Serums Vs. Oils: What's The Difference?
Shopping for skincare is so much harder than it used to be. If you’re confused when it comes to the differences between serum and oil, we’re here to help.
Serums and oils are two very different products that are often packaged similarly and sometimes marketed interchangeably. You can use both simultaneously, but applying them in the correct order is key to getting the maximum benefits from both products.
Here’s everything you need to know about serum vs oil and which beauty products are kind to your skin, the environment, and of course, your animal friends.
Are serums and oils the same?
No. Serums and oils are different, and they serve different purposes. The main difference between serums and oils is that serums are developed to treat specific skin concerns, and oils are primarily used to intensify hydration.
Serums are usually lighter than oils and are formulated to target specific skin issues. They may even contain oils, but they’re not necessarily the best products for hydration.
Here are the main differences you’ll find between a serum and an oil.
- Molecule size. Serums typically have smaller molecules that are more effective for deep cleansing. Molecule size matters. The larger the molecule size, the less deeply penetrating the product will be on immediate contact with the skin. Larger molecules sit on the surface of the skin, which can help form a protective barrier on the skin.
- Specific skin concerns. Irritation, fine lines, wrinkles, or uneven texture are all reasons you’ll want to grab a serum. Serums contain some of the same ingredients you love in other skin products, but in more highly concentrated formulas to give laser-focus attention for helping to rectify these skin conditions.
- Powerful ingredients. Unlike oils, serums usually contain a blend of ingredients that work hard on your skin. Oils may contain blends of other oils, but their main focus is hydration and moisture retention.
- Ideal for layering. Knowing when and how to apply face serum is crucial since you won’t want to layer on numerous serums; one will do the trick. However, serums are perfect for layering under moisturizers and oils.
Oils are a thicker product that you may not use daily, especially if you have naturally oily skin or you aren’t in need of intense moisture regularly.
Here are the features that make an oil different from a serum.
- Mimic natural sebum production. Many natural oils can mimic your skin’s natural oil, which is called sebum. Jojoba oil, for instance, is the closest in chemical makeup to your sebum, which makes it an excellent skin hydrator and moisture balancer. Jojoba oil helps rectify oil issues like excessive oil production or dry areas where skin needs added hydration.
- Repair lipid barrier. The stratum corneum of your skin is the outermost layer that helps prevent moisture loss. It is often referred to as the skin barrier. Because the molecules in oil are larger, they form a protective barrier on the surface of your skin that helps prevent your skin from losing moisture.
- Intense hydration. Oils deliver deep hydration to your skin and help intensify your skin’s natural moisture by keeping your epidermis protected and your dermis packed with nourishing ingredients.
Should I use both a serum and an oil?
You can certainly use both a serum and an oil on your skin as long as you use them in the correct order. Start with serum on cleansed skin and allow it to absorb completely before you apply your oil.
Once the serum has absorbed completely, dot on skin oil and gently massage it into your skin to seal in the serum ingredients and increase hydration.
Which serums and oils are best for me?
Depending on your skin type and the type of skin concern you’re ready to tackle, you can find a cruelty-free option that works for you. Here are some formulas for face oils and face serums that we love.
Earth Harbor is one of our favorite brands, and we’ve featured their products in The Kinder Beauty Box numerous times. They offer a variety of serums that work for fine lines, wrinkles, and dehydrated skin.
We especially love the LUNA RAIN Night Serum. This vitamin C serum helps correct dark spots and areas of hyperpigmentation while evening out skin tone, fighting dullness, and reducing signs of aging. Especially helpful for oily and acne-prone skin, this formula helps restore balance to your skin.
A company dedicated to the clean beauty movement, East 29th has developed the Vital Serum for fighting lines and wrinkles, and it’s nothing short of miraculous. This silky-smooth serum contains hyaluronic acid and vitamins C and E to help restore your complexion and then protect it with antioxidants.
This serum also helps improve skin elasticity while delivering a highly concentrated boost of anti-aging ingredients directly into your skin’s pores.
The Dirty Lamb offers several serums and facial oils. We love their Apricot Cleansing Oil, which contains lavender and ylang-ylang to help wash away dirt and oil from every skin type.
This oil is featured in Kinder Beauty's July boxes. Get the box when you subscribe today!
Cleansing facial oils can help restore the balance of your natural oils.
What’s better than a powerful serum to deal with a specific skin issue? A fully customized serum formulated especially for your skin. Province Apothecary will prepare a customized skin serum made to work synergistically with your skin, specifically.
Fill out a questionnaire, choose from essential oils like grapeseed and rosehip oil, and get instructions on how and when to apply your serum.
These clean and cruelty-free serums are designed to indulge your senses and keep your skin looking radiant. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and tripeptides that are naturally plant-based, you’ll love the powerful effects these serums bring to the table paired with the way they make your skin feel.
You’ll get a glow that only comes from the essential nutrients found in these plant-based oils with Tropicgyal Naturals’ Facial Serum. Safe enough for sensitive skin, this serum smells fantastic and leaves your skin feeling like velvet.
Andalou Naturals is famous for their CannaCell Beauty Oil, and you’ll find this anti-aging oil rich in active ingredients that work with your skin to lock in moisture, even out natural oil production, and help erase lines and wrinkles.
Serums and oils: better together
You might need a serum or an oil, or maybe you need both! At Kinder Beauty, we love a serum and oil combined in your skincare routine to help repair, restore, and add barrier protection against moisture loss.
The Kinder Beauty Box delivers the newest and best serums and oils directly to your door, so you can try them while learning about brands that are doing their part to make sure beauty spreads love and does no harm.
Check out The Kinder Beauty Blog to learn about safe ingredients and products that are better for your skin, animals, and the environment.
Skin serum: What it can and can't do | Harvard Health Blog
Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils | NCBI
Understanding the Epidermal Barrier in Healthy and Compromised Skin: Clinically Relevant Information for the Dermatology Practitioner | NCBI
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