Serum - Moisturizer - Face Oil: which one should you use?
Serum - Moisturizer - Face Oil: Which one should you use?
If you’re updated on the basics of the ideal skincare routine, you will know that it prescribes the use of facial serum, face oil and moisturizer. But, don’t they all do the same thing—hydrate the skin? Well, yes and no. All three types of products are designed to nourish the skin, but in very, very different ways.
Here’s everything you need to know about serums, oils and moisturizers, and which one’s the best suited for your skin.
Serums are typically water-based formulas that are highly potent in nature. Designed to target specific skin concerns, such as fine lines, wrinkles, dullness or spots, serums are infused with vitamins, antioxidants and other skin-nourishing ingredients that penetrate the skin deeply. In other words, serums should rejuvenate the skin and enhance its texture from within. With regular use of a good serum that's designed for your skin concern, you can expect to see results starting in a few weeks, usually. Of course, serums are not cure-alls, but more like targeted supplements for healthy and radiant skin.
What serums do
- Act as a concentrated, efficient source of delivering nutrition to skin
- Target specific concerns
- Absorb easily and deeply into skin
What serums DO NOT do
- Deeply hydrate the skin
- Form a water-barrier layer over the skin
- Provide sun protection
As the name suggests, facial oils are rich and emollient in texture. These oils are extracted from fruit, seeds and nuts, and they’re great for your skin in more ways than one. Apart from being deeply nourishing and restorative, facial oils can provide your skin with a mega dose of hydration. The thing to remember is that you can’t use just about any natural oil as a face oil. It’s recommended that you use an oil with a smaller molecular size (such as argan oil or jojoba oil) to prevent clogging the pores and enable easy absorption.
What face oils do
- Form an occlusive water “seal” on skin to help retain moisture
- Provide long-lasting moisturization
- Act as a source of essential fatty acids and vitamins to skin
What face oils DO NOT do
- Provide water-soluble nutrients to skin, such as Vitamin B3
- Provide balanced hydration. They are usually heavy-duty hydrators for dry skin, or normal skin with dry patches.
Moisturizers are formulated with a combination of water and oils and they’re meant to hydrate the topmost layers of the skin. Using a daily moisturizer is just right when you have normal, combination or oily skin. But when you have treat extreme dryness (either seasonal or more inherent to skin), a moisturizer may not hydrate your skin deeply enough. Which is where face oils come in.
On any day, using a moisturizer is a great way to seal the moisture into your skin. This is one of the reasons why it’s best to use a moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
What moisturizers do
- Hydrate skin in a measured way – you can have light, moderate and heavy, moisturizers
- Deliver a balanced mix of nutrients to skin – both oil-soluble and water-soluble
What moisturizers DO NOT do
- Penetrate deep into the skin to deliver nutrients
- Provide the same level of barrier protection as oils do
Other key differences between serum, moisturizer and face oil
Serums contain up to 70 percent active ingredients, which makes them highly potent and result-oriented (depending on the skin issue that they have been formulated for) skincare products. Moisturizers have a lower percentage of active ingredients and are designed to provide a moderate level of hydration to the face. They’re best used as the last step in the skincare routine. Face oils are made with specific, skin-friendly oils that are easily absorbed by the skin without clogging the pores, and they are meant to provide a mega dose of hydration.
When should you choose which?
While a moisturizer suiting your skin type is a must-have in your kit, pick a serum to suit your immediate skin need (e.g., reduce dullness, tackle blemishes, fight fine lines etc). Use a face oil when you face extreme dryness, or are in need of additional moisturization, due to internal or external factors.
The perfect skincare routine can be broken down into a few simple steps. Start with a cleanser, follow up with a toner, a serum and/or facial oil, and seal in the moisture with a moisturizer. And use a face scrub and mask once a week.