Facial Serums Vs. Facial Moisturizers..... What is the Difference? Do you need both?
What is the difference between “facial serums” and “facial moisturizers”? I get asked that question a lot. People are perplexed and confused about which one to use and whether they should be using both. The more knowledgeable and educated you are on this skin care terminology, the more you can make better choices when you purchase!
Facial moisturizers and creams have been the most prevalent method of skin care for many decades. Your grandmother probably even had her own favorite cream or moisturizer as part of her daily skin care routine. Today, however, dermatologists and cosmetologists recommend the use of cutting edge concentrates known as serums, along with a daily moisturizer to address specific skin care concerns such as dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and dry skin. Serums penetrate deep into the dermis where they can stimulate collagen production, a protein that our bodies produce less of as we age. Creams and lotions are only topical and treat the visible outer layer of skin for an instant beauty boost.
So…should you use a serum, or moisturizer, or both? The answer is YES to all of the above. Here’s why…
A serum and moisturizing cream differ in many ways. One of the main contrasts is in their molecular structure. A serum has a small enough molecular structure to penetrate the skin easily, whereas moisturizers and lotions have a larger molecule which lay on top of the skin, keeping it moisturized. Serums are highly concentrated and extremely potent. They contain around 10-15 times more active anti-aging ingredients than skin care creams. A moisturizing cream or lotion contains emollients to hydrate the skin and forms a barrier on your skin that keeps oils from escaping and harmful outside elements from causing dryness or irritation.
A serum and moisturizer differ not only in their consistency and feel on the skin, but also in terms of the ingredients they contain. A serum is generally a water-based liquid or gel that feels lightweight on the skin and is able to penetrate the skin more easily. It is fast absorbing, and has a high concentration of active ingredients like antioxidants, vitamins, skin brighteners, peptides, hydrators and exfoliators. A lotion or cream, on the other hand, contains moisturizing ingredients that are meant to hydrate and protect the skin, thus treating only the top layer…the epidermis.
A serum’s ability to penetrate into the dermis, because of its smaller molecular structure, means the vitamins and minerals it delivers get deeper into the skin layers. It is more highly concentrated and useful in addressing specific skin problems that cannot always be treated topically. It is actually treating your skin from the inside out! Serums are also able to deliver the anti-aging, active ingredients deeper into your skin to affect real change in healing damaged cells and build up the skin matrix. The skin matrix is responsible for structural integrity, mechanical resilience, stability and many other properties of the skin. The degradation of the skin matrix plays an important role in the development of wrinkles and other signs of aging. Using a serum, will smooth out lines and deeper wrinkles the way a lotion or cream cannot.
There are also many good reasons to use a facial moisturizer. A moisturizer cream or lotion is necessary to hydrate your skin and provides protection from the outside elements and environment. Keeping skin hydrated is an important step toward keeping it healthy. Facial moisturizers enhance the functioning of the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of skin. This layer is made up of fat, oil, and skin cells that help keep moisture in the skin. Applying a moisturizer to your face can increase the moisture level of the stratum corneum, prevent skin from drying out, and if the moisturizer contains a sunscreen, then you will have protection against sun damage also. Moisturizers treat the skin from the outside.
How to use a Serum and Moisturizer together:
Remember…a facial serum is a “treatment” rather than a cosmetic. A little bit goes a long way, and packaging is typically very small. Depending on the function of the serum and its active ingredients, you will apply it either morning or night. To get the most out of your serum, wash your face using a mild exfoliant first. Apply toner, (if you use a toner) and then apply serum directly onto skin around the entire face and neck area, avoiding the eyes and lips. Most importantly you don't need a lot of product - a few drops or a pea size amount of the product is enough. More is not better when it comes to serums. Wait a few minutes to allow the serum to absorb into your skin completely. Follow up with a rich, hydrating moisturizer. Applying a moisturizer will help lock in those nutrients delivered by your serum of choice. To get the best results, use a serum every day.
Don’t rely on facial moisturizers alone! Invest in a serum to give your skin a boost and nourish it with the extra antioxidants and vitamins it needs to build a strong skin matrix. It will improve the look and firmness of your skin. You also need hydration and protection for your outer layer, stratum corneum. So moisturize daily, too. To really take care of your skin, especially as you get older, both a serum and a moisturizing cream or lotion will be your Best Friend!