Hair serums can be the ultimate secret weapon against a bad hair day. Even if you're a beauty minimalist, your skin-care routine likely includes a cleanser, a serum, and a moisturizer. Yet your hair—which requires just as much tender love and care as your complexion—is likely only reaping the benefits of your standard shampoo and conditioning regimen. But why stop there? According to stylists, the best way to help your hair live up to its fullest, healthiest potential is by adding a hair serum into the mix.
What are hair serums?
Hair serums are similar to skin serums in that they deliver a high concentration of nourishing actives, which means you'll get a whole lot of bang for your buck every time you apply. And just like with your skin, you'll want to choose a serum based on your concerns. "Hair serums are generally used to attack a specific problem, like damage and breakage, scalp issues, or creating volume," says Natalie Palomino, hair stylist and founder of North Authentic. "Depending on your specific hair concern, incorporating a hair serum as the first step in your hairstyling process can have a dramatic effect on the health of your hair and on the results you see during styling."
To choose the right serum for your strands, Palomino suggests first identifying your hair type. As a general rule, the thicker your hair is, the heavier your serum should be, because "using a hair serum that is too heavy or too light for your hair can dramatically affect your styling results," she says. Next, she recommends determining the main issue or two you want your hair serum to target—whether that's growing more hair, repairing damage, combatting frizz, or something else entirely. "Once you identify your hair type and concern, it should be much simpler for you to find the right hair serum for your hair care routine," she says.
The best hair serums on the market
Whether you're dealing with dryness, frizz, thinning, or are simply looking to define your curls, keep scrolling to find the best hair serum to meet your needs.
Best hair serums for growth
Instead of the standard minoxidil—which has been used as a hair loss treatment for decades—Vegamour’s Gro+ serum combines caffeine and curcumin to stimulate hair growth. In clinical tests conducted by the brand, the serum showed up to 52 percent more density in hair and 76 percent less shedding after 120 days of use. Apply it to your scalp before bed, and over the course of four months, watch it work wonders on your strands.
Developed by a dermatologist, this scalp serum nourishes the hair follicle with ingredients like retinol, collagen, and protein to create an optimal environment for hair growth. Used to combat signs of aging in the scalp and strands, it works to improve the appearance of your hair from the root all the way down to the ends.
Best serums for thinning hair
You won’t have to fake the appearance of fuller hair, because this stuff makes it an actual reality. A proprietary keratin in the formula binds to your strands and works to repair them, resulting in shinier, stronger, and more voluminous hair that’s healthier overall.
This $18 serum is packed with peptides, which stimulate collagen production in your scalp to support your hair’s natural proteins and stimulate hair growth, leading to thicker, fuller hair. It’s also got a laundry list of vitamins and antioxidants to protect your scalp from the environmental stressors that lead to hair aging.
Meant to treat temporary stress- or hormone-related hair loss, this serum feeds your scalp and strands with the nourishing benefits of vitamins A, B5, and F. Pfaffia extract is also in the mix, helping to keep shedding at a minimum.
Best hair serums for frizz
Frizz often comes about as a result of hair dryness (when your hair is dry, the pores open to allow moisture from the environment to penetrate them, leading to the dreaded “halo effect”), and this serum addresses the root of the issue. It’s made with a hydrating complex to give hair the moisture it needs, plus a serum blend that seals in that moisture and provides a glossy finish to the surface of your strands.
As the name implies, this stuff quite literally makes frizz vanish without a trace. A blend of five oils works to replenish your strands with lipids, and quick-drying emollients help the formula absorb quickly into your hair so that it doesn’t leave behind any residue. The real star of the show here, though, is the “healthy hair molecule,” which blocks moisture from the air from entering the hair shaft in order to create a smooth, frizz-free finish.
Perfect for color-treated hair, this stuff will make your strands totally impenetrable to frizz-causing humidity. Coconut oil is known for its moisture, strength, and shine-enhancing abilities, and this formula pairs the well-known ingredient with prickly pear extract to add dimension and shine.
Best hair serums for curls
This milky priming serum preps your hair to create the most defined, nourished curls possible. Ingredients like shea butter, acai, sunflower extract, and aloe leaf juice coat and elongate your curls (without leaving behind any goopy, greasy, or tacky residue), resulting in frizz-free curls with minimal shrinkage.
Curly hair tends to be prone to dryness, and this scalp-and-strand friendly serum can help. A blend of natural oils (including safflower, jojoba, olive, and lavender) provides lightweight hydration, preventing breakage and making curls look healthier and more defined overall. You can use it on your scalp, on wet hair, or as the final step in your styling routine for a little extra shine.
This styling serum is designed to really amp up the appearance of your curls, fighting frizz and inducing shine in the process. It leaves behind bouncy, humidity-resistant ringlets that won’t feel crunchy, giving your hair the sort of voluminous body that dreams are made of.
Best hair serums for shine
This stuff helps hair reach maximum shine in a totally different way than the other serums on this list. It gets way down deep within your strands, infusing the cortex of your hair with amino acids and keratin proteins and sealing them in to combat the effects of head damage create smoother, more luminous strands without a single split end in sight.
Aside from infusing shine into both wet and dry hair, this drugstore serum is made with “zip-up” technology, which strengthens strands and diminishes the appearance of split ends. It works to lock in moisture and tame frizz, creating an instant glossing effect immediately after you apply.
Best hair serums for dry hair
In Morocco, argan oil—the hero ingredient of this particular serum—is often referred to as “liquid gold” thanks to its hair nourishing properties. It’s packed with vitamins A, C, and E, which work in equal part to soothe dry scalps and repair the damage and split ends that often occur as a result of hair dryness. This treatment can be used on wet hair to protect it from heat styling (and as a bonus, wet hair is more porous, which means that in this instance, the oil has the opportunity to get way down deep within the shaft), or slicked through dry strands to add a coat of moisture and shine.
As someone with dry, curly, color-treated hair, this stuff has become a holy grail part of my hair-care routine. It’s made with a blend of six lightweight oils that instantly absorb into hair (which means it doesn’t leave behind any sort of greasy coating), and works to soften, defrizz, and detangle strands while also offering protection against breakage and UV damage. It’s perfect for using before a DIY blowout to give dry, dull hair a true transformation.
This stuff serves double duty in providing moisture and helping to lock it in. The formula includes softening moringa seed oil, strengthening bamboo extract, and hydration-securing hydrolyzed soy protein. With that nourishing cocktail, you can count on it to help even the driest, dullest strands become their shiniest and most moisturized selves.
Check out the video below to hack your haircare routine even further, with a little help from a dermatologist and a stylist.
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