Hair serum – which one should I use for my hair type?

It's time to put some shine back in your hair

best hair serums 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's time to put some shine back in your hair

We're pretty used to putting it on our face, so when it comes to picking out a hair serum, you might feel a bit stumped.

You already know the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type, own the best hair oil and may have even mastered the art of air drying to preserve the condition of your locks. So what's a hair serum going to do?

While hair oils deeply penetrate and treat the hair's follicle, serums sit on the surface of the hair for added shine or definition.

And when you consider how much money we spend on our hair in our lifetime, it's really important that you find the right one. Read on to find the best one for your hair type.

What are the benefits of hair serum?

'Serum gives shine and seals the ends of your hair, which are more vulnerable,' explains Zoë Irwin, ghd's UK ambassador. 'It acts as a protectant, so when you are running your hands through your hair they glide more, and works well if you're using a hot tool.

'My trick is to put a tiny bit of hair serum in with a holding products when I prep hair, for example layering with heat protect spray. Blow dry it straight in and it gives a really conditioned blow dry. You don’t always have to use serums as a finishing product – they can be the secret to a really shiny blow dry.'

Which is better, oil or serum?

This depends on what you want from your product, as they both have different uses. Very generally speaking, serum is more of a styling product while oil nourishes. 'Oil is more fluid, while hair serum is good if you want to keep shape,' Zoë confirms. 'If you've used a tong or waved to keep movement, serum is good to keep that polish but adds movement, whereas oil tends to make hair heavy and more weighty.

She adds: 'I would use oil sparingly as it can create a greasy look to the hair.'

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Hair serum for growth

Charles Worthington Grow Strong Protein Treatment, Boots

hair serum Charles Worthington Grow Strong Protein Treatment

Stronger hair means longer hair, so it makes sense to use a strengthening protein treatment from time to time. Charles Worthington’s Grow Strong line is is all about strengthening each strand of your hair, so if you’re trying to grow out your locks and don't want to break the budget, this is a good place to start. The protein serum-slash-cream is a leave in formula that helps to fortify your hair over time, without weighing down your locks. Use a pea sized amount on freshly washed, damp hair.

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Anti frizz hair serum

John Frieda Frizz Ease Extra Strength 6 Effects Serum, Feelunique

hair serum

We're all for embracing frizz, but there may be times when you want to create a smoother style, and Frizz Ease is a longstanding celebrity in the hair care world. It smooths, heat protects and hydrates your hair while also shielding against humidity– and it's still an absolute bargain to this day.

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Hair serum for curls

Imbue Curl Energising Hydration Serum, Lookfantastic

best hair serum for curls Imbue

This wonder serum from new haircare brand Imbue. It truly does work at giving definition to all curl types, from looser curls to tight kinks and coils (types 3A-4C). Ingredients-wise, it's also 'curly girl compliant' if you're following the curly girl method.

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Hair serum for split ends

Aveda Damage Remedy Split End Repair, Feelunique

hair serum for split ends Aveda

Some hair serums, like Aveda's Damage Remedy, are specially formulated to smooth down and fix split ends. Nangai oil helps to coat and seal the split ends to make them less visible. Even better? The formula works to help prevent new split ends from forming, too. Genius.

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Keep scrolling for a few more hero hair serum buys below.

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.