The 6 Best Affordable Face Serums for Plump, Radiant Skin
With these affordable anti-aging face serums, you don't have to break the bank to have youthful, radiant skin.
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It’s never too late to start a good skin care routine. If you want to treat sun spots, fine lines, and acne scarring, there’s an affordable solution. Adding a face serum to your twice daily regimen of washing, moisturizing, and protecting skin with SPF can deliver noticeable anti-aging results in as little as three months. And some of the best face serums cost as little as $8.
What exactly is a face serum? Unlike anti-aging face creams, face serums are thinner and pack a bigger skin care punch. Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, explains, “Serums are a liquid or gel topical with highly concentrated forms of certain ingredients known to improve skin issues. They can consist of a single ingredient or have a combination of ingredients with higher concentrations.”
Some face serums have price tags in the triple digits, but according to Dr. Marchbein, there are many affordable face serums that will deliver results with consistent use. Look for ingredients such as Vitamin C, retinol, BHA, and niacinamide for treating everything from fine lines to hyperpigmentation to uneven skin tone and acne. She recommends sticking with a product consistently for three months to see results. “While we can’t completely remove sun damage and reverse aging skin, we can make really nice improvements with a good skin care routine that includes face serums.”
Ready to add the face serum step to your morning and evening cleansing routine? Apply it as the first step after cleansing and before moisturizing, Dr. Marchbein advises. And don’t skip the sunscreen. “The sun is the largest contributing factor to aging skin,” she explains.
Read on for the best affordable face serums that will truly turn back the clock. And don’t forget to use these face serums on your hands and neck—two other spots that benefit from anti-aging skin care.
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.
Best affordable face serum with Vitamin C: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C is a powerful anti-aging weapon. Vitamin C not only fades sun spots and hyperpigmentation, but it also makes sunscreen more effective, according to Dr. Marchbein. Many skin care companies don’t advertise their product’s ingredient percentages, but CeraVe is upfront about adding 10 percent L-Ascorbic acid (the purest form of Vitamin C), making this one of the most potent face serums under $30. The skin-brightening formula also includes good-for-you skin ingredients such as essential ceramides, moisturizing hyaluronic acid, and soothing vitamin B5. Another Vitamin C pro tip: Vitamin C oxidizes quickly, so be sure to purchase it in an opaque container that protects it from light and extends its shelf life.
Best affordable face serum with hyaluronic acid: The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum
There aren’t many skin care ingredients out there that are truly universal for all skin types and tones, but hyaluronic acid is an exception. Don’t let the word “acid” mislead you. This is the best face ingredient for serious moisturizing results. According to Dr. Marchbein, hyaluronic acid molecules absorb 1,000 times their weight in water, drawing plumping moisture into the skin. “Hyaluronic acid is a great moisturizing booster,” she says. “Aging skin can often be dry, so this is a key ingredient to look for, especially in the winter.” The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum has 2 percent hyaluronic acid plus matrixyl peptides to boost collagen production. At just $8 an ounce, the product sells out regularly and for good reason. Be sure to apply it on damp skin to reap the most benefits.
Best affordable face serum with retinol: The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid
A derivative of vitamin A, retinoids are the gold standard for skin renewal. Retinol, in its many forms, is the most powerful skin care ingredient available. It’s been proven to increase cell turnover, which minimizes fine lines, hyperpigmentation, acne scars, and acne. Apply The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid serum to your clean, dry face at night. Let the serum completely sink in before adding additional serums or moisturizers. Dr. Marchbein advises, “You can get a prescription from your dermatologist for retinol if you don’t see results with a serum, but many patients benefit from over-the-counter serums.” Wearing daily sunscreen and moisturizer is a requirement for people using retinol—you need to protect your skin from UV exposure and keep it hydrated.
Best affordable face serum for clearing acne: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Acne doesn’t always clear up after adolescence. If you’re still dealing with whiteheads, blackheads, and acne spots, Dr. Marchbein recommends using a face serum with salicylic acid, a type of beta hydroxy acid. “Salicylic acid can help with acne and large pores,” she says. “Since aging skin can be more sensitive, consider using it once per week,” or more frequently if your skin seems to tolerate it. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant works to exfoliate pores chemically rather than physically (with scrubs that use sugar or shells), which can be damaging to skin.
Best affordable face serum with niacinamide: Olay Wrinkle Correction Serum with Vitamin B3+ Collagen Peptides
Niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3) is a three-for-one face serum ingredient. Niacinimide prevents breakouts by regulating oil production and pigment-making cells (goodbye dark spots), and soothing inflammation. Dr. Marchbein says the best face serums often contain niacinamide, so you get all the benefits without having to add another step to your skin care routine. Olay’s Wrinkle Correction Serum with Vitamin B3+ Collagen Peptides fits the bill, and also includes collagen-boosting peptides to increase cell turnover, boost moisture levels, and plump fine lines.
Best affordable face serum with peptides: Follain Firming Serum Collagen Boost
Peptides are a buzzy skincare ingredient, and the specific one to look for is matrixyl, a peptide that has been widely studied and proven to last over time. Follain Firming Serum Collagen Boost features two percent matrixyl, which supports the production of collagen, a protein critical for keeping skin supple, as well as niacinamide and glycerin for moisture. The formula feels velvety and glides on smoothly before quickly sinking in. Over time, you should see firmer and tighter skin that’s noticeably more plump. No fillers needed.
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- Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine