The Gloss Report: Skin serums tried and tested

Judy Johnson 12 August 2015
Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

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The GTG team put serums to the test

Looking for a new serum? Whether you want something for anti-ageing, a skin soother, brighter skin or more hydration, we've put a bunch of the best to the test to see which serums really work. Click through the gallery to read our honest reviews as we test the likes of Estee Lauder, Clinique and Darphin to rate their results and allow us to try before you buy...

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Avene Soothing Hydrating Serum

Price £17

Buy online

Feedback "As someone with incredibly sensitive skin , when it comes to skincare I really have to pick my brands wisely before I even begin to look at the product itself. Avene, a French brand, is my go-to guru for skincare that never, ever makes my skin react - the equivalent of beauty gold dust to me and I'm therefore a very loyal fan. This serum is no exception and is incredibly gentle; it has a delicate, silky texture which glides onto the face and sinks in instantly.

"With continued use my skin certainly felt and looked calmer, despite a recent reaction to another product. However, my skin type is also pretty dry (the beauty gods weren't kind), even more so in this weather - so I'd hoped that the serum would give a dramatic moisture boost too, which it didn't quite. All in all, brilliant for soothing sensitive skins and giving a little protection against the elements, but when it comes to hydration a rich moisturiser is still needed."

Reviewer JJ

Score 8/10

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SkinCeuticals Redness Neutralizer

Price £69

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Feedback “Being a pale, slightly reactive Celt I am prone to occasional bouts of redness and inflammation (this never ending Narnia-style winter definitely doesn’t help matters). Anything that reduces the ruddiness is welcome in my washbag, especially if it means that I don’t have to go at the foundation with a heavy hand to conceal colouration. After applying this redness neutraliser morning and night post-cleansing for just over a month, I am pleased to report that inflammation was abated and unwanted rosiness reduced. It even feels good to apply - it’s milky, cooling and sinks in fast. I have a feeling that this little potion would be a lifesaving tonic for severe rosacea and sunburnt skin - not that we’re likely to suffer the effects of this particular complaint in the UK anytime soon.”

Reviewer AH

Score 9/10

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Darphin Vitalskin Anti-fatigue Dynamising Serum

Price £50

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Feedback “With two children, a busy, busy job and a commute into London every day, I often feel that I could do with more than just a little bit of help in the morning, and I’m the prime candidate for any product that has the words ‘anti-fatigue’ written on it. The Darphin Vitalskin Anti-fatigue Dynamising Serum doesn’t disappoint. Quite watery in texture, my initial reaction was to wonder if anything so thin could make a difference. However on reading the information about the product, the point of the aqua-light texture is so that it permeates your skin with freshness. Containing skin boosting vitamin C, skin plumping hyaluronic acid, and energen to revive, it really does give skin a clean, plumper, fresher-looking appearance - immediately. What’s more, I used it over the course of a month and my skin definitely looked brighter, more radiant, less generally fatigued by the end of it.”

Reviewer ST

Score 8/10

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Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum

Price £70

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Feedback "This serum is a must-have in anyone’s beauty routine – it is now a firm staple in mine. It's packed with antioxidants and hydrators and protects your skin against environmental aggressors. The clear serum has a lovely smooth consistency and absorbs quickly, perfect for finishing off after a thorough cleanse before bed. I instantly felt that my skin was smoother, more hydrated, and radiant. It definitely gives skin a fresher appearance; I use it every night but it's also fine to use under a day cream. It's just a little too pricy to purchase every month!"

Reviewer SM

Score 8/10

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Decléor Paris Aromessence Néroli

Price £44

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Feedback “I thoroughly enjoyed using this serum, most of all for the pretty heavenly aroma. I lost count of the number of times someone walked into my room to see me with my eyes shut and my hands covering my face, as I inhaled the tranquil, calming fumes. No, not embarrassing at all.

“Fragrance aside, this essential oil did a great job of balancing the oil levels in my skin (my T-zone is no longer as shiny as it once was) and it absorbed very quickly upon application. I would recommend however using it in conjunction with the Neroli Essential Night Balm , £32.50 before going to sleep for an extra hit of hydration.”

Reviewer AM

Score 9/10

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Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector

Price £39.50

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Feedback “My olive skin is very prone to pigmentation and dark spots and generally can look a bit sallow. Using this serum for just two weeks made the world of difference and it’s now a staple to my skincare routine. The clever combination of vitamin C, yeast enzymes, salicylic acid and glucosamine visibly brightens the skin and within four weeks I've noticed that my skin is considerably more even in tone. I've tried countless products which claim to brighten and even out skin tone as well as help with anti-ageing but this is the first product to tick all the boxes. This award-winning super-serum definitely warrants the many accolades it receives.

