Sure, a new pair of shoes or an It bag is nice, but many of us are more wiling to shell out a chunk of our paychecks for quality skin care, all in the name of #iwokeuplikethis status. That said, there are a myriad of things in the way of finding a complexion potion that’ll actually lead you on a path to improving your biggest skin-care issues. Namely, lots of confusing marketing jargon, and campaigns that promise flawless complexions, but don’t always deliver.

The pattern seems to go like this: The more effective a product claims to be, the more dollar signs are involved. Serums are some of the most spendy, since time and time again they prove to be the most important part of your routine, as they oft pack the most active ingredient and go on first, allowing them to soak in and do the most good.

Naturally, it takes a lot of sussing out to figure out which serums are worth the splurge. To cut through the BS, we consulted top dermatologists for direct recommendations. These serums get the clinical green light, and while their campaigns and packaging might be less sexy than your pretty vials or countless bottles of fancy face oil, we have to ask: What’s fancier than a flawless face? That’s kind of the whole point, anyway.

Ahead, the serums that top dermatologists call the most effective — and recommend to their own patients — all organized by skin-care concern.

Skin Concern: Dryness

Chronically dry skin needs more than just the shellac of a thick moisturizer to actually solve the problem — and not just treat the symptoms. One of the top ingredients to do that is hyaluronic acid.

“What’s great about [hyaluronic acid] is that it doesn’t feel like a heavy moisturizer, but it does the work of one,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman,director of dermatologic surgery and laser medicine at Metropolitan Hospital.

“Hyaluronic acid helps your skin retain moisture by binding water molecules, holding 1,000 times its weight.” Dr. Engelman recommends this serum from Derm Institute for its hydrating abilities, as well as for its ability to repair and protect, thanks to a ceramide complex, vitamins, and antioxidants, which plump fine lines and combat free radicals from environmental damage.

Derm Institute Antioxidant Hydration Serum, $100, available Derm Institute.

Another formula that serves up hyaluronic acid is this HylaSilk Serum from Priyana MD. Dr. Barry Resnik, MD, Founder of Resnik Skin Institue in Miami, recommends it not only for the HA, but also the formula’s niacinamide, a brightening ingredient that helps address uneven pigmentation. Bonus: Peptides in the formula give this serum a boost in both hydrating and anti-aging efforts, like promoting collagen and elasticity.

Priyana MD HylaSilk, $55, available at Resnik Skin Institute.

Skin Concern: Uneven Pigmentation and/or Dullness

Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a cosmetic dermatologist, touts resveratrol and vitamin C as your best weapons against pigmentation issues, mainly uneven texture or dullness in skin.

“Resveratrol is the strongest natural antioxidant that reduces [uneven] pigmentation and protects the skin from further free radical damage,” Dr. Frank explains. He couples that with a disclaimer that, “there’s no magic ingredient to make [uneven pigmentation] disappear quickly, as the body continues to make the enzyme that stimulates the production of melanin.”

He recommended this night serum from Skinceuticals, since it not only keeps pigmentation in check, it also firms the skin and corrects fine lines. “[It’s] cosmetically elegant and absorbs very well, giving the skin a nice glow,” he says.

Skinceuticals Resveratrol B E, $152, available at Skinceuticals.

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