Give skin its glow back with these hardworking face serums

Is your skin showing signs of everyday stress? Everything from lack of sleep to pressing work schedules can make it look duller, drier and more dehydrated. However, a well-formulated night serum can make a world of difference to the way that it looks and feels.

What is a night serum?  

A night serum is a face serum that has been specifically formulated to deliver a concentrated version of active ingredients for a particular skin condition. This could be pigmentation, wrinkles or dehydration (if those are things that bother you, of course).  Its texture can range from an oil to a gel, but generally, it tends to be water-based. 

Do face serums really work?  

In a nutshell, yes. A night serum can be a valuable helping hand in supporting skin’s natural circadian rhythms and assisting its switch from ‘protect mode’ during the day to ‘repair mode’ when we rest. The skin does some of its most pressing work during the night, such as cell regeneration and counteracting free radical damage caused by UV and pollution. When sleep is sparse, a night serum can help bolster these mechanisms and brighten dull skin.

Due to its myriad of benefits and more active-heavy formula, it can be a worthwhile addition to your night-time routine from your late 20s and early 30s onwards.

Should you use a serum every night?  

Consistency is key and so you are more likely to reap the rewards of a night serum if you regularly use it.  That doesn’t mean that you need to be tied to the same serum every night though. Many people tend to have a mixture of skin conditions that they want to address (such as pigmentation and dehydration) so there’s the option of using more than one during the week to build a routine that best suits your needs.  

This also allows time for your skin to adjust to more potent ingredients such as retinoids and other vitamin A derivatives such as retinol. If you’re new to a retinol serum, you may want to start using it once or twice a week, slowly building it up to more regular use over six weeks.

How do you apply a serum?  

This largely depends on the actives that you’re using, so have a good read of your night serum’s label carefully. As a general rule of thumb though, look to apply your skincare products from thinnest to thickest texture. With this in mind, most serums sit nicely after cleansing and an essence of toner (if you use them). 

If you’re using a retinoid serum though, it could be worth applying it after your eye cream. The skin around the eye area is up to four times thinner than the skin on the rest of your body and so could be more prone to irritation from vitamin A use. Applying an eye cream underneath them helps counteract this. To avoid irritation further, you may want to avoid the areas around the nose and mouth as well. 

As for how much to use, one pump per application should be plenty (or a pea-sized amount if you’re using a retinoid). Less is more due to the higher concentration of actives in a night serum. 

How do you choose a face serum? 


Ingredients that exfoliate, increase cell turnover, help with uneven skin tone and hydrate can all help skin to look brighter and more glowing.

Best night serums for your 30s: Try incorporating hydrating and restorative serums into your routine. 

Ingredients to consider include: hyaluronic acid, a humectant that the body naturally produces which can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water; brightening niacinamide to help protect the skin barrier (skin’s first line of defence against environmental aggressors); firming peptides and vitamin A (for example, retinoids such as retinol)  to support the increase of cell turnover and help build collagen.

Best night serums for your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond: Cell turnover slows as we age and skin can become less firm and dull-looking as a result. It could be worth considering a night serum formulated with hyaluronic acid (its production reduces as we age), retinol and/or peptides.

For more specific skin concerns...

The best night serums for pigmentation: Look for ingredients that assist with the increase of cell turnover and exfoliate. Examples include retinoids such as retinol and glycolic and lactic acids. Tranexamic acid, azelaic acid, kojic acid and liquorice root help fade dark spots while niacinamide supports an even skin tone.

The best night serums for sensitive skin: Incorporate hydration boosters such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Niacinamide and ceramides are great for protecting the skin barrier, which tends to be compromised in sensitive skin types. Try fragrance-free formulas to keep the risk of irritation to a minimum. 

The best night serums for dehydration: Tired skin is more prone to dehydration, so look for formulas with humectants such as hyaluronic acid,  glycerin and panthenol to encourage moisture into the skin. Niacinamide can help strengthen the skin barrier to prevent water loss. 

The best night serums for wrinkles: Retinoids such as retinol increase cell turnover to help slow down signs of ageing, while peptides encourage collagen production for firmer skin.

The best night serums for acne or breakouts: Lightweight serums with calming niacinamide, soothing azelaic acid or exfoliating salicylic acid may be helpful. Ingredients such as retinol are also worth considering, while hyaluronic acid and glycerin help soothe irritation and increase hydration levels. Looking for a cleanser? Check out our guide to the best face washes for acne-prone skin.

As vital as skincare is, though, it is only part of the puzzle. First up, it’s worth identifying why you’re getting spots in the first place. There can be a number of reasons why some people get acne including genetics, hormones, allergies and bacterial imbalances in the skin and a variety of different factors can trigger a breakout. For mild cases, the NHS recommends speaking to a pharmacist for advice – pop in store for a chat with your Boots Pharmacy Team.

