If you’ve applied a full face of makeup only to look in the mirror afterward to discover a cakey application, you could have dry, dehydrated skin. Whether you’re inherently prone to dry skin or you only experience it during certain seasons, reaching for a hydrating serum can be a quick fix. But, it’s essential to find the right serum for your skin.
The first step is figuring out if you have dry or dehydrated skin. They’re not exactly the same thing, and knowing your exact skin type will make the process of choosing a hydrating serum much easier. Dehydrated skin is lacking water, which means a hydrating serum would be ideal to use. Anything from taking a hot shower, to prolonged time in the sun can lead to your skin feeling dehydrated. So, it’s essential to replenish it with a hydrating serum, explains Vincent Richard, M.D., dermatologist and director of continuing medical education at the department of dermatology and skin science at the University of British Columbia.
Dry skin, on the other hand, is lacking oil, so it will require more moisturizing products like creams and oils, he explains. Sometimes, both skin concerns happen at the same time, and there are many serums designed to treat both issues.
How can you tell what you’re dealing with? Try doing a gentle pinch test on your arm or cheeks. If your skin takes a while to return to its normal color and state, that could be a sign of dehydration, according to Medlineplus. “Oftentimes, dehydrated skin will look sallow, and you may see fine lines more readily,” says Dr. Richard. Dry skin, meanwhile, will feel tight after showering and is more prone to flaking and looking ashy.
How to choose the best hydrating serum
Finding the right serum for your skin can make a big difference in your complexion. Here’s what to consider when looking for a hydrating serum:
✔️ Know your skin type. Since dry and dehydrated skin have many overlapping features, Dr. Richard recommends seeking guidance from an aesthetician or dermatologist before trying new skincare products.
✔️ Choose your ingredients wisely. When picking out a hydrating serum, look carefully at the ingredients. If you’re trying to treat dehydrated skin, you’ll want to reach for ingredients that will penetrate deep into the skin like glycerin, sorbitol, and hyaluronic acid, which all work to attract and retain water in the skin. When it comes to treating dry skin concerns, you’ll want to reach for serums with ingredients that will treat the surface of the skin says Dianne Davis, M.D., board-certified dermatologist. Ingredients like vitamin E and argan oil are great picks because they are water-based and are absorbed easily.
✔️ The timing of application matters. When looking to add a hydrating serum to your skincare regimen, remember that products should always be applied thinnest to thickest, with sunscreen going on your face last, says Dr. Davis. That means your serum should go on first, followed by moisturizer (to seal in the serum), then sunscreen.
Ahead, we rounded up both budget-friendly and higher-end formulas for you to try for a healthy, radiant complexion.
Minéral 89 Skin Fortifying Daily Booster
If you’re not a fan of sticky formulas, you’ll definitely need to reach for this lightweight moisturizing mineral face serum. Formulated specifically for dry and dehydrated skin, this serum features an exclusive VICHY ingredient: volcanic water. This particular water has been proven to strengthen the skin barrier and protect it from UV rays. “I like that this product comes with a pump, rather than a dropper, so I won’t have to worry about using up too much product at once,” says Dr. Richard.
Plump Jelly Hydrating Serum
This lightweight vegan serum is a fan favorite with skin-loving ingredients like beet amino acid and silver ear mushroom (which can hold up to 500 times its weight in water). Its formula works to lock in moisture while enhancing the skin’s elasticity. “This is not a heavy moisturizer. Instead, it’s a gel that plumps my skin without making it oily. I use it without make-up, and it gives my skin a healthy glow. It’s one of my favorite skincare products,” wrote one reviewer.
B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum
Drunk Elephant has made its mark with its top-rated facial oils and creams, so it may come as no surprise when we say this hydrating serum is a top pick. It’s formulated with a special B-hydra ingredient that uses sodium-hyaluronate, a version of hyaluronic acid that penetrates the skin and delivers intense hydration. In addition, its unique blend of lentil-apple and watermelon complex helps diminish drabness, dryness, and the appearance of fine lines. “It’s like giving your thirsty skin a cool drink of water,” wrote one user.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum
Slather on this hydrating serum from Neutrogena to reduce the look of fine lines and promote a healthy-looking complexion. Its ingredients include hyaluronic acid to help lock moisture into the skin and it has a gentle hydrating oil-free formula that won’t clog your pores. “It goes on smoothly and feels like I’m adding a layer of water to my skin. It also smells amazing! My husband wanted to know what smells so good, and I told him it was my face! I’m in love with this product,” wrote one user.
