Facial Serums Skincare Superheroes


Facial Serums are Skincare’s Superheroes

Today’s best skincare lines offer categories of facial products—from moisturizers, cleansers and toners to sunscreens and serums. As a consumer, you’re left wondering if you need them all to make your skin look younger and stay rejuvenated and vibrant.

The short answer is if you love a brand, several products in the line will likely meet all your skincare needs.

But if you have to choose because of cost or just wanting to simplify your life, facial serums are the must-have skincare product for rejuvenating skin.

The Workhorse

Today’s most popular skincare lines position their facial serums as superheroes.

Serums are packed with each company’s best (or “hero”) ingredients. The goal is to create a serum that penetrates skin and seamlessly delivers its rejuvenating ingredients.

Serums are workhorses. When formulated with quality, proven ingredients, serums tackle the spectrum of skin aging concerns. This includes diminishing wrinkles, age spots, sun damage, loose and crepey skin, uneven skin tone and more.

Serums are the first to go on after cleansing the skin, morning and night. They tend to be light in texture and feel, so adding moisturizer, sunscreen and makeup doesn’t make skin feel oily or blotchy.

Serums also tend to be among the most expensive products in a line (the good news is a little likely goes a long way). It’s important to choose the right superhero skincare product, or serum, for your skin, age and lifestyle.

Finding the Ideal Serum Fit

There are trending skincare ingredients that have science to back their safety and efficacy. Look for those in products, versus ingredients that have created a marketing buzz, without evidence that they actually work or (worse) are safe.

Dermatologists often recommend these facial serum hero ingredients:


They’re not only part of a healthy diet. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E, A, selenium, copper carotenoids, polyphenols and others, have a place in topical skincare.

Antioxidants, applied in a serum, can counteract the damage from free radicals and oxidative stress.

Antioxidant ingredients can combat damage from the sun and other environmental toxins.

They can support collagen and elastin production, as well as skin healing.

And antioxidants can reduce inflammation, promote hydration and leave skin looking more vibrant. [source: Antioxidants for skin: Benefits, drawbacks, and sources (medicalnewstoday.com)]

Hyaluronic acid (HA)

HA is the skin’s natural moisturizer. Unfortunately, our bodies make less natural HA with age. So, delivering HA topically can put the plump back into the skin.


Peptides are collagen protein building blocks in skin. Applying peptides topically can help to rebuild the skin’s strength and resilience.

Studies show small but potential benefits of adding peptides to the ingredients lists of serums and other skin rejuvenating products. [The Best Peptide Serum and Creams That Are Actually Worth the Money in 2022 | SELF]

Buyer beware. Not all peptides are the same. Those most likely to be in skin rejuvenating serums fall under the categories of signaling peptides (Carnosine and N-acetylcarnosine and palmitoyl tripeptide-38 are examples); carrier peptides (which help deliver other ingredients to skin cells); and neurotransmitter inhibitor peptides (which help to block a neurotransmitter involved with muscle contractions). [The Best Peptide Serum and Creams That Are Actually Worth the Money in 2022 | SELF]

Adding peptides to a serum’s ingredient list has its challenges, including that peptides don’t always absorb well into the skin. [What do Peptides do in Skin Care products? – Skin Type Solutions]

Niacinamide (vitamin B3)

Delivering niacinamide to the skin through a topical serum has potential therapeutic, including anti-inflammatory, effects. It can improve skin hydration and elasticity (or skin strength and pliability). Niacinamide can minimize fine lines and wrinkles and protects skin from oxidative stress among other benefits.

Topical niacinamide-containing skincare products can protect the skin from premature aging from exposure to air pollution. [A combination of three antioxidants decreases the impact of rural particulate pollution in Normal human keratinocytes - PubMed (nih.gov)] It is among the ingredients skincare lines are using to improve skin barrier dysfunction in skin conditions like rosacea. [Treatment and Maintenance of Cutaneous Rosacea in Latino Skin Types With Prescription Medications and Non-Prescription Cleansers and Moisturizers as Adjuncts: A Review - PubMed (nih.gov)] The list of studied benefits of B3 go on, making niacinamide a go-to ingredient in effective skin rejuvenating serums.


Collagen is critical for skin and bone health. This structural protein is heralded for its potential therapeutic role in skincare, with its ability to increase skin hydration, reduce redness, smooth wrinkles and maintain a healthy skin barrier. [Native collagen sheet mask improves skin health and appearance: A comprehensive clinical evaluation - PubMed (nih.gov)]


There is an important difference between retinoids in prescription oral and topical products for skin and retinol, the commonly used ingredient in skincare available without a prescription. That difference could mean a lot when it comes to the nonprescription serum you use to rejuvenate your skin.

Retinoids are well studied and are one of today’s most popular ingredients when dermatologists prescribe antiaging and acne treatments.

One big challenge with prescribing retinoids is that patients often peel, and their skin gets irritated. This has a name: retinoid dermatitis. [You searched for Baumann - The Dermatology Digest (thedermdigest.com)]

Retinol is a type of retinoid that works like a retinoid to boost skin cell turnover in aging skin, but retinol is weaker. Therefore, retinol serums do not need a prescription.

The scientific evidence for retinol is not as strong as for retinoids. While some studies show that retinol combined with other rejuvenating ingredients can have positive effects on fine lines, crepiness, skin laxity and skin texture [Evaluation of a retinol containing topical treatment to improve signs of neck aging - PubMed (nih.gov)], some large or collective research has pointed to problem areas with include retinol in skincare serums and other products, including instability, low penetration and potential for skin irritation. [Use of Retinoids in Topical Antiaging Treatments: A Focused Review of Clinical Evidence for Conventional and Nanoformulations - PMC (nih.gov) and Retinoids vs. Retinol: How They Differ and When to Use Them (healthline.com)]

Less-known Powerhouse Ingredients

Sometimes, the most promising skincare ingredients are unfamiliar. Knowing what they are could be your secret for finding that perfect serum that rejuvenates your skin.

