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What are face serums? 5 of the best facial serums

portrait of young woman applying serum on her face on blue background
Discover all you need to know about face serums, including the benefits, common ingredients and 5 of the best facial serums we sell here at Holland & Barrett.
Although they often contain moisturising ingredients, serums aren’t interchangeable with moisturiser. Instead, serums are a highly concentrated product full of active ingredients, which you should use after cleansing your face, but before applying moisturiser. 

Serums are usually somewhere between gel and water in terms of texture, as they don’t rely on heavy creams and oils as fillers the way moisturisers do. Also, the molecules of a serum are very small, which helps your skin absorb them deeply. Think of it as an extra step in your usual routine, but one that can deliver potent skin-loving ingredients directly into your skin.

9 benefits of face serum

Backed by professionals

Unlike some faddy skincare trends, serums have the backing of dermatologists and skincare experts because of their effectiveness and ability to directly address different skincare needs.1

Can delay signs of skin ageing

Serums contain specific ingredients to address your skin’s particular needs - such as anti-ageing peptides if you’re worried about fine lines and other signs of premature ageing.


Can brighten dull complexions

A face serum containing vitamin C can be effective for brightening a dull complexion. You may see it on product labels as ascorbic acid.

A little serum goes a long way

Because of their high concentrations of active ingredients, you don’t need to apply much serum to get a big benefit.

An alternative to physical exfoliation

Some skin serums contain acids like hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid, which exfoliate the skin on a cellular level, so you don’t have to scrub at your skin.

It’s particularly effective for dry skin and keratosis pilaris – aka chicken skin.


Absorbs quickly into the skin

Serums are lighter than most moisturisers. Their thin consistency soaks into the skin easily, making them ideal to use before moisturisers.

Ideal for sensitive skin

Serums can be ideal for sensitive skin as they have lighter formulas, complementing oily or spot-prone skin.

High in antioxidants

Some of the most common ingredients in serums tend to be high in antioxidants, e.g. vitamin C, green tea extract, vitamin E and resveratrol.

Antioxidants may help protect your skin from the negative effects of free radicals and pollution.


Feels light on your face

As thin serums are absorbed easily by the skin, they don’t have that heavy feeling that sometimes come with moisturisers.

5 of the best serum ingredients 

It's important to know what ingredients are in your serum... it is going on your skin after all!

Vitamin C 

Your skin is constantly exposed to free radicals from the environment (such as environmental pollution). These free radicals cause skin oxidative stress, which leads to sensitivity, ageing and dullness.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, capable of staving off free radicals and reducing the oxidative stress in your skin, which leads to a more even, brighter skin tone.

Handpicked content: Get glowing skin with vitamin C

Vitamin E

Vitamin E has powerful moisturising and skin-protecting properties. A vitamin E serum will infuse your skin with a huge boost of moisture and will be more effective at hydrating dry skin than a moisturiser alone.

Moisturisers tend to work by trapping moisture in the skin, but a vitamin E serum will actually restore moisture to the epidermal layers of your skin. Try a vitamin E serum if you have acne scars, as it might help reduce the appearance of acne scarring.

Snail gel

This one might sound a little strange, but snail gel is actually very effective in skincare and is increasingly being included in many products.

Snail gel contains the active ingredient helix aspersa muller, which research is showing can be healing, soothing and anti-ageing. It’s thought to ease sensitivity and redness and leave skin smoother.

Rose oil

Rose essential oil has been used for centuries in beauty and contains plenty of ingredients to calm stressed skin and add moisture.

It’s very hydrating thanks to its high composition of fatty acids and due to its antioxidant properties, rose oil offers your skin high protection against sensitivity and oxidative stress.

Not only this, rose oil has a beautiful scent and inhaling it is proven to help soothe feelings of stress,3 which can adversely affect your skin. 

Argan oil 

This beauty multi-tasker is a fragrant oil that comes from the nut of the argan tree. Organic argan oil is full of essential fatty acids, linoleic acids and antioxidants, as well as lots of vitamin E which explains its hydrating qualities. If you have oily skin, don’t be afraid of argan oil as it can actually help balance an oily complexion.

When skin is sensitive or damaged, such as from over-cleansing, it can produce too much oil. Argan oil can help fix this problem, as it may help to repair the skin’s natural protective barrier and help your skin to regain control of its oil production.

What serum should I use?

