I’m a minimalist. When it comes to skincare, I truly think that less is more.
Like, why pay twice for the same moisturizer just because one jar is labelled “face” and the other “eye”? Insane.
I thought serums were like that. Super lightweight moisturizers. Why bother?
Then, I gave them a go and was blown away. Turns out, serums are the workhorses of skincare. They’re packed with actives that lighten your skin, fight your wrinkles, and give you a dewy glow.
Moisturizers have all these goodies, too. But, they’re barely sprinkled in there. That means they work way more slowly.
So, little scrooge me started to think, “Maybe I should ditch my moisturizer instead? Use just the serum and get the same results twice faster? And save some money too so I can buy myself a new Kate Spade wallet?”
Turns out, that’s a bad idea, too. For most people anyway. Here’s why:
Who Can’t Use Serum Alone?
There’s a reason why serums are packed with actives. They’re designed to target one specific skin concern, like wrinkles or dark spots.
Moisturizers are different. They’re meant to improve your skin’s moisture levels and strengthens its natural protective barrier.
Here’s the deal: your skin has a shield that keeps water in and germs out. But cold weather, hot water, UV rays, and harsh skincare products can damage it, leaving tiny holes all over it. Moisture gets out. Germs get in. Your skin gets all dry, flaky and irritated.
Enter moisturizers. They patch up the skin’s protective barrier so moisture stays firmly in and germs firmly out.
Serums can’t do this. They often don’t have ceramides, fatty acids, and all the other stuff that helps moisturizers strengthen your skin’s shield.
Yep, some serums ARE hydrating. But, more often than not, they can only draw water into your skin. They can’t seal it in. You need a moisturizer for that, especially if your skin is dry or sensitive.
Related: Dry Skin? Here’s What Your Moisturizer Should Contain
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Who Can Use Serum Alone – Without Moisturizer?
What if your skin’s strong enough on its own? If you have normal or oily skin, chances are your skin’s protective barrier is perfectly intact. It can keep water in and germs out on its own.
So, do you still need a moisturizer? Only your skin can answer that.
I have dry cheeks and, if I skip a moisturizer there, my skin will let me know it’s not happy. It feels tight. Uncomfortable. If I don’t fix it fast, it may even start to flake.
At night, moisturizer is a must. I use retinol and glycolic acid, two anti-aging superstars that can be drying. My skin needs the extra moisture to put up with them.
But, in the morning on my oily t-zone? Well, there are days in summer when I can get away with skipping moisturizer there. My skin doesn’t feel any worse for it.
So, experiment. If your skin’s happy with serum alone, you can skip moisturizer. But only a lucky few with normal and super oily skin can get away with this, in my experience. So, don’t be too disappointed if your skin needs both.
Related: How To Care For Oily Skin
The Bottom Line
Although they sometimes share the same ingredients, serums and moisturizers aren’t the same thing. Serums target specific skin concerns, while moisturizers strengthens your skin’s protective barrier. Unless your skin is oily or in perfect condition, it needs both.
I usually use serums alone, because my skin is pretty oily and acne prone, so I don’t need a lot of moisture! 🙂
Stavroula, no need for moisturizer then! What are your favourite serums?
I don’t have a specific favorite serum so far, but I love the ones that contain hyaluronic acid and vitamin c! 🙂 x
Me too. They are great for skin. 🙂
Dr oz vitamin c!
Rema, I haven’t tried that yet. Thanks for the recommendation.
I use the same moisturizer and serum in your picture! I’m turning 30 this year and have started to use these two about a year ago. Which do you apply first? Serum or moisturizer?
Rachel, it’s a great combination, isn’t it? 😉
Definitely serums.Moisturizers contain ingredients that can create a barrier that prevents skin from losing moisture but also makes it harder for active ingredients to penetrate it. So, they should always be applied last. 🙂
I usually use serum alone brcause im traumatized by layering too much lotion on my skin would cause more acne! But i read tht moisturizers are good to lock in the moisture provided by the serum in ur skin. However, for layering rules. Moisturizers always go last
Rits, yes, that’s what moisturizers do. But if you have very oily skin, a serum may be enough. Try both ways and see what your skin likes best.
oh my.. i have to agree with you.. i did applied vit C serum only without moisturizer, AFTER a week , small rashes and dried one too start to come out.. i started blaming the vit c serum product.. hahahha.. stupid me.. since the price of the vit c serum was a bomb, i still use it and apply moisturizes.. and yeay actually it work better with mousturizer.
CT, serums can do a lot of things, but they can’t replace a moisturiser. Better use them together! Thanks for sharing your experience.
What brand of serum and moisturizing is better for NOT to clog pores, creating hard whiteheads? The same question is for
cleansers, since my skin doesn’t tolerate water?
Hi, it’s not a matter of brand, it’s a matter of ingredients. If your skin doesn’t like water, then I’d recommend to go with a lightweight oil like rosehip or jojoba. You can use them both for cleansing and moisturising.
Hi, I have oily/sensitive acne pron skin I use benzoyl peroxide in p.m. and salicylic acid in a.m. I have never use serum and would like to start. Do you think it’s okay to applied after using the benzoyl peroxide. I do moisturize, your reply would be helpful. Thank you in advance.
Kim, yes you can use a serum after benzoyl peroxide. 🙂
Im using vit c and not using moisturiser,bcs i think vit c doesn’t work if i using both at the same time. I use at night only. At am i still use moisturiser hehe
Nik, why would your moisturizer affect vitamin C?
I use Niacinamide+ zinc in the morning + mosturizer with spf, and vit C 20% in the night and mosturizer, obviusly after cleansing. For me, since i use mosturizer it was much better. I hav some stains in my skin due to past acne and these products work so much better with that. Also i think that if you have oily skin (as me), you have to use mosturizer. At least in my experience mosturizer improving a lot my sebum production. So i do not recommend not use mosturizer at alla
Erick, thanks for sharing your experience. Makes sense!
is it ok to use vitamin c serum and then use aloe vera gel (nature republic aloe vera gel) as a moisturizer? your answer is highly appreciated 🙂
Zeh, if you have oily skin then yes you can.
Earlier I used only moisturizer, acne appeared. Then I switched to serum, still pimples appear. If I skip both, skin looks dull. Plus sunscreen is something I have to avoid because of the oily skin it leaves afterwards. What should I do?
Gary, use an oil-free moisturiser and exfoliate with salicylic acid three nights a week.
Hi can I use mcaffenine green tea serum with plum green tea moisturizer and toner Because I have acne prone oily skin
Ashwini, unfortunately, I couldn’t find the entire ingredient lists for the products, so I can’t say if they’re safe for oily skin.