Serum vs Oil For Face: Which Is Better And Why?

Serum vs oil for face. A woman's face in the sunshine
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Skincare can be confusing. Sometimes, you look at the shelves and can’t know the difference between some products. Serums, for instance, are used for hydration. Some women even consider them part of their regular five-step routine (cleansing, toning, serum, moisturizer, SPF). So, face oils are still a bit unexplored.

If you feel a bit lost and don’t know the difference between these two products, don’t worry. What is better: serum vs oil for face? Let’s go deeper.

What is Face Serum?

Serums are water-based products that are highly concentrated with ingredients that penetrate deep into your skin. They are designed to target specific problems, such as blemishes, redness, dark spots, acne, dullness, etc. Due to serum’s light consistency and smaller molecule weight, it penetrates into the skin, leaving it prepared for the next skincare steps.

The lightweight serum formula is packed with active ingredients that are going deep into your skin. Serums are usually made of water plus some active ingredients: antioxidants, peptides, alpha hydroxy or glycolic acids, etc.

Due to this specific formula, it is crucial to apply your face serum after cleansing and toning and before moisturizer. The ingredients absorb quickly into your skin, so they can be used both morning and evening.

What is Face Oil?

Believe it or not, face oils were since Ancient times. Even Cleopatra used them for her face. They believed oils will prevent aging and minimize wrinkles. Face oils are usually extracted from nuts, seeds, and fruit. They are also enriched with antioxidants, fatty acids, and essential nutrients.

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The key feature of face oil is that it mimics the skin’s natural sebum, moisturizing your skin at the same time. Lipids in face oils create a barrier on the skin, sealing in the moisture and keep your skin balanced.

Unlike serum, face oil has bigger molecules that seal all the nutrients applied in steps before and lock in moisture. That is why this product should be applied as the last one in your routine.

Keep in mind that face oils have many benefits but also can cause clogged pores and breakouts. Choose it according to your skin type.  

Main Differences Between Serum and Face Oil

While they may seem very much alike, serum and face oil are not the same product. They both come with an array of skin care advantages, can be used separately or layered together. The most significant difference between these two products is in formula and their consistency.

Serums are water-based, with small molecule sizes, usually with a sticky and creamy consistency. They penetrate deep into the skin and absorbs quickly.

On the other hand, oils’ molecular structure is larger, and they reach only the epidermis of the skin. That is why they are ideal for applying last in your routine.

So if you are wondering – serum vs. oil for face, we can say: use them both! Yes, you can use both of these products, just pick them accordingly. When layered, both serum and face oil can address many different skin concerns, which is excellent.

How to Incorporate Them Into Skincare Routine

Many skin experts agree that serums should be a part of your daily skincare routine. Unlike serums, face oils are not obligatory. You can skip them or use them as you see the need.

The general rule is to apply skin products in a specific order: starting from the smaller molecule size to the largest one. So, face serum goes first.

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Face Serum

The face serum should go right after cleansing and toning your skin. You can apply it once or twice a day, depending on the ingredients and consistency of your face serum.

Start by warming a drop or two of the product between your palms, and apply it to the skin using your hands. By evenly distributing it on your skin, you will also give yourself a nice push, which will leave your face plumped.

Face Oil

Since the face oil molecule is much larger than serum’s, you should apply it as the last step of your routine. Simply, after your day moisturizer, use four to five drops of oil and gently massage it into your skin. Don’t forget your neck. Spread the oil there as well to keep it well hydrated and nice looking.

Extra Tips on How to Use Oil for Face

  • Use a small amount – 2-6 drops of face oil will be enough for any skin type. Yet, if you are experiencing skin breakouts or extremely oily skin, reduce the amount. If the consistency of a product is 100%, you will also need to put less.
  • Give yourself a massage – don’t hesitate to use face oil for your face massage. This is how you get double benefits. Your face will be perfectly hydrated and plumped.
  • Always use after toning and serum – if you apply oil before any of these products, it will prevent the ingredients from serum or moisturizer from penetrating your skin.
  • Best to apply in the evening – if you are new to this kind of product, start using it in the evening. You can apply just a tiny amount in the morning as well.

Extra Tips on How to Use Face Serum

  • Choose serum according to your skin concerns – once you know what you want to treat, you can choose the appropriate serum, so it suits your skin type.
  • Test before applying – you can put on serum on a small area before using it on your face, just to see if it suits your skin. If there are no reactions, you are good to go.
  • Use once per day – even though you can read on the package of the most serums that they are suitable for both day and evening, you should apply it once a day. The amount you apply in the morning is just enough to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Press instead of massage – unlike the oil, watery consistency is lightweight, so it is better to press it instead of massage it into your skin.
  • Let it fully absorb – let your serum absorbs completely before applying the next product of your skincare routine. This is also how you will prevent product build-up.

Serum vs Oil For Face – Q&A

These are some of the frequently asked questions about the serum or face oils. Let’s find the answers.

Are face serum and face oil the same?

No, these are totally different products, even though they may appear to look alike. There are true, oil-based serums, and that is probably where the confusion may start. Serums are usually water-based, while face oils are extracted from fruit, seeds, and nuts.

Which is better: face oil or serum?

Depending on which skin concern you want to solve, you can choose serum, oil, or maybe both. The primary purpose of face oil is to nourish, protect and moisturize, while serum targets specific skin concerns.
If you want to seal the moisture you got from using your skincare products, use face oil. Otherwise, if you are dealing with dullness, hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, find a serum to solve these problems.

Can face oil replace serum?

You can replace your serum with face oil, but the best option is to try layering both of the products. If your skin is moisturized, you can replace your moisturizer with oil.

Can I use face oil if I have oily skin?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that people with oily skin should avoid face oils. In fact, sometimes, face oils will balance the oils in your complexion.
Oily skin produces even more oil to protect itself from losing moisture. A disrupted skin barrier is common and can be solved. By using oils that have anti-inflammatory properties and non-greasy texture, you will help your skin get better. Try rosehip or grapeseed oils.

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