As we age, our skin changes in myriad ways. Instead of dealing with sporadic breakouts and oily T-zones, the skin instead loses its elasticity and becomes prone to dryness and dehydration.
“As if getting older isn’t difficult enough, our skin can sometimes look dull and lackluster as we mature,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ope Ofodile, co-owner and partner of Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta in Marietta, Georgia. “It’s secondary to a combination of perimenopausal fluctuating of hormones, a reduction in skin oil production and an accumulation of sun damage over time. We also experience reduction in facial skin’s overall collagen and increased laxity of skin — especially on the lower face.”
You’re not imagining it: No matter your gender, your skin is definitely getting drier. “Many adults this age will experience dull, dry skin; irregularity in pigment and redness; and increased fine lines and deep wrinkles,” Ofodile says, especially in high animation areas, like the forehead and around the nose and mouth
Even more, Ofodile says that drinking water can help — but it’s no longer enough to ramp up oil production. So what can you do? Incorporating a hydrating serum that can replenish your skin barrier won’t just keep your complexion looking dewy and bright; it can also ward off fine lines and wrinkles.
Hyaluronic acid is a sugar found naturally in the skin that holds water, according to Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “It’s a clear, thick gel-like substance that our body produces and can be found in high concentrations in the skin, connective tissue and eyes. It helps to retain and attract water, and keeps tissues hydrated and lubricated.”
Though it’s a relatively inexpensive ingredient, it’s the gold standard in terms of skin hydration — especially in serum form.
The merits of sun protection have been studied for decades, but it’s especially important as you age. Sun exposure can lead to hyperpigmentation, dryness — and yes, melanoma. While SPF 50 or higher is an everyday essential for protection, there’s one more way to keep your skin hydrated: antioxidants. Ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E and niacinamide fall into this category.
“Antioxidants help to block some of the damaging effects of the sun during the day,” says Ofodile. If your skin is damaged, it can’t produce oil effectively.
The long and the short of it? “Well-hydrated skin requires both internal and external supplementation,” says Ofodile. “Adequate daily water intake remains vital in addition to topical treatments containing hyaluronic acid and antioxidants.”
With this in mind, here are the best hydrating serums to shop right now.
Rodan + Fields Active Hydration Serum ($112; rodanandfields.com)
Rodan + Fields Active Hydration Serum
“This serum gives a double punch with glycerin plus hyaluronic acid, two of the best humectant ingredients we have to plump the skin,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology. “It can be layered underneath your regular moisturizer for an extra hydration boost.”
Vichy Mineral 89 Daily Skin Booster Serum and Moisturizer ($29.50; dermstore.com)
Vichy Mineral 89 Daily Skin Booster Serum and Moisturizer
Hartman calls this serum “a cool drink of water for the skin. Not only does it contain hyaluronic acid, but it also has 15 minerals found in Vichy’s proprietary volcanic water, which has been found to correct inflammation and dehydration caused by all of the external factors that we face every day,” he says.
SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator ($102; dermstore.com)
SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
Ofodile calls this one an all-time favorite. “It supports the skin’s natural ability to retain moisture and provides an immediate smoothing effect for more radiant, rejuvenated skin,” she says. “This is my go-to for dry, parched skin types.”
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($19.79; target.com)
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
“This oil-free gel provides hyaluronic acid hydration that is light yet moisturizing,” says Hartman. “The hyaluronic acid provides a protective barrier on the skin and helps to build collagen to prevent the development of fine lines and wrinkles.”
Skinbetter Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment ($140; skinbetter.com)
Skinbetter Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment
“This is another excellent moisturizer for maturing skin,” says Ofodile, who also mentions that it’s non-comedogenic, oil-free and ideal for normal to oily skin types.
iS Clinical Active Serum ($138; dermstore.com)
iS Clinical Active Serum
This hydrating serum has hundreds of 5-star reviews for good reason: It relies on tried-and-true ingredients like glycerin and willow bark extract to hydrate and smooth.
It Cosmetics Bye Bye Dullness Vitamin C Serum ($29; ulta.com)
It Cosmetics Bye Bye Dullness Vitamin C Serum
An antioxidant-packed serum, this pick from It Cosmetics brightens as it hydrates for dewy, even-toned skin.
Bliss Drench and Quench Cream-To-Water Hydrator ($24.49; target.com)
Bliss Drench and Quench Cream-To-Water Hydrator
Zeichner says this ultra-light moisturizer hydrates without weighing the skin down. “Its hero ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which binds to water to plump and hydrate the skin along with a blend of botanicals to calm, soothe and even brighten.”
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum ($6.80; sephora.com)
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum
According to Zeichner, because hyaluronic acid is so stable naturally, it’s usually not necessary to spend a ton on a straight serum. Usually, when other ingredients come into play (like ceramides or other hydrating complements), the cost can go up.
Alastin Skincare Restorative Skin Complex ($195; alastin.com)
Alastin Skincare Restorative Skin Complex
Dr. Kathleen S. Viscusi, co-founder and partner at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta, says this serum “is an incredible option for this age group. This well-balanced moisturizer is deeply hydrating yet still lightweight; it’s ideal for smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and restoring skin health for a vibrant, more youthful appearance, all with a non-comedogenic formula.”
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Eczema Soothing Relief Cream ($14.99; dermstore.com)
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Eczema Soothing Relief Cream
Ofodile loves this over-the-counter option for nighttime hydration of sensitive skin. “It’s deeply hydrating without leaving a greasy residue.”
Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster ($44; dermstore.com)
Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster
This niacinamide-packed serum moisturizes as well as it corrects hyperpigmentation.
Isdin Hydralift Serum ($130; isdin.com)
Isdin Hydralift Serum
The Isdin Hydralift Serum “contains plant-based stem cell extract, peptides, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid to help promote healthy cell turnover for radiant, hydrated skin,” says Viscusi.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops ($34; sephora.com)
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops
If you want to look dewier and more hydrated instantly, this serum is it. It has hyaluronic acid, watermelon and niacinamide for a threefold punch of moisture.
Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Serum in Cream Treatment ($88; sephora.com)
Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Serum in Cream Treatment
This soothing serum-in-moisturizer boasts Japanese indigo extract, hyaluronic acid and mondo grass root for hydration.