Facial Serum vs. Facial Moisturizer — What's the Difference?

Updated 04/07/19
Photo: Amazon.com 

Serums and moisturizers help the skin in different ways. Sometimes a serum alone will be enough for what your skin needs, and other times you will find that you need both a serum and a moisturizer. Serums are thinner and lighter than moisturizers and have a great variety of functions. Usually, serums contain active ingredients that you want to penetrate as deeply as possible into your skin. For this reason, you should always apply a serum directly to your skin after cleansing or toning and before your moisturizer and sunscreen.

Serums can be used both morning and night. They do not replace your moisturizer but can boost the hydrating effects of your moisturizer.

Serums are used to address a variety of skincare issues. For example, there are anti-aging serums, skin brightening serums, and acne prevention serums. Serums tend to be more expensive than other skin care products, but being that they're full of potent ingredients, a little goes a long way.

Moisturizers are thicker and creamier than serums. They're meant to hydrate the skin and prevent water loss. Some moisturizers have added anti-aging ingredients, so they do double duty for your skin. But in order to really address a difficult skin care problem, like sun damage, you'll want to combine your moisturizer with a quality serum. 

Serums to Try

Origins makes a great anti-aging serum that helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It's on the pricier side, but the small bottle lasts a long time and will keep your skin well hydrated, along with providing anti-aging benefits.

If you're looking for a skin brightening serum we recommend checking out Aveda's Enbrightenment Serum. This serum contains mulberry extract to help brighten the appearance of dark spots and reveal even-toned skin. 

There are also a variety of acne preventative serums on the market today. We recommend checking out the Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum. This serum is a salicylic acid based gel that you apply directly to any acne-prone areas of your face to clear up existing pimples and prevent new ones from forming. 

Moisturizers to Try

A moisturizer has larger molecules than a serum. This means that a moisturizer will not penetrate the skin as deeply as a serum will.

If you're looking for a daily moisturizer, we recommend checking out Ahava Essential Day Lotion. It's made for all skin types and provides all-day hydration to your skin plus SPF 15 to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays.

Check out Juice Beauty's Stem Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Moisturizer if you are looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while getting skin moisturization as well. This moisturizer is made with antioxidant-rich ingredients and is ideal for all skin types. 

If your concern is oily and breakout-prone skin, we recommend trying La Roche-Posay Toleriane Fluide Daily Soothing Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin. It's formulated to reduce excess oil on the skin and also minimizes the appearance of large pores while soothing skin.

Bottom Line

If you have a problem with your skin that you'd like to improve, such as dark spots or early signs of skin aging, adding a serum to your daily skin care routine can help improve the appearance of your skin. Also, if your skin is very oily, a serum can give you enough hydration that you won't even need a moisturizer.

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