I don’t quite recall when I first heard the word serum. At least in terms of skincare. But I soon discovered that it was not quite what I thought it was.
Did you think it was some secret tiny bottle that would sit up on the top shelf, out of reach, and only came out at midnight when you were fast asleep?

There’s something kinda exclusive sounding about a serum, but the truth is way less mysterious.

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What Is A Serum?

A serum is simply a highly potent yet lightweight liquid product that is used to give your skin an intense treatment for a very specific issue. It is full of potent ingredients and is also usually water-based.

How to Use A Serum

To use a serum in your skincare routine effectively, use the following steps:

  • start by washing your face
  • then by cleansing and applying your toner
  • apply a small amount of serum to your face and neck, literally a few drops but be sure to follow the directions of the product you are using
  • massage it gently into your skin
  • finish the process with a moisturizer to lock in the benefits of the serum
  • aim for use twice a day for the best results possible


woman holding white plastic bottle


When to Use A Serum?

As we just discussed, you can use a skin serum after cleansing and toning your face, but before you moisturize.

The purpose of a serum is to deliver active ingredients directly to your skin. And they can also help to address any specific concerns you may be looking at, such as fine lines, dark spots, and dullness. The best approach is to choose a facial serum that targets the specific skin concerns you may have and then (most importantly!) use your serum consistently for the best results.

And as I mentioned earlier, ideally, try to use your skin serum once or twice a day. Of course, this depends on your skin type and very much on the instructions on the product.

The best approach is to follow the recommended usage for optimal results in your skin.


My Favorite Serums

Here are some of my most ravable about serums!

tatcha dewy skin serum

Ah, the Dewy Skin Serum from Tatcha. Much loved and relied upon by Japanese skincare aficionados everywhere.
The divine dewiness of the serum comes from the lactic acid within the exclusive Hadasei-3 – which is Tatcha’s very own trademarked blend of superfoods – from green tea, Okinawa algae, and Akita rice. Couple that with hyaluronic acid, gentle alpha hydroxy acids, and sugarcane-derived squalane, and you’ve got yourself one power-packed hydrating and skin-protecting serum

biossance squalane and copper peptide serum

If you know me, you know I adore Biossance. My bathroom cupboard is full-of-it! Seriously! And the newest addition may just be this beauty. Containing key ingredients like collagen-supporting copper peptides, and instant hydration hero hyaluronic acid, and paracress, you will notice an instant improvement to the “plumpness” of your skin once you swipe on this baby blue serum.

la Roche-posay hyalu b5 serum

This drugstore gem is loaded with Vitamin B5 (aka panthenol) which will soothe and moisturize, while the centella asiatica (or Madecassoside) which will help to nourish and restore your skin’s surface. Oh, I almost forgot that it contains not 1, but 2 different types of hyaluronic acid, which will do double duty to lock in moisture, all while you sleep.
A more affordable option for a high-quality serum that will help soften the appearance of fine lines and keep that plump level sky-high! Great for oily skin, too.

cosrx advanced snail 96 mucin power essence

Yep, I said snail mucin. And I have talked about snail by-products before – see my post on the best Korean Lip products here
for more snail-derived goodness!
Now this essence is formulated with over 96% snail secretion filtrate, which delivers vitality directly to your skin. It will repair and rejuvenate your skin’s surface and soothe that dehydration.
Mucin Power Essence also doubles as a direct way to help repair dark spots, acne prone skin and dehydrated skin, so it is targetted to these concerns.



What is A Moisturizer?

Now, looking at our old friend, the humble moisturizer. A moisturizer is a cosmetic product that is used to nourish and hydrate your skin. It helps to prevent dryness and keeps it soft and supple. I also feel that a good moisturizer keeps your skin barrier strong.

How to Use a Moisturizer

  • start by cleansing your skin and patting it dry
  • next, apply a small amount of moisturizer to your face and neck, using gentle upward, circular motions. Be careful to avoid your eye area.
  • aim to use your moisturizer twice a day, both morning and at night, to keep your skin hydrated and healthy

When to Use a Moisturizer

As we mentioned, aim to use a facial moisturizer twice a day, in the morning and at night. This will keep your skin hydrated and healthy, and fresh as a daisy.

Of course, these aren’t hard and fast rules. And you should feel free to adjust how often you moisturize, depending on your skin type and where you are in the world. Of, and also what season it is, too.

What Are the Main Differences Between Serum and Moisturizer?

When you want to identify the main differences between a moisturizer and a serum, you simply need to look at both of their properties and aims.

Facial moisturizers hydrate and protect the skin’s surface.

While serums are formulated to deliver active ingredients deeper into the skin.

Typically, moisturizers have a thicker and creamier texture than serums. Serums tend to be lightweight and have a more fluid consistency.

Also, serums are more concentrated and often have a high concentration of active ingredients. And this makes them way more potent and powerful than moisturizers.

Moisturizers also contain ingredients to help keep hydration in your skin. Ingredients that we call occlusives; that help lock in hydration to your skin.

