The 16 Best Serums for Dry Skin of 2022

Our dry skin besties know that lacking moisture isn’t fun. Without the right skin care lineup, you could be left with itching, flaking, and inflamed skin. Ugh.

And TBH, sometimes your standard moisturizer just doesn’t cut it. Fear not, thirsty epidermis, serums are here!

We chatted with two dermatologists to get tips on quenching your dry skin’s thirst *and* meeting other skin care goals while you’re at it.

Here’s everything you need to know about dry skin, how serums can help, and our 16 fave products.

The benefits go more than “skin deep,” so to speak. Any dermatologist will tell you that hydration is the foundation of a youthful and healthy complexion. Your skin is 64 percent water after all.

Dr. Malini Fowler, a board certified dermatologist in San Antonio, Texas, says serums are great for delivering nutrients to the skin.

According to Fowler, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C are commonly found in serums and work great as an addition to your moisturizer. “Serums often have a specific target result: brightening, hydrating, or delivering nutrients like bakuchiol, AHAs, hyaluronic acids, and tranexamic acid,” she says.

Keeping your skin well hydrated reduces the appearance of wrinkles and increases softness. (Think of the difference between a grape and a raisin!)

Your skin is also your body’s line of defense against all kinds of environmental aggressors, like pollution and UV rays, and it can’t protect you if it’s parched. Seriously dry skin that’s prone to cracking and blistering is also more susceptible to infections.

Fowler explains how to tell if you’re working with dry or dehydrated skin. Here’s what to look for:

  • Dry skin signs and symptoms. Fowler says dry skin is usually scaly, itchy, and rough. Dry, scaly skin can also lead to irritation and redness, she tells us.
  • Dehydrated skin signs and symptoms. If your skin is dehydrated, it can also cause itchy patches Fowler says. But it may also include an increase in wrinkles, dullness, and a “sunken in” look. Ugh.

So, should you be approaching dry and dehydrated skin the same way? As Fowler explains, dehydrated skin lacks water and dry skin lacks natural oils. “Dehydrated skin is treated from the inside and dry skin can be treated from the outside with serums and creams,” she says.

tl;dr: Dehydrated skin peeps, fill those water bottles, and get to chuggin’. Dry skin friends, time to find your skin care match.

Serums are a great way to double down on your moisture game. But every serum is v different, with diff ingredients starring as the main characters.

Sooo, what should dry skin peeps look for?

Types of moisturizers

There are three main types of moisturizers: humectants, occlusives, and emollients. They work in different ways — and often work best together:

Humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin are skin care faves that give you lightweight hydration that’s common in serums.

They work super well for all skin types, but they need a little help. If you apply them to your skin without another moisturizer, they can make your skin drier — especially if you live in a dry climate. So you’ll either need to apply them to damp skin or make sure you’re using them with an occlusive moisturizer.

Emollients are great for achieving silky smooth skin. Some emollients are also occlusives, so you’re getting a two-for-one deal if you use ’em.

Antioxidants play a role, too

Antioxidants help fight oxidative stress that leads to premature skin aging. Certain antioxidants also help with skin hydration:

We have selected these products based on their crowd-pleasing reputations and key ingredients. We’ve made sure to include options from a range of price points, with different kinds of skin conditions in mind. After all, just because it’s thirsty doesn’t mean all dry skin is the same.

Here’re some more deets on our process:

  • Expert tips/research. We looked through studies to see that ingredients can actually match the claims advertised by the companies. Plus, we chatted with two derms for their expertise and guidance.
  • Ingredients. We scouted out serums with additional ingredients to help people meet their various skin care goals. Because we believe in overachieving skin care, that’s why.
  • Price. Like we said, varying price points matter. There are some good budget picks on this list, middle-of-the-road prices, and some fancy splurges. We like to give you options, hunny.
  • Reviews. Real reviews are everything. We like products with lots of reviews — and honest ones at that. We ask ourselves questions like: Is this review sponsored? Is it recent? You get the idea.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $25
  • $$ = $25–$55
  • $$$ = over $60

Dermatologist’s fave serum for dry skin

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

  • Price: $$$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5
  • Main benefit: lightweight hydration
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

This is Fowler’s #1 draft pick for dry skin.

It’s a splurge serum, so keep that in mind before you fall in love with it.

