A few years ago, when I realized that being an adult was more than drinks with friends after work and shopping trips, I started to put myself on a monthly budget. It covered all of the basics: rent, food, and an emergency fund, but I quickly realized that I needed to add in a section for skincare. It is fluid, and some months I will spend more than I budgeted for—the biannual Sephora Sale is basically my Super Bowl and all bets are off—but it helps me make sure that I am investing in products wisely.
My general rule is that if it is a product that I will most likely end up washing down the sink, like a cleanser, I don’t want to spend too much on it. Contrarily, the product I’m always willing to splurge on is a serum. The biggest reason I put my money into serums lies in the fact that serums tend to stay on the skin the longest. As they are formulated to deliver a high concentration of active ingredients directly into your skin, I can justify spending a little bit more on a product that will efficiently treat everything from dehydration to hyperpigmentation. These are some of my favorite serums that are worth the cost:
This serum is, hands down, my cold-weather secret weapon. It is a lightweight gel that is formulated with plant-based glycerin and shiso leaf extract to help hydrate, plump, and smooth the skin. The results are almost immediate, and I especially love how healthy my skin looks whenever I use it, even after being outside on a cold, windy day.
Typically, oils are used as a last step, but this Sunday Riley one was actually designed to be applied under a moisturizer. Vitamin C is one of those ingredients that almost all of us need for healthy, glowing skin, but finding a formulation that is stable and is the right strength for your skin can be a bit of a challenge. I generally recommend the Sunday Riley oil for first-time Vitamin C users, as it is gentle enough to not cause irritation, absorbs instantly, and leaves the skin hydrated.
I fully blame TikTok for introducing me to this serum. Like a lot of people, I have been trying to figure out how to get rid of maskne, and this serum has been one of the few products that helps reduce the appearance of the scars. Formulated with niacinamide and exfoliating acids, this serum is still gentle enough to be used daily without compromising on its efficacy—two things that I love in a product.
Sometimes, I go a little overboard with the acids and end up damaging my skin barrier. When that happens, I go back to basics and reach for this serum as it is one of the few products that does not make my face feel like I lit it on fire. It is packed with tiger grass, herbs, and plant extracts, as well as Centella Rx to help soothe and repair sensitive skin, which is just what I need when my skin is not at its best.
Shop our editors’ other favorite serums:
Niacinamide is the do-it-all ingredient for reducing the appearance of pores, hydrating, desensitizing, reducing redness, and lightening up dark spots. This 20 percent concentrated formula is easy to use and effective, even after only a short time.