The answer might surprise you, as it's likely a step you're skipping.

By Elizabeth Swanson
November 26, 2019

Looking for a way to work an anti-aging product into your skincare routine, but aren't sure which product type to choose? "A serum is the cornerstone of a good skincare regimen," says Dr. Colleen Crandell, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group. They're fast absorbing and contain higher concentrations of anti-aging ingredients than creams, lotions, or oils, she explains. "They are the workhorse for keeping skin youthful, and they surpass all other skincare products in delivering potent, active anti-aging ingredients into the skin."

Getty / Jonathan Storey

Cleansers stay on your face for less than 10 seconds which isn't enough time to make an impact, Dr. Crandell says. "Inexpensive, over-the-counter facial cleansers do a great job at cleansing the skin," she says. As for creams and lotions? Anti-aging moisturizers help target a variety of skin issues but aren't as effective as serums, and anti-aging oils are only meant to add moisture. They don't repair damage the way serums do, Dr. Crandell says. "Oil molecules are larger than the molecules in serums and therefore can only penetrate the skin's outer layers," she explains. Serums, on the other hand, are comprised of tiny molecules that soak into skin (unlike those in lotions and oils), and which makes them better suited to effectively help with a variety of anti-aging issues.

Related: The Best Anti-Aging Serums on the Market

It's important to note that all serums are not created equal: The efficacy of these products is directly related to the quality of the ingredients inside them. When you're searching for an age-fighting serum, be sure to look for hyaluronic acid (a moisture-binding ingredient that also induces collagen remodeling), vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant that reduces the intensity of brown spots and age spots and protects the skin from free radical- and sun-induced damage), retinol (a derivative of vitamin A that boosts collagen, plumps skin, and reduces fine lines), glycolic and lactic acids (alpha hydroxy acids that gently exfoliate), and niacinamide (related to vitamin B3, this helps reduce water loss and may improve skin elasticity) to reap benefits from brightening and evening to increasing moisture-barrier retention and collagen production.

Because these potent products contain active ingredients, Dr. Crandell recommends keeping the rest of your regimen simple and gentle to avoid irritating your skin. That means starting with a soothing, but effective cleanser and layering a moisturizer over your serum. And last but not least, don't forget sunscreen—the most effective anti-aging product of all.

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