We’ve noticed that people tend to assume that natural serums and moisturisers are the same thing. But in reality, they're different. So we’re giving you the lowdown on serums: why they’re an essential component of any skincare regimen, why they’re not the same as moisturisers, and how to incorporate them into your routine.
Natural serums have been around for a while, but there’s still a common misconception that they’re mainly for those trying to ward off the signs of ageing. However, serums have a lot more to offer than that, and the sooner you start using these, the sooner you start reaping the rewards.
So let’s get right down to it.
Natural serums 101
Serum can be quite confusing. It’s hydrating, but it’s neither a moisturiser nor a lotion. It can be oily, but it’s not a face oil. Serums are sometimes sold as essences or ampoules, though experts say these are three entirely different things.
What serum is though, is a highly concentrated elixir packed with active ingredients. It's formulated to penetrate skin in a way that natural moisturisers simply can’t. Natural serums tend to be pricier than other skincare products, but that's because they treat specific skin problems like acne, wrinkles, dark spots, and dullness more quickly and effectively than any other product in your regimen.
Serums are either oil or water based. They’re applied after cleansing and toning, and usually before moisturising. Compared with moisturisers and creams, natural serums are thinner, have smaller particle sizes, and can easily penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. Moisturisers, on the other hand, are only absorbed into the surface layers.
Another significant difference between natural serums and moisturisers is the concentration of the active ingredients. Unlike moisturisers, serums contain hardly any fillers - they’re stripped down to just the most powerful active ingredients that go to work on the deeper layers of the skin.
Do you need both serum and moisturiser?
If serums can address your most pressing skincare concerns, then do you still need moisturisers? The quick answer is yes. While serums can be moisturising, they can only moisturise to an extent.
Moisturisers and creams, as you know, serve as a protective barrier that keeps moisture in and germs and environmental irritants out. Though serums are powerful, they don’t act like a shield the way moisturiser does. This is why experts suggest using both serum (for its multiple skin benefits) and moisturiser (to seal everything in and to prevent moisture loss).
There is an exception to this. If you have oily and/or acne prone skin, you may be able to get away with just serums. This can also be true during summer, when the heat increases sebum production. It is best to experiment and see how your skin reacts to different combination of serum and moisturiser.
How to use serum and moisturiser together?
When layering skincare products, the rule of thumb to follow is 'thinnest to thickest consistency.' This ensures that the heavier products don’t stop the lighter ones penetrating the skin and doing their job.
Water based serums should definitely go under moisturisers or face creams. These have a thinner consistency that allows them to seep into skin quickly and nourish its inner layers. In this case, moisturiser goes on after and seals the serum in.
Oil based serums can go on top of moisturiser if they’re thicker and heavier than the latter. This would be the case if you’re using an oil based serum with a water based moisturiser (which would be thinner than the serum).
More tips to get the most out of your natural serum:
- Cleanse with warm water, which will open up your pores and allow the serum to really soak in. Apply serum while skin is still damp.
- Serums are super potent, so less is more, 2-3 drops will do.
- Always patch test new serums before applying them to your face.
- If you’re using more than one serum, it’s perfectly fine to layer them. Go from thinnest to thickest.
- Keep your moisturiser in the fridge and apply it cold. This creates a vacuum effect on your skin that pulls the serum deeper into the inner layers of your skin.
Ready to try serums? Here are the ones we recommend.
Our fave serums
Pigmentation, age spots and brightening:
Eye serums:Was this article helpful? Why not check out our Cheat Sheet on Best Moisturisers with SPF, too!
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