can you use serum alone without moisturizer

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.