Last updated: August 7, 2021

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In cosmetics, a serum is a supplementary care product with highly concentrated ingredients. In the beauty sector, serums are often used before a rich evening or day cream. Serums promise to improve the appearance of the skin with a revitalising effect and are apparently effective against the first wrinkles and general ageing of the skin.

Due to their highly concentrated ingredients, they can also cause irritation in sensitive skin types. Therefore, the choice of serum is crucial, as there are very many types of serums on the market. With the serum test 2021 we want to help you find the right serum for you. For this purpose, we have compared different serums with each other.




Summary

  • Serum is a highly concentrated skincare product for your facial area. You usually apply this before your day or night cream.
  • Serums are generally used to improve the overall appearance of the skin with moisturising or revitalising ingredients and to counteract the first wrinkles and skin ageing.
  • When choosing the right serum, you should already know what skin type you have. Not all serums are the same and can even cause intolerances in sensitive or acne-prone skin.

The Best Serum: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for serums

By making the right choice for you, you can save money and also ensure that you do not add anything to your body that it does not need. Therefore, always look for high quality and ask to see the manufacturer's certificates if necessary.

When buying serums, you can pay attention to various aspects, such as:

We will go into these in more detail in the following sections.

Quantity

If you are looking for the right serum for you online or outside in the drugstore, you will quickly become aware of the large selection of different serums for certain skin types. The ingredients, quality and quantity of the serum can therefore vary.

A serum can revitalise the skin, provide more moisture and prevent skin ageing. However, it is not essential to include a serum in your daily skincare routine.

Depending on personal needs, both older and younger people still use serums to give their skin extra care. This is why the price of a serum is significantly more expensive than a simple face cream for daily use.

In addition, the serum contains highly concentrated ingredients such as vitamins, hyaluronic acid and other antioxidants. Because of the price and the valuable ingredients, you will find many serums in 30 ml containers made of plastic or frosted glass.

Pipettes or a small pump ensure easy and hygienic application.

Despite the small packaging size, the use of a serum is very economical, as only a few drops are needed for application.

If you still think that 30 ml is not enough for your personal needs, there are plenty of serums with 50 ml or even 100 ml contents. However, these serums also cost a little more.

Ingredients

As already mentioned, the ingredients in serums vary. Vitamins C and E, hyaluronic acid and retinol are often found in most serums. In vegan serums, you will also find natural ingredients such as jojoba oil, aloe vera and green tea.

Below we have explained the most important ingredients in serums in detail.

Vitamin C and E:

Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that can brighten and revitalise the face. Vitamin C is not only important for maintaining a healthy skin appearance, but also for the immune system and can protect our tissues and cells from oxidative stress.

Similarly, many studies have shown that vitamin C is effective in protecting skin cells and healing wounds (1). Like vitamin C, vitamin E is also a valuable antioxidant for regenerating the skin surface.

Both have been shown in studies to work together with a UVA sunscreen to provide better protection on the skin.

Hyaluronic acid:

Hyaluronic acid is moisturising with anti-aging effects. Depending on the concentration and structure of the molecules, the effect of hyaluronic acid can vary greatly. A distinction is made between low-molecular and high-molecular hyaluronic acid.

High-molecular hyaluronic acids usually have a molecular size of about ≥ 1,300 kD. These types of hyaluronic acid molecules form a moisturising film on the surface of our skin. (2)

This causes wrinkles to disappear instantly and makes the skin appear directly plumper. Since this high-molecular hyaluronic acid does not penetrate into the deeper layer of the skin, there is no long-term effect.

Hyaluronic acid is very effective in keeping the skin tissue elastic.

Its strong water-binding property makes it a valuable ingredient to counteract the process of skin ageing (3). Hyaluronic acid is therefore often found in serums for dry or mature skin types.

Retinol:

Retinol, also known as vitamin A, is a fat-soluble and essential vitamin for the formation of cells and the natural regeneration process of our skin. This happens through retinol, which stimulates collagen production and thus ensures a stable skin framework(4).

At the same time, it also regulates the cell functions of the skin, which also helps to fight acne. In this way, wrinkles are reduced, the skin structure is supported and free radicals are warded off by the antioxidant property of retinol.

This is why retinol is mainly used in serums with anti-ageing effects, as it visually refines a mature complexion as well as providing visibly smoother skin.

Natural ingredients:

Jojoba oil, aloe vera and green tea are often found in serums that are vegan and skin-friendly. These natural ingredients are similar in their properties and help to gently hydrate the skin with natural antioxidants(5).

