Using a serum can seem like nothing but an expensive time-suck in your morning routine—especially to all of us who seem to be constantly on the go, rarely having any extra time before we’re rushing out the door. But that one additional step can be the key to hydrated, bright, even-toned skin—and who doesn’t want to be glowing?
Still, figuring out which serum is right for you isn’t always easy. Here’s a quick breakdown: If you want more hydrated, dewy skin, you’ll want to look for a formula with hyaluronic acid, a water-binding molecule that can hold up to 1,000-times its weight in moisture.
If bright, even-toned skin is what you’re after, vitamin C (a.k.a. L-ascorbic acid) is your new best friend. The antioxidant is any derm’s gold-standard for lightening acne marks and sun spots, as well as lending skin a lit-from-within glow. If you’re looking for a powerful anti-ager, look for a serum with peptides or retinol, and save those for nighttime since they can break down in the sun.
We culled 20 of our favorite, most potent formulas that promise to bring you closer to bright, even-toned, dewy skin—no matter your budget. The best skin serums to add to your skin-care routine, ahead.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2017.