Serum First Or Moisturizer – What Order Should They Be Applied?

  • Elle 
Serum First or Moisturizer

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Serum First Or Moisturizer? When it comes to our skincare routine, it can be difficult to know what to use in which order. This is especially true with so many products to choose from. 

A serum and a moisturizer can seem quite similar at first, but they are actually not. 

Serums are designed to penetrate deep into the skin where they can deliver anti-aging and skin-renewing ingredients directly to the dermis. 

Moisturizers, on the other hand, are applied over the top of the skin and provide hydration. The two types of products are often confused, but they serve very different purposes.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at both in more detail.

Three Main Serum Categories

There are three main categories of serums: oil-based, water-based, and hybrid. 

Oil-based Serums

Oil-based serums contain oils such as vitamin E and argan oil, which are absorbed through the skin and can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. 

Water-based Serums

Water-based serums contain hyaluronic acid, which helps retain moisture and plumps the skin. 

Hybrid Serums

Hybrid serums combine both oil and water-based ingredients.

Serum First Or Moisturizer?

Serum should always be applied before moisturizer. This allows the active ingredients in the serum to absorb into the skin more efficiently.

Serums should be used towards the start of your skincare routine (after your cleanser and toner) whereas moisturizers should be used at the end of your routine.

Where Serums Sit In Your Skincare Routine

Serums work best when used in combination with a good skincare routine. For example, you may use an exfoliator before applying your serum. This will remove dead cells from the surface of the skin, allowing it to absorb more effectively. 

After using your serum in the morning, follow up by applying a moisturizer that contains SPF 30 or higher.

serum or moisturizer

What Serum For What Skin Type?

Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, choose a serum that is specifically formulated for this type of skin. Look for one that contains glycerin, aloe vera, honey, avocado, or shea butter. These ingredients help keep skin soft and supple.

Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, look for a serum that contains salicylic acid, lactic acid, retinol, or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). 

Salicylic acid works to control excess sebum production, while AHAs help break down excess oil

Retinol also reduces inflammation and redness and improves the appearance of scars and stretch marks.

When purchasing a serum, be sure to read the label carefully. Some manufacturers add fragrances to their products, which can irritate sensitive skin. 

Also, make sure that the product doesn’t contain alcohol because some people are allergic to this ingredient.

Is Azelaic Acid An AHA Or BHA?

When Should You Apply Facial Oil – Before Or After A Serum?

In general, you want to apply your serum last in your routine before adding a moisturizer, since it penetrates deeper than a topical oil. 

However, there are times when you might need to apply oil first. If you’re going to be wearing makeup during the day, consider applying a lightweight moisturizing oil under your foundation. It will prevent any creasing or caking around your eyes.

If you’ve just had a long night out and you woke up with dark circles under your eyes, you should definitely apply a lightweight oil like jojoba or grapeseed oil before applying your serum. 

Jojoba oil has been shown to improve the appearance of dark circles. Grapeseed oil is rich in antioxidants, which help brighten the eye area.

If you’re about to go swimming, apply a moisturizing oil to your face before putting on your sunscreen. This will protect your skin from drying out.

You can also use an oil to set your makeup. Apply a small amount of oil to your fingertips and tap it onto your eyelids. The oil will act as a primer and help your makeup stay put throughout the day.

What Is A Moisturizer?


Moisturizing creams, lotions, gels, and ointments are typically thicker than serums and therefore require less frequent application. 

They also tend to be heavier duty, meaning they can last longer on the skin.

When selecting a moisturizer to be used in the morning, look for one that has SPF 30 or higher and contains sunscreen. 

This is optional of course because you can also add a dedicated sunscreen to your skin post-moisturizing. 

Adding a moisturizing SPF is the best way to deter premature aging. Even during the winter months, always protect your skin from UV rays. 

If you have dry skin, opt for a lightweight cream. If you have normal to oily skin, go for a rich formula. 

Moisturizers are great for keeping skin looking fresh throughout the day. Apply them after cleansing and toning and serums to lock in moisture and prevent dehydration. 

You can use these products alone or under makeup.

Can You Use A Facial Serum Instead Of A Moisturizer?