These natural ingredients are very kind to the skin and are therefore particularly suitable for sensitive skin types.

Suitability for skin type

Any woman or man can incorporate a serum into their daily skincare routine. Whether young or old, a serum is generally a good product choice if a healthy and fresh skin appearance is important to you.

To find the right serum for you, you should know your skin type before buying, as serums can differ in their ingredients and effects. Serums are generally differentiated between young and mature skin.

Mature skin types include people who are struggling with the first wrinkles and skin ageing. Older women and men tend to have dry skin and therefore need intensive care.

These serums are usually administered with highly concentrated hyaluronic acid, retinol or vitamin C in combination with many other valuable ingredients (6).

They have both an anti-ageing effect and an antioxidant effect, which additionally protects your skin from free radicals (7).

Young skin types usually include people in their early to mid-20s. These young people usually struggle with sensitive skin or skin blemishes such as acne. These blemishes can be caused by excessive sebum production in the pores (8).

Vegan products have less concentrated ingredients and are therefore very well tolerated by young skin.

Serums with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or aloe vera are therefore recommended for young people who struggle with combination skin or blemishes. Oil-based serums with many natural ingredients are recommended for dry and sensitive skin types.

Application

The application of serums is simple and straightforward. The serum is usually packaged in a small plastic or glass container that holds 30 ml to 100 ml.

Using a pipette or pumper, apply 2 to 4 drops of the serum to the surface of the skin and gently massage it into the skin. After the serum, you should then apply your daily skin care cream. A care cream is therefore not replaceable by a simple serum.

After all, the serum is an additional cosmetic product for intensive care of the skin surface to revitalise the skin, provide more moisture or prevent skin ageing.

Nevertheless, many people and dermatologists swear by the serum, which has already proven many positive effects on the skin's appearance (9).

Quality

As you can see, serums are available in a wide range for young and older people. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right serum, especially if you don't know your skin type.

That's why you should first get to grips with this topic. Only then can you be more aware of what kind of serums are suitable for you.

You will quickly notice that the prices and ingredients of serums can vary greatly. These are important criteria for the decisive quality of a serum.

Type of serum quality
Moisturising serum usually with effective ingredients such as hyaluronic acid
Revitalising serum highly concentrated vitamin complexes such as vitamin C and E
Anti-ageing serum highly concentrated or pure hyaluronic acid, use of retinol peptides for additional protection against free radicals

There are inexpensive serums between 7 and 15 euros. These types of serums are suitable for you if you have a younger skin appearance and only want to integrate additional care into your daily routine.

These serums are moisturising, revitalising and make your skin look fresher. In addition, these affordable options also contain many antioxidants and other ingredients to refine the skin's appearance.

Many serums come in the 15 to 30 euro price range. This is normal for a very good and effective serum for intensive moisture with a general anti-ageing effect.

Mostly, these serums are adapted for medium to mature skin types. The ingredients are more concentrated and care for the skin from the outside as well as from the inside.

There are also serums that can be even more expensive. Their prices can be 50 or 150 euros. This is because their ingredients are highly concentrated or sold in the purest form such as hyaluronic acid.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about serums answered in detail

In order to inform you comprehensively about the effectiveness of serums and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.

What is a serum and how does it work?

In short, a serum is an additional skincare product with highly concentrated ingredients for women and men of different ages. Both young and older people can integrate the serum into their daily care routine and use it to intensively care for their skin, a few drops are enough.

Depending on the product and manufacturer, the texture of serums can be oil-based, water-based or gel-like.

If a healthy and fresh complexion is important to you, you can buy a serum. The serum is especially effective for people who struggle with dry skin, impurities or the first wrinkles.

Below we have explained the 3 most important effects of serum in more detail.

revitalising effect

Vitamins C and E are often found in serums for younger skin. Depending on the manufacturer, these are less or highly concentrated. They are antioxidants and can both revitalise and brighten your complexion.

Vitamins C and E are important antioxidants that are not only important for maintaining a healthy skin appearance. They also defend our tissues and cell from oxidative stress and generally has a protective effect on our skin.

moisturising effect

Hyaluronic acid is mostly found in serums for dry skin. It is mainly very moisturising and can therefore be absorbed very well by the skin.
Due to its strong water-binding properties, hyaluronic acid is a valuable ingredient for keeping skin tissue elastic and preventing the aging process. Therefore, the serum is a very good choice for dry and also for mature skin types.

regenerating effect

Retinol is also an important ingredient for serums with an anti-ageing effect. It is an essential vitamin for the formation of skin cells. Thus, retinol is an important ingredient for the regeneration process of our skin.