This moisturizing gel is oil-free (hooray!) and it’s formulated with sensitive skin in mind. It also specifically targets:

  • dehydrated skin
  • acne
  • aging concerns

It mixes panthenol (aka vitamin B5) with hyaluronic acid for ideal hydration and reduced irritation, while keeping your pores free and clear.

We also very much love that it’s free from alcohol, parabens, fragrance, and dye.

Most reviewers are happy as a clam with this serum, calling it light, hydrating, and lovely. On the flip side, one points out that it isn’t intense enough for their severe dry patches, while others say it’s too expensive.

Best drugstore serums for dry skin

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, dimethicone, bisabolol, zinc gluconate
  • Main benefit: affordable, soothing hydration
  • Skin type: all skin types except sensitive
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

Get all the hydration-boosting benefits of HA and glycerin with an oil-free and noncomedogenic formulation. This Neutrogena serum offers legit hydration at a friendly price.

It also features dimethicone, an emollient that’ll leave your skin feeling velvety smooth. Plus, it’s got bisabolol and zinc gluconate — two anti-inflammatory ingredients that can help soothe irritated skin.

Reviewers make it sound like the “it girl” of serums. One says they love how it “melts” into their skin. Many skeptics say they were pleasantly surprised with their results. But some complain that it doesn’t work well for sensitive skin (though some sensitive-skinned folks adore it).

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Face Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin
  • Main benefit: affordable, lightweight hydration
  • Skin type: all skin types except sensitive
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Face Serum promises 48-hours of hydration with a 97 percent natural-origin formula that contains HA and glycerin. Even better, it’s made with thermal water, which can help soothe inflamed skin.

This pick is noncomedogenic, so your pores don’t have to worry about gettin’ clogged. One reviewer points out they have tighter pores since using it.

Heads up: This one does include fragrance. One reviewer points out that it seems like too much fragrance, which is a bummer.

Most reviewers love that it’s light and not sticky (a serum sin). Plus, they point out that the price point is reasonable for the quality.

Best anti-aging serums for dry skin

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

  • Price: $
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol
  • Main benefit: affordable hydration and reducing signs of aging
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

The Ordinary has a reputation for being product-focused instead of packaging-focused, and at very budget-friendly prices.

This serum contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and panthenol — three humectant ingredients that bring on serious hydration. These ingredients do more than just hydrate, tho.

HA stimulates collagen production, so it’s v helpful for reducing signs of aging. And panthenol is an excellent skin soother and can help reduce irritation.

A reminder: Serums with humectants need to be applied to damp skin and/or be used alongside occlusive moisturizers.

Reviewers LOVE the value for the price and say they can really feel it working. They remind fellow shoppers to apply it on damp skin for it to work properly (!!!). Some say it pills under makeup though — so it might work better for nighttime use only.

Paula’s Choice BOOST Hyaluronic Acid Booster

  • Price: $$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol, ceramides
  • Main benefit: reduces the appearance of fine lines
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 0.5-oz. bottle

Give your skin a leg up with Paula’s Choice BOOST Hyaluronic Acid Booster. This serum includes hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and panthenol (just like our pick from The Ordinary), but has added ceramides to help improve skin barrier function.

This serum is a gel and the brand says you can use this one solo dolo or add it to your fave moisturizer.

Reviewers looove this serum, saying it works wonders on fine lines and dry skin. It’s also supposed to work well under makeup.

Pro tip: This product is available in a travel-size option if you’d rather try a smaller bottle before committing. Although, it’s worth a mention that reviewers feel the “regular” size bottle (0.5 oz.) is too small to begin with.

Best serums for glowing skin

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment

  • Price: $$$
  • Standout ingredients: squalane, lactic acid, licorice root extract, aloe
  • Main benefit: exfoliating, brightening, soothing
  • Skin type: all skin types except sensitive
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

While it comes with quite the sizable price tag, Sunday Riley is a cult fave brand for a reason. Reviewers adore this serum for how well it brightens, improves uneven skin tone, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles.

Your main hydrator here is squalane, which makes your skin hella smooth and hydrated.

It also has lactic acid, one of the gentler alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) that can help exfoliate dead skin cells to reveal brighter skin. It helps reduce signs of premature aging too (we love a multi-tasking queen).

Licorice root extract is another skin-brightener that can soothe irritated skin. It’s topped off with aloe — a soothing ingredient celebrated for anti-inflammatory, healing properties.