For example, have you ever heard of the antioxidant erogthioneine? Scientists reported in 2024 that ergothioneine helped to lower reactive oxidant species, which they concluded suggests that this is among the antioxidants in skincare products or cosmetics that could protect against ultraviolet damage and slow cell aging. [source (conclusion): IJMS | Free Full-Text | Effect of Selected Antioxidants on the In Vitro Aging of Human Fibroblasts (mdpi.com)]

One advanced skincare serum that incorporates ergothioneine is DefenAge’s 8-in-1 Bioserum, which features eight distinct serums including its ergothioneine-rich Antioxidant Serum.

DNA Repair

Perhaps the biggest leap in our knowledge about how to safely and effectively rejuvenate aging skin is with the DNA repair powerhouse and retinol alternative Alpha-Defensin 5. This molecule activates age-repair pathways to encourage new skin development—without retinol’s side effects, such as skin irritation.

This revolutionary ingredient is exclusive to the DefenAge line and the DefenAge 8-in-1 Bioserum offers the highest Alpha-Defensin 5 concentration possible.

The Defensin Master Anti-Aging Patent issued by the US Patent Office in late 2022 recognizes the skincare company’s ground-breaking cell stimulating compositions and methods to create fresh, new skin. Defensin molecules have been shown in scientific studies to reverse signs of skin aging on a global scale, decreasing visible fine and coarse wrinkles, pore size, and pigmentation.

“At the heart of the patented technology is the unique ability of Defensin-molecules to trigger the most powerful regenerative response in the body through activating dormant, ‘preserved’ young skin master cells to generate new, young skin,” according to company news. [DefenAge® Skincare Announces Defensin Master Anti-Aging Patent for Signature Cell Stimulating Technology (prnewswire.com)]

Think twice before spending $ on these ingredients

You might be tempted to reach for a serum with sexy sounding ingredients, like bee venom, caviar, pearls, snake venom or gold, which have not been proven safe or effective in skincare topicals.

Other ingredients that might drive up a product’s cost but not its value are plant derived exosomes and stem cells.

Stem cells have not yet lived up to their buzz in skincare topicals. They don’t penetrate well under the skin and are usually plant-derived (rather than human stem cells), which are likely useless when applied to skin.

Stem cells, however, release exosomes, which also include growth factors, cytokines, RNA. So, while plant-derived exosomes are not likely to help rejuvenate human skin, there is promise (but not great evidence) that exosomes from sources like human platelets (from blood) could help rejuvenate skin. [Updates on Antiaging Ingredients - The Dermatology Digest (thedermdigest.com)]

Another thing to keep in mind is that even “good” ingredients might not be good for your skin. It pays for you to know which ingredients could irritate your skin before buying a serum. Making the investment only to find that you can’t use a serum because of skin breakouts is a bad investment.

Best-kept Secret: Formulation, Formulation, Formulation

The best ingredients won’t do any good if they’re not formulated to penetrate the skin and effectively rejuvenate it. Formulation’s importance is the best-kept secret in skincare.

A lot goes into creating a winning facial serum formulation.

The quality of the ingredients is key, which is why going with a skincare company that you’ve learned to trust is important.

Next, a team of scientists and sometimes dermatologists work together to carefully select ingredients that will work together to penetrate the skin and rejuvenate it. Poor formulations might include ingredients that actually work against one another.

The formulation has to be prepared to have a shelf, so that the product remains useful for a reasonable amount of time at certain temperatures—ideally without the use of harmful preservatives.

The Serum Marketplace

Search the internet for facial serums and you’ll bring up endless options. Some focus on one or a few hero ingredients for treating specific skin aging concerns, while others have a more global impact on skin rejuvenation.

Some are inexpensive, others pricey.

Many are by well-known name brands, while others are boutique brands that might not have built the name recognition of an Olay or Neutrogena. But that doesn’t necessarily reflect on their quality. In fact, many of today’s most studied and carefully developed facial rejuvenation serums are by smaller companies dedicated to developing niche products backed by science.

Here are tips for choosing the right product for your needs.

  • Seek Validation

There’s nothing like good science to give credibility to product claims. Without studies, claims are little more than advertising designed to lure in customers.

Skincare manufacturers usually include their clinical data on their websites. DefenAge, for example, is among the skincare lines that has been rigorously investigated in 15 studies. You can find out more about the research at DefenAge® | Award-Winning Skin Rejuvenation & Anti- Aging Skincare.

Things to look for in a skincare company’s research include human studies. Animal and lab studies are helpful, however, human studies showing that the skin actually undergoes positive changes without ill effects are the ideal hallmark of a successful serum.

  • Check out product reviews.

  • Look at who endorses the serum.

Ideally, dermatologists or estheticians—the experts in skin rejuvenation—have good things to say about the serum or its ingredients.

  • Ask a skincare expert.

If you’ve found a few serums you like, ask your dermatologist or esthetician if they have a preference and why. Some dermatologists have helped to study serums or have tested them on their own skin.

Leading dermatologists recommend using DefenAge 8-in-1 Bioserum for daily use, alone, as well as an adjunct to in-office skin rejuvenation treatments, from microneedling to ablative therapies. Many have been quoted in articles as saying the 8-in1 Bioserum delivers on its claims to address skin inflammation, protect against environmental damage, hydrate, moisturize, strengthen skin, improve skin texture, and repair DNA damage. DefenAge’s serum works whether skin is sensitive and regardless of a person’s age or skin color, they say.

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