15 best anti-ageing serums that target wrinkles, dark spots and dullness

These youth-reviving products will be the superheroes of your skincare routine

Amira Arasteh
Monday 23 March 2020 18:00
<p>Adding anti-ageing serums to your routine is such a simple step – nestling neatly between your toner and moisturiser</p>

Adding anti-ageing serums to your routine is such a simple step – nestling neatly between your toner and moisturiser

Packed full of a high concentration of active ingredients, serums are one of the most vital steps of the skincare routine – particularly when it comes to anti-ageing.

But, with many not realising their importance, more often than not, these skincare saviours are the ones left out of your regimen. Yet, it’s such a simple step to add to your routine – nestling neatly between your toner and moisturiser, these potent power-packs do so much more than a regular moisturiser.

Given the strength and density of the crucial ingredients in their makeup, they can perform skin-saving miracles – targeting fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dark spots and dullness – to ultimately achieve a more youthful look.

You’ll want to look for serums that’s ingredients are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Serums enriched with these tend to offer a more natural attempt at plumping, firming, and stimulating collagen production. It’s also worth looking out for green tea, berries and marine-inspired skincare.

We also recommend using products that contain hyaluronic acid and retinol. The former not only hydrates the skin but simultaneously adds a smoothing and plumping effect, while the latter is considered the best anti-ageing ingredient around.

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Retinol gets to work on the surface of the skin, focusing on skin tone and texture, as well as going deeper and stimulating cell renewal. However, exercise caution as those with sensitive or dry skin might find this causes irritation or flakiness.

You should also pay close attention to the texture of your serum. The lighter and faster-absorbing the serum is, the easier it will be to add into your skincare routine. Plus, for those who have sensitive or oily skin, having a lighter-weight serum will definitely be a bonus as you’ll want to minimise the weight of the products you’re piling on your face.

Still, with so many brands putting their best foot forward, it’s hard to know which is the best serum to add to your coveted skincare routine. So, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 15, taking into account the different skincare concerns of anti-ageing that each serum addressed.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Elemis pro-collagen super serum elixir, 15ml

As a serum with a silk-like texture, this felt so hydrating from the moment it was applied. With hyaluronic acid locking in a level of nourishment, it also helps reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. Initially it felt a little oilier than some of the other serums, however, it was fast-absorbing and left no stickiness on our skin. It’s also a serum with a gorgeous scent and we felt so relaxed in this part of the skincare regimen.

Key ingredients in this super serum include a high percentage of padina pavonica and red seaweed, as well as tri-peptides and African birch bark. It’s good value for how much this serum packs in. However, it must be noted it is at least half the size of some of the other serums we tested. That being said, a little goes a long way and this potent blend is definitely a case of small but mighty.

Charlotte’s magic serum crystal elixir, 30ml

We immediately liked how easy this serum was to use. The addition of a pipette ensures the solution was clean, easy and efficient to apply while the products itself is silky, lightweight and not at all oily. It also smelled divine, immediately relaxing us, and felt refreshing too. Plus, in the hours after applying, our skin felt amazing – practically soft to the touch.

This serum contains polyglutamic acid (a hydrating hero), as well as replexium which is Charlotte Tilbury’s breakthrough peptide duo for laser focus wrinkle-targeting skin. A powerful elixir, it has been blended to completely rejuvenate your skin, offering visibly younger skin with daily use. As well as its five-crystal complex which promotes holistic wellbeing, the serum also contains sqisandryl – an antioxidant berry which improves the skins vitality. Our skin was left glowing, and it also showed a significant improvement in texture.

Kiehl’s powerful strength line-reducing concentrate serum, 50ml

Even though we used this serum more sparingly than others, we still noticed a difference in our skin. Creamy in texture, it melted effortlessly into our skin and left it visibly brighter, reduced the size of our pores and boasted an overall more even skin tone. That effect stayed for hours to come and even held-up under make-up.

However, a word of caution – this serum contains 12.5 per cent of vitamin C and we found that our skin tingled slightly upon application. That sensation didn’t last for long, mind, but as it’s not something that agrees with all skin types we recommend building up your usage. Plus, while we’d always recommend following up with a decent SPF cream it’s all the more important here. Once you get your dosage right though we promise you’ll be left with beautifully moisturised and hydrated skin.

TempleSpa trufflelixir anti-ageing retinol serum, 30ml

Even though there was a slight stickiness and a tingling sensation upon our first application, this product immediately felt amazing on our skin. Soft and light in texture with a beautiful scent, this high-performance formula promotes both long and short-term results.

