The Best Serums For Textured Skin
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Having textured skin is part of being human, but there are a number of causes that can be leaving you with a more uneven texture than you're used to. "Clogged pores and enlarged oil glands, keratosis pilaris, dry skin or seborrhea, and benign growths like moles and seborrheic keratoses can all contribute to uneven skin texture," dermatologist Hadley King tells Elite Daily. If you're looking for a DIY way to smooth out rough or bumpy skin, the best serums for textured skin contain exfoliating ingredients — typically chemical exfoliants — since nearly all of the causes of uneven texture can result in a buildup of dead skin cells. To find out more, keep reading.
Dr. Hadley King, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Hadley King Dermatology in New York City. She specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology and also serves as a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Dr. King's research has been published in a variety of medical journals, and her expertise has been featured in numerous beauty and health publications.
What To Look For In A Serum For Textured Skin
"Ingredients like retinol and bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative, stimulate collagen and can help make skin more firm and smooth," Dr. King says of what to look for in a serum. "For clogged pores, use salicylic acid," she adds of the beta hydroxy acid that oily and acne-prone skin types may benefit most from. Then, there are alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic, mandelic, and lactic acids, which Dr. King says will gently exfoliate dry, rough, bumpy skin. And if your skin is too sensitive for chemical exfoliants or retinol, Dr. King recommends looking for a niacinamide serum. "Niacinamide is a superstar ingredient and multi-tasker," she says, adding that it’s been shown to help improve both skin tone and texture, in addition to having both strengthening and moisturizing benefits.
More Tips From The Expert
"Most serums are made to be used once or twice per day," Dr. King says, noting that serums with stronger actives (like retinol, AHAs, and BHAs) aren't always meant to be used as often. You'll want to start by applying stronger serums twice per week, and potentially increasing the frequency of application depending on how your skin tolerates the active ingredients. "On average, results should be noticeable within two to four weeks," Dr. King says. If your serum isn't smoothing out your skin’s texture as effectively as you'd like, Dr. King recommends scheduling an appointment with your dermatologist. "Laser resurfacing may help improve some uneven skin texture, and chemical peels may help reduce clogged pores," she says of in-office treatments that yield the best results.
Shop The Best Serums For Textured Skin
In a hurry? Here are the best serums for textured skin:
- Best Eye Serum For Textured Skin: PÜR Beauty Tone Up Niacinamide Firming Eye Serum
- Best Retinol Serum For Textured Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum
- Best Retinol Alternative For Textured Skin That's Sensitive: COSMEDIX Bakuchiol Complete
- Best Salicylic Acid Serum For Textured Skin That's Acne-Prone: Dermalogica Age Bright Clearing Serum
- Best AHA Serum For Textured Skin: Farmacy Beauty Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Serum
- Best Niacinamide Serum For Textured Skin: Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster
- Best Body Serum For Textured Skin: Proot Strawberry Legs Treatment Serum
1. The Derm's Pick: Best Eye Serum For Textured Skin
For the delicate skin around your eyes, start with a gentler product. Dr. King recommends this PÜR Beauty Tone Up Niacinamide Firming Eye Serum, which uses niacinamide to help improve skin texture and tone. "It also contains antioxidants to help protect the skin from damage from free radicals," Dr. King says of ingredients like algae extract, neem leaf extract, and eggplant fruit extract. Dr. King adds that humectants and emollients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and squalane work to keep skin hydrated and support your natural protective barrier, while turmeric root extract provides a brightening boost.
Key Ingredient: Niacinamide Other Beneficial Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Squalane, Glycerin, Aloe, Allantoin, Basil Leaf Extract, Turmeric Root Extract, Algae Extract, Neem Leaf Extract, Eggplant Fruit Extract Size: 0.5 oz.
Relevant Review: “I've been using this for a couple years now. Won't go a day without it, it really works! Yes it's a little expensive, but one drop will do both eyes, so it lasts.”
2. Best Retinol Serum For Textured Skin
Retinol (and its stronger, prescription-only counterpart, retinoids) is a popular ingredient due to its multi-tasking abilities. In addition to stimulating collagen production to help promote firmer, plumper skin, the powerful ingredient also improves texture by increasing skin cell turnover to remove the buildup of dead skin that can contribute to clogged pores and rough patches. Peter Thomas Roth’s Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum uses a potent 1.5% concentration of retinol that's been encapsulated to deliver the ingredient more slowly, which also helps the retinol penetrate deeper and minimizes the risk of irritation. The serum also contains vitamin C, which can help improve skin texture as it supports collagen production, and ingredients like squalane, bisabolol, and vitamin E offer soothing and moisturizing benefits. You'll want to stick with using this serum at nighttime only, and start by applying it twice weekly, gradually working your way up to nightly use as your skin adjusts.
Key Ingredient: Retinol Other Beneficial Ingredients: Vitamin C, Squalane, Vitamin E, Bisabolol Size: 1 oz.
Relevant Review: "This has become a long-term product for me. I am on my third bottle and will continue using it. It goes on smoothly, and I have seen improved skin tone and texture."