If you’ve tried over the counter treatments without success, it could be worth talking to your GP or a dermatologist. You might also want to visit Boots’ Online Doctor Acne Treatment Service, a new private health service that is all about giving you convenient and confidential access to pro advice from the comfort of your own home.

First, you’ll be asked to fill in a quick online consultation (it takes just five minutes to complete)[1], which will then be assessed by a clinician. You’ll then receive advice on appropriate treatments within two to 24 hours. Where appropriate, they will also prescribe medication for you to collect from your local Boots pharmacy or have delivered straight to your door (Charges apply for any treatments provided). Plus, you will also receive some handy tips on how to help your skin – added bonus![1]

What is the best night serum? 

Whether you have a dry, oily or sensitive skin type, here are 10 night serums to try for a range of different concerns. Check out these other great options too.

Best night serum for oily skin

Try: Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum (£20)

• Size: 150ml

• Oil-free

• Alcohol-free

• Non-comedogenic

• Vegan

This toner-serum hybrid fights shine, rebalances and brightens in one fell swoop. Its non-comedogenic and oil-free formula helps ensure that it doesn’t feel cloying, while the absence of alcohol from its ingredients list prevents it from feeling drying.  

Best night serum for dry skin

Try: Soap & Glory Daily Dew Instant Hydration Serum (£14)

• Size: 30ml

• Vegan

Containing humectants and emollients to attract and lock in moisture, this serum provides a heavy hit of hydration for parched skin types. 

Best night serum for wrinkles

Try: No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate (£34.95)

• Size: 30ml

• Strength: 0.3% pure retinol

There’s a reason why this has become the number-one retinol product sold in Boots – its sophisticated formula works on a number of levels. As well as 0.3% pure retinol, it also includes a retinol optimiser for slow-release delivery through the night and bisabolol, derived from chamomile, to help calm and soothe away irritation. Matrixyl 3000+ (a potent peptide) encourages collagen production for firmer skin.

Best night serum for pigmentation

Try: The INKEY List Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment (£14.99)

• Size: 30ml

• Strength: 2% tranexamic acid

This hard-working serum contains a range of complementary ingredients to target hyperpigmentation in a variety of ways. The 2% tranexamic acid helps to fade dark spots, while the acai berry extract and vitamin C derivative help to brighten and even skin tone. 

Best night serum for breakouts and blemishes

Try: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (£5)

• Size: 30ml

• Oil-free

• Alcohol-free

• Vegan

Containing niacinamide and zinc to help regulate sebum production, clear congestion, even skin tone and prevent future breakouts, this oil-free serum boasts a high-performance formula at an affordable price tag.

Best night serum for dehydration

Try: Too Faced Hangover Good in Bed Ultra-Hydrating Face Serum (£23.20)

• Size: 29ml

Ingredients such as vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, coconut water and yoghurt probiotics in this soothing serum provide skin-plumping hydration in both the short and long term. The Hyaluronic Super Nutrient Hydration Serum (£27.20) is also a great thirst-quenching pick thanks to its nourishing formula of hyaluronic acid, kombucha, panthenol and organic safflower oil. Synthetic fragrance-free, it suits a variety of skin types.

Best exfoliating serum

Try: Drunk Elephant Protini Powerpeptide Resurf Serum (£55.20)

• Size: 30ml

• Essential oil-free

• Fragrance-free

• Vegan

For those looking for a leave-on treatment to help revive dull and tired skin, this souped-up serum is for you. Containing 10% lactic acid to slough off dead skin cells, an ultra-concentrated blend of 11 skin-firming peptides and hydration boosters and non-fragrant plant oils to seal moisture in, it’s the ultimate multi-tasker. 

Best night serum under £10

Try: Boots Ingredients Bakuchiol Serum (£7)

• Size: 30ml

• Vegan

This plant-based alternative to retinol seeks to provide the benefits of the star ingredient without the irritation and the price tag. Great for tackling the tell-tale signs of fatigue, it helps skin appear more radiant and revitalised. 

Best night serum for dry skin and wrinkles 

Try: L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum (£16.66)

• Size: 30ml

Containing a hefty 1.5% dose of macro and micro hyaluronic acid for multi-layer penetration, this super hydrating serum packs a punch when it comes to working at plumping out wrinkles and drawing in moisture. Non-greasy and fast-absorbing, it can be used day or night.

Best tanning night serum

Try: Isle of Paradise Hyglo Hyaluronic Self-Tan Face Serum (£21.95)

• Size: 30ml

• Vegan

How does a beach-kissed glow from the comfort of your own bed sound? This gradual tan in a serum provides just that thanks to the perfect amount of DHA, hyaluronic acid and Isle of Paradise’s signature complex of avocado, coconut and chia seed oils. 

Shop more of our night serums for glowing skin here

All prices correct on date of publication
Photography: Stocksy
[1]  Consultations consist of an online questionnaire filled out by the patient that is reviewed by a clinician to assess suitability for prescription-only medicine. Charges for Online Dr services apply