Treating the skin at a cellular and epidermal level, it brightens the skin. Plus, it reduces the signs of ageing by smoothing, firming and plumping the skin all in one go. We also noted that when we didn’t apply makeup afterwards, our skin stayed silky smooth for hours. It is a little pricier than some of the brand’s other products – its be firm serum is more than £30 cheaper (£40, Templespa.com) – but we’re still won over.

Estée Lauder advanced night repair, 50ml

Compared to the other oil-based serums on this list, this one was slightly lighter in colour. As well as its translucency, we noticed that it didn’t have a fragrance, and it was quite a bit stickier to touch. That said, upon regular use, our skin definitely felt more hydrated and was visibly plumper. That’s partly thanks to its Chronolux™ power signal technology – it aims to blur the skin, making it look smoother in appearance, and address fine lines and wrinkles. We definitely think it delivers and thought our skin looked much clearer and healthy-looking.

An added benefit of this Advanced Night Repair is that the serum formula also acts as an anti-pollutant, from environmental damages, as well as blue light from our screens. It may be pricey, but as it addresses additional skin woes we hadn’t considered, we don’t mind splashing the cash.

Dr. Levy intense stem cell booster serum, 30ml

Arguably the ultimate anti-ageing serum (thanks to its focus on stem cell boosting), this product from Dr. Levy is packed with a potent blend of hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and a vitamin complex guaranteed to improve your skin. Upon applying the serum, we could feel it was one of the lightest in texture we tested. Meanwhile, its highly concentrated use of the patented “ArganCellActiv” complex – the first plant-derived stem cell extract – worked to stimulate our skin’s collagen production. Obviously, it takes around 6-8 weeks for results to show, but we immediately noticed how radiant our skin became after just one use.

Although the price tag might be off-putting to some, we found it to go above and beyond the call of duty. So, if your budget stretches to it, we’d recommend this in a heartbeat, especially to those with sensitive skin.

Skin Generics retinol anti-aging serum, 30ml

This serum from Skin Generics is a great bargain find that still delivers excellent results. It promotes the synthesis of collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. It’s also contains retinol as an active ingredient – with 2 per cent of a vitamin A derivative, along with ingredients such as vitamin C and Hawaiian algae.

We didn’t find this to be as lightweight in texture as we applied it to our face but it did absorb quickly nonetheless. While an excellent price, those with sensitive skin should exercise caution as the mixture of vitamin C and retinol did cause our skin a little irritation. It didn’t last long, however, and we just made sure to use a more nourishing and lightweight moisturiser on top.

Osmosis MD rescue epidermal repair serum, 30ml

This repair serum is true to its name, it really did rescue and repair our skin. We noticed a change in our skin after the first application. It went on so easily, making skin feel silky smooth from the start, and it was fast-absorbing. We immediately noticed a difference in the size of our pores, and could see significant brightening of our skin. In addition to focusing on smoothing skin texture and fixing pigmentation, it’s also a great option for those of you suffering from sensitivity or other skin concerns such as rosacea and acne.

The one downside to this product was, unlike other anti-ageing serums which either smelled amazing or were fragrance-free, this one had a slightly clinical or chlorine-like scent, which put us off slightly. However, the results were very promising for this serum, particularly when it came to addressing particular skin concerns.

Comfort Zone sublime skin serum, 30ml

Our first thoughts when applying this anti-ageing serum was that the texture felt great when hitting our skin and there was a pleasant smell to it. However, it must be noted that this serum wasn’t as fast-absorbing as others we tried and tested and our skin didn’t feel as immediately hydrated. This was a surprise, given the blend of micro and macro hyaluronic acid, however this can be easily resolved by ensuring that your moisturiser in the next step of your skincare routine is particularly nourishing.

We’d perhaps recommend this skin serum for those with more mature skin, as it did a wondrous job at making our skin feel noticeably firmer and tightened upon each use. Our skin also did look and feel plumper, as we’d hoped upon testing this product out.

RéVive intensité complete anti-ageing serum, 30ml

This serum was fast-absorbing upon our application, getting straight to work on softening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles thanks to its advanced line relaxing complex. Its cellular filling complex is what helps reestablish shape and elasticity, visibly plumping and re-contouring skin.

Upon our testing, we found it to be an excellent product, making our skin feel instantly smooth. We did notice an improvement in the finer lines and our skin felt noticeably more hydrated which, in turn, positively affected its appearance. The drawback with this product is its price as, as fantastic as it was, it is rather expensive – particularly if you were to implement it into your daily skincare routine. We must admit that it is hard to assess whether this serum delivered particularly better results than those a third of the price.