Retinol provides regulation under the skin and a stable skin structure through its natural action. In rare cases it is also effective against acne.

When and for whom is the use of a serum useful?

Every woman or man can integrate a serum into their daily skin care routine. There is no specific age group for the serum.

Serum

Vitamin C and E are highly concentrated ingredients that protect and revitalise your skin. (Image source: Unsplash / Noah Buscher)

Buying a serum is highly recommended if you are already in your mid-20s and a fresh complexion is important to you or if the first wrinkles are visible on your skin.

Therefore, serums are often divided into young and mature skin types. Young skin types usually include people in their early to mid-20s. Many young people usually have sensitive skin or skin impurities that appear in the form of blackheads or acne.

Mature skin types include people who already have the first wrinkles and tend to have dry skin. These older women and men therefore need intensive care with highly concentrated ingredients.

These support the skin structure and generally refine the skin's appearance. There are many different serums with anti-aging effects on the market.

Before buying, it is important to know what skin type you have. This will make it easier for you to find the right serum for your skin type.

Which serum is suitable for which skin?

As we mentioned earlier, it's important to know your skin type before you buy. Only then will finding the right serum for your skin be easy. There are oil-based, water-based and gel-based serums.

Serum

Before you buy a particular serum, you should know what skin type you have. (Image source: Unsplash / Park Street)

Many oil-based serums are infused with natural ingredients such as jojoba oil, antioxidants and other vitamin complexes. This type of serum is mainly found in serums for dry and normal skin types.

Depending on the combination of ingredients, they can also be effective against wrinkles in addition to their intensive moisturising properties.

Water-based or gel serums often contain the moisturising ingredient hyaluronic acid. Sometimes you'll also find natural ingredients like green tea or aloe vera. Together they have a very beneficial effect on your skin(10).

Most of these water-based serums are suitable for combination skin or oily skin types with impurities.

If you are older and looking for a suitable serum with an anti-aging effect, then you should look for hyaluronic acid or retinol in qualitative form as an ingredient.

Both are essential to moisturise the skin and at the same time support the skin's structure. Regular use of the serum will refine your skin texture and make it look visually smoother.

How much does a serum cost?

The price of a serum varies by the ingredients combined and their quality. Depending on whether you are looking for a simple day serum or a specific serum with anti-ageing effects and effective properties, prices can vary greatly between them.

Basically, the price for a good and effective serum is around 15 to 30 euros. Depending on the concentration and the general quality of the ingredients, these prices can also be lower or much more expensive.

In general, you can say that serums for young people are cheaper. Serums for more demanding skin and older people are often more expensive.

Type of serum skin type cost
Day serum for young skin 7 to 15 euros
Serum with effective and combined ingredients for medium to mature skin 15 to 30 euros
Serum with specific ingredients and highest quality for demanding skin 50 to 150 euros

The simple day serum is suitable for young people who feel that additional skin care is necessary. These serums often cost between 7 and 15 euros. They are administered with many good and combined ingredients.

Although they are less concentrated than serums with anti-aging effects, they are still very moisturising and revitalising. Moreover, even this inexpensive variant often has antioxidants and other ingredients to maintain a fresh and even skin appearance.

Many serums are sold in the price range of 15 to 30 euros. These prices are normal for a very good and effective serum that both intensively moisturises and generally has an anti-ageing property.

Mostly these serums are adapted to the medium to mature skin type, therefore the added ingredients are more concentrated in their form. In this way, the skin is very well cared for from the outside and also from the inside.

The serums with prices ranging from 50 to 150 Euros are so expensive because the ingredients are usually very highly concentrated or, in rare cases, are offered in the purest form such as hyaluronic acid.

What types of serums are there?

There are many types of serums, most of them are differentiated between moisturising, revitalising serums and serums with an anti-ageing effect. The texture of these serums can be watery to gel-like or oil-based.

Moisturising serums tend to be watery to gel-like in texture. They often contain the valuable ingredient hyaluronic acid, which can differ in the strength of its effect depending on the concentration and molecular structure.

Wrinkles can disappear depending on the quality of the hyaluronic acid. Its strong water-binding property makes it a valuable ingredient against skin dryness and ageing.

Advantages
  • fast absorption due to texture
  • suitable for sensitive skin
  • can prevent wrinkles depending on the hyaluronic acid molecules
Disadvantages
  • can cause side effects
  • short-term effectiveness against wrinkles
  • can leave a light adhesive film on the skin

Revitalising serums are usually combined with natural ingredients as well as different antioxidants and vitamin complexes. Especially vitamin C and E are important vitamin complexes and at the same time antioxidants that can brighten(11) and revitalise the facial appearance.

