Just like your face, your body deserves a multi-step skincare routine; enter body serums, designed to energise and revive dull and dry skin
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This is the year that the bodycare category has blown up, as many of us look to extend the same care we devote to our faces to the rest of our bodies. It turns out our bodies can really benefit from a multi-step routine in the same way, and an explosion of new highly ‘grammable bodycare brands are making it easier than ever to achieve silky-soft limbs. The latest beauty editor buzz? Body serums.
Just like their facial counterparts, body serums contain active ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, exfoliating acids, retinol and ceramides, to target specific concerns, such as dry or dull skin. It's the inclusion of these actives that can make them slightly more expensive than your usual body lotions or creams buys. Body serums also typically have a lighter consistency that sinks in quickly, with a little bit going a long way – there's no need to drench your skin with them.
"Serums are able to deliver a higher concentration of active ingredients than body lotions, creams and ointments due to the way they have been formulated and packed, meaning the active ingredients remain effective by the time they reach our skin," says Dr Ophelia Veraitch, consultant dermatologist at London's Cranley Clinic, who speacilises in body contouring and facial aesthetics.
Kim Kardashian has long been an advocate of using serums on her body. “I always put skincare all over, I think that’s really a necessity; I put it on my legs, my arms,” she told Elle. “You really have to do your neck and your chest. I might not like the scent of something, but if I feel like it’s a powerful product I’ll use it all over my body.” Granted, we don't all have Kardashian bank accounts and can't afford to slather our pricey face serums all over our bodies too. Luckily, body serums are here to deliver more powerful skincare ingredients than a moisturiser.
How do you use a body serum?
Just like face serum, apply a body serum to dry skin after washing. Some people like to follow with a layer of moisturiser once the serum has sunk in (normally fairly quickly), but some serums are so hydrating that they do the job alone. Look for serums that address your concerns, advises Dr Ophelia, whether that's ageing skin, pigmentation or dullness – whatever an ingredient does for your face it will do the same for your body. "Choosing a body serum that contains antioxidants such as vitamin C will help prevent free radical damage. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as lactic acid and salicylic acid, are ideal for brightening and smoothing skin, while hyaluronic acid plumps and moisturises."
The best body serums
Ultra-hydrating body serum: Nécessaire The Body Serum, £45 for 150ml
LA-born body care brand Nécessaire has earned legions of fans since landing in the UK earlier this year and its chic minimal branding is all over Instagram. The star ingredient in The Body Serum is hyaluronic acid, in not one but five different weights, while niacinamide and ceramides feed the skin barrier and help it to hold on to moisture. The dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formula has also earned the stamp of approval of America’s National Eczema Association and the brand has some great sustainability credentials, too. All bottles and caps are made from plant-based materials. We like to layer a moisturiser over the top after applying at night as it can feel a little sticky without.
Tata Harper Resurfacing Body Serum, £139 for 125ml
You’d be hard pushed to find a more luxurious body serum than this. Packed with a powerful blend of plant-based actives (25 to be exact), this deeply hydrating yet weightless milky formula sinks into the skin and gets to work brightening and smoothing, harnessing the power of a super fruit AHA complex to slough off dead skin cells, a potent vitamin c from kakadu plum, natural vitamin A from cacao oil and orange peptides to help hold onto moisture. In other words, it's an all-over goddess-worthy glow in a bottle.
Uplifting body serum: Soap & Glory The Real Zing Body Serum, £9.95 for 200ml
If zingy citrusy scents are your thing, then you can't go wrong with Soap & Glory’s Real Zing Body Serum, with uplifting notes of lemon, lime and neroli. The purse-friendly, skin-smoothing formula is infused with an AHA fruit complex, with glycolic, citric, lactic, and mandelic to soften and buff away dead skin cells, while the fast-absorbing, velvety consistency melts into the skin nicely.
Brightening body serum: Ren AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum, £37 for 200ml
Banish dull skin with this brightening body serum, which harnesses the power of lactic acid, a gentler AHA, to chemically slough off dead skin cells and support the skin’s natural cell turnover, while rich shea butter deeply nourishes. It’s even earned praise over on TikTok for its ability to banish so-called “strawberry” bumpy skin. Pins are left silky smooth to the touch.
Blemish-fighting body serum: Typology Purifying Body Serum, £26 for 30ml
We love everything about this Parisian skincare brand, from its cleansing oils to its skin tints, it can do no wrong in our eyes. This is a targeted body serum infused with anti-bacterial and anti-microbial tea tree and zinc to treat blemish-prone areas on the back, chest and shoulders. It works by regulating sebum production, so is ideal if you’re prone to bacne flare-ups.
