Many people who bootstrap their own facial skin care routines often conflate face serum and moisturizer. In their eyes, you can use one or the other since both products are essentially the same thing.
But this is a gross oversimplification of both face serum and moisturizer! In fact, these products are distinct from one another and perform separate functions. You can’t conflate the two since they each provide vital benefits to your skin and are needed for different things.
Today, we’ll break down why you need to use both face serum and moisturizer if you want to get the best results from your skin care routine.
What is a Face Serum?
Face serums are skin care products that begin with a water base mixed with a small amount of alcohol. Serums are also infused with tons of beneficial ingredients and vital nutrients that your skin can use to stay healthy, regenerate from damage, and increase cellular turnover rate.
The cellular turnover rate describes how quickly the cells on the surface of your skin are replaced with newer, healthier-looking cells. The faster the rate, the softer your skin feels, the younger it looks and the more radiant its color appears to be.
Face serums will often include a variety of helpful ingredients like:
- Vitamin C, which can help boost collagen production. Collagen is a key cellular compound that helps your cells regenerate more quickly and create new cells to replace ones that die on the surface of your skin
- Antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals. Free radicals can cause passive damage to your skin cells and lower their regenerative capabilities
- Hyaluronic acid, an excellent moisturizing agent that can seal in moisture and prevent your skin cells from drying out
- Lactic acid, which lowers the incidence of dark spots across your skin
- Niacinamide, a compound that can help shrink your pores and make them appear smaller. This is ideal for many people with naturally porous skin
- Glycolic acid, which is useful for brightening the skin
- Retinol, also known as vitamin A. This popular anti-aging compound can inspire better collagen and elastin production in your cells, making your skin appear firmer and more elastic
- Plenty of other vitamins and nutrients that your cells can use to grow faster and healthier than before
Although many face serums do contain compounds that can help your skin stay properly hydrated (like hyaluronic acid), they are not moisturizing products overall.
What is a Moisturizer?
Moisturizers are specialized products that can perform two functions: they seal in existing moisture that your skin already holds and make it harder for moisture to evaporate throughout the day. They often share many of the same ingredients as face serums, including:
- Vitamins and minerals that your skin cells can use to heal or stay healthy
- Moisturizing agents like aloe vera or hyaluronic acid
Moisturizers are particularly good for those who have dry skin or for those who live in dry climates. They are also especially useful for folks who have to deal with really harsh winters – the winter months usually correlate with drier skin for everyone, on average.
Suki Skincare’s Moisture-Rich Cleansing Lotion is a good example of a moisturizer that’s packed with extra helpful ingredients. For instance, it comes with antioxidants that can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and aging lines, all while hydrating dry skin and restoring the essential moisture you might lose throughout the day.
However, moisturizers aren’t the best choice if you have oily skin. Many of their moisturizing compounds can exacerbate excessive oil and even indirectly cause you to experience extra acne.
Those Sound Really Similar…
We know. But they actually serve distinct purposes.
The key is in the nourishing part of face serums. While they can provide some moisturizing assistance, they’re not nearly as effective at that part as dedicated moisturizers. Instead, the main purposes of face serums are nourishment and revitalization.
Every major skin care product comes with a primary purpose. For instance:
- Cleansers are great for clearing away surface-level dirt and oil
- Toners are perfect for penetrating deep into your skin’s pores and performing a deep clean
- Moisturizers are great for hydrating the skin initially and preventing it from drying out over time
- Face serums are better for providing extra vitamins and nutrients
As you can see, each skincare product performs a specific function, and only together do they offer all the requirements for a holistic skincare routine.
So Why Use Face Serum?
If moisturizer is good for preventing your skin from drying out, face serum is best used if you want your skin to look and feel younger and better. Because it provides tons of vitamins and minerals, plus other nourishing ingredients, face serums increase your skin’s health across the board.
Say that your skin naturally has a lot of dark spots or blemishes. Many of these are caused by minor cellular deficiencies. In other words, your skin's cells might just not have the right vitamins and nutrients to create enough collagen and elastin to produce new, healthy cells. The result? Tons of blemishes and dark spots you can’t seem to get away from.
You might alternatively want to deal with the wrinkles that are cropping up much more quickly than they use to. Face serums can give your skin cells the building blocks they need to stay healthier for longer, effectively slowing down many of the common signs of the aging process. While face serum can’t stop aging overall (sadly), it can keep your skin looking younger for longer.
Face serum is even good if you suffer from acne relatively frequently. Since most top face serums include salicylic acid, they’ll often clear away excessive oil or bacteria deep in your pores once the serum is absorbed. This creates a healthier skin environment and makes acne outbreaks a little less likely.
Suki Skincare’s Purifying Face Serum is a perfect example of one of these solutions. Not only can it balance oil levels throughout your skin, but it can also clarify and purify your complexion and help reduce the appearances of redness and blemishes.
When to Use Face Serum?
Face serum is best used at least once per day as part of either your morning or evening skincare routine. You can go either way on this point – some people like to give their skin the extra vitamins and nutrients at the beginning of the day, while others prefer adding a serum to their nightly routine, when their skin is unlikely to be disturbed.
However, you don’t need to use face serum more than once. Simply put, there are only so many vitamins and nutrients your skin can make use of in a 24-hour period. While it won’t necessarily hurt to use face serum twice per day, you’re essentially throwing away good serum since it isn’t providing as much of a benefit as you might hope.
When to Use Moisturizer?
In contrast, you can use a moisturizer with every skin care routine you complete. If you follow the twice-daily recommendation that most dermatologists prefer, you’ll use moisturizer twice per day and after using a toner product. This is because toner can dry out your pores and moisturizer can help reduce that dryness while sealing in any moisture left behind.
Put It All Together Into an Ideal Routine
Let’s go over an example skincare routine so you get the sense of how both face serum and moisturizers work together.
- You should always start by using a cleanser. Face cleansers can get rid of service level dirt and debris and penetrate slightly into the pores. They also get rid of excessive oil and dead skin cells.
- Toner finishes the cleansing job and penetrates even deeper into the pores. In doing so, it clears the way for face serum and makes it easy for the lower levels of the skin to absorb whatever they come into contact with.
- Serum is next. As mentioned, you should take advantage of the extra space afforded by the toner so your skin absorbs the nutrients and vitamins inside the serum that much more quickly.
- Only then should you use moisturizer. Moisturizer comes after everything else and will revitalize your skin and stop any further moisture from being lost to the environment.
- After this, you can use any additional products like sunscreen, lip balm, or the like.
As you can see, face serum and moisturizer have distinct roles in the ideal skincare routine. They can’t really be replaced or substituted for one another, at least if you’re dedicated to getting the best skin you can!
Ultimately, face serum and moisturizer are both necessary for a holistic skin care routine and to ensure that your skin doesn’t dry out during the day. Face serum can’t replace moisturizer, and moisturizer doesn’t give your skin the extra vitamins and nutrients it needs to succeed and look great for years to come. Use both products in conjunction and in the right order for the best effect!