If You’re Only Going to Buy One Facial Serum, Make It One of These Multitaskers

Photo: Getty Images/Cavan Images
My serum collection is about as vast as my hot sauce collection: I have a lot of both. While I tend to use only one of my hot sauces (Valentina ILYSM), my serums overwhelm me to the point that in a skin-care-induced craze I just slather on the many active ingredients I want to feed my face with—vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid—but I'd love if I could streamline things down and just use one super-incredible multitasking serum that does it all. You feel me?

It's actually not the most out-there thing to have on a wish list, though. Plenty of multifunctional serums line the beauty shelves—you just have to know what to look for. "Most dermatologists subscribe to this multi-tasking policy," says Rachel Nazarian, MD, board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology in New York City. "If we had to use one ingredient per product, our regimens would be long and multi-stepped—we opt for shorter skin-care regimens with multiple active ingredients per product."

Celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, who has an eponymous skin-care line Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care, says she specifically formulates her serums to pack a lot of benefits into a single bottle. "I wanted good nutrition for the skin and products that multitask when I use them," she says. "A serum made with  ingredients tends to assimilate into the skin better, and has a lot of vitamins and minerals to keep the skin balanced all day." Her tip? Look for green ingredients like chlorophyll, which will "hydrate and oxygenate the skin to bring that glow back," she says.

A serum with a form of retinoid in it is key, too—Dr. Nazarian recommends finding a retinol with other beneficial ingredients, like chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid and moisturizing essentials like ceramides and squalane. To make your skin-care regimen much simpler, keep scrolling for MVP do-it-all serums.


Photo: Neutrogena

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, $18

Get your skin-plumping retinol and moisturizing hyaluronic acid in this one-two punch of a multitasking drugstore serum.

Photo: Alpyn Beauty

Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Survival Serum, $68

Skin gets its greens with this botanical-derived serum—it's got various skin-calming plant extracts, vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants, and moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid for an overall happy face.

Photo: Peter Thomas Roth

Peter Thomas Roth Pro Strength Retinoid Serum, $110

This new, gentle but potent retinol serum increases your skin cell turnover for a brighter complexion, and your skin barrier gets fed through a peptide complex and ceramides. Plus, it has squalane for hydration.

Photo: Joanna Vargas

Joanna Vargas Daily Serum, $85

Vargas concocted this nourishing facial serum to feed all skin types, and was inspired by her love of green juicing. "It contains my favorite ingredient, galactoarabian, derived from the larch tree, which causes more cell turnover than a glycolic but is anti-inflammatory, so it doesn't cause irritation even in sensitive skin," says Vargas.

Photo: Beautycounter


Beautycounter Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum, $79

Everything you need is in this Beautycounter serum, including bakuchiol—the gentle retinol alternative—multiple peptides for plumping, antioxidants, and amino acids for overall skin strength.

Photo: La Roche Posay

La Roche Posay Effaclar Pore Refining Facial Serum, $45

You can micro-exfoliate with this serum, which uses salicylic acid combined with glycolic acid, but doesn't strip your skin while doing so, thanks to a combo of glycerin and hyaluronic acid.

Photo: Tatcha

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum, $88

Get your brightening essentials, like vitamin C and Japanese angelica root extract, along with mild fruit AHAs which swirl together on your skin for a more even, hydrated glow. It's really gentle for a brightening serum, too—I've never experienced redness from it.

Photo: L'Oreal Paris

L'Oréal Paris Derm Intensives Glycolic Acid Serum, $30

Like an exfoliating facial in a bottle—this drugstore MVP gently exfoliates with glycolic acid, and infuses your skin with moisture via hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and glycerin.

Photo: Kate Somerville

Kate Somerville +Retinol Vita C Power Serum, $98

It's called a 'power serum' because it's got the two most powerful skin-care ingredients on the block: retinol and vitamin C, so your skin is in good hands.

Read more about why squalane in skin care is like a Big Gulp for your skin. Also, these are the most important skin-care products to have in your routine, according to derms. 

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