The beauty of facial serums? These hard working blends have the ability to tackle pretty much any skin issue that comes up. Dryness, irritation, redness, wrinkles, sagginess, dullness, breakouts, or a combination of skincare needs… yes, there’s a serum for that. The only question remains: how to zero in on the best natural facial serum for your skin.
How do you go about finding a hair stylist or favorite boutique? You ask around. Same goes with skincare. Those chat boxes on your favorite green beauty shopping site and customer reviews on product pages help out big time.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure the serum you choose is made with high quality ingredients from brands you can trust. With lack of cosmetic regulation and misuse of terms like “natural,” “nontoxic,” and even “organic,” this can get confusing, not to mention time-consuming. That’s why we’ve done the asking around and reviewing for you.
Our natural facial serums guide is a compilation of popular product recommendations from industry experts. We also share juicy ingredient knowledge and application info to help you save time and money while locating the perfect serums for your skin.
Good to Know
Not Who They Seem: You may be surprised to learn that most cosmetic brands are under umbrella conglomerates. For instance, Aveda is made by Estee Lauder, as are Le Labo and Rodin. Around 200 conventional cosmetic brands are owned by seven big companies. So, if you think Kiehl’s is a smallish apothecary, as its vibe suggests, think again. All creating and advertising is done by L’Oreal.
Cosmetic products are not FDA approved: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of regulating the cosmetics industry, as well as food and drugs. But there is no law requiring cosmetic products and ingredients (with the exception of color additives) to have FDA approval before hitting store shelves. This is why it is ultra important to read product ingredient listings prior to purchase.
What it means to be organic and natural: The FDA has no legal definitions for the terms “organic” and “natural” when applied to cosmetics. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates organic agriculture, and if a cosmetic product contains agricultural ingredients, it can seek certification by the National Organic Program (NOP). But the bottom line is, the terms “organic” and “natural” do not equal a synthetic-free product.
Watch out for unsubstantiated claims: With more and more new natural brands entering the cosmetics market, greenwashing is definitely still in practice. Crafty marketing is no replacement for authentic natural products. Again, read product ingredient listings and follow brands you can trust.
Know Your Ingredients
It’s common practice for conventional brands to list so called key ingredients. You know, the healthy-sounding ones you want to use on your skin. These faux naturals conveniently leave out the chemicals that may cause serious health risks. Take a look at what does and doesn’t go into healthy natural facial serums.
Natural oils and butters: Plant and seed oils and butters make skin feel smooth, soft, and moisturized, and are much safer than petro-ingredients. Natural oils are also more closely matched to the skin’s own oils.
Natural botanical extracts: Concentrated components are extracted from plants, teas, berries, fruits, and flowers to offer distinct benefits to the complexion. For instance, willow bark improves the appearance of acne and is much safer and milder than harsh chemical ingredients.
Natural skin supporters: Natural ingredients high in vitamins and antioxidants offer skin-supportive benefits for a youthful, glowing appearance. Did you know that Vitamin C is a natural skin brightener, and green tea helps to fight signs of premature aging?
Natural skin calmers: When treating sensitive or troubled skin, try natural skin calmers, like chamomile and aloe. They not only help to settle feelings of irritation and inflammation, but are much gentler on skin than synthetics.
Natural essential oils: These beauties are highly concentrated and come with a wide array of benefits, from adding natural fragrance to fighting signs of acne and aging to acting as natural preservatives.
Petro-ingredients: Petrolatum, mineral oil, paraffin. If these show up on your serum ingredient list, you are using petro-ingredients. Not only are these ingredients often contaminated with carcinogenic impurities, they can lead to skin irritation and acne.
Silicones: These are the ingredients that make your skin feel super soft and silky. They also block pores and make the skin dependent on silicones, causing acne, dryness, and irritation.
Synthetic Preservatives: Chemical preservatives are found in many conventional cosmetic products and are linked to everything from hormonal disruption to cancer. Authentic natural beauty brands use ingredients like vitamin E, certain essential oils, grapefruit seed extract, and antioxidants to preserve their products.
Artificial Fragrance: These nasty ingredient cocktails come with some serious health risks. Synthetic fragrance can cause headache, dizziness, hormonal disruption, irritation, and asthma-like symptoms. It can even have links to cancer.
Artificial Colorants: Petroleum-derived colorants contain carcinogenic properties, and often cause skin irritation, acne, and allergic reaction. Not worth it.
To learn more about the hazards of harmful cosmetic ingredients and safer alternatives, read our guide on identifying toxins in your cosmetics.
In order to bring you the best word-of-mouth, expert-backed guide on natural facial serums, we did some asking around. And who better to poll than industry experts? We went to natural beauty insiders for their picks on natural facial serums, why they love them, and which skin types they perform best on.
We’ve also researched other facial serum guides. While other guides may tell you what’s best for each skin type, it’s important to remember that natural ingredients are safer and better suited to skin than synthetics. The best way to ensure you are purchasing the highest quality serums is by choosing authentic natural brands. All products we recommend in this guide are made with natural and organic ingredients by brands committed to safety in cosmetics, and are free from ingredients we deem harmful.
11 Expert and OA Team Favorite Natural Facial Serum Recommendations
Prepare to feast your eyes (and skin!) on the best natural facial serums. We offer a selection of price ranges for each skin type. See what the experts we spoke with have to say about their favorites.
