Serums vs Oils: What's the Difference?

Serums vs Oils: What's the Difference?

Compared to say, moisturizers or cleansers, serums are the new kids on the block as far as skin care goes which might be why some people have a hard time understanding what they actually do. What’s the difference between face serum and oils? If I use a serum, do I need face oil? Do serums and oil moisturize my skin? It’s a confusing issue which is why in this article, we’ll discuss the difference between a serum and an oil, the benefits of each, and why you might want to use one over the other!


Main Takeaways: Generally speaking, an oil is meant to moisturize the skin while a serum is meant to do a specific, specialized job. Unlike oils, serums can also be water based.

Good to Know: If you have a specific skin problem like dullness, dark spots, or fine lines and wrinkles, a serum might be the way to go.

Recommended Products: Nectar of the C Vitamin C Serum.


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Serums vs Oils: What's the Difference?

In general, the question of serums vs. oils can be answered fairly simply: oils moisturize the skin while serums have specific, designated jobs. Spoiler alert: oils are obviously oil based, but a serum can be water based (although there are some serums that are oil based).

Usually, serums are lighter but that doesn’t necessarily mean they always are. Also, face oils usually don’t penetrate beyond the top layer of skin, but there are many serums that can.

Benefits of Serums

Learning about the benefits of serums and all the issues they can tackle can be overwhelming since they can do many different things. Once you know the kinds of serums there are and all the problems they solve, you’ll want to make sure they become a regular part of your skin care routine!

Serums can brighten the skin - One of the biggest benefits of serums is that they can brighten the skin like nobody’s business. Take our Nectar of the C vitamin C serum. We use sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a form of vitamin C which is more stable and less likely to cause irritation. It’s known for its ability to brighten the skin and give you a gorgeous glow!

Serums can help reduce dark spots - We don’t like to brag, but our Nectar of the C vitamin C serum actually does more than just make skin glow--it helps reduce the look of dark spots and even skin tone over time. Just remember, that consistency is the key!

Serums can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles - Many serums contain oils or acids like hyaluronic acid that can not only infuse the skin with moisture by going into the deeper layers of the skin, but which can help keep it there as well. By doing so, they help plump the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E is a great ingredient to look out for as it does an amazing job of restoring moisture to the skin, keeping those fine lines and wrinkles at bay!

Serums can reduce the appearance of pores - There are many serums out there that are also exfoliants which means they, in part, help unclog the skin of all the gunk that gets in pores and won’t get out! If clogged pores are a regular problem for you, scout out a serum that helps exfoliate the skin.

Serums can improve the appearance of skin tone and radiance - Retinol serums in particular are well known for their ability to keep your look firm and tight! You might have to give your skin time to adjust to a retinol serum, but it’s a great way to really give you an ageless appearance!

Benefits of Face Oils

The primary job of a face oil is to hydrate or moisturize the skin and there are many out there that do just that and more!

Remember that you don’t have to just buy one type of oil to do each job--there are plenty of face oils that are actually a combo of many other beneficial oils. These oils can be their own step in your skin care routine. For example, a face oil might contain both rosehip seed oil for moisture and sea buckthorn oil to protect the skin from environmental stressors! Let’s look at a few!

Rosehip Seed Oil - Rosehip oil is a true overachiever! Full of antioxidants and fatty acids that protect and moisturize the skin, rosehip oil does a great job of keeping the skin hydrated which is why we’ve included it in our Prince Charcoal Natural Detox Mask!

Jojoba Oil - Also included in Prince Charcoal as well as Nectar of the C, is jojoba oil which is known for its ability to help balance the oils in your skin.

Sunflower Oil - One of the best things about sunflower oil is that it helps hydrate the skin but is still non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores) which is why we’ve included it in our So Clean! Natural facial cleanser.

Olive Oil - If you thought olive oil was great on salads, wait until you try it for your skin! An excellent antioxidant, olive oil is wonderful at protecting your skin from environmental stressors that are out to harm it.

Sea Buckthorn Oil - Full of antioxidants, Sea Buckthorn oil (which, in spite of its name comes from a shrub), is known for its ability to really soothe the skin.

Why You May Want to Use a Serum vs. an Oil

Deciding whether to use a serum vs. an oil is kind of like deciding whether the whole house needs a cleaning or it’s really just one or two rooms that need specific tasks done like repainting or putting up wallpaper--or both! Serums generally target one issue (for example, vitamin C serum will make dull skin brighter), while oils are generally used to restore moisture, although that’s not necessarily all they do. If you’ve got a very specific skin issue like dark spots, you may just want a serum. If you’re trying to hydrate your entire face, go for an oil.

Also keep in mind that you can actually use both together! If your serum happens to contain an oil and you have oily skin that might be a little too much. However, if you have normal or dry skin, you’ll probably be just fine (and you can always use a face oil every other day instead of every day)! Just remember to use your serum after your cleanse and then use your face oil last to hydrate the skin.

Also remember that you can use a face oil that’s been incorporated into a product like any of the ones we’ve mentioned above--you don’t have to go out and just use straight oil to reap the benefits they offer!

We hope this helps clarify the difference between serum vs. oil. Like a lot of skin care decisions, it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your skin care. Either way, both do some great things for the skin!