-rich multitasking serum deserves a spot on any beauty shelf.
- A two-in-one antioxidant and hydrating facial serum
- Contains a Vitamin C Superfruit complex including 12 percent vitamin C that fades dark spots
- Has moisture-attracting hyaluronic acid for plump skin
- Great for smoothing skin texture, enhancing skin tone, fighting free radicals, and improving skin elasticity
- Has olive leaf extracts that have soothing, firming benefits
- The pump bottle is convenient
- Has a scent so it’s not for people reactive to fragrance
- Can feel a bit tacky after it absorbs into the skin
- Quite expensive
Vichy Aqualia Thermal Hydrating Face Serum
This is an all-natural serum from the well-loved French pharmacy brand Vichy and one of the best face serums that boost moisture. It has a simple paraben-free formulation that’s safe to use on reactive skin because it has gentle ingredients that won’t trigger allergies.
A hydrating serum won’t be complete without hyaluronic acid and this one features a natural origin hyaluronic acid which can hold 1000 times its weight in water. Moisture is key for a dewy, healthy glow so I’m sure this will enthral people looking for a solution for thirsty skin.
Vichy also included its own Volcanic Water which fortifies the skin and protects it from free radical damage. This ingredient is mined from the French landscape and contains 15 essential minerals that boost skin health. For more hydration, the plant sugar prevents water loss so your face feels bouncy and moist.
The serum can reduce the appearance of fine lines immediately by soaking the skin cells with moisture. It’s oil-free and lightweight so it’s easy to apply and safe to use for acne-prone skin. If hydration is your number one priority, you will love this facial serum.
The price is a bit expensive so if budget is an issue, wait for around for deals on this one. This is a no-frills product that’s purely for hydration so if you want a lot of benefits in one serum, this will disappoint you.
- A hyaluronic acid serum with a natural that’s paraben-free and 97 percent natural
- Contains Vichy Volcanic Water and plant sugar to strengthen the skin barrier and lock in moisture
- Makes skin look dewy and minimizes the look of wrinkles and fine lines
- Oil-free, lightweight, ideal for sensitive skin
- Has antioxidant benefits from the volcanic water
- The serum is a bit pricey but you can find discounts on this
- It may be too simple for some people looking for a lot of extra benefits
Kiehls – Midnight Recovery Concentrate
This night serum is my top pick for people who like the feel of face oils on very dry skin. If you’ve tried every serum and moisturizer but find that your face isn’t showing any improvement in texture or hydration, I recommend dipping your toes in the world of facial oils.
The Midnight Recovery Concentrate is a Kiehl’s bestseller. It’s a mix of flower, fruit, and seed oils rich in lipids and fatty acids. The lavender essential oil is where this serum gets its “midnight” name from because it’s calming and soothing, just what you need before you hit the hay.
Then there’s evening primrose oil, a herbal ingredient that restores skin elasticity and increases moisture levels. This also contains olive-derived squalane, one of my favourite ingredients. It’s fast-absorbing and feels super comfortable and nourishing on the face.
This serum is meant to be applied at night when the body repairs itself. After a restful night’s sleep with the serum on, you’ll get visible effects in texture and radiance, even in the appearance of fine lines. This serum is for skin that needs a break after a few nights (or weeks) of dehydrated skin, exhaustion, stress, or exposure to everyday pollutants.
This works for all skin types, including oily and combination skin. However, if you have experienced bad reactions to botanical and essential oils, specifically the ones included in the serum (evening primrose oil, lavender oil, rosemary essential oil, geranium essential oil, rose essential oil), please be cautious. Some people have broken out from these ingredients. If you’re generally not sensitive to oils, this is one of the best face serums for you.
- A facial oil slash serum well-loved for its restorative properties
- Contains botanical and essential oils including lavender oil and evening primrose oil
- Absorbs well into the skin and has a calming scent
- For nighttime use; has overnight effects
- Can reduce the appearance of texture and fine lines
- Good for dry skin and all skin types
- The botanical and essential oils have triggered breakouts in sensitive skin
Bioderma – Hydrabio Serum
This serum is from another French pharmacy fave, Bioderma. If you love their micellar water, you must try out their other products, including this hydrating serum. This is an effective treatment for dehydrated skin that craves moisture without greasiness.
It contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and niacinamide to keep the skin hydrated and supple. It also has prebiotics which strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier to prevent moisture loss. By restoring the health of the skin, it helps even out skin texture so the face looks clear and radiant.
What makes this unique is its patented Aquagenium which teaches the skin to produce more moisture through activating the production of aquaphorins or water channels in the skin.
The serum comes in a convenient airless pump bottle and has a light, gel-like consistency. It has a gentle formula that’s good for sensitive skin types. It sinks in well and you can use it as a primer before makeup.
The serum smells clean and fresh but if you’re quite sensitive to fragrance, definitely try out a sample if you can before committing to it.
This isn’t an intensive serum, so, it’s not good for dehydrated skin. Bioderma has other products in its range that you can layer on top of this to amplify its effects. Since it’s a minimalist product, it’s also not for people who want antioxidant and anti-aging effects in a hydrating serum.
- Formulated by a reputable French pharmacy brand
- Contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, niacinamide, and prebiotics
- Moisturizes dry skin and doesn’t feel tacky
- Strengthens the skin barrier and clarifies the complexion
- Good for a sensitive and dehydrated skin type
- Contains Aquagenium, a patented feature that retrains the skin to hydrate itself
- Easy to use and fast-absorbing
- Has a scent, so not for people sensitive to fragrance in skincare products
- Has a very simple formulation so it may be underwhelming for people looking for more than just hydration in their serums
These are the best products right now formulated to hydrate dry skin. Aside from moisture, they also target other skin concerns such as acne, large pores, dark spots, and signs of aging. The serum that I heartily recommend is SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier. It has 1.3 percent hyaluronic acid and a formula that’s been clinically proven to boost plumpness, firmness, elasticity, and texture. It contains supporting ingredients that increase the efficacy of hyaluronic acid for even better results. The lightweight serum comes in a dark dropper bottle so it’s easy to apply and stores well, too. It’s suitable for every skin type even reactive and acne-prone skin. Check it out and the other products on the list if you’re in the market for a serum.