Everyone’s skin is unique and has different needs, e.g., dry skin will have different requirements to oily skin, but don’t worry – there’s a serum for everyone out there!

We have listed our best serums below, categorised by various skin characteristics and goals, e.g., anti-ageing.

Best serums for face

Here is a roundup of our best face serums we sell here at H&B.

The best anti-ageing serum

Dr Organic Healthy Ageing Snail Gel Facial Serum

Key benefits

  • Contains nourishing Helix Aspersa Muller – a substance snails naturally produce to repair their own shell when it gets damaged
  • This serum can help our own facial skin feel smoother and energised
  • Helix Aspersa Muller is full of nutrients like hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, proteoglycans, glycoprotein, which can hydrate skin and help slow down signs of ageing
  • Suitable for vegetarians

What our customers think

Nicola – Great product – 5/5 stars

“I love this, I use it as a nighttime moisturiser as I can’t use creams at night as they are too much for my skin, nice and light I feel like my skin can breathe great results too.”

The best value facial serum

H&B Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Key benefits

  • Contains vitamin C, which has incredible antioxidant properties for this skin and helps it to produce collagen.
  • Collagen is responsible for keeping our skin firm, elastic and more youthful-looking
  • Hyaluronic acid helps to brighten the skin, moisturise it and reduce redness

What our customers think

Lassie – Great product – 5/5 stars

“Very pleased with product, can't believe how little you need to use, couple of drops is more than enough for whole face. After a week of use skin looks healthier, plumper & clearer.”

Beth – Great serum – 5/5 stars

“Best serum I've ever used. Gives radiant clear skin and helps imperfections and wrinkles.”

The best antioxidants serum

Antipodes Worship Antioxidant Serum

Key benefits

  • Formulated with antioxidant-rich ingredients like boysenberry, blackcurrant, kiwifruit, grape, coffee berry, acai extract and more
  • Your skin’s daily shot of youth, suited to most skin conditions and helps to slow signs of ageing

What our customers think

Holll – Smells divine – 4/5 stars

“I can't see any difference in the appearance of my skin so far but it smells fruity and wonderful and feels nice on the skin.”

The best serums for dry skin

Oleus Argon Oil

Key benefits

  • Contains pure cold-pressed lightweight argan oil that’s naturally high in vitamin E, which is known for its moisturising properties
  • Ideal for use all over the body, face, and hair, and can even be used with sensitive skin
  • Provides daily support for rough, dry hair and skin

What our customers think

Manola – Great product! – 5/5 stars

“This is very good quality argan oil, I have problematic skin, breakouts, dryness and in my 50’s, you can cleanse and moisturise with this one simple oil, does not clog pores, it’s amazing.”

The best under eye serum

Q+A Caffeine Eye Serum

Key benefits

  • A combination of caffeine, probiotics, green tea and pomegranate to rejuvenate the skin under your eyes
  • De-puffs brightens dark circles and boosts circulations under the eyes
  • Reduces water retention and helps protect this highly delicate skin
  • Fragrance-free

What our customers think

SOPHIA1010 – Deserves cult status – 5/5 stars

“This is this only beauty product I have found to date that really helps with puffy eyes. I'm glad I found this as is has been a real game changer. Deserves cult status!”

Is facial serum suitable for everyone?

Most of use could benefit from some sort of facial serum in our lives, for that extra bit of nourishment before applying moisturiser.

However, everyone’s skin is different, so you need to test each new facial serum before using it every day to see if it’s compatible with your skin.

One serum may work fantastically for one person’s skin while wreaking havoc on somebody else’s complexion.

2 potential side effects of face serum

  1. Slight irritation: the skin may feel itchy and tingly when you apply serum, especially those containing acid, but this should subside. Keep an eye on it and stop using and wash it off if it continues to irritate your skin.
  2. Redness: some face serums can cause temporary redness. Again, if it doesn’t subside, wash it off immediately and stop using it. 
Face serums contain moisturising and nourishing ingredients to support healthy skin. They are often thinner in consistency than moisturisers and should be used before you apply your regular moisturiser. Serums are often more potent than other skin care products, so you only have to use a small amount. 

Potential benefits include exfoliation, skin brightening, reduced skin ageing, soothing sensitive skin, and more. Popular facial serum ingredients include vitamin C, vitamin E, snail gel, rose oil, argan oil and hyaluronic acid. There’s a different serum for every skin type including dry, oily and everything inbetween.


The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. 

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