Many studies have also proven that vitamin C plays an important role in protecting as well as maintaining our skin's appearance. Vitamin E is also an effective antioxidant for regenerating the skin's surface.

Advantages
  • fresh and plump skin appearance
  • regeneration of our skin surface
  • many antioxidants
Disadvantages
  • can cause irritation due to the concentration of ingredients
  • effectiveness depends on the quality of the production
  • use with caution for sensitive skin

Anti-ageing serums are suitable for mature to demanding skin types. They are often found with hyaluronic acid or retinol in high quality as an ingredient in these serums.

Both are essential to intensively nourish the skin and support the skin structure from the inside as well as from the outside.

Advantages
  • Regeneration of the skin structure inside and outside
  • high quality of the ingredients
  • intensive care
Disadvantages
  • Retinol can have a drying effect
  • not inexpensive
  • for dry skin one should still use a rich care cream

If the serum is used continuously, positive differences in the skin's appearance can quickly become visible.

How do I apply serum?

In short, the application of serums is simple and uncomplicated. The serum is usually packaged in a small container with a content of 30 ml to 100 ml.

Serum

You can integrate a serum with intensively nourishing active ingredients into your daily care routine. (Image source: Unsplash / Charisse Kenion)

The serum is then applied drop by drop to the skin surface with a pipette or pump and gently massaged into the skin.

We have explained the steps for the exact application of the serum in more detail in the following sections.

  1. After your usual facial cleansing with a skin care milk, your skin should be completely dry before applying the serum.
  2. Then you can apply about 2 to 4 drops of serum to your forehead, cheeks and neck area. Many women also find the décolleté to be an important area.
  3. The serum is then gently massaged or patted into the skin in a circular motion. Patting allows the blood circulation under the skin to be stimulated and wrinkles to be avoided. Depending on the texture of the serum, you should leave it on your skin for 5 to 10 minutes.

After these three important steps, you can apply your day or night cream as usual.

Generally, you should apply care products with a light consistency before the rich products, because the small molecules from the serums can penetrate our skin better and deeper than oil or cream.

What are the alternatives to serums?

If you are looking for alternatives to serums, there are many natural products available online and in shops, such as oils, which are very effective in maintaining a healthy and fresh complexion due to their natural properties.

Image source: Antonika Chanel / unsplash

References (11)

1. IVC Protocol Vitamin C Research: The Riordan IVC Protocol for Adjunctive Cancer Care Intravenous Ascorbate as a Chemotherapeutic and Biological Response Modifying Agent. Agus, D., Vera, J. & Golde, D., 1999. Stromal cell oxidation: a mechanism by which tumors obtain vitamin C. Cancer Res., Volume 59, pp. 4555-8. Ashino, H. et al., 2003. Novel function of ascorbic acid as an angiostatic factor. Angiogenesis, Volume 6, pp. 259-69. Belin, S. et al., 2009. Antiproliferative effect of ascorbic acid is associated with inhibition of genes necessary to cell cycle progression. PLoS ONE, Volume 4, p. e4409.
Source

2. Papakonstantinou, Eleni et al. “Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging.” Dermato-endocrinology vol. 4,3 (2012): 253-8. doi:10.4161/derm.21923
Source

3. Kosmetische Medizin: Erfolgreiche Behandlung periorbitaler Falten mit einem 0,5 Hyaluronsäure Gel; 27.Jahrgang, Heft 3. 2007, ISSN 1430-4031; Grosse Verlag 2008
Source

4. Harris TA, Gattu S, Propheter DC, Kuang Z, Bel S, Ruhn KA, Chara AL, Edwards M, Zhang C, Jo JH, Raj P, Zouboulis CC, Kong HH, Segre JA, Hooper LV. Resistin-like Molecule α Provides Vitamin-A-Dependent Antimicrobial Protection in the Skin. Cell Host Microbe. 2019 Jun 12;25(6):777-788.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2019.04.004. Epub 2019 May 14. PMID: 31101494; PMCID: PMC6628910.
Source

5. Study Shows Exam Gloves With Aloe Vera Improve Skin Quality of Those With Irritant Contact Dermatitis; Medline Industries, Inc; March 4, 2003
Source

6. The roles of vitamin C in skin health; August 2017, 9(8), 866; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080866Pullar, J. M., et al. Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch, P.O. Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Source

