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Editor's Pick: Elizabeth Arden Prevage Serum, $155
Elizabeth Arden Prevage Anti-Aging Treatment, $155

How to Buy Skin Serum

By Lisa Cohen LeeSHOP.COM Beauty Editor

Think of a skin serum as your on-call dermatologist: Depending on the formula, one drop can smooth deep wrinkles, tighten saggy skin or give you an even, gorgeous tone. Because a serum is a lightweight fluid, the micro-sized ingredients can easily penetrate skin, which practically guarantees noticeable results. Follow this primer for finding your perfect skin potion, and you'll be on your way to pretty, glowing skin in no time.

The Basics

Step 1Target: A good start is to decide your skin needs. For instance, do you want to reduce fine lines? Help minimize redness? Erase dark spots? Fill in deep wrinkles? Once you zero in on your needs, then you can choose a formula that works specifically on those areas. If you have more than one skin woe, opt for a serum that can do double-duty.
Step 2Ingredients: Skin serums are concentrated concoctions composed of potent active ingredients. Most formulas have one star ingredient or a combination of them; some examples include: antioxidants, peptides, glycolic acid, retinol, hyaluronic acid and patented actives. They can help smooth wrinkles, tighten sags and brighten a dull complexion.
Step 3Results: Skin serums are known for getting results; that's why companies invest a lot of science and testing in them. They want to assure you that you will see a difference in your skin after repeated use. Look for ones that tout percentages and satisfaction stats, and make your decision based on how quickly and aggressively the serum works, and what kind of changes you can expect.

The Lingo

Collagen: Fibers that support skin structure. When collagen breaks down (due to environmental damage and aging), skin looks older and less firm, and wrinkles can appear.
Exfoliating: The action of turning over the dead skin cells to make way for fresher, newer cells.
Retinol: An over-the-counter derivative of Vitamin A, used to help increase collagen.
Peptides: Amino-acids that work beneath the skin's surface to produce more collagen. A type of peptide known as a neuropeptide, acts like botox, blocking the signals telling your muscles to move, thus softening expression wrinkles.
Glycolic Acid: An exfoliating ingredient derived from sugar cane that helps turn over dead skin cells for a brighter complexion.
Hyaluronic Acid: A super moisturizer that plumps skin and fills in deep creases.
Nano-particles: Microscopic molecules that can pass through the skin barrier and work below the skin's surface at the cellular level.

The Experts

Most mass market companies are in this price point; the treatments are backed by significant science and very good results. Try L'Oreal Skin Genesis Multi Layer Cell Strengthening Daily Treatment Serum Concentrate
Expect most dermatologist-endorsed serums to be in this price range, which means they've put a lot of research behind their products. A good one to try is Md. Formulations Continuous Renewal Serum
Serums that command a high price, like Guerlain Super-Aqua Serum are loaded with potent, rare plant botanicals and cutting edge active ingredients, for proven and very noticeable changes to your skin.

The Brands

Neutrogena. Recommended by dermatologists, this 70+ year old brand is synonymous with health and beauty.
Olay. These serums are endorsed by a number of dermatologists and beauty experts; they boast exclusive ingredients and visible changes.
Elizabeth Arden. This skincare line teamed up with a dermatologic research company, Allergan, to develop Prevage, a high performance treatment with the potent antioxidant idebenone.
DDF. Founded by Dr. Howard Sobel, a renowned New York City dermatologist, these serums are known for delivering significant results similar to a prescription product.

The Price

$: L'Oreal Skin Genesis Multi Layer Cell Strengthening Daily Treatment Serum Concentrate. Most mass market companies are in this price point; the treatments are backed by significant science and very good results.
$$: Md. Formulations Continuous Renewal Serum. Expect most dermatologist-endorsed serums to be in this price range, which means they've put a lot of research behind their products.
$$$: Guerlain Super-Aqua Serum. Serums that command a high price, like Guerlain Super-Aqua Serum are loaded with potent, rare plant botanicals and cutting edge active ingredients, for proven and very noticeable changes to your skin.

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