When the basic skincare regimen of 'cleanse, tone, and moisturise' was first created, serums barely existed. Do you really even need a serum? Is moisturiser enough? Is there any benefit from using both?
Designing a skincare routine that works for you is like creating a daily meal plan—but for your face. The nutrients that skincare products provide your skin with—vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids—are not all that dissimilar to the ones you eat, and they're just as important.
When you ask if you can replace serum with moisturiser, it's a little like asking if you can eat fruits instead of veg. While the answer is, 'Yes, you can', we're not too sure that you'll want to overlook serums after reading this.
What's the difference between a moisturiser and a serum?
Serums are thin, lightweight, water-based fluids packed with essential vitamins and skin-plumping hydrators. These products are formulated to penetrate skin deeply, which is why they're applied before moisturiser. Serums are concentrated products that contain active ingredients best utilised by the deeper layers of your skin.
Moisturisers are vastly different. Moisturising creams and lotions are a mixture of water- and oil-based ingredients. They often pair some of the hydrators found in serums with nourishing plant oils and butters. Skin is treated to replenishing fatty acids, including omega-3 and -6, which help to condition and protect. If your skin has begun to look dull and tired, it's likely in need of a dose of omegas.
The natural oils and butters found in moisturisers work best in the upper layers of skin, which is why they're applied after serums. Moisturisers are also thicker in consistency than serums are, and while some vitamins may penetrate to the deeper layers of skin, they take longer to do so.
The biology of skin, or how moisturisers and serums work differently
In some ways, skin is complex, but in other ways, it's simple. Skin has several layers, and all of these layers can be classed as either oil- or water-based. The top layers of skin are oil-based, and the bottom layers are predominantly water-based.
This difference helps your skin:
- Lock in the water you drink
- Keep excess water from entering
This clever barrier function also serves to defend against well-known attackers such as bacteria, viruses, and even UV light.
The oil-based top layers of skin are best conditioned by skin-identical oils, such as those in Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré Moisturiser. The water-based deeper layers are best served by water-based serums, such as Cosmedix Affirm Antioxidant Firming Serum.
Can a moisturiser replace a serum?
In the same way that you could get your vitamins and fibre from fruits instead of veg, you could also skip serum and use moisturiser alone. Sometimes, this might work fine, particularly if your skin is already hydrated and resilient.
Mostly, we recommend a consistent routine of both moisturiser and serum to treat the skin in different ways. While you may not always see the benefits now, it's what's going on underneath your skin that counts. You'll see the payoff in later years!
Choose from the following Adore-Beauty-approved serums for your differing skin concerns:
- Aspect Extreme C 20, which lends antioxidant resilience to sensitive skin
- Cosmedix Clarity Serum, ideal for blemish-prone skin
- Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II, for anti-ageing renewal and repair
Now you've designed a skincare routine with an appropriate moisturiser and serum, you may want to read other Ultimate Guide articles to learn more details about each product. 'Do I Need to Use a Different Moisturiser at Night?' helps you understand how best to differ your morning and evening routine.