On the downside, this serum does contain essential oils, so it might not work well for sensitive skin. Other reviewers wish it didn’t cost as much as it does.

Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum Concentrate

  • Price: $$
  • Standout ingredients: glycerin, adenosine, vitamin E, gluconolactone
  • Main benefit: gentle and hydrating, mildy exfoliating
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1.7-oz bottle

Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum Concentrate can be used morning and night. This skin minimalist’s favorite is also gentle enough to use on the delicate skin around the eye area.

Along with glycerin, this serum contains vitamin E for a hydrating antioxidant boost. It also has adenosine, an ingredient that’s shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity and the appearance of wrinkles.

But what makes this serum great for achieving glowing skin? That’d be gluconolactone, a poly-hydroxy acid (PHA) that works a lot like AHAs but *a lot* gentler. It helps exfoliate dead skin cells, which means it’s great for reducing signs of aging and even acne.

Another cool part about gluconolactone? A small study recently found that it helps improve hydration too. Pretty cool, no?

Reviewers love the lightweight hydration it provides. Many say it’s a permanent staple in their skin care routine all year round.

Best serum for dry skin and redness

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm™ Anti-Redness Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, squalane, lactic acid, vitamin E, rosemary leaf extract, white mushroom extract
  • Main benefit: soothing redness
  • Skin type: all skin types except sensitive
  • Size: 1.02-oz. bottle

Naturally fragranced and cruelty-free, REN Clean Skincare Evercalm™ Anti-Redness Serum was designed to soothe and hydrate inflamed skin.

The brand says it uses white mushroom extract to reduce redness and calm irritation. There’s some evidence to back this up, too.

It has an impressive trio of moisturizers — HA, glycerin, and squalane — plus vitamin E for an extra hydration boost. We also love that it has lactic acid to clear away dead skin and rosemary leaf extract to soothe.

The brand promises reduced redness in only 30-minutes. Most Sephora reviewers seem to find it effective, while a few say it’s overpriced or didn’t work for them.

Best serums for dry and sensitive skin

Pai Sea Instant Kalmer

  • Price: $$$
  • Standout ingredients: glycerin, hyaluronic acid, squalane, vitamin E, lactic acid, safflower oil, sea aster extract, magnolia berry extract, lactobacillus ferment
  • Main benefit: soothing irritation
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

Pai is an ethical beauty brand that designs products, especially for sensitive skin. It’s always good to read the label first, but if you’re worried about avoiding certain chemical ingredients, this brand might be your go-to splurge (because it’s not exactly cheap).

It has multiple hydrating ingredients we’ve already seen — glycerin, HA, squalane, vitamin E — plus safflower oil, which hydrates and helps reduce inflammation. We also love that it contains a ton of other soothing and redness-reducing ingredients:

This vegan serum soothes and hydrates while offering a cooling effect. Reviewers say its redness-reducing powers are legit and work even on hypersensitive skin.

It’s also cruelty-free and organic. So, that’s extra points by us.

Best serum for dry skin in the summer

Caudalie Vinosource SOS Intense Hydration Hyaluronic Acid Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, squalane, grape juice extract
  • Main benefit: lightweight but intense hydration
  • Skin type: all skin types except sensitive
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

Caudalie is a cult-fave French pharmacy brand that you can find in the United States (yay!). Designed to restore your skin’s water balance, this serum is a great pick for dry skin types year-round. But it’s lightweight enough to be your go-to during the warmer months, too.

We love that it features grape extract, which is rich in antioxidants that can help reduce signs of aging and inflammation.

Reviewers (and there are about 3k of them) seriously love this serum. One mentions a “glow” and another confirms it’s great for summer hydration. Sign us up!

This vegan serum is formulated without oil or silicones. And although it’s the last listed ingredient, this serum does contain fragrance.

Herbivore CLOUD JELLY Plumping Hydration Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Standout ingredients: glycerin, aloe, gluconolactone, tremella mushroom extract, vegetable collagen, strawberry extract rose water
  • Main benefit: plant-based hydration and gentle exfoliation
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

This vegan serum is considered a hyaluronic acid alternative. Its formula whips together plant-based ingredients to get you nice and hydrated.

The brand swaps HA for tremella mushroom, a v hydrating ingredient with some serious anti-inflammatory powers. It also has strawberry extract for a hefty dose of antioxidants to support healthier skin.

Aloe helps soothe any irritation and gluconolactone gently exfoliates and improves hydration.

