The best face serums: the 6 formulas our beauty director has on rotation

Posted by for Beauty

Stylist’s beauty director Shannon has whittled down the thousands upon thousands of serum formulas out there to share her edit of the six she truly swears by.

When it comes to skincare, serums are particularly tricky waters in which to venture. There are just so many out there, each claiming to do yet another wonderful thing to your complexion, whether that’s ward off breakouts, plump up cheeks, or make skin generally brighter.

And I must admit, I love a fancy new face serum as much as the next beauty director, which is why over the years, I have tried a lot. In fact, an embarrassing amount. Some have proven their worth, and I’ve repurchased again and again. Others, on the other hand, just haven’t cut the mustard, no matter how many weeks I’ve tried them for.

The thing is, while new formulas enter my bathroom cabinet fairly regularly, I always find myself coming back to the same six formulas. Sometimes I use a different one every day of the week, depending on what my skin is shouting out at me. Other times, I stick solely to one of my chosen serums, and use it morning and evening until the pipette has gone dry.

Either way, the list that follows contains the serums that I would 100% vouch for: they contain truly powerful ingredients and always deliver on their often fairly wild promises. And one small side note before I delve in: serums should always be applied onto clean, dry (and if you use one) exfoliated skin, and sit under moisturiser, SPF or facial oil.

The best hydrating serum: Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Booster Serum


By now, you’ll have no doubt heard about hyaluronic acid’s ability to hold onto precious moisture, which is why on days when my skin feels a bit tight and dehydrated, I reach for this stuff. It has the consistency of a gel and gives you that same bracing-yet-oddly-soothing sensation you get when you apply aftersun. And I find the mix of hyaluronic acid and glycerin is just the ticket to instantly revive my skin when it looks a bit tired. The dream.

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Booster Serum, £18.75

The best retinol serum: La Roche-Posay Retinol B3


This retinol serum is a new addition to my line-up, but I’m already through two bottles of the stuff and have been seriously impressed. As the name suggests, it contains retinol, which is the undisputed champion of levelling out skin texture and tone and bringing back lost bounce. Problem is, it can be fairly irritating to skin when you first start using it. That’s why this serum also contains vitamin B3 (aka niacinamide) to soothe and dial back any potential irritation. In fact, by using this retinol and layering it under a ceramide-rich cream, I’ve had literally no irritation whatsoever. And there’s also a dollop of hydrating glycerin there for good measure.

The best brightening serum: Garden of Wisdom Vitamin C Serum 23% + Ferulic Acid


I’m not sure there’s anyone who wouldn’t benefit from slipping a little vitamin C into their skincare routine. The ingredient is brilliant at brightening skin, especially areas of hyperpigmentation, but it’s also an antioxidant, which means it will bat off anything that dares to try and aggravate skin, like pollution and other environmental offenders. I adore the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, an orange-tinged serum that works remarkably fast, but when I’m not feeling quite as flush, Garden of Wisdom’s version gives a substantial hit of the ingredient, while being much kinder on the wallet.

The best strengthening serum: Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate


I always recommend Shiseido’s cult serum to anyone looking to invest in a really hard working formula. A jack-of-all-trades, it promises to do everything from hydrate to brighten, and boost the efficacy of the skincare steps that follow. However, I’d say its main draw is the way it strengthens the skin. It contains antioxidants from mushroom extracts that defend against skin damage, but also hydrating ingredients that keep the skin barrier working. If you’re someone that suffers from sensitivity or you’ve noticed your skin is struggling to hold onto hydration, this is most definitely the serum for you.

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, £63

The best probiotic serum: Aurelia Probiotic Concentrate


Probiotic skincare is based on the premise that the skin’s microbiome (the system of bacteria that lives on its surface) needs to remain balanced to support overall skin health, which in turn can help ward off dryness, sensitivity and even breakouts. Aurelia’s Probiotic Concentrate contains proteins and milk extracts that ‘feed’ the good bacteria on the skin. Of course, without a powerful microscope, it’s impossible to spot whether my six weeks of wear have helped those little guys flourish, but if what I can see in the mirror is anything to go by — a uniform sheet of plump, hydrated and dare I say it, glowing skin — then I would say it is.

Aurelia Probiotic Concentrate, £38

The best serum for spot-prone skin: Glossier Super Pure


Every now and then, often around my period, I get a smattering of spots on my chin and forehead. Rather than try and scrub the acne away, I try my best to keep the skin hydrated and soothed by bringing Glossier’s Super Pure serum into my routine. It contains soothing niacinamide (which we spoke about above) to take down the redness, as well as zinc which levels out sebum levels. No, it doesn’t miraculously evaporate acne over night, but it does help skin recover much faster.

Glossier Super Pure, £24

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Images: Getty/ courtesy of brands.

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