Between identifying your skin's needs and navigating the active ingredients lists on product labels, shopping for a serum can be a daunting task. Anyone who has ventured down the skincare aisle at Sephora can attest that this seemingly simple decision involves testing out dozens of products. Considering the steep price tag (not to mention the fact that you're applying these directly to your delicate skin), the stakes for choosing the right serum are actually pretty high.
To learn more about these potent skincare products, we tapped Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, and Lisa Chipps, MD, MS, FAAD, of MFC Dermatology. Trust us—after scrolling through this list of dermatologist-approved serums, you'll be able to walk into your local Sephora with confidence. Ahead, dermatologists reveal the best facial serums for achieving everything from a brighter complexion to a more even skin tone.
For a Brighter Complexion
This serum is "particularly good for brightening and targeting pigmentation," says Herrmann. "Its highly concentrated vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) acts as an antioxidant that squelches damaging free radicals and helps stimulate collagen synthesis for tighter skin," she explains. "Although many vitamin C [serums] are on the market, it's an inherently unstable and light-sensitive molecule. Ferulic in this serum helps stabilize the vitamin C, and the product's dark bottle helps keep it active by protecting it from light."
For Results on a Budget
"For a less expensive drugstore option, I like Olay Regenerist," says Herrmann. "Peptides help stimulate collagen synthesis, and the serum's nicotinamide helps reduce redness, which is especially useful in acne- and rosacea-prone skin," she explains. "It's also fragrance-free, which is perfect for sensitive skin types."
For Dry Skin
"In the winter, dry and irritated skin is common," says Herrmann. "The above is a hydrating and healing serum that doesn't cost a fortune. Its hyaluronic acid acts as a cloud cream binding water molecules, and its oatmeal and aloe help soothe inflamed skin."
For Acne-Prone Skin
"This is a great option for those with acne-prone skin," recommends Herrmann. "Retinol helps encourage cell turnover, and AHAs help gently exfoliate, encouraging brighter and blemish-free skin."
For a More Even Skin Tone
"Our number one favorite serum is DNA Regeneration Serum," say Herrmann and Chipps. "It has high concentrations of plant-based growth factor sourced from Iceland," they explain. "It's clinically proven to reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines, wrinkles, irregular pigmentation, and photodamage as well as improve skin texture in as little as eight weeks. You'll see a more even skin tone, a redefined skin texture, and a reduction in skin discoloration and age spots. It's also suited for all skin types."
Up next: A dermatologist shares the best anti-aging serums (and what they really do).