La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum
Hyaluronic acid is one of the most common ingredients you’ll find in today’s hydrating skin care products. And this serum works to repair, plump, and renew the skin’s moisture barrier. This formula has a thick consistency that will leave your skin feeling soft and smooth to the touch. “This La Roche Posay B5 hyaluronic acid serum is really appreciated by my patients, thanks to its added anti-aging ingredients like madecassoside and vitamin B5,” says Dr. Richard.
CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum
“Hyaluronic acid helps maintain a solid lipid barrier to seal hydration and shield the skin from free radicals and pollutants,” says Dr. Davis. And this hydrating serum combines both hyaluronic acid and a unique CeraVe MVE technology that helps to continually release moisturizing ingredients for all-day hydration (up to 24 hours). Its lightweight formula is non-comedogenic and fragrance-free so even those with the most sensitive skin types won’t have to think twice about using this serum.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
This award-winning serum has become a well-known savior to those with dry and dehydrated skin types, which become more common as you age. Formulated with 2% hyaluronic acid, it boosts plumpness and moisturizes the skin. Its vegan formula has a syrupy texture, and you’ll only need to use one to two drops of product—meaning you get to save your coins.
TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum with Hyaluronic Acid & Vitamin E
With more than 1,000 reviews and a 4.3-star rating on Amazon, this vitamin C serum is doing something right, especially for those with dehydrated skin. The plant-based formula is free of fragrances, sulfates, and parabens, so it won’t irritate your skin. Its ingredients include vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and witch hazel, which help boost collagen production, improve radiance, and protect your skin from harmful environmental pollution like cigarette smoke. Apply three to five drops daily, and then seal it in by layering your favorite moisturizer on top.
SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel
“Those with oily and acne-prone skin types tend to use products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, which can dry out the skin,” says Dr. Richard. To achieve a nice hydrating balance, you should look for a serum that can help rebuild the skin barrier and not cause any breakouts, he explains. This hydrating gel serum is an oil-free moisturizer made with vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to help bind moisture to the skin. It can be used alone or with a daily moisturizer to provide extra hydration and enhances the skin without clogging pores.
Rose Deep Hydration Oil-Infused Serum
Fresh is a skincare brand known for creating must-have beauty essentials, and this oil-infused serum will be the solution to your complex dry and dehydrated skin issues. It’s made with rosewater, damask rose, and lightweight oils, including plant-derived squalane, which helps to hydrate the skin without leaving behind a greasy finish. Shake the bottle well to mix the water and oil phases, then lightly pat the silky serum onto your face with your palms. For a dewy, no-makeup look, use alone or before moisturizer.
Thirst Trap Juice Hyaluronic Acid & Peptide Serum
Just as the name implies, this serum is all about delivering hydration to parched skin. Formulated with three types of hyaluronic acid and firming peptides, it works to hydrate and strengthen. Its lightweight formula goes on clear and it also includes aloe vera, which helps to soothe and leave your skin looking healthy. “I love everything about the Thirst Trap serum! The smell, the feel of it as I massage it into my skin, and the results; glowing, moisturized skin,” wrote one user.
Hydra Beauty Micro Serum
This five-star rated water-light serum combines patented micro-droplet technology and a highly concentrated form of camellia oil extract to replenish the skin and provide an intense plumping effect. Its ingredients will also give the skin up to 24 hours of continuous moisturizing benefits, leaving it feeling deeply nourished, smooth, and glowy. The fast-absorbing formula almost feels like a lightweight lotion but doesn’t leave behind any sticky or tacky feeling.
Super Bounce hyaluronic acid + vitamin b5 serum
This top-rated serum has received rave reviews from users, and we can see why. Its formula contains three molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to pull moisture deep into the skin (and keep it there) to instantly smooth the skin’s surface. It also has a silky texture that is designed to be layered under moisturizers and makeup. The best part? It never gets sticky! And eight out of 10 subjects from a clinical trial have said that this product improved the overall look and feel of their skin immediately after use.
Hydration Station Booster with HA
If your skin has been feeling parched lately try using this serum booster to give it the hydration it needs. Formulated with two types of hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, this product works to nourish both the top and bottom layers of your skin. It goes on clear, dries down quickly, and you can use it alone or mixed in with your other serums, gels, and creams to create a dewy skin finish.
10% Vitamin C Serum
Brighter skin, softer texture, and silk-smooth hydration are all possible using this vegan capsule serum. Formulated with good-for-you skin care ingredients like coconut, castor oil, and vitamin E, this gentle but powerful serum will improve your skin’s overall appearance, complete with providing intense hydration and protection. The best part? Each capsule contains the daily recommended amount and it’s biodegradable—when you’ve finished using one you can use hot water to melt it down.
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