Of all the skin care products out there, serums are undoubtedly the most effective; it's why any beauty expert will tell you that they're the one product really worth splurging on. But if you know what to look for, you can find some pretty great serums at surprisingly affordable price points. Case in point? The nine serums featured ahead, which all ring up at less than $45 — a far cry from those $150+ serums beauty shoppers have unfortunately become accustomed to. So how to choose the best affordable serum for you? Well, serums are very much not one size fits all; each one accomplishes different jobs, so you'll want to take your skin type and skin goals into consideration. That's why ahead, you'll find options that target dehydration, discoloration, acne, excess oil, dullness, and more — plus a few simple (in a good way) serums that will work nicely for most skin types.
Ready to find your new skin care hero? Then scroll on to shop the best face serums you can buy for less than $45.
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1. The Overall Best
Full disclosure: This is the most expensive serum on this list, but its $43 price tag is still much more reasonable than most other prestige serums on the market, which tend to cost upwards of $75. (I promise all the rest of the serums featured here cost less than $30.) Anyway. La Roche-Posay's Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum is my daily go-to, because it's not just a serum — it's a sunscreen, too! (IMO, this justifies its high-ish price tag, because you're really getting two quality products in one here). Alongside its SPF of 50, it doubles down on the skin-protecting benefits with an antioxidant blend that helps prevent skin damage caused by free radicals.
I'm obsessed with its water-light formula, which makes this a particularly great choice for people who hate most traditional sunscreens; this doesn't feel sticky, heavy, or greasy at all (in fact, once it's dry, you won't even feel like you're wearing anything on your face). It's also oil-free, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic, making this a solid pick for literally any skin type.
2. Best Hydrating Serum
If you're looking for an extra hit moisture, reach for Vichy's Mineral 89 serum. Enriched with the brand's signature volcanic water and moisture-attracting hyaluronic acid, it'll quench dehydrated skin's thirst while suffusing it with tons of good-for-skin minerals courtesy of the thermal water. Dehydrated skin tends to look dull and dry over time, and this serum works to immediately plump and boost skin and keep it strong in the long run, too.
Another gentle, water-light choice that should work nicely for most skin types, the vegan formula is free of fragrance, oil, alcohol, parabens, and silicones.
3. Best Resurfacing Serum
You'll find a few other exfoliating serums on this list, but this one is perhaps the most gentle, so sensitive skin types can get it on the resurfacing action, too. Made by Jessica Alba's consistently good clean beauty brand Honest Beauty, it contains five fruit-derived AHAs (including glycolic and lactic acids) to gently exfoliate skin, while humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid help counteract any dryness, so you'll wake up smooth and glowing (note that this serum is intended for nighttime use). Two of my personal favorite skin care ingredients make appearances on the INCI list here, too: hydrating aloe vera leaf juice and niacinamide, which helps promote a generally clearer, more even-looking complexion.
Like all Honest Beauty products, this serum is free of synthetic fragrance and other questionable things you probably don't want to put on your face.
4. Best Retinol Serum
Another exfoliating serum for your consideration: CeraVe's Resurfacing Retinol Serum. It's not as strong as a lot of other retinol serums out there, so sensitive skin types looking to dip a toe into the retinol pool may be able to give this a go, but because retinols in general are pretty heavy duty, tread lightly — especially in the beginning. Apply only a pea-sized amount a couple of times a week at first, then gradually work your way up to every other night.
Keep in mind that with retinols, which work to promote skin cell turnover, it's all about consistency; while you almost certainly will see visible results, it might take a few months, so stay with it. Over time, you should start noticing a much clearer, smoother complexion, and in the short term, congestion and breakouts should be reduced, making this a great choice for anyone dealing with unevenly textured skin, acne, or hyperpigmentation.
5. Best Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C serums are extremely popular for their ability to promote a brighter (in other words, clearer and more even) complexion. They also tend to be pretty pricey! But not this one, which contains both vitamin C and skin-boosting peptides. Together, these ingredients work to protect skin from environmental damage and collagen loss, since vitamin C helps neutralize free radicals and peptides work to support healthy collagen levels (among other things).
Because of their brightening, skin-evening effects, vitamin C serums are a particularly good choice for people dealing with unwanted hyperpigmentation.
6. Best For Oily Skin
Another great choice for people dealing with unevenly textured (or uneven looking) skin, this serum from Naturium contains 12% niacinamide, which has all those aforementioned skin-evening abilities, as well as 2% zinc to keep oily skin balanced. Together, these ingredients also help unclog pores and prevent future congestion, so you should notice less blackheads and breakouts, too.
Like most of the other products on this list, this serum is free of fragrance and other common, potentially irritating ingredients, so sensitive skin types should be able to use it safely.
7. Best For Sensitive Skin
To reiterate: Almost every serum on this list is safe for use on sensitive skin. But this serum from K-beauty brand PURITO actively works to soothe and potentially even strengthen sensitive skin. The first ingredient in the formula is centella asiatica extract — it literally comes before water — which is a popular ingredient used in Korean skin care for its purported healing, strengthening, and hydrating benefits. Other key ingredients in here include moisturizing glycerin, barrier-strengthening ceramide NP, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and that ever-important niacinamide.
This serum is free of fragrance, parabens, mineral oil, propylene glycol (a common allergen among sensitive skin types), and it doesn't even contain any essential oils, which some people may find irritating. Several Amazon reviewers noted that this serum has helped with their redness and inflammation, too. One person shared a useful tip: "If you use retinoids of any kind (Tretinoin, Adapalene, Tazorac, Retinol in any form), this product helps with irritation and redness IMMENSELY."
8. Best For Acne-Prone Skin
Though a lot of the serums featured here would work nicely for acne-prone skin, DERMA E's Acne Blemish Control Treatment Serum is formulated with a whole host of blemish-busting ingredients, namely purifying tea tree oil and pore-unclogging salicylic acid. The formula also contains aloe vera and chamomile to soothe redness and inflammation, so this might be a particularly nice choice if you're dealing with painful cystic acne.
9. Best Organic Serum
It's really, really hard to find skin care products that are certified organic, let alone serums. Which is what makes this Acure Brightening Glowing Serum such a unicorn. Made of a blend of superfoods and plant-based oils (and nothing else), it works to boost your skin's glow and restore moisture while offering up some antioxidant protection, too. Be forewarned that it has quite an an oily consistency, so if you're someone who prefers lightweight, watery serums, this probably isn't the best choice for you.
Vitamin C In Dermatology, Pumori Saokar Telang - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673383/