Editor’s Picks: 14 of the Best Hydrating Serums to Plump and Moisturize Your Skin

Goodbye, dryness.
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Best hydrating serum

When it comes to moisturizing, everyone's skin has different needs. Even still, there's one product that we ALL can benefit from using: hydrating serum.

If you've never tried one before, know that it fits into your skincare routine after cleansing and exfoliating, but before cream, oil or sunscreen. Because the texture is liquid—ranging from thin and watery to milky or gel-like—it's weightless and perfect for layering.

Best of all, hydrating serum is good for every skin type. That's because it's packed with a high concentration of humectants, which are ingredients that attract water to plump and moisturize your skin. All you need are a few drops to boost your skin's hydration level, whether you're dry, oily or in between.

Here's what to look for in a hydrating serum, plus the best products to try now.

What to Look for in a Hydrating Serum

For best results, I recommending choosing serums that are high in beneficial ingredients and low in anything that could be irritating or comedogenic. 

These are the key things I scan for on labels:

  • High in humectants: Look for ingredients like glycerin, aloe, provitamin B5 (panthenol), hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate and sodium PCA. I just recommend avoiding low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid (often called "fractionated" or "hydrolyzed"), which is linked to inflammation.
  • Low in fragrance: Synthetic fragrance and essential oils are the most common skin irritants, so they should be near the end of an ingredients list or (ideally) not present at all.
  • Low in silicone: It forms a film on your skin surface and can interfere with the absorption of active ingredients while trapping acne-causing debris. 
  • Low in oil: Oil-based serums won't hydrate your skin well, due to their occlusive nature. Furthermore, if the oil is unsaturated, it can quickly oxidize (go rancid).
  • Low in alcohol: Due to its drying effects, it doesn't belong in a hydrating serum.

The Best Hydrating Serums of 2021

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

  • Details: SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel is the OG hydrating serum, launched more than a decade ago. It's named for its high concentration of B5, which along with hyaluronic acid works to bind moisture to your skin. The simple formula includes just four ingredients in total (and no fragrance, oils or silicones). It has a gel consistency, and a little goes a long way.
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin B5 (calcium pantothenate), sodium hyaluronate.
  • Best for: All skin.

Timeless Hyaluronic Acid

Timeless Hyaluronic Acid

Timeless Hyaluronic Acid

  • Details: Timeless Hyaluronic Acid is not only one of the most affordable hydrating serums, it's also one of the most popular (with more than 3,000 four-star reviews!). The four-ingredient formula boasts a high 1% concentration of hyaluronic acid, which gives it a slightly thicker gel texture. Still, it sinks in completely with no stickiness, and is fragrance-free, oil-free and silicone-free.
  • Key ingredients: Sodium hyaluronate.
  • Best for: All skin and anyone on a budget.

ClarityRx Daily Dose of Water Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum

ClarityRx Daily Dose of Water Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum

ClarityRx Daily Dose of Water Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum

  • Details: ClarityRx Daily Dose of Water Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum really does feel like a big glass of water for your skin. This is another minimalistic, hyaluronic acid-based serum made without fragrance, oil or silicone (and with just four ingredients in all). With the texture of a thin, lightweight gel, it absorbs instantly and leaves behind zero residue.
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin.

Consonant HydrExtreme

Consonant HydrExtreme

Consonant HydrExtreme

  • Details: Consonant HydrExtreme is an all-natural serum that hydrates with a naturally-derived sugar instead of more well-known humectants like hyaluronic acid. In fact, it was clinically proven to outperform the leading hyaluronic acid serum for a full 24 hours. Since it's made with only two ingredients—and is fragrance-free, oil-free and silicone-free—there's nothing in here that could irritate or clog pores.
  • Key ingredients: Cassia angustifolia seed polysaccharide, glycerin.
  • Best for: All skin, especially sensitive skin.

COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule

COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule

COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule

  • Details: COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule is a K-beauty serum comprised of 83% propolis extract. Also known as "bee glue," this ingredient has natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant and oil-controlling benefits in addition to offering hydration. This formula is free of fragrance, oils and silicones, and has a slightly gooey texture (which your skin will drink right up).
  • Key ingredients: Propolis extract, glycerin, sodium hyaluronate.
  • Best for: All skin.

Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

  • Details: Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster is an intensive "booster" serum that can be worn alone or mixed with your favourite moisturizing cream. Besides being high in humectants, it also contains barrier-repairing ingredients (ceramides and cholesterol) to keep moisture locked in. It has a spreadable gel texture, and is both fragrance-free and silicone-free.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, cholesterol, provitamin B5 (panthenol).
  • Best for: All skin, especially skin with a compromised barrier.

PCA Skin Hydrating Serum

PCA Skin Hydrating Serum

PCA Skin Hydrating Serum

  • Details: PCA Skin Hydrating Serum is a light, non-greasy serum that is packed with multiple humectants, antioxidants and amino acids. As such, its hydrating benefits tend to last longer than other serums, whether you wear it alone or mix it with your favourite moisturizer. The formula is also fragrance-free, oil-free and silicone-free.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, sodium PCA, aloe, sodium hyaluronate.
  • Best for: All skin, especially dry and sensitive skin.

Omorovicza Instant Perfection Serum

Omorovicza Instant Perfection Serum

Omorovicza Instant Perfection Serum

  • Details: Omorovicza Instant Perfection Serum is an elegant liquid gel serum that both hydrates and helps to control excess oil production. It's infused with plumping humectants, calming minerals and brightening plant stem cells, plus a fermented yeast extract to aid absorption. Plus, it is both silicone-free and oil-free, with a light, naturally-derived scent.
  • Key ingredients: Hungarian thermal water, Aquaxyl (sugar-based moisturizing complex), sodium hyaluronate.
  • Best for: All skin, especially oily and acne-prone skin.

OSEA Hyaluronic Sea Serum

OSEA Hyaluronic Sea Serum

OSEA Hyaluronic Sea Serum

  • Details: OSEA Hyaluronic Sea Serum is powered by three types of seaweed extracts, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fatty acids to help condition, calm and protect your skin. So there's no need for oils or silicones (not to mention fragrance), and the hydration that it delivers lasts all day long.
  • Key ingredients: Seaweed extracts, sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum

  • Details: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum is both moisturizing and calming, thanks to a mix of humectants along with skin-soothing colloidal oatmeal, allantoin and aloe. This serum is also formulated without fragrance, oil or silicone, making it suitable for reactive skin. It has a light, gel texture and is quick to absorb into the skin.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, soluble collagen, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, provitamin B5 (panthenol), hyaluronic acid, aloe.
  • Best for: All skin, especially sensitive skin.

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum

  • Details: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum is a gel serum with ingredients that both attract moisture and keep it trapped it your the skin. They include humectants like the B5 it is named for, plus coconut alkanes (a natural silicone alternative) and the brand's signature marula oil. (Just be cautious with the latter two if you are acne-prone.) Like all products in the line, it is free of fragrance, essential oils and silicones.
  • Key ingredients: Coconut alkanes, glycerin, marula oil, provitamin B5 (panthenol), sodium hyaluronate.
  • Best for: All skin except acne-prone.

The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics

The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics

The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics

  • Details: The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics isn't your typical hyaluronic acid serum. Instead, it uses proteins and polysaccharides that are sustainably sourced from algae and marine bacteria. They act the same way as other humectants, drawing moisture into the skin without leaving any sticky or greasy residue. This serum has a watery feel, and also happens to be fragrance-free, oil-free and silicone-free.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, algae, fermented marine bacteria, amino acids.
  • Best for: All skin and anyone on a budget.

Derma E Ultra Hydrating Serum

Derma E Ultra Hydrating Serum

Derma E Ultra Hydrating Serum

  • Details: Derma E Ultra Hydrating Serum is a mostly-natural serum with a light, gel-cream texture. That's on account of the fatty alcohol (an emollient), which helps to soften your skin while the various humectants draw in moisture. This serum also absorbs beautifully, doesn't feel greasy, and is low in silicone and essential oils.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, fatty alcohol, sodium hyaluronate, provitamin B5 (panthenol), allantoin.
  • Best for: All skin.

Vichy Minéral 89

Vichy Mineral 89

Vichy Minéral 89

  • Details: Vichy Minéral 89 gets its name from its 89% thermal water, which is the same soothing, mineral-rich water that the brand uses in its popular face mist. Here, it is infused with two of the best humectants—and surprisingly, no fragrance, oils or silicones. It has the texture of a lightweight gel, and promises a full 24 hours of hydrated skin.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, sodium hyaluronate.
  • Best for: All skin.

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