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Serum vs Moisturiser – What’s the difference?

April 18, 2023 Skincare

What’s the difference between a serum and a moisturiser, and do you need both?

When it comes to skincare, there are many different types of products available that it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Between essence, toner, creams, balms, lotions, masks, tonics, oils, shopping for an effective skincare routine can be a lot. So let’s simplify things. Two of the most popular types skincare products are serums and moisturisers. While both are beneficial for keeping your skin healthy and glowing, they serve different purposes. We’re exploring the difference between serum and moisturiser and answering some common questions about how to use them.

What is a serum?

A serum is a lightweight, highly concentrated skincare product that is typically used after cleansing and toning but before moisturizing. Serums are most often formulated with active ingredients like intense hydrators, vitamins, antioxidants, and peptides that are designed to penetrate deep into the skin and address specific skin concerns. Because serums are generally lightweight, they are easily absorbed by the skin and can deliver targeted benefits quickly.

Serums come in different formulations for different skin types and concerns. Some popular types of serums include:

Hydrating serums – these are formulated with ingredients like hyaluronic acid to provide intense hydration to the skin.
Brightening serums – these contain ingredients like vitamin C to help even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of dark spots.
Well-aging (“anti-aging”) serums – these typically contain ingredients like bakuchiol, retinol or peptides to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Calming serums – these might include soothing ingredients as well as Niacinamide for reducing redness.

What is a moisturiser?

It might sound like a simple question because a moisturiser is such a staple in your routine. But is your moisturiser actually doing what it should – or could – for your skin? Fundementally, moisturiser is designed to hydrate and protect the skin, but they can offer a lot of benefits. Moisturizers are formulated with ingredients like humectants and emollients that help to lock in moisture and prevent water loss from the skin. They can also contain additional ingredients like antioxidants or SPF to provide additional benefits.

Moisturizers come in different formulations for different skin types and concerns. Some popular types of moisturizers include:

Lightweight moisturisers – these are ideal for oily or acne-prone skin as they provide hydration without clogging pores. They’ll often be oil-free, and can be found in both lotion, lightweight cream or even gel textures.
Rich, nourishing moisturisers – these are ideal for dry or mature skin as they provide intense hydration and help to plump up the skin. They may contain a boost of lipids, vitamins and peptides for intense skint treatment.
Night creams – often lighter to your daytime moisturiser, or containing ingredients not suitable for day use, night creams are often formulated with ingredients like glycerin and niacinamide to help repair and replenish the skin while you sleep. They may contain retinol or vitamin A derivatives to treat fine lines, wrinkles and improve skin texture.
Day creams – most skin will benefit from a day time moisturiser. They contain protecting antioxidants to shield from environmental stressors, and prevent water loss which is key for minimising fine lines, wrinkles and good skin texture.
Tinted moisturisers – As you would guess, these are a daytime moisturiser containing pigment for evening out the skin tone while delivering hydration to the skin. Consider them skincare and makeup in one.

What order should you apply skincare products?

Now that you know the difference between serum and moisturizer, you may be wondering how to use them together in your skincare routine. The order in which you apply skincare products is important to ensure that they are absorbed properly and provide maximum benefits. There are many variables, and we can help you design a skincare routine that is personalised to your skin. However, this is a general guideline for the order in which to apply your skincare products:

Cleanser
Toner
Serum
Eye cream
Moisturizer
Sunscreen (if it’s daytime)

Should you use a serum and a moisturiser?

Both a serum and moisturizer are helpful for keeping your skin healthy and glowing. We advocate for both products, but you may not necessarily need to use both at all times in your skincare journey. If you have oily skin, for example, you may find that a lightweight moisturizer provides enough hydration without the need for a serum. However, you might find an anti-acne serum or one that can calm inflammation particularly useful. On the other hand, if you have dry skin, you may find that a serum alone is not enough to provide adequate hydration and need a moisturiser on top.

Ultimately, the decision to use both serum and moisturizer will depend on your individual skin type and concerns. Experiment with different products and see what works best for your skin. Just remember to always apply sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from sun damage.

If you’ve skipped to the highlights; here’s the 101 on serums and moisturisers: Serums are lightweight and highly concentrated, delivering targeted benefits to the skin, while moisturisers provide hydration and protection. To get the most out of your skincare routine, be sure to apply your products in the correct order and if you need help, just contact us. We can easily suggest a serum and moisturiser combination that will provide you with the most benefits and visible results for your skin.

Try our online skincare consultation The Skincare Ten.

Read about The One by NUORI; a multi-ingredient moisturiser that combines the power of a serum in the texture of a daily face cream.

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