And without getting too sciency on you, serums are made of smaller molecules than moisturizers. And molecules are made from larger molecules than serums. And what this means to you is that in terms of layering your skincare, thinnest to thickest (on top) is a good rule of thumb, but it probably won’t be the end of the world when you mix it up.
So don’t spend too much time worrying about the molecules!

What Are the Similarities Between Serum and Moisturizer?

Facial moisturizers and serums are both skincare products that are designed to hydrate and nourish the skin. Additionally, they both help to improve the overall appearance and health of the skin. However, serums typically have a higher concentration of active ingredients and are designed to target specific skin concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, while moisturizers are more focused on providing general hydration and protection to the skin.


My Moisturizer Picks

Here are some of my all-time favorite moisturizers for you to check out.

Sonia Roselli water elixir

Now you might be surprised, confused, and bewildered by this top recommendation. After all, Sonia Roselli’s Water Elixir is, in fact, a liquid. But I view this product as a moisturizer first and foremost.
A milky-white, water-thick moisturizer that will quench your skin’s thirst, strengthen your skin’s barrier, and also provide a one-step skin prep when time is pressing.
I adore the Sonia Roselli line, and this is the perfect product, to begin with if your relationship with her is still fresh and new.
Packed with ceramides, hyaluronic acid and Japanese rice, this moisturizer will call and nourish your skin as it hydrates.

La-Roche posay double repair face moisturizer

A lovely, lightweight, everyday face cream that is filled with power ingredients like ceramides, niacinamide, glycerin, and prebiotic thermal water.

Yes, glycerin is indeed an overlooked skincare worker bee. By drawing in moisture from it’s surrounding environment, glycerin can help prevent water loss within the surface layer of the skin.
Double Repair Face Moisturizer is a great way to provide daily hydration regardless of your skin type. It’s even perfect on sensitive skin as well.

biossance Squalane and Omega Repair cream

If you don’t know by now, Squalane and Omega Repair Cream is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE skin care products. And I don’t say that lightly. This cream feels light, but it is so rich. Goes on with ease and absorbs like a breeze. And literally works overnight.
As with every Biossance product, it contains ethically sourced squalane and is the perfect product to add to your daily skin care routine. I also love using this a night cream if my skin is feeling well hydrated, too.

mario badescu buttermilk moisturizer

Another of my favorite super-lightweight yet super-effective moisturizers.
Mario Badescu is one of those brands that may not kick and scream when it enters the room but certainly knows how to put on a skincare party.
Check out their incredible range of highly tailored moisturizers, of which the Buttermilk may be my prized pick for a lightweight moisturizer every time.

Moisturizer Vs. Serum FAQ’s

Q: Are They The Same?
A: Moisturizers and serums are not the same, though they both provide benefits to the skin. Moisturizers are designed to hydrate and protect the skin’s barrier, while serums are formulated with a higher concentration of active ingredients to target specific skin concerns.

Q: Do I Need To Use Both a Moisturizer and a Serum?
A: Whether you need or want to use both types of products depends on your skin’s needs. And only you can really answer that question. If you don’t have dry skin, perhaps a serum alone will be enough to treat your skin. Generally, it’s a good idea to use a moisturizer daily. And then, you can add a serum to your routine as needed. And don’t be afraid to experiment a little and see how your skin responds.

Q: When Do I Need To Use Them?
A: Use your moisturizer daily. Then add a serum as needed to work best with your skin and environment.

Q: What ingredients should I Look For in A Serum?
A: Look for specific ingredients that are known for their hydrating, nourishing, and soothing qualities. Ingredients such as argan oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil and olive oil are great starting points. And don’t forget hyaluronic acid, which is your first stop for hydration. Look for it in your moisturizer as well as your serum.

Q: How Do I Know Which Serum Is Right For Me?
A: The right serum for you depends entirely on your own skin’s concerns. Things such as your age, whether you have or have had acne, sun damage, or hyperpigmentation. Any scarring and the environment you live in as well.

Q: Are there any Side Effects From Using a Serum?
A: This all depends on your skin. And you knowing your skin. I can actually recall feeling a burning or tingling sensation from one or two serums over the years – and you know what? I just washed them off at that point. And eventually stopped using those products. If you experience anything more extreme, wash the serum off immediately and stop using it. Seek medical advice if you have any concerns.

Q: Can I Use One Without the Other?
A: You can use a serum without a moisturizer. And if you have naturally hydrated skin, this may be all you need. If you are drier, it’s probably best to use both. But it’s important to note that your moisturizer will provide your skin with essential hydration and protection. And your serum can hone in and target your own specific skin concerns on top of providing extra hydration.

Q: Can I Just Use A Serum?
A: It’s best for your skin to use both a serum and a moisturizer. And while a serum can go a long way to help provide your skin with very targeted ingredients, your moisturizer will lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated and supple.
Having said that, every single skin type is different. So you can experiment with only using a serum if you like. And see how your skin health responds. Because in the end, that’s what this is all about, right? Looking after the health of your skin.



Harvard Health Publishing

Lab Muffin Beauty Science


Featured Image by by Miska Sage

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