Serum or Moisturizer? Which one should you use for skin care?

Skin-friendly face washes, toner, serum, makeup remover, skin creams, sunscreen, moisturizer, all are a part of a healthy skin care routine which one must follow religiously for healthy, glowing skin.

Most important and result-driven products are surely the moisturizer, sunscreen and serum. Talking about moisturizer and serum, people often mingle these and make the wrong choice.

Moisturizers and serums, though being different products altogether with different functionality, people tend to get confused between the two quite often. Very clearly, moisturizers and serums are not the same, though some of the serums contain ingredients which can take care of the moisturizer’s work.

But in order to ensure the skin routine you want, you must first understand what these two are, and can do for your skin.


Moisturizers are primarily formulated to keep the skin hydrated by maintaining the skin’s natural moisture and adding to it, thus preventing the skin from drying. However, the role of the moisturizers like Eminence Organics Stone Crop Whip Moisturizer today has extended to tackle problems like aging or protection from the sun’s UV rays.

Also, you get moisturizers with color pigments to enhance your aesthetic appeal of the skin.


While moisturizers work at the upper layers of the skin, serums are designed to penetrate deeper layers of the skin and tackle the root causes of aging and skin problems at the cellular level. Usually, serum like Image’s Vital C Serum contains more nutrients and vitamins and a higher antioxidant level. These enable the serum to repair the skin damage by affecting the structure of the skin cells. Also, it enhances the skin radiance quality and the texture of the skin in terms of smoothness and suppleness.

Having understood what these two seemingly similar, yet completely different products are, it is time we compare the two. The comparison will help you choose better, opt for the most suited and help your skin improve substantially.

Comparing serum and moisturizer

The basic differences between serum and moisturizer are listed below-

  1. Serum and moisturizers act on different layers of the skin.
  2. While serums are helpful in treatment of certain skin conditions, moisturizers usually aid in conditioning of the skin.
  3. Serums are designed to work against the skin’s barrier, whereas moisturizers are effective working with the skin.
  4. Serums are water based, while moisturizers are oil and water based.
  5. The difference in their composition and texture ensures that the serum mixes with the layers of the skin containing water (by penetration), while the moisturizer stays put on the exterior layers of the skin only.

Penetration difference between Serum and Moisturizer

To understand the action of the two products on the skin, you need to know that our skin comprises three layers: epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. Epidermis is the strong outer coating which is visible to us, dermis is the one below it and is much thicker. Hypodermis is the bottom layer.

Epidermis is mainly formed of the dead skin cells and is oil based. This layer is like the water proof barrier of the skin and helps in keeping the skin hydrated. It also functions as a shield against the bacteria and allergens. The layers below epidermis are water based, and comprises living and active cells.

Serums which are water based penetrate to the deeper levels of the skin which have the same formula as the serum itself. On the contrary, moisturizers are oil based and their action is limited to the top layer of the skin as the constituents of the moisturizer are similar to those of the epidermis.

Conditioning or Treatment?

The basic functional difference between the two products is that of conditioning and treatment.  Serum is a sure choice for treatment while conditioning is the work of moisturizer.

For example, a case of hyperpigmentation (uneven tone of the skin) includes color formation in deeper layers of the skin which can only be treated using a serum which tackles the root cause by penetrating into the skin.

On the other hand, if you have dry skin, the perfect choice of the product is the moisturizer as it acts on the top layer of the skin and keeps the hydration level of the skin in check.

Conditioning is like a preventative medicine which enhances the skin barrier while treatment tackles specific skin problems like wrinkles, aging lines or pigmentation.

Is it necessary to use both the products together?

Well, one can say no, but it all depends on your skin condition. It is preferable to use both since they tackle different situations, but these days you can easily get serums with some hydrating properties of the moisturizers.

But to guarantee oneself a healthier, hydrated and flawless skin, choosing the best of the lot – serum and moisturizer, is the key.

Simply put, serum and moisturizer are both beneficial products for all types of skin, however they function in their own unique manner. Some skin types require a generous spread of serum with restrained moisturizer use, while certain others yearn for more moisture while a limited application of serum.

None can substitute the other, you ought to use both for different reasons and different skin deficiencies. The serum can, in fact be used to boost the hydrating effects of the moisturizer. And the moisturizer can, on the other hand, form an effective base for serum penetration. Thus, both have a role to play in proper skin care.

So go on, pick up the best serum and moisturizer for your skin type and say hello to shiny, glowing skin!