Face serums are beloved because they’re so lightweight but pack a big punch when it comes to skincare benefits. They serve a variety of skin needs. Do you have totally dehydrated, flaky skin? There’s a serum for that. Or what if you want something that has a little bit of exfoliating action to get rid of dead skin cells and dirt? There’s one for that, too. And what about something with anti-ageing benefits? Oh, there’s definitely an option for you.
So yeah, face serums can do so much and are a great skincare product, but there’s a downside to them—they can get pretty pricey. I definitely splurge every few months on my favourite vitamin C serum that just so happens to cost £165, but to me, it’s totally worth it because my skin always looks brighter and healthier when I use it. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate an affordable drugstore buy as well.
In fact, some of my favourite face serums are drugstore buys. They work just as hard as the expensive ones, but I don’t feel guilty stocking up on them. It’s a win-win situation here, right? Take a look at some of the best drugstore serums that I love plus other highly rated ones from readers and editors.
This is my favourite drugstore face serum, hands down. I’m so obsessed with Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Gel-Cream, and its sister product is just as hydrating and refreshing. On a beach vacation a few years ago, my skin was parched and red, so I bought this at a drugstore near my hotel, and it saved the day (or I guess you could say the trip). It calmed any redness and irritation, and the formula worked so quickly to hydrate my skin. What a reviewer says: “Oh my word! If you’re looking for a lightweight hydrating serum that helps hide those fine lines and gives your skin a glow boost, look no further! I love this serum. It’s so lightweight, absorbs quickly, and it is the best serum I’ve used after a chemical peel! I switch my skin routines up every month but I’m always going to make sure I have this around.”
This serum contains 1.5% pure hyaluronic acid, which means it will intensely hydrate the skin while also reducing wrinkles. All it takes is two to three drops for both your face and neck. What a reviewer says: “I feel I look five years younger. My complexion is incredible. Can’t imagine going without this product ever again.”
Packed with three essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5, CeraVe’s serum locks in moisture and smooths the skin like whoa. The formula provides 24 hours of hydration, which is a big plus since you won’t have to reapply. What a reviewer says: “The product itself is fantastic. Holy grail status. It’s not a ‘serum’ the way we traditionally think of serum—more of a gel-like moisturiser. It’s white and creamy, rather than watery and translucent/transparent. It doesn’t break me out, so it’s good for sensitive skin, and, as with most CeraVe products, it’s fragrance-free. There basically is no scent, which is a huge bonus in my book. I finally found something to mix with my nightly high-end serum, and it’s cut my skincare spending in half.”
I know a lot of things are described as having cult status, but when I say this is a cult favourite, I mean it 10000%. This hyaluronic acid serum contains peptides to plump and hydrate—it’s one of Beauty Pie’s hero serums. What a reviewer says: “It’s a second time I ordered this serum and I love it. Moisturises my skin very well and I have been complemented on how great and healthy my skin looks. It was my first product but now bought few more to try as was very impressed with it. Happy to finally find something that actually works.”
La Roche-Posay’s Pigmentclar serum is great if you’re dealing with dark spots, as it helps to reduce the look of discolouration, smooth and refine the skin and minimise pigmentation. What a reviewer says: “[It] helps my dark spots to fade and is also a lot cheaper than other similar products on the market.”
In addition to niacinamide and volcanic water, this serum contains vitreoscilla ferment, which is a component of non-living bacteria that can repair the skin barrier. It’s also fragrance-free. What a reviewer says: “I have this serum at home and it does such a good job of making my skin feel and look smoother and plumper.”
Use RoC’s vitamin C serum to transform your dull skin into a glowing look. The formula also targets environmental stressors, tightens the skin, reduces discoloration and restores elasticity. What a reviewer says: “I combined this with my hydro gel eye cream and saw results within a week. My skin was more and plump. The small under-eye wrinkles were greatly reduced.”