Reviewers give it high marks, mentioning bouncy, plump skin. One reviewer says it’s not enough product to justify the price tag, tho.

Best serum for dry, flaky skin

SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator

  • Price: $$$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, hydroxyethyl urea/aminosulfonic acid compound, kombucha
  • Main benefit: reduces acne and signs of aging, improves flaky skin
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

We know this one is on the pricey side of our list, but it comes to us from Fowler.

According to Fowler, this serum gives you a nice exfoliating effect but also replenishes moisture, so it doesn’t dry you out.

It includes hyaluronic acid and glycerin for a hydration boost and the brand’s patented combination of hydroxyethyl urea and an amino sulfonic acid compound for that exfoliating-without-stripping thing we just mentioned.

Another fun bonus: it features kombucha (yes, exactly what you think it is!). Kombucha is rich in antioxidants and SkinCeuticals adds it to soften, smooth, and brighten up skin.

Reviewers say it’s a lifesaver for getting rid of dry, flaky patches of skin. Just keep in mind that peeps with realllly dry or sensitive skin find it drying.

Best serum for dry skin and acne

Sunday Riley UFO Acne Treatment Face Oil

  • Price: $$$
  • Standout ingredients: vitamin E, aloe, salicylic acid, black cumin seed oil, pomegranate oil, rosemary leaf extract, licorice root extract, turmeric
  • Main benefit: reduces acne without drying out skin
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1.18-oz. bottle

We know what you’re probably thinking: dry skin AND acne? Not fair.

This dry oil combines key hydrating ingredients like vitamin E with acne-fighting ones like salicylic acid and black cumin seed oil to handle blemishes without compromising on moisture.

It also has soothing ingredients like aloe, licorice root, and turmeric to reduce irritation and acne-related inflammation. Love that.

Many reviewers are all for this pick, saying it’s one of the few oils that help treat acne without drying out their already-dry skin. But some say it’s a greasy choice, and others say they aren’t seeing the results they hoped for.

Heads up: This serum is more for fighting acne than fighting dryness. The way it’s formulated should prevent the salicylic acid from drying you out, but it won’t necessarily replace a moisturizing cream.

Best vitamin c serums for dry skin

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

  • Price: $
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, squalane, vitamin C
  • Main benefit: brightening, smoothing
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

Seeing as how vitamin C serums can be quite spendy, it’s nice to be able to rely on The Ordinary to offer an effective, wallet-conscious option.

It uses ascorbic acid — the most researched and effective version of vitamin C — along with HA and squalane to bring you well-rounded hydration and antioxidant benefits.

We appreciate the opaque packaging (vitamin C can oxidize in clear packaging!) and that it’s vegan and formulated without parabens and sulfates.

This is a budget-friendly product, but keep in mind that some reviewers call it out for being greasy or oily.

DERMA E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

  • Price: $
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol, vitamin C, vitamin E, aloe, green tea extract
  • Main benefit: reduces signs of aging, soothing
  • Skin type: all skin types except sensitive
  • Size: 2-oz. bottle

This vitamin C serum from DERMA-E is designed to deliver your antioxidant protection and hydration in one fell swoop. This fast-absorbing formula is made with a stabilized form of vitamin C called sodium ascorbyl phosphate and vitamin E — a duo made in antioxidant heaven.

HA and glycerin do your hydrating, while panthenol, aloe, and green tea extract go to work on any irritation.

This one has thousands of reviews, with loving mentions of it being a miracle worker and an everyday essential. Unsatisfied reviewers just didn’t see a difference in their skin or say they still need to use a moisturizer to tackle dry skin.

Be warned though, it contains “natural fragrance oils” (aka perfume, not essential oils) which some reviewers don’t love.

Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum

  • Price: $$$
  • Standout ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, vitamin E, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin C), green tea extract, chamomile extract
  • Main benefit: hydrating, soothing, brightening
  • Skin type: all skin types
  • Size: 1-oz. bottle

The HA in Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum offers gold-star hydration, while chamomile, green tea extract, and arnica work to soothe irritated and itchy skin. (Though heads up, arnica causes irritation for some peeps.)

Plus, it’s got magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C that can help reduce signs of premature aging and brighten your skin.

The brand points out this soothing serum is a nice choice for after you’re freshly waxed or sunburned — and reviewers confirm. They say it’s super soothing and locks in hydration without feeling heavy.

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