Cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen: These are the three pillars of an effective skincare routine. Of course, those are just the bare essentials—but if you ask us, no morning routine is complete without an effective daytime serum. In addition to helping address skin concerns like dullness, the right serum can help defend against damaging environmental stressors to help keep your skin looking and feeling its best. So if you’re not using a day serum already, it’s time to start.
Here, we’ll introduce you to seven face serums ideal for daytime wear. These lightweight formulas provide lasting benefits without leaving your skin feeling weighed down and can be paired with your favorite day cream (and, of course, SPF) to bolster your basic morning skincare routine. Get ready to find your match in our guide to Kiehl’s best daytime face serums, ahead.
For All Skin Types:
Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum
The skin’s natural moisture barrier is your body’s first line of defense against the outside world. Its functioning is critical to achieving healthy-looking skin, which is why a protective facial serum, like Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum, is beneficial for all skin types. This lightweight formula with hyaluronic acid is clinically-demonstrated to double skin’s strength, allowing it to better resist the damaging effects of environmental stressors like harsh weather and air pollution.* In addition to its resilience-boosting benefits, this powerful formula helps smooth fine lines and encourages radiance for a smooth, glowing appearance. Apply a dime-sized amount to your face and neck, then allow the potent formula to absorb before continuing your morning skincare routine.
*Based on a four-week clinical study on 58 subjects tested in urban and polluted environments. Skin strength index = composite, average score of clinically graded parameters after using the product for four weeks vs. one week of use.
For Uneven Skin:
Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum
If your skin looks uneven when you wake up in the morning, try reaching for a vitamin C serum. We recommend Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum, which contains a potent blend of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. Suitable for all skin types, this Kiehl’s favorite instantly boosts radiance while helping to improve the appearance of fine lines and enlarged pores over time. With consistent use, skin appears firmer, smoother, and more even—just remember to pair it with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your glow from the sun’s damaging rays.
For Dehydrated Skin:
Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum
Just as you can get dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water, your skin can become dehydrated if it lacks moisture. Dehydrated skin often appears dull or rough and may be more prone to sensitivity since water is essential for your skin’s natural moisture barrier to do its job effectively. If you feel your skin is susceptible to dehydration, we recommend reaching for a hydrating serum, such as Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum.
The gentle serum with epidermal hydration filler is uniquely formulated to help maintain your skin’s hydration and elasticity. The fast-absorbing face serum also helps improve the appearance of dullness and dry fine lines, giving way to a smoother, plumper appearance. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used morning and night for long-lasting hydration.
For Dark Spots and Discolorations:
Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector
Dark spots and discolorations can contribute to skin that looks blotchy and uneven. And while avoiding discolorations can be tricky, you can address dark spots at home with a brightening serum like Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector. The ultra-effective face serum, which boasts a potent blend of activated vitamin C, peony root extract, and buffered salicylic acid, helps visibly improve the appearance of skin discolorations to reveal a more even, radiant appearance. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used daily on the face, neck, chest, and hands.
Kiehl’s Tip: For more details on managing skin discolorations, check out our article Understanding Different Types Of Skin Discolorations.
For Mature Skin:
Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum With Ceramides and Peptide
When it comes to anti-aging skincare ingredients, retinol is often considered the holy grail. To reap the benefits of retinol, we recommend reaching for Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum With Ceramides and Peptide. Uniquely formulated to minimize sensitivity, this potent serum delivers a micro-dose of pure retinol and helps encourage gentle skin cell turnover. In a clinical study, it was demonstrated to visibly reduce wrinkles in 100% of participants.* It also helps firm the skin and encourages a smoother, more youthful appearance without causing discomfort.**
One note: Retinol can increase your sensitivity to UVA and UVB rays, which is why many retinol products are recommended for nighttime use only. Ours is gentle enough for day and night, but you must pair it with a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the daytime to help keep your skin protected from the sun’s damaging rays.
*Results based on expert grading in a clinical test for subjects showing improvement after 12 weeks of use. **Based on a consumer test after 12 weeks of use.
For Dull Skin:
Daily Reviving Concentrate
While not strictly a serum, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include Daily Reviving Concentrate on this list. This antioxidant-rich daytime facial oil helps revitalize skin to improve the appearance of dullness and fatigue. It also helps protect against damaging free radicals and other environmental aggressors to keep your skin looking fresh and radiant all day long. While you may be hesitant to use oils if you’re prone to breakouts, this lightweight formula is non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog your pores) and suitable for all skin types—even oily and blemish-prone skin.
Unlike water-based serums, which you can apply a bit more liberally, we recommend using this oil sparingly. Dispense a couple of drops into your hands, then press your palms onto your face and let the oil absorb. Afterward, you can apply your usual moisturizer and sunscreen and be on your way.
For Men’s Skin:
Age Defender Power Serum
While all of the above facial serums are suitable for both men and women, some guys may prefer using skincare products designed specifically for their skin’s unique needs. Enter: Age Defender Power Serum. This non-greasy men’s serum with adenosine and cypress extract absorbs quickly and helps prevent signs of visible skin aging. With consistent use, it helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and firms men’s skin to reveal a more youthful appearance. Apply a thin layer to clean, dry skin, then top it off with one of our men’s moisturizers to complete your morning skincare routine.
Next: While the above serums can be used at night as well, we do recommend altering your routine in different ways in the evening. Learn more in our article Why You Need a Nighttime Skincare Routine.