Aveeno is known for its gentle products that are formulated especially for sensitive skin. Its serum is perfect for skin that’s irritated and dry since it works to strengthen and moisturise the skin barrier. It contains feverfew, which calms any redness and irritation. What a reviewer says: “Really helped calm my redness on my cheeks. I used the serum after washing with Aveeno’s Redness Reducing Facial Cleanser for two weeks. It noticeably reduced redness on my cheeks (more than the face wash alone) and provided enough moisture for my dry skin that I didn’t use another nighttime lotion. Highly recommend the serum.”
This is a great serum for protecting the skin against environmental stressors and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Key ingredients include hyaluronic acid to hydrate and Matrixyl 3000+ for anti-ageing benefits. What a reviewer says: “I love the feel of this serum—[it’s] rich and soothing for my dry skin. I use under my night cream and am noticing smoother skin and more refined pores.”
If you’re dealing with acne, try this clarifying serum to manage it. The formula contains willow bark extract, niacinamide and zinc to calm inflammation and unclog pores. What a reviewer says: “I bought this serum because I did not want to go into SA (salicylic acid) right away. I wanted to take it slow since I know that SA can be very irritating if you push too hard. This serum is a great one for skincare novices that want to control their acne.”
Olay’s serum works to regenerate surface cells, restore the skin’s elasticity and add hydration. It contains an Amino-Peptide Complex II, which moisturises into the skin 10 layers deep. What a reviewer says: “It not only makes my 74-year-old skin look good for my age, it makes it feel even better. After a wash, it’s smooth and creamy going on, but it soaks in quickly and keeps my skin soft and firm.”
Made with both a 10% formulation pure vitamin C and a slow-release form of vitamin C, these ampoules are not only great for travelling, but they keep the formula stable to ensure you reap the benefits. They work to hydrate, brighten and add radiance to the skin—it’s like a shot of orange juice for your skin. What a reviewer says: “I have only just recently joined Beauty Pie and have bought quite a lot of products already, wish I had discovered it sooner. I have only been using this capsules for around 10 days, so it’s quite early days to see how much improvement this will make to my mature skin and sun spots, but I really love the texture of these capsules, my skin feels really and smooth after using them and I really like the fact they are in individual capsules so I know I am using the correct amount and it will be great for travelling as I can just put the required number of capsules in a pot to take with me rather than the glass jar.”
For a retinol formula, try this resurfacing serum that works to minimise the appearance of acne scars, marks and enlarged pores. It also contains three essential ceramides, licorice root extract and niacinamide to nourish the skin. What a reviewer says: “This product has slightly reduced the visibility of my acne scarring. Surprisingly, since I started using it, my acne has cleared up completely. Adding this product at night is the only change I made to my routine. My face no longer feels dry during the day. Overall, this product has helped balance my skin far more than anticipated.”
This nighttime serum contains 0.3% pure retinol to reduce wrinkles and smooth texture. It also deeply hydrates the skin thanks to ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. What a reviewer says: “I love how easy this serum is to use—[it] absorbs quickly, feels soft on the skin, and didn’t irritate my sensitive skin at all. The formula is milky unlike other clear serums I have used which adds to the ease of spreading. Also a great value. They recommend two drops—this bottle is going to last!”
Byoma’s formulas are brilliant for the price-point, case in point with its Clarifying Serum, which contains ceramides, blue tansy, PHAs and zinc to help heal and prevent breakouts, while sinking it quickly on all skin types. What a reviewer says: “Brought this as I kept getting black heads on my chin and breakouts. I have very reactive sensitive skin and was hoping this would help. The serum itself is quite thick and you don’t need a lot. It doesn’t smell (which is good!) it doesn’t sit on the skin, although can be a little tacky whist drying but ok once it’s dry. It’s definitely helped with my black heads and less breakouts. My skin feels plump and fresh.” Next Up, I Asked Editors to Share Their Best Beauty Product of 2023—Here’s Our List