Sculpting body serum: The Organic Pharmacy Resculpting Body Serum, £69 for 100ml
The Organic Pharmacy’s Resculpting Body Serum works to boost skin elasticity, firm and tone, using microscopic cosmetic drones which help the serum to penetrate deeper, combined with powerful plant extracts like kigelia, green coffee, garcinia and encapsulated sea grape peptides. The result? You’ll feel like your skin's had a mini workout.
Plumping body serum: Susanne Kauffman Hyaluron Body Gel, £50 for 100ml
What Susanne Kauffman doesn’t know about self-care probably isn’t worth knowing, her skincare and bodycare products reliably deliver on their promise and come in pretty bottles that will look great on any shelfie. Focusing on giving your skin a mega shot of hydration, the Hyaluron Body Gel contains three different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to flood it with goodness on multiple levels. The aloe vera and menthol leaves my skin feeling cool and refreshed - I’ll be packing this on holiday to apply after a day in the sun.
Budget body serum: Me+ Hyaluronic Acid Body Gel Cream, £7.99 for 250ml
Superdrug’s own brand Hyaluronic Acid Body Gel is a great everyday skin hydrator to slather on all over - the light gel-like consistency sinks into the skin super quickly. If my skin is in need of extra hydration, I’ll layer this under a richer moisturiser, but it’s a steal at £7.99. This does have a scent, which personally I like, but this isn’t one for strictly fragrance-free beauty buffs.
Firming body serum: Wildsmith Skin Toning Body Serum, £65 for 150ml
Like the sound of a moisturiser which firms and tones the appearance of your skin while hydrating it? British skincare brand Wildsmith is inspired by the woods and idyllic countryside that surrounds its home of Heckfield Place, and The Body Serum is packed with active plant oils from, er, mustard sprout, to aid the breakdown of lipids, and capsaicin from chillis to help drain tissue that work alongside ceramides and vitamin E. We found the energising citrus scent both a great morning pick-me-up and indulgent bedtime ritual after a long day on your feet.
Body serum for radiance: Dr Sam Flawless Body Therapy, £29 for 200ml
As you’d expect from dermatologist Sam Bunting, this is brimming with do-good ingredients including bakuchiol, niacinamide and lactic acid, which work together to smooth and exfoliate dead skin and soothe the appearance of uneven texture. It’s silky and lightweight and absorbs quickly without leaving behind a greasy feel.
Body serum for bumpy limbs: Sol De Janeiro Bom Dia Bright Cream, £18 for 75ml
With a rich cream texture, this tub of tropically-scented joy doesn't quite fit into this edit but it has all the powers and skincare ingredients of a serum, so in it goes. It's made from fruit AHAs to soften your skin and smooth out rough patches, making light work of chicken skin on the backs of arms and legs. It has vitamin C in the mix too to visibly brighten and diminish the appearance of dark spots. "It made my skin much smoother and softer thanks to antioxidant vitamin C, exfoliating fruit AHAs and moisturising cupacu butter," confirms GTG's editorial director Victoria Woodhall.
Luxury body serum: U Beauty The Super Body Hydrator 200ml, £98.56
Following in the footsteps of its stellar face serum, U Beauty dropped a body serum just in time for summer which is supercharged with its signature “siren” capsules, featuring dehydrated long-chain hyaluronic acid to drench the skin and penetrate deep into the thicker layers to lock in hydration. It’s super lightweight and a little goes a long which is a relief given the pricepoint. A cocktail of humectants, barrier-boosting emollients, and peptides drench the skin on the arms, legs, and beyond.
Budget retinol body serum: The Solution Retinol Smoothing Body Lotion, £8.50 for 200ml
Lotion by name, but serum by nature, this purse-friendly buy has retinol and shea butter in and is loved by our social media and design manager Jemma. "I love how quickly it absorbs into the skin without feeling sticky or too heavy," she says. "It’s so hydrating and nourishing helps brighten skin too."
Body serum for anti-ageing: Bioeffect Body Intense Serum, £80 for 75ml
This fragrance-free, easily absorbed body serum targets dryness and uneven texture to leave skin looking and feeling restored and youthful. It uses the brand's signature cell-stimulating ingredient Epidermal Growth Factor which promises to firm, hydrate and tone the body. Bioeffect keeps the ingredients in their formulations as few and natural as possible. "The light texture helps the product to spread very well and you need much less of the body serum than a lotion," explains Dr. Björn, co-founder and scientist at Bioeffect.