Skin Woof premium vitamin C radiance serum, 30ml

A newer brand to the table, Skin Woof’s vitamin C radiance serum contains hyaluronic acid, vitamin A, and sea buckthorn oil – all designed to reduce dullness to your skin. We certainly noticed a bright and healthy glow to our skin and we also quite liked its gel base. Light in fragrance and texture, we found it easily absorbed into our skin. The cheapest of the anti-ageing serums we tried and tested, this brand proves you can achieve more youthful-looking skin, looking fuller, firmer and with its skin tone evened out, without spending the earth.

This particular serum is great for reducing the appearance of acne scars and any pigmentation to the skin too, in addition to minimising pores. What’s more is if you were to try this serum and fall in love, Skin Woof offers a subscription option, meaning the cost would become even more affordable.

Verso super facial serum, 30ml

Out of the retinol-based products, this one appealed to us more, given the higher concentration of retinol in the serum’s makeup. Verso’s Super Facial Serum uses retinyl retinoate (which is said to be stronger than retinol), meaning its power to work magic and make your skin appear more youthful-looking is stronger.

It is also said to cause less irritation to the skin and we found it to also be a gentler version of the beloved vitamin A product. We found no stinging as we applied this serum and our skin wasn’t left feeling at all dry. However, the texture of the product overall was a little thick for our liking.

We must say, however, we weren’t particularly impressed by any changes to the texture of our skin, gaining the sense that the visible effects of this anti-ageing serum aren’t efficient as some of the other products we tried and tested. A great serum product to add between your toner and moisturiser each day and night, however it showed us limited results which would lead us to question its higher end price point.

Goldfaden MD needle-less line smoothing concentrate, 30ml

Despite most anti-ageing serums taking weeks to notice a difference to your skin, we were drawn to the fact that we were able to see a small improvement after just a week. Upon initial application, there was a warm, burning sensation, but we were less concerned with this than when others caused similar sensations. That’s partly because, given the name and concept of the product as “needle-less” we expected some kind of reaction.

There was no visible irritation to our skin at all, still if any tingling concerns you, this might not be the product for you. We’d recommend those with sensitive skin steer clear though, as we would go as far as to say it was slightly uncomfortable at time and it might make you nervous upon each application.

That being said, ingredients such as seaweed ensured the serum was packed full of of vitamins and minerals, as well as hyaluronic acid helping the skin retain moisture and stay supple in nature. We also liked the fact that there is red tea extract in the serum as this ingredient acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, as well as assisting with brightening and reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.

Sienna X the retinol serum, 20ml

Sienna X’s serum features 0.3 per cent pure retinol, making this a great product if topical vitamin A is what you’re looking for. We were really looking forward to trying this product because of its potent formula, however, as effective an ingredient as retinol is, it is less advisable to use, if you have sensitive skin.

Due to this, it did mean there was slight irritation and redness to our skin upon our application. It didn’t go away as quickly and seamlessly as the slight tingling other serums we tried and tested induced. However, this serum is very good value for money, given the high concentration of its ingredients and should you not suffer from skin sensitivity, it could be the one for you.

Elemis ultra smart pro-collagen complex 12 serum, 30ml

A slightly pricier product to add to the list, we feel this one is necessary to shout about because, when it comes to skincare, Elemis is a brand that has your back. We found the serum itself to be fast-absorbing and not greasy or sticky in texture, making it a pleasant product to apply to our skin. Plus, it’s rich in micro and macro algae, which helps promote radiance in the skin.

It also contains ultra smart drone peptide technology which helps target those more needy areas, such as by the eyes and around your mouth. We have to be honest and say there is a difference between this ultra smart pro-collagen serum and the pro-collagen super serum elixir (£53, Elemis.com), in that it does fix those fine lines and wrinkles a little quicker, reducing their appearance overall. Of course, you do pay for those extra benefits but a little goes a long way so it ultimately depends on your budget and approach to anti-ageing serums.

The verdict: Anti-ageing serums

We can’t fault the immediate glow achieved by Elemis’s pro-collagen super serum elixir. It’s also a fair price for such a prestigious brand - perfect if you’re buying your first anti-ageing serum. Both Goldfaden MD’s needle-less line smoothing concentrate and Dr. Levy’s switzerland booster serum are excellent choices if you’re looking for something a bit more than the standard serum. Both of these offer anon-invasive treatment to the skin - although you certainly pay for these extra benefits within the serums.

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