Serum vs Moisturizer: What Are the Differences?

It might surprise you to learn that roughly 161 million women in the US use beauty products daily. The average woman uses around 16 skin care products every day and is estimated to spend anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 on skin care products in a lifetime.

It’s estimated that men spend $244 a month on skin care products, according to a study in 2020. If you enjoy taking care of your skin, then you’re probably wondering about the difference between serum vs moisturizer.

This article walks you through the ins and outs of each product and discusses the best order to use them, along with contraindications. To learn more about these two essential skin care products, be sure to keep reading this helpful serum and moisturizer guide.

What Is a Serum?

A serum is usually a lightweight skin care product used to deliver active ingredients. Its consistency is typically thin and they’re very absorbent, so you won’t feel it sitting on your skin. This also means you won’t be able to see or feel any residue once it’s applied.

Serums are classified as oils, gels, or lotions, as there’s no one-size-fits-all with this type of product.

They’re typically used to treat a wide array of skin conditions and problems. Some conditions include current acne, acne prevention, acne scars, anti-aging, and skin brightening.

Although serums can be more expensive than other types of skin care products on the market, their ingredients pack a powerful punch and you only need to use a little bit of product to get the intended results. It’s best to confirm with a dermatologist to see which products are best for your skin type and what time of day you should apply them.

Either, way, remember to use a skin care product with sunscreen in it to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

What Is a Moisturizer?

You now know what a serum is. But what is a moisturizer?

Moisturizers are thicker and use a heavier formula to create a product that locks in hydration. Moisturizers also provide a barrier on your skin, preventing it from drying out.

The uppermost layer of your skin- the stratum corneum- is comprised of oil skin cells and fat. Moisturizer helps this layer retain moisture.

Keep in mind that some moisturizers come with anti-aging ingredients. This means they lock in moisture and work to combat signs of aging. But if you’re looking to lock in moisture and reduce sun damage while reducing fine lines and wrinkles, you need to use a moisturizer and a serum together.

For excellent skin care results, you can use this day and night moisturizer.

What Are the Differences?

Serums are lighter and are typically oils. Moisturizers and thicker and have a creamy consistency (like body lotion).

For performance, you can expect serums to deeply penetrate your skin’s surface, delivering their ingredients effectively and efficiently. However, moisturizers focus on fortifying the surface of your skin so they don’t work as quickly. Moisturizers bind skin cells together and increase hydration on the surface of your skin.

Since moisturizers have larger molecules than serums do, they can’t penetrate your skin as deeply. Serums provide stronger results while moisturizer gives you continuous hydration.

Serums focus on transforming and targeting specific skin concerns of yours and can reverse signs of aging, acne, and uneven skin tone. However, moisturizers are heavier and keep your skin soft, supple, and smooth all day long.

Don’t Mix These Ingredients

Once you understand the key difference between moisturizers and serums, it’s essential that you understand what ingredients you don’t want to mix. Consider the following.

Exfoliants and Retinoids

Retinoids are very strong and can have side effects. If you’re using retinoids, you don’t want to use exfoliants at the same time.

Don’t use retinoids if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Since retinoids and exfoliants can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, it’s best to use them on alternative days.

Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinoids

It’s best to avoid using benzoyl peroxide and retinoids together. They can cause excessive dryness.

What Products Do You Apply First?

When applying products, you want to start with serum and apply a moisturizer afterward.

First, understand that serums are gels or thin fluids that are often water-based. They don’t contain oil and are very lightweight in nature. Moisturizers are thicker and usually contain oil.

Oil repels water, so if you apply a moisturizer that’s oil-based before applying serum, it will prevent your skin from absorbing the serum.

Also, since serum has smaller molecules than a moisturizer, you need to apply it before moisturizer so your skin can absorb everything.

You can expect your serum to do any of the following (although results vary from person to person):

  • Reduce sun damage such as dark spots
  • Help unclog pores and treat acne and breakouts
  • Help to ease visible redness and skin irritation
  • Work to soothe dry, flaky skin
  • Work to reduce hyperpigmentation

When you apply your serum before a moisturizer, the ingredients get maximum contact with your skin. Be sure to wash your face before applying any products.

Serum vs Moisturizer

Now that you know all about serum vs moisturizer, you can purchase the products that work best for your specific needs. Remember not to mix certain ingredients, don’t use retinoids if pregnant or breastfeeding, and apply skin care products in a certain order for best results.

If you’re looking to read more great health and beauty articles, then be sure to check out the rest of our blog. We’ve got tons of helpful information, so don’t forget to bookmark our page and check back often!

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