7. Crisan, Diana et al. “The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology vol. 8 463-70. 2 Sep. 2015, doi:10.2147/CCID.S84903
Source

8. Study: Curbing a Skin Oil Might Help Reduce Acne; Webmd Archives, By E.J. Mundell May 15, 2019
Source

9. Kontrollierte Studie mit Velan straffe Haut Gesichtsserum; Velan Skincare, Oktober-Dezember 2015; EB Medical GmbH • Simmerer Str. 7a • D-50935 Köln
Source

10. Rahman, S., Carter, P., & Bhattarai, N. (2017). Aloe Vera for Tissue Engineering Applications. Journal of functional biomaterials, 8(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.3390/jfb8010006
Source

11. Evidence of the Effect of Intraepidermic Vitamin C Injection on Melanocytes and Keratinocytes in Gingival Tissues: In Vivo Study Nermin M Yussif , Nahed S Koranyb and Marwa MS Abbassc; Department of Oral medicine and periodontology, Faculty of oral and dental medicine, Fayoum university, Fayoum, Egypt Department of Oral Biology, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt Yussif et al., Dentistry 2017, 7:3 DOI: 10.4172/2161-1122.1000417
Source

Scientific study
IVC Protocol Vitamin C Research: The Riordan IVC Protocol for Adjunctive Cancer Care Intravenous Ascorbate as a Chemotherapeutic and Biological Response Modifying Agent. Agus, D., Vera, J. & Golde, D., 1999. Stromal cell oxidation: a mechanism by which tumors obtain vitamin C. Cancer Res., Volume 59, pp. 4555-8. Ashino, H. et al., 2003. Novel function of ascorbic acid as an angiostatic factor. Angiogenesis, Volume 6, pp. 259-69. Belin, S. et al., 2009. Antiproliferative effect of ascorbic acid is associated with inhibition of genes necessary to cell cycle progression. PLoS ONE, Volume 4, p. e4409.
Go to source
Scientific study
Papakonstantinou, Eleni et al. “Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging.” Dermato-endocrinology vol. 4,3 (2012): 253-8. doi:10.4161/derm.21923
Go to source
Scientific study
Kosmetische Medizin: Erfolgreiche Behandlung periorbitaler Falten mit einem 0,5 Hyaluronsäure Gel; 27.Jahrgang, Heft 3. 2007, ISSN 1430-4031; Grosse Verlag 2008
Go to source
Scientific study
Harris TA, Gattu S, Propheter DC, Kuang Z, Bel S, Ruhn KA, Chara AL, Edwards M, Zhang C, Jo JH, Raj P, Zouboulis CC, Kong HH, Segre JA, Hooper LV. Resistin-like Molecule α Provides Vitamin-A-Dependent Antimicrobial Protection in the Skin. Cell Host Microbe. 2019 Jun 12;25(6):777-788.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2019.04.004. Epub 2019 May 14. PMID: 31101494; PMCID: PMC6628910.
Go to source
Article
Study Shows Exam Gloves With Aloe Vera Improve Skin Quality of Those With Irritant Contact Dermatitis; Medline Industries, Inc; March 4, 2003
Go to source
Article
The roles of vitamin C in skin health; August 2017, 9(8), 866; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080866Pullar, J. M., et al. Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch, P.O. Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Go to source
Review
Crisan, Diana et al. “The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology vol. 8 463-70. 2 Sep. 2015, doi:10.2147/CCID.S84903
Go to source
Article
Study: Curbing a Skin Oil Might Help Reduce Acne; Webmd Archives, By E.J. Mundell May 15, 2019
Go to source
Scientific study
Kontrollierte Studie mit Velan straffe Haut Gesichtsserum; Velan Skincare, Oktober-Dezember 2015; EB Medical GmbH • Simmerer Str. 7a • D-50935 Köln
Go to source
Review
Rahman, S., Carter, P., & Bhattarai, N. (2017). Aloe Vera for Tissue Engineering Applications. Journal of functional biomaterials, 8(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.3390/jfb8010006
Go to source
Review
Evidence of the Effect of Intraepidermic Vitamin C Injection on Melanocytes and Keratinocytes in Gingival Tissues: In Vivo Study Nermin M Yussif , Nahed S Koranyb and Marwa MS Abbassc; Department of Oral medicine and periodontology, Faculty of oral and dental medicine, Fayoum university, Fayoum, Egypt Department of Oral Biology, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt Yussif et al., Dentistry 2017, 7:3 DOI: 10.4172/2161-1122.1000417
Go to source
Reviews