How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Can calming serums help reduce skin redness? Experts explain

Short answer: yes! But they don’t work their magic alone.

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Curology Team
Nov 08, 2022 · 8 min read

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Skincare serum for calming skin
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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  3. > Can calming serums help reduce skin redness? Experts explain

Red, irritated skin can be frustrating, especially if you can’t find a way to manage the symptoms. But introducing a calming serum to your skincare routine may help! 

When it comes to your daily skincare routine, calming serums—like all serums—are an optional product, but they can be a great backup to have on hand when your skin needs some extra TLC. Here we’ll explain what calming serums are and how they can help reduce and soothe facial irritation. We’ll also give you a list of possible factors that may be contributing to your skin’s redness in the first place and step-by-step instructions on how to correctly use serums to help relieve your skin. 

What are calming serums?

Serums are usually light and fast-absorbing, and their active ingredients tend to be more concentrated and formulated for a specific purpose. A calming serum for the face typically aims to soothe irritation and reduce redness with the help of moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and ceramides. Other typical ingredients in calming face serums may include niacinamide, green tea extract, licorice extracts, and chamomile.

woman hands pouring serum on top

Serums are designed to work with other skincare products, including your daily cleanser and sunscreen. In other words, they’re typically not stand-alone products. Even so, these days, it seems you can find a serum for just about anything: anti-aging serums, vitamin C serums, and serums for acne-prone skin. The list goes on and on.

"Serums can be a great addition to your routine depending on your specific skincare goals. For a calming/soothing serum, I typically recommend one with niacinamide, like Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster,” says Elise Griffin, a physician assistant at Curology. “Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that helps to hydrate the skin. It may also reduce inflammation and redness. This ingredient is an antioxidant, so it can also help protect your cells against damage. With niacinamide, irritation is usually rare, which makes it a great ingredient for those with more sensitive skin!"

What can cause skin redness?

Calming serums can help relieve red skin, but what causes red skin in the first place? In short, many things, from hot flashes and contact dermatitis to rosacea and sunburn. The severity of your reaction will depend on the exact cause of your skin redness, as well as your skin type and skin tone. Anyone can experience redness, but it can be more pronounced in fair and sensitive skin. Here’s a list of some common causes of skin redness on the face:  

  • Sun rash, sun allergy, and sun damage can all cause redness. Sunburn is also a common cause of red skin, especially in exposed areas like the face.

  • Contact dermatitis can cause the skin to redden. There are two forms: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by something that irritates your skin. This varies from person to person but common examples may include soap, hair dye, or skincare products. Allergic contact dermatitis results from an allergic reaction to something. Common examples include poison ivy, fragrance, or latex.¹  

  • Dehydrated skin can cause dullness and redness in the skin. The skin may feel tight and itchy with increased sensitivity. Dehydrated skin is different from dry skin, and it can occur in all skin types—even oily skin.

  • Hot water can be a source of skin irritation that may lead to redness, especially if you use hot water to wash sensitive skin, like your face (which we don’t recommend). Stick to lukewarm showers, and moisturize afterward to help prevent drying.² 

  • Skin conditions like rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis can lead to dry, red, and irritated skin symptoms. 

Should I use calming serums?

As far as skincare routines go, we believe in keeping it simple: cleanse, moisturize, treat, and protect. That’s all you need! Calming serums can be fun to try and may help lessen the symptoms of red, irritated skin, but that doesn't change the fact that they're entirely optional. 

If you choose to add a serum, the order you layer your products matters: 

  • Wash your face. Think of a clean face as a clean slate—it gives your products the best environment to work their magic. 

  • Apply serum. Use a pea-sized amount and gently work that into your face using your fingertips. Let it absorb before adding additional products. 

  • Treat your skin. If you’re using a treatment cream, like your personalized Curology formula, apply that next. Many topical medications should only be applied at night (as some ingredients can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, including retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids). 

  • Moisturize. Apply a moisturizer to hydrate and protect your skin. 

  • Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Sunscreen should always be a part of your daily morning routine!

woman wearing straw hat

If you’re a Curology member, talk to your dermatology provider to learn whether a calming serum can help you with your skin goals. They can also give you expert tips to get the most out of your products. 

10 calming face serums to help reduce redness

Not surprisingly, there’s no lone “anti-redness serum.” On the contrary, there are a lot to choose from. The best serum for redness is the one that will work for your unique skin. Here are some we recommend:  

  1. Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Serum is formulated with glycerin and epidermal hydration fillers to encourage the skin’s natural hyaluronic acid production, helping to give your skin a smoother appearance.  

  2. La Roche-Posay Rosaliac AR Intense Serum contains key ingredients to help hydrate and soothe sensitive skin and calm visible redness.

  3. Renée Rouleau Redness Care Firming Serumuses several types of microalgae and licorice extracts to help reduce redness, sensitivity, and irritation. It’s also fortified with peptides and antioxidants to help restore your skin’s natural texture. 

  4. Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Redness Relief Serum uses avocado butter extract, allantoin, and rice milk to help soothe and hydrate the skin. This formula includes a ceramide-5 complex that mimics the natural ceramides in your skin barrier, which helps them absorb more efficiently.

  5. Aveeno Calm + Restore Triple Oat Serum is lightweight and formulated using a triple oat complex and feverfew to help deeply nourish and calm the skin. It’s designed to work instantly to soothe and fortify the skin. This is a great serum for sensitive skin.

  6. SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Gel serum treats sensitive, dehydrated, and blotchy skin. This serum uses hyaluronic acid, cucumber, thyme, and other botanicals to help protect the skin.

  7. REN Clean Skincare Evercalm™ Anti-Redness Serumuses fast-acting ingredients to reduce redness and calm irritated skin. It uses white mushroom extracts to help minimize signs of skin sensitivity and antioxidants to fight against free radicals that contribute to irritated skin.   

  8. PCA Skin Anti-Redness Serum is formulated for sensitive skin to calm, soothe, and reduce the appearance of redness. PCA formulated its serum with key ingredients found in brown and red algae, caper buds, and chamomile. 

  9. Éminence Organic Skincare Calm Skin Arnica Booster-Serum works to calm and balance skin with natural ingredients, including arnica, ivy, rosehip, horse chestnut, lavender, and chamomile. 

  10. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Serum relieves dryness from dehydrated skin. This weightless serum includes hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and glycerine to hydrate and soothes your skin. 

We’ve also put together a list of 10 serums under $30—ranked by value. These don’t necessarily target red skin, but many can help dehydrated skin, a common cause of irritation.

Curology custom skincare

Serums may be having a moment, but at Curology, we believe a regular skincare routine is your best defense against dry, red, or irritated skin. We’re all about taking the guesswork out of your skincare routine—licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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Signing up is easy. Simply answer our online questionnaire and snap some selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, you’ll be paired with one of our licensed dermatology providers, who will work with you to examine your skin, assess your skin concerns, and provide a personalized prescription formula with a mix of ingredients selected for your unique skincare needs. 

Your first month of custom prescription skincare for free (just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling).*

FAQs

What are calming serums?

Serums are usually light and fast-absorbing, and their active ingredients tend to be more concentrated and formulated for a specific purpose. A calming serum for the face typically aims to soothe irritation and reduce redness with the help of moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and ceramides.

What can cause skin redness?

The severity of your reaction will depend on the exact cause of your skin redness, as well as your skin type and skin tone. Anyone can experience redness, but it can be more pronounced in fair and sensitive skin.

Should I use calming serums?

As far as skincare routines go, we believe in keeping it simple: cleanse, moisturize, treat, and protect. That’s all you need! Calming serums can be fun to try and may help lessen the symptoms of red, irritated skin, but that doesn't change the fact that they're entirely optional.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. 10 Reasons your face is red. (n.d.).

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin relief. (n.d.).

Kristen Jokela is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Trial is 30 days. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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