Hydrate & Nourish
This oil provides hydration without weighing down your skin,” says Katey Denno, celeb green beauty makeup artist. “We’re all born with squalene and it decreases over time, so when you put it on your skin, your body recognizes it and it absorbs it quickly and easily. You’re not left with that heavy or greasy feeling that you can get from other oils.” Paige Padgett, clean beauty expert and author of “The Green Beauty Rules,” is also a fan. “I love the Biossance 100% Squalene Oil,” she said. “It’s made with renewable sugarcane which is important to me. Squalene is not always sustainable. Plus, it’s lightweight and absorbs quickly, so it doesn’t feel heavy or oily on the skin.” $32
This oil serum is the perfect skincare staple for everyone’s beauty kit. Made with jojoba, rosehip, and buriti oils, it makes skin feel ultra nourished and hydrated with no greasy after feel. $78
Brightening & Evening
Paige recommends this serum, which excellent for repairing skin as it contains a high amount of vitamin A. “Vitamin A repairs skin by encouraging cellular turnover,” says Paige. “It’s great for fine lines, sun damage, and scars. I like it because you get all the benefits of the vitamin A, yet it’s gentler than a retinal.” Suzi Swope, clean beauty expert and natural blogger at Gurl Gone Green, loves this one too. “Rosehip seed oil is great for so many things, from hydrating skin to calming inflammation. It’s known for its healing properties and rich omega 3, 6, 7, and 9, plus antioxidant carotenoids. And it’s a budget friendly oil! It truly hydrates the driest skin and doesn’t feel irritating at all. Perfect for the most sensitive skin types,” she says. $44
For nighttime, try this skin perker-upper. 100% Pure Cosmetic Chemist and Founder Susie Wang says this baby contains a high concentration of Vitamin C to give skin a healthy, glowing appearance. “Serums should be the first thing that goes on the skin, or immediately after using a facial toner or emulsion, as you want the concentrated serum to be what your skin absorbs most,” says Wang. $59
Sensitive, Oily & Troubled Skin
Upset skin needs balance, and Paige loves Osmia Balance Facial Serum for oily and acne-prone skin. “I like to use it under makeup for clients with oily skin to control the sebum throughout the day without drying the skin,” she says. $50
This beautiful, blue-hued serum does a whole lot more than look pretty on your bathroom shelf. Blue tansy decreases signs of inflammation and breakouts while giving a clear, calm look to the complexion. Jasmine oil makes skin feel soft and supple. $72
“Clear from True Botanicals has become one of my go-to hydrators for my acne-prone, yet dry skin,” says Denno. “I didn’t love the scent at first, but now I crave it and I love what it’s done for my skin.” Swope also keeps this one in her beauty kit. “Where do I start with this oil? Gahh…I really love it,” she said. “It’s True Botanical’s number one product and for good reason. It seeps right into your skin, leaves behind no greasy residue, and makes your skin feel hydrated throughout the day and night. Besides being highly hydrating, it also helps smooth wrinkles, shrinks the appearance of large pores, and fights free radical damage. I love the scent as well. Not heavy at all, but with notes of frankincense, neroli, rose, and jasmine.” Wondering if it’s right for your acne-prone skin? “Often people say they can’t use oils because it makes them breakout,” Swope said, “but once they use True Botanicals Pure Radiance Oil they understand the power of oils!” $110
“I love this serum for its cool revitalizing effect,” said Amy Galper, Clean Beauty Expert and Author of “Plant Powered Beauty” and “Ultimate Guide of Aromatherapy.” “I have very sensitive skin on my face, so I find this is really helpful when my skin needs extra calming down from stress, sun, or other environmental stressors. The ingredients are simple, clean, and layered with botanicals and vitamins that I find calm, protect, and fortify my skin.” $90
Aging & Wrinkles
Pursoma Founder Shannon Vaughn knows skin and loves StemFactor – Growth Factor Serum by Osmosis Beauty. This beauty may fit snuggly into the aging and mature skin category, but it’s truly an all-round hit. Designed to diminish the appearance of aging with the innovative use of growth factors and skin proteins, this lightweight serum creates a plumped, firmed, and smoothed look. It also improves the look of free radical damage and brightens the complexion and, as Shannon notes, it’s “oncology-friendly and doesn’t contain nasties.” $130
The Crowd Pleasers
Galper favors oil serums because they strengthen the skin barrier, and make skin look more supple and glowy. Cosmic Glow is a favorite and, as an added bonus, smells amazing. “The blend of oils, like cranberry, baobab, and camellia (green tea seed), have a beautiful glowy feel and are packed with essential fatty acids that support and enhance the resiliency of the skin,” she says. “The aroma and therapeutic benefits of the essential oil blend also boosts the feel and appearance of my skin, and I find the aroma very calming and stress relieving.” $108
Maya Chia’s newest product is a nighttime retinol serum made for all skin types. But since it does everything from smoothing to brightening to moisturizing, it’s an all-round beauty must-have. “This serum contains the plant retinol bakuchiol and moth bean extract, another plant derived retinol,” says Swope. “It also contains an advanced encapsulated Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A without BHT. BHT has been shown to cause liver damage in rats even in small amounts. Plus, the supply chain with BHT is very unstable.” Swope goes on to talk about the other beauty benefits of The Straight A. “Besides the powerful retinols, it also contains Vitamin C and Vitamin E,” she said. “These brighten the skin and help fade hyperpigmentation. You’re also going to get some serious hydration from this serum with buriti and chia seed oils. I could tell a difference in my skin after my first use. My skin was brighter, smoother, and overall glowing. With continued use I noticed hyperpigmentation fade. This serum doesn’t mess around.” $125
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