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The Environmental Working Group just released a new report on the safest serums and essences. Here are a few of their top picks that don't contain potentially hazardous ingredients.

By Kathleen Felton
December 06, 2018

Can't imagine your nighttime skincare routine without Korean beauty essentials like serums and essences? You're not alone: Sales of both of these product categories have increased by nearly 300% in the U.S. over the past two years, meaning more and more of us are patting on these potent formulas in the name of clearer, brighter, younger-looking skin.

But not all serums and essences are created equal, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The nonprofit just released a new report on serums and essences to determine which ones are safest, and which could contain potentially hazardous ingredients.

The EWG is concerned in particular about ingredients like parabens, hydroquinones, and fragrance, which have been linked to potential allergic reactions or even health risks; if that's important to you too, any of their top picks would be a good choice to add to your everyday skincare routine.

"Ingredients that popped out quite a bit are ones that are very prevalent in personal care products in general," report co-author Nneka Leiba, director of Healthy Living Science at the EWG, tells Health. "Some of these ingredients are the umbrella term ‘fragrance’—most consumers are aware that fragrance is a common ingredient, but they may not know that that term actually can hide more than 3,000 ingredients, and you actually don’t know what ingredients are being hidden by that term."

Each of the products in the report was been given a 1 to 10 ranking that corresponds to a color indicating level of risk. "Green scoring is a score of 1 to 2, and includes verified products, which are even better," explains Leiba, referring to the group's license and registration program, EWG Verified.

Co-author Kali Ruehe, an associate database analyst at the EWG, adds that they're seeing a trend in the market when it comes to the types of ingredients popping up in skincare products. "We noticed that with the work the EWG has been doing with personal care for the past years, more products are obtaining a green score with fewer hazardous ingredients," she says.

More good news? A punchy price tag on anti-aging products doesn't always mean better skin. "The average total price [of the serums and essences] was $57 per fluid ounce, but the green scoring products were actually cheaper at $45 per fluid ounce," says Ruehe. "The red scoring, or most hazardous products, were most expensive, around $100 per fluid ounce."

Below, 11 of the top serums and essences that received the highest ratings (either a 1, 2, or "EWG Verified" score) in the report. For the full list, visit

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