Skin Serum is the New Beauty Basic

Yes, you really do need to use one—and daily. Here’s why, plus seven to try

Back in 2004, when my crow’s feet were barely discernible, the idea of using a serum didn’t appeal to me. I had just gotten used to the idea of applying weekly facemask and would toss a daily toner into my Sephora basket regularly, but mostly to score one of those highly popular ‘gift with purchase’ bags that seem so ubiquitous today. At the time my skincare routine was basic: something for moisture plus a great cleanser and day cream. A decade later, I’ve got to include a serum to help keep what I’ll call creases at bay.

The story behind today’s new crop of silky serums and the technologically advanced ingredients in these lightweight but potent line-fighting anti-agers is an interesting one. Revive has launched a bio-relaxing peptide created in a mysterious Swiss biotech lab for the first time in the US, while Rodial uses good old-fashioned bee venom…yes, bee venom…to plump up any barely-there-but-visible lines.

Whichever brand you choose, including a serum in your daily routine is a must. Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu explains, “serums generally contain higher doses of active ingredients such as antioxidants and other anti-aging compounds. Many of these are water-soluble, so they are more stable in a water-based serum rather than a cream.”

Science aside, I’m guessing serum newbies may balk at what it will cost to add one to their shopping carts (the pricier ones will hit the triple digits). Even though a bottle will last more than six months with regular use, the price point does seem a bit high for some of us broke beauty mavens. But, according to Dr. Wu, serums are expensive because they contain active ingredients that are more expensive than moisturizing ones, some of which are hard to stabilize in a higher concentration and may require complicated cosmetic chemistry techniques that add to the cost of the product.

Don’t think you can minimize the cost by skimping, either. If you’re going to spend on a great performing serum, sporadic use won’t give you the results you’re seeking. Instead Dr. Wu suggests you can customize the application. “If you’re trying to use your serum judiciously, only use it on trouble areas that you want to target, like fine lines around the eyes or mouth. Then apply your cream over it.”

Ready to commit to the craze? Here are seven new velvety soft serums, including one for the whole body, with buzz-worthy ingredients to help reset your skin’s clock:

LSerumL’Oreal Age Perfect Cell Renewal Golden Serum Treatment ($19.99)
The hero ingredient here is LHA, which is a salicylic acid derivative. Safe enough for daily use, LHA is a cell regenerator that corrects pigment spots from sun and increases the reflection of light on the skin. At this price, you don’t have to feel guilty about applying generously day and night.

CSRSerumClarisonic Brightening Activator Serum ($65)
There’s a reason so many beauty editors and reporters (myself included) are devoted fans of the deep cleansing brush. This non-sticky radiance serum uses the incredibly effective Ellagic acid to inhibit the making of melanin, which prevents age spots from forming. It’ll take about 8-12 weeks to see a significant clearing up, so stick with it.

Nude Skincare Advanced Renewal Serum ($78)
Free from fragrance, parabens, and sulfates, this Omega-9 rich treatment is fantastic for combo skin. It glides on beautifully and absorbs easily when applied. The jojoba oil makes it slightly emollient, which means those with oilier skin should skip a lotion afterwards. In three days my skin felt plumper, which prevented my foundation from creasing.

KSMegaSerumKate Somerville Mega-C Dual Radiance Serum ($90)
The high dose of 10% vitamin C here is amped up with Ferulic Acid, which does double duty to brighten discoloration and support collagen from the inside. The best part: You only need to use it at night.

SKIIPESerumSK-II Essential Power Essence ($120)
SK-II’s golden goose is Pitera, a naturally derived liquid from the sake fermentation process. A dropper full of this rich but translucent serum (infused with artichoke extracts) is all you need to help increase skin’s elasticity. This stuff is seriously addicting.

RBVSSerumRodial Bee Venom Super Serum ($200)
You read that correctly—the serum is made with bee venom (aka Melittin peptide), which increases circulation and plumps up skin. I like that the watery, gel-like serum didn’t irritate my post-exfoliation sensitive skin.

RAWCSerumRevive Intensive Line Erasing Serum ($600)
Revive offers up the granddaddy of all serums, a powerhouse of peptides, proteins and fatty acids that work magic on deeper lines. You’ll definitely need a moisturizer after using this on the face, but I skipped the eye cream and used the serum on its own.

ADSOBSerumAhava Dead Sea Osomoter Body Concentrate ($45)
The décolleté and legs need special attention, too. I like this product because it’s a body oil (with a pump!) but also so much more. Brown algae extracts are blended with Argan and Monoi oils to help brighten uneven, blotchy spots, like those on my feet from wearing flip flops. I also love the lotion-like texture for the subtle but sweet tropical scent that I wish would last as long as a perfume.

A native Angeleno, Navdeep Mundi is a Leo, hates cilantro, and has studied beauty products for more than 18 years. She spends her days directing media and strategy and her nights sniffing out slightly quirky yet impeccably pretty things along with her German Shepherd, Le Tigre.