Musicians have the Grammies and actors have the Oscars. For beauty products, earning a spot in InStyle’s coveted beauty awards is the industry pinnacle. With over 100 winners in 2016, these contenders are carefully chosen and vetted by the industry’s top experts—dermatologists, hair stylists, makeup artists, and manicurists. With a process that takes over six months, we begin sending out super detailed (and long!) surveys in October and then tally up the results. As our beauty closet begins to fill up, we interview our pros to find out why they really love these products and why they deserve some real estate in your makeup bag. More potent than a cream, facial serums sink deeper into skin which allows their powerful skin-benefiting ingredients to really get working. While there's a number of formulas out there targeted to specific skin concerns, if you're a serum first-timer, a multitasking formula that does a little bit of everything is a good place to start.
Keep scrolling to find out the three facial serums our pro panel says are the best to add into your skincare routine.
1. Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Antioxidants serums can be a hefty investment but with this dermatologist-loved formula, "you can see tangible changes after using this product in just 3-4 weeks," says dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton. Maybe you've heard that you should be using an antioxidant serum under your SPF. Well, that's not a ploy to sell more skin serums. Those antioxidants offer an extra layer of defense against free radicals, the cell-destroying molecules triggered by sun exposure.
This easy to apply serum won't interfere with your other products either, "it’s smooth and it blends easily under makeup. It’s tried and true," says dermatologist Melanie Palm. This formula rewards you for your diligence by softening the look of lines and fading brown spots. Says N.Y.C.-based dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton, "With highly concentrated levels of vitamins C and E, it's worth every penny."
Skinceuticals | $163
2. Best For Dry Skin: SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum
"I've used this lotion for five years, and I never keep products in rotation for that long," says Redondo Beach, Calif.-based dermatologist Annie Chiu, who's just one of the dermatologists we know who call this serum's time-reversing potion of peptides, antioxidants, and growth factors a true must-have for brightening and toning. "It has both immediate and long term benefit for both brightening and tightening, this is a standard in nearly every dermatologist’s regimen," says Chiu.
The nutrient mix also helps replenish the surface of the skin, which is key to blocking out irritating elements. "This is my go-to," echoes Smithtown, N.Y., dermatologist Marina Peredo. "It's addictive. My patients say they always notice a difference in just one week."
SkinMedica | $281
3. Best For Oily Skin: SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF
The only things more dispiriting than your adult breakouts are the dark marks of acne past, this serum can brighten things up. Literally. The formula's vitamin C helps fade old spots, says Solana Beach Calif.-based dermatologist Melanie Palm, while antioxidants phloretin and ferulic acid prevent future damage by attacking cell-damaging free radicals produced by sun exposure.
But if you have an oily complexion,the last thing you want to do is layer tons of products that feel heavy on your complexion. This gel-base "glides on really easily and works well with an oily complexion without feeling too heavy or sticky," says Palm who notes that you may even be able to skip your moisturizer. And all this without plugging pores. Impressive.
Skinceuticals | $163