Yes! In fact, facial serums are often recommended over moisturizers for several reasons. They can penetrate the skin better than moisturizers, so they work more quickly. 

What does serum do for your face? They provide additional hydration and don’t leave a greasy residue. They are easier to blend into the skin and they are really good for those who have combination skin.

Whilst facial serums can feel more hydrating and nourishing, it’s important to note that not all serums are created equal.

However, also keep in mind that most serums are not suitable for all skin types.

What Is The Best Way To Apply A Serum And Moisturizer?

The order in which you apply your product matters. Apply your serum first, then moisturizer. Why? Because you don’t want your serum to sit on top of your moisturizer. 

Your moisturizer is designed to absorb into the skin, so if you apply it first, it won’t do its job.

Apply the serum as you would a moisturizer, using circular and upward motions to gently help the serum penetrate into the skin. Be mindful of the eye contour area. Use a different product here.

Once finished, apply a moisturizer over the top to ‘seal’ the serum in and to add extra hydration. Apply it in upward gentle strokes. 

For the best results, you only need tiny drops of the serum and a pea-sized amount of moisturizer. More does not always mean better.

What Order Should I Apply Skincare Products?

What Order Should I Apply Skincare Products

The order in which you apply your skincare products depends on what type of skin you have and how often you cleanse your face. 

If you have oily skin, start with cleansers and then move on to serums.

For those with dry skin, begin by cleansing and finishing with moisturizers. For those who have acne-prone skin, start with spot treatments and finish with serums.

To avoid clogging pores, try not to over-cleanse your face. Try and stick to twice a day at the most, as cleansing your face more can actually be counterproductive. Your skin will dry out and then produce extra oil which can lead to acne.

If you are really unsure, the rule of thumb is to apply skincare products from the thinnest to the thickest. After cleansing start with a toner, then the serum, moisturizer, and facial oil.

Why Does The Order Of Skincare Products Matter?

It matters because it affects how long your products stay on your skin. The thinner the product, the faster it evaporates off your skin. So when applying your skincare products, start with the thinnest ones first.

This helps ensure that the products you want to remain on your skin are applied before any other products. It also ensures that you don’t end up using too much product and having to wash it all off.

How Should I Use A Clarifying Cleanser?

A clarifying cleanser is ideal for removing excess dirt, oil, and impurities from your skin without stripping it of its natural oils. These formulas usually contain ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs).

Clarifying cleansers work by exfoliating dead cells while helping to remove surface debris and bacteria. In addition, they help unclog pores.

A clarifying cleanser is suitable for both oily and dry skin types. Use a clarifying cleanser as an alternative to your usual cleanser,  but only use it once or twice a week.

Also, do not use an acid-based serum alongside the clarifying cleanser otherwise you risk stripping your skin of its natural oils, causing it to be dry and affecting the skin’s healthy barrier. 

How Often Should I Do My Skincare Routine?

It all depends on your skin type. Most women should do their skincare routine twice daily: once in the morning and again at night. 

However, if you have extremely sensitive skin, you may only need to do it once per day, or use a cleansing milk or balm in the morning. 

It’s important to remember that your skin needs time to heal after each step in your skincare routine. The key is to give it enough time to recover before moving on to the next step, as well as to let the ingredients sink in.

After cleansing, wait 15 minutes before applying any other products. During this time, your skin will absorb the cleansing agent and allow the rest of your skincare products to penetrate deeper into the layers of your skin.

How Long Does It Take To See Results from Using Skincare Products?

This varies depending on the product, but generally speaking, results take anywhere between 2 weeks and 3 months. Some people see results immediately while others don’t notice changes until several months later.

This is why it’s so important to test different products on yourself first. A good way to do this is to buy a sample size and use it for a few days. 

Then, when you’re ready to purchase the full-size version, compare the two and choose the one that works better for your skin.

Final Words

There are many ways to achieve healthy glowing skin. By using the right combination of skincare products, you’ll be able to get the perfect balance of hydration, nourishment and protection.

Remember to follow the steps above to ensure you’re getting the best possible results. It’s also worth remembering that everyone has different skin types, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. That said, there are some tried and tested combinations that work for most skin types.

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