Difference between a Serum and Moisturizer?

Cindy Crawford

After writing my articles about the Top 5 Organic Creams and the Best Creams for Under the Eyes, I received several questions about why some products were called a serum vs. a moisturizer. To make it easier to understand the difference between a serum and a moisturizer, we break down the science behind them and look at the benefits each product can provide.

What is a serum?

Serums are generally lighter in texture and quicker absorbing than a moisturizer. They are normally made up of small molecules that can penetrate deep into the skin in the lower dermal layers. They may be oil or water based to provide a wide range of benefits for the skin and are usually concentrated for effective results. Serums contain nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals as well as active ingredients. The ingredients may be more expensive than regular ingredients, so you may find that a serum is the most expensive product in your skincare routine. However, you only need a small amount of serum to provide results. Most serums are housed in a pump or dropper bottle, so you only dispense the correct amount of product you require.

Why do I need to use a serum?

As serums can penetrate deep in the skin, they help to reverse a range of problems, such as sun damage and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Serums are available to treat a wide range of skin problems from aging to preventing blemishes. Serums can add moisture but they are best used as a skin treatment. Currently, my favorite serum is the Lady Soma Renewal Serum, as it has a high concentration of “hyaluronic acid” which is easily absorbed by my skin. I can see the effects right away, and it works great under a moisturizer.

organic eye serum

What is a moisturizer?

A moisturizer normally consists of water and oil mixed together with an emulsifier. It has larger molecules than a serum, therefore it can only work on the epidermis of the skin and won’t penetrate deep down. Moisturizers add hydration to the skin to soothe, nourish and protect from dryness. It also forms a barrier on the surface of the skin to keep moisture locked in. However, some moisturizers may contain vitamins, minerals and acids to help improve skin texture, smoothness and protect from sun damage. Currently, I have been using Made from Earth’s “Vitamin C Moisturizer“, and I am totally in love with it!

vitamin c moisturizer

Should I use serum & moisturizer together?

You may find that you only need to use a serum or moisturizer alone, however using the two products together can add maximum benefits for your skin type. When choosing a product, you should consider your skin type, the environment you live in and your budget. If you have very dry skin but no other skin problems then you will benefit from using both products as a serum will help to add hydration deep in the skin and the epidermis. If you have little skin concerns then a moisturizer on its own may be enough for you. However, remember that even oily skin needs hydration and a moisturizer should be used to help balance the skin.

How to apply your serum and moisturizer

After cleansing and toning, apply a few drops of serum all over your face and neck. Sensitive skin types should wait ten minutes before applying a serum to ensure that your skin is completely dry – applying serum to damp skin can increase irritation. Leave your serum to sink in for a few minutes and then apply your moisturizer. If you have aging concerns, then use your serum and moisturizer twice a day in the morning and evening for best results. For other skin types, using a serum in the evening is enough. Remember that to ensure your skin is in the best condition possible, you should avoid spending too much time in the sun, eat a well-balanced diet and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol as these aspects can cause skin damage.