Does Your Skin Need a Serum?

I've been getting a lot of questions on serums since I did a review on People are confused about what they are, how to use them and how to incorporate them into their daily regimen. If this sounds like you, read on to see the answers to your most common questions!

What is serum?

A serum is a skin care product with a gel or light lotion consistency that contains a high concentration of performance ingredients. You should use a serum underneath a moisturizer or treatment mask. While using a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer is still the foundation of a solid routine, serums are a great addition. It’s best to use them when your skin is in a rut and/or you’re seeking better results. Simply put, if you want to up your game, serums are the way to go. In fact, I always recommend that my clients add this simple step. Usually, once they do so regularly, they see big improvements.

What is the difference between a serum and a moisturizer?

Moisturizers create a protective barrier over the skin. This prevents the skin’s moisture from evaporating, and it keeps environmental irritants and debris out. Serums, although they do hydrate, should never be used alone. They do not contain the protective properties that creams do.

The biggest difference between a serum and a cream or lotion is what the formulation doesn’t include. Serum leave out occlusive, or airtight, moisturizing ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil that keep water from evaporating. They also contain fewer lubricating and thickening agents, like nut or seed oils.

Serums and moisturisers mostly differ in purpose and weight.
The purpose of a moisturiser is always to hydrate the skin. Serums CAN add hydration but may offer additional or different benefits to the skin.

Serums can treat everything from wrinkles and sagging to hyperpigmentation and scarring. While moisturisers can contain beneficial ingredients, creams and lotions can’t be as effective at correction and treatment as serums.

That’s because …
Serums are generally much lighter in weight than moisturisers are, meaning the formula can penetrate much deeper. Serums contain highly concentrated ingredients that are infinitely more effective at treating particular concerns.

Moisturisers the heavier of the two products, hydrate the epidermis, which is the top layer of the skin. Lotions and creams don’t make it much farther than that layer.

Why should I use a serum?

Serums are not mandatory in a regimen. If you have specific skin care concerns such as wrinkles or age spots that your regular moisturizer is not addressing, you may want to consider incorporating a serum into your regimen before your moisturizer. Customizing your skin care routine with a targeted treatment can help deliver results faster. Dry skin that’s blotchy and broken out would benefit from the pairing of a serum and a moisturiser after cleansing.

When should I avoid serums?

Those with chronic skin conditions like eczema or rosacea have weaker skin barriers. The liquid or gel-like texture of a serum can penetrate the skin too quickly, causing irritation. Speak with your dermatologist if you have serious skincare issues before incorporating a serum into your regimen.

Yes. Avoid SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol or oils. These alcohol ingredients are very dehydrating and unfortunately encourage dry skin cell build up. In addition, I’ve lately seen many oils marketed as serums. I’m not on board with this, and here’s why. Serums are formulated with small molecular structures. Therefore, they deliver performance ingredients deep into the skin. By contrast, oils have the largest molecules (even more so than creams do). Therefore, it’s best to use them as a last step OVER moisturizer to prevent moisture evaporation. I highly suggest you don’t use an oil-based type of serum under a moisturizer. It just makes no sense.

OK but $$$$…

untitled Yes. Serums contain higher concentration of active ingredients, which are more expensive than thickeners. So the higher price of the serum is justified. Remember that bit about being super concentrated and potent? You are getting your bang for your buck here. The good news is you only need to use a few drops of a serum, so a 1 ounce container should last you months.  

How do I incorporate one into my skin care regimen?

Liftactiv-vitamin-c-serum-vichy-how-to-use-480X270-v1 (2)Different serums are meant to be used with different frequency and at different times of day. Read all instructions carefully to avoid overusing or combining active ingredients. To maximize the effect of your serum, after cleansing your face, apply a pea-sized amount of serum, patting it evenly over skin with your finger. Then apply your moisturizer. If you have sensitive skin, wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face before using serum. Applying a water-based product to damp skin is more likely to lead to irritation.


Getting healthy glowing skin requires a holistic approach – living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet and using a consistent skincare regimen. Deciding what products to incorporate into your regimen can be confusing. This is why it is important to find out what kind of skin type you are.

Maybe you had breakouts in your teens and an oily T-zone, and ever since then you’ve stuck to products for “combination skin.” Well, after a decade of using the same routine with lackluster results, perhaps it’s time to visit a professional and find out exactly what your skin is like and what it needs the most. As we age, our skin changes significantly, and if you’re addressing its specific concerns, you’ll notice an instant difference. 



Doesn’t serum expire really fast?

Certain potent ingredients often found in serum can become unstable once they come in contact with air. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), for instance, can oxidize and lose efficacy over time. But thanks to science, modified versions of the ingredient (that are water-soluble, etc.) last longer so they can do your skin more good. Best rule of thumb is to store your vial in a cool, dry place (obviously) and use it up within six months to a year.

Is serum a moisturizer?

Yes and no. Serums can be chock-full of moisturizing ingredients (hyaluronic acid, ceramides) to help skin retain moisture. But, that doesn’t make them moisturizers in the traditional sense. Face lotions and creams are richer and create a barrier on top of the skin to keep all that good stuff in.

Have anymore concerns, comment down below !


4 thoughts on “Does Your Skin Need a Serum?

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