3. Best Retinol Alternative Serum For Textured Skin That's Sensitive
As amazing as retinol is, it doesn't come without its drawbacks. For sensitive skin types, the retinization (aka redness, dryness, and stinging) that can initially occur with retinol use can be uncomfortable. If you find that your skin doesn't tolerate retinol, Dr. King shares that the plant-based ingredient, bakuchiol, can give you similar benefits without the irritation. COSMEDIX Bakuchiol Complete is one of Dr. King's top serum recommendations for its gentle, multi-tasking formula. As bakuchiol works to stimulate skin cell turnover and encourage collagen production, which can help promote a smoother skin texture, Dr. King notes that emollients like squalane, jojoba seed oil, and moringa seed oil help support the skin barrier.
Key Ingredient: Bakuchiol Other Beneficial Ingredients: Sunflower Seed Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil, Squalane, Vitamin E, Moringa Seed Oil, Aloe, Turmeric Root Extract, Basil Leaf Extract Size: 1 oz.
Relevant Review: "This is a terrific serum that works well for my dry skin. [...] Just a few drops are needed to make my skin smooth and even. There is no scent at all, a huge plus. Especially for winter dry skin, this is a wonderful addition to my care regime [...]”
4. Best Salicylic Acid Serum For Textured Skin That's Acne-Prone
"If your skin is prone to clogged pores, avoid any comedogenic ingredients," Dr. King says, recommending that oily and acne-prone skin types look for a serum with salicylic acid. Dermalogica’s Age Bright Clearing Serum uses 2% salicylic acid to work deeper in the pores, where it breaks down the oils and debris that can get trapped and cause acne. To further help promote a more even skin texture and tone, you'll find niacinamide, white shiitake mushroom extract, and phytic acid in the formula.
Key Ingredient: Salicylic Acid Other Beneficial Ingredients: Niacinamide, White Shiitake Mushroom Extract, Glycerin, Phytic Acid Size: 1 oz.
Relevant Review: "I have been using this serum once a day for 6 months and it has completely ended acne breakouts! I can't recommend it more highly!”
5. Best AHA Serum For Textured Skin
If your uneven skin texture is mostly due to dryness (and is also accompanied by dullness and unwanted hyperpigmentation), an AHA serum will be especially helpful. Farmacy Beauty’s Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Serum gently exfoliates with a blend of AHAs and BHAs, including lactic acid, glycolic acid, and willow bark extract, which is thought to be a natural alternative to salicylic acid. To ensure that your skin isn't being stripped of moisture from the chemical exfoliants, the serum also includes ingredients like hyaluronic acid, honey extract, and sunflower seed oil to attract and lock more moisture into your skin.
Key Ingredients: Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Willow Bark Extract Other Beneficial Ingredients: Jojoba Esters, Grape Seed Oil, Hibiscus Flower Extract, Honey Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Turmeric Root Extract, Argan Oil, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Vitamin E Size: 1 oz.
Relevant Review: “I bought this after I saw a girl recommend it on Tik Tok of all places. I put it on by itself last night after I washed my face. I had no burning or tingling sensation like a lot of people mention. I woke up this morning with all of my little bumps reduced by almost 90%! I was shocked! My entire skin texture changed overnight! This will definitely be a holy grail product for me.”
6. Best Niacinamide Serum For Textured Skin
As Dr. King mentioned when discussing eye serums, niacinamide is one of her favorite sensitive-skin-friendly ingredients for promoting a smoother texture. Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster was formulated to refine pore size and gradually smooth rough, dry skin without causing irritation or clogging pores. While niacinamide is the hero ingredient in here, the serum also contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and panthenol to moisturize and hydrate skin. Plus, allantoin and licorice root extract were included for their soothing benefits, and the serum is fragrance-free for those who are sensitive to synthetic fragrances and essential oils.
Key Ingredient: Niacinamide Other Beneficial Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C, Allantoin, Licorice Root Extract, Panthenol, Glycerin Size: 0.67 oz.
Relevant Review: "I absolutely love this product. Even if it is a bit pricier, I really feel like it makes a noticeable difference on my skin texture. My pores appear smaller, my skin more even in tone, and the best part is that [it] completely absorbs into your skin without leaving a film or tacky residue. […]"
7. Best Body Serum For Textured Skin
Unevenly textured skin can occur on your body, too, and it typically shows up on the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks as rough patches and tiny bumps — a common condition known as keratosis pilaris (KP). While you might be familiar with salicylic acid body washes or AHA scrubs, you can also try a body serum like this Proot Strawberry Legs Treatment Serum. Similar to the face serums on this list that contain chemical exfoliants, Proot uses AHAs and BHAs like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and hibiscus flower extract to help clear away the buildup of keratin and dead skin cells that cause KP and body breakouts.
Key Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid Other Beneficial Ingredients: Hibiscus Flower Extract, Centella Asiatica Size: 1.69 oz.
Relevant Review: “I've had strawberry and chicken skin pretty much my whole life and didn't figure out what it was until adulthood. I've tried a lot of different creams etc. but very few have done much. This is one of the few products that actually works. [...] I've used it on my arms and legs and it works well for the red spots as well as the bumps or "chicken skin" [...] Overall you get a decent amount of product and it actually works so it is a great value in my opinion and worked much better than some products I've used that were more costly.”
Dr. Hadley King, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, and founder of Dr. Hadley King Dermatology in New York City.