Reviewer KB

Score 10/10

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Clarins Double Serum

Price £55

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Feedback "A couple of months ago, before the Clarins Double Serum landed on my desk I was an avid Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair fan. I would not betray it for any other serum. But there was so much hype around this one that I had to see if it was as brilliant as it sounded… and I have to say, I was more than impressed.

"The double pump system ensures the right amount of serum is dispensed (two pumps is plenty) before you rub it in your hands and onto the face and neck. My skin type is normal, though is prone to a few dry areas and the odd break out - on my first use, my skin was so dry it sank in immediately and wasn’t too heavy so it's perfect for younger skin. I liked that there was no greasy or oily residue afterwards and it didn't leave me looking shiny; in fact, it really evens out your complexion so it made a brilliant base for make-up. After continued use, my skin tone is looking more even and noticeably brighter, while my skin feels much softer and healthier.

"Sadly, I loved it so much that I definitely over-pumped in the first week of using it so I finished my bottle a lot sooner than I should have, but with its lovely fresh scent which isn't too overpowering and classic Clarins packaging, you really can't go wrong. It's quite possibly my favourite ever skincare product."

Reviewer KM

Score 10/10

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Vichy Aqualia Thermal Dynamic Hydration Serum

Price: £22.50

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Feedback: "Lightweight, nourishing and highly hydrating, this face serum provided supreme moisturisation with zero sticky residue. Fast -absorbing, its silky texture sunk into my skin with ease leaving it feeling softer and suppler as a result.

"Any tightness caused by dehydration was soothed after continued use, making it a great pick particularly if you’re transitioning from season to season from a long-term perspective or at the beginning or end of a long flight from a short-term one.

"More for hydration as opposed to specific anti-ageing concerns, it provided an effective alternative to my pot of super rich moisturiser and easily slotted into my usual makeup and skincare regimes for times when my complexion was in need of a much-needed moisture boost. It also has a handy pump too, to keep application as simple and mess-free as possible!"

Reviewer: AM

Score: 9/10

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Aurelia Revitalise and Glow Serum

Price: £47

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Feedback: "Aurelia are the golden standard in skincare for me; every launch of theirs has been incredible. Made from an array of natural ingredients, their Revitalise and Glow Serum is my top pick from the range. Naturally fragranced with jasmine, plumeria, tuberose and mandarin, it smells wonderfully luxurious, and the lightweight formula instantly melts into the skin, soothing and hydrating as it is absorbed. I always use this serum for a pick-me-up for dull skin that needs a bit of a boost and glow! I even think it reduces the size of my pores - it's the smoothing, brightening and revitalising magic powers it possesses. A little on the pricy end but 100% worth every penny - I just love it."

Reviewer: SM

Score: 10/10

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Elizabeth Arden The Superstart Skin Renewal Booster

Price: £45

Buy online: Available from 24th August from

Feedback: "I can only describe the Superstart Skin Renewal Booster by Elizabeth Arden as like a big breath of fresh air or a long drink for skin. To touch, it's like a slightly watery, fresh scented gel that soaks into skin on contact leaving skin soft with no greasy residue (so moisturiser can be used immediately over the top). Its aim is to balance the microflora of the skin using probiotics, support the outer skin barrier and boost your skin's ability to retain moisture levels. It is also meant to help boost the efficacy of other skincare products. I honestly think it really works; in fact I'm sort of addicted. I have been applying it morning and night for over two weeks now and I feel my face literally drinks it up, my skin cells look much perkier for it and i'm having fewer breakouts. It seems I'm not the only one who thinks so - in tests, 92% of  women said their skin looked and felt smoother whilst 92% said it helped repair the look and feel of their damaged or irritated skin, and 86% said their skin looked more comforted. My only complaint is that I nearly need another bottle already. I might start bathing in the stuff."

Reviewer: ST

Score: 10/10

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Elemis Advanced Brightening Even Tone Serum

Price: £59

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Feedback: "Whilst I usually adore Elemis products, the idea of putting something 'brightening' on my face was somewhat unpleasant; all I could think of was Elizabethan ladies powdering their faces with white lead until their faces shrivelled up. The warnings on the label did nothing to ease my trepidation. Once applied, you should use SPF 30 and stay out of the sun. This made for a very awkward weekend brunch when uncharacteristically balmy English weather caused us to plump for an outdoor table. Dining al fresco was somewhat marred by my paranoia that my face was going to react to the weak sunshine.

"In actual fact, the product feels very gentle on the skin, although there is an acidic tinge to the scent. The serum contains vitamin C, and the effects were like a Berocca for the skin. I don't suffer from dark spots or uneven skin tone, but I did find it made my complexion much brighter and made a dent in the significant hyperpigmentation left by persistent breakouts on my skin. This product clearly works, but I'm not sure I'd be happy putting it on my face for the recommended 28 days. At £60 a pop, I'd spend my money on a facial instead."

Reviewer: IB

Score: 6/10