Body serum for reducing stretch marks: Aurelia Firm and Replenish Body Serum, £28.80
Mandarin and bergamot mingle together for an uplifting fragrance treat in this easily-absorbed serum - there’s no stickiness whatsoever after applying. Aurelia’s signature African botanical ingredients including baobab deliver omegas, essential fatty acids and vitamin E to the skin to nourish, protect and firm it, meaning a reduction in the appearance of stretch marks making skin appear more even.
MORE GLOSS: Do firming and toning body creams actually work?
Body serum for brightening: Superdose Vitamin C Bio-Vitamin Brightening Body Lotion, members £11.16, typical price £50
If orange starburst is your favourite flavour, you’ll love this citrus-scented serum-texture body lotion. It’s jam-packed with skincare ingredients that brighten such as tranexamic acid , hyaluronic acid and firming brown algae, as well as vitamin C. Use daily for fast brightening, firming and rejuvenating action, or two or three times a week for anti-ageing powers. It’s vegan and cruelty-free, as you’d expect from BP.
Body serum for tanning: Isle of Paradise Hyglo Body Self-Tan Serum, £24.95 for 95ml
This vegan formula is powered by hyaluronic acid for intense hydration, that leaves skin looking brighter, plumper and dewier with each use whilst the perfect amount of gradual tan leaves skin with a glowy finish – perfect if you want to keep your summer glow going in the winter months without it being too obvious. You wouldn't follow this one with a moisturiser (don't want to upset the tan as it's forming).
Body serum for firming: Goldfaden MD Firm Believer Body Contouring Serum, £68 for 150ml
This cools and tightens the skin for a firmer, lifted appearance thanks to gotu kola, an ingredient known to calm, nourish and rejuvenate the skin while encouraging collagen production, alongside firming seaweed and anti-inflammatory coffee which claims to minimise the appearance of cellulite. The price tag is hefty, but it's a doctor backed brand with natural ingredients, so you can see why it's a little steeper.
Body serum for softer skin: Clarins Renew-Plus Body Serum, £42 for 200ml
This serum has a creamier, lotion-like texture but with the powers of serum formulas to banish dead skin cells and soften the skin below for supple bright skin. Water lily extract is responsible for eliminating the dry, flakey cells that can make our skin look dull
Body serum to exfoliate and brighten: Avant Glycolic Acid Vivifying and Firming Body Treatment , £72 for 100ml
Another slightly creamier serum that has a place in this edit for the ingredients you'd rarely see in a traditional body lotion. Glycolic acid is a liquid exfoliator that sloughs off dead skin cells and boosts the firmness of the skin while smoothing fine lines, treating blackheads and oiliness, while mica reflects light for a radiant appearance. Glycerin hydrates and softens to ease dry skin.
Body serum for energising the skin: De Mamiel Botaniques Revitalising Body Serum, £70 for 100ml
Put a spring in your morning routine with this revitalising serum with sea buckthorn, prickly pear and baobab in the ingredients. It has a zingy scent of rose, neroli and jasmine that energises the mind and dispels lethargy, plus it has an ever-so-subtle shimmer for a touch of magic every day that helps to justify the high price. It's housed in violet glass to preserve the vitality of the all natural ingredients and the brand recommends applying this to slightly damp skin for a luxurious feeling on the body.
Nighttime body serum: Mio Sleeping Smoothie Overnight Body Serum, £34 for 200ml
Vegan, cruelty-free and with 100 per cent natural fragrance, this spray formula encourages surface cell renewal thanks to a blend of AHAs including mandelic and lactic acid, while shea butter locks in moisture for overnight softening with an uplifting scent of citrus and orange blossom. If you're desperate to hit the hay you'll be pleased to know there's no need to follow this with a moisturiser after using, just jump into bed. This is normally £34 and is currently on offer for £29 so is the perfect time to buy.
Anti-anxiety body serum: Vanderohe No.1 Enhancing Body Serum, £198 for 100ml
Vanderohe's facial serum is one of our all-time favourite skincare buys so we had high hopes for the body serum too, and it certainly didn't disappoint. It's fast-absorbing and the scent relieves feelings of anxiety and stress. It helps with sleep issues too as vetiver (included in the formulas) has been used to treat insomnia. This one is another body serum which is so nourishing you don't have to moisturise afterwards. Using it is a truly luxe experience. More self-care than necessity.
The essential oil-infused body serum: ESPA Optimal Body Tri-Serum, £45 for 100ml
Another formula that's jam-packed with plant actives, this hydrating serum contains kelp to soften, an omega complex to strengthen the skin barrier and anti-inflammatory turmeric. Applying this is a self-care ritual in itself thanks to the uplifting scent of essential and botanical oils.