What’s the Difference Between A Face Oil and Serum?

With so much new skincare popping up on our feeds every day, it’s easy to get confused about what goes where in your routine, and what everything actually does. One of the most common confusions, is the oil verse serum debate. Do you need both? How do you use them together? And which one goes first?

Oils and serums both serve very different purposes in a skincare routine and can be used to create some seriously clear, glowing and even skin. There’s certainly no rule that says you have to use both, but a great skincare routine definitely takes advantages of their unique properties.

Let’s start with the basics…

Face oil vs serums: what’s the difference?

Face oils are made from natural ingredients and provide nourishment to your skin by creating an occlusive effect to lock in hydration. Serums are water-soluble and contain active ingredients that target specific skin concerns. Face oils contain much larger molecules so don’t penetrate as deeply as the smaller molecules of serums.

The other major difference, is that face oils, like the name suggests, is made from oil, where serums are water-soluble. Just like in the kitchen, oil and water don’t mix, so your water-soluble serums won’t penetrate oils. This means you should always use serums before oils in your routine.

When it comes to face oils…

Face oils work on a cellular level to deliver nutrients to your skin and lock in moisture. The oils your skin will love are sourced from plants, nuts and seeds delivering the powers of pure botanicals to your complexion. They’re typically rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and natural forms of vitamin C, A and E.

What face oils should you use?

Many skincare products contain single oils, such as jojoba, rosehip, squalane and argan oil that are all great for mixing with moisturiser or using after serums. Our favourites products, are actually blends of many oils and include ingredients like macadamia oil, evening primrose and buriti oil among many others.

While plant oils are a great source of antioxidants and work to replenish the skin’s natural protective barrier, they’re not so good as targeting specific concerns like pigmentation and congestion, which is where serums come in.

Do face oils cause congestion?

Facial oils create silky smooth and soft skin, and contrary to popular belief, the good ones won’t clog your pores. In fact, including a facial oil in your routine can actually help to balance your natural oil production by signalling to your skin that you have enough.

Some of our favourite oils are…

Alkira Hydrating Facial Oil – Made from a delicate blend of 14 plant and nut oils including avocado oil and rosehip, this hydrating facial oil works to provide nutrients to your skin that help to lock in moisture. Australian native kangaroo paw and macadamia oil also help with improving skin elasticity and assist with cell renewal. It’s super lightweight and sinks in beautifully leaving your skin hydrated without feeling greasy.

hydrating face oil

Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate and Glow – This Amazonian blend brings some serious antioxidants thanks to the inclusion of maqui, acai, prickly pear and goji berries. It’s silky smooth, quick to absorb and seals in hydration without leaving you feeling sticky. A little goes a long way so it’s great value and it’s also a good one for mixing with your moisturiser to boost your glow factor.

Go-To Skincare Face Hero – Essentially a cult product, Face Hero is loved by many and for good reason. It combines 10 different plant and nut oils that are carefully blended to give you a rich and restorative step in your routine. It’s nice and heavy so is best for night time use and will have you waking up with a serious glow. It also smells ah-mazing!

As for serums…

Serums contain concentrated ingredients that can combat serious skin issues and have dramatic effects on your skin. Everything from pigmentation to acne, fine lines and wrinkles and skin clarity can be improved by choosing the right serum for your concern.

Which serums should you use?

Your choice of serum depends on your skin concern, although you shouldn’t shy away from incorporating multiple serums into your routine. When it comes to brightening, vitamin C is a hero ingredient and you can’t go past retinol for targeting fine lines and increasing skin cell turnover. Niacinamide is a great option for people who are suffering from congestion as it works to refine your pores while also hydrating. Peptides are great for all skin types and work to trigger collagen production and build elastin.

Some of our favourite serums are…

Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster – Allowing you to target multiple concerns at once, niacinamide is great for evening skin tone and texture while reducing the appearance of fine lines and pores. The Paula’s Choice option in particular is a great concentration and feels silky smooth on your skin.

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic – Yes, it’s an investment, but your skin is worth it. This powerhouse serum combines vitamins C and E with ferulic acid that has been proven to enhance the efficacy of vitamin C. It’s great for overall brightening while fighting sings of aging and leaving your skin feeling plump and smooth.

Cosmedix Define – A combo of resurfacing acids and retinol, this serum packs a punch as it works to slough off dead and dull skin cells to leave you with a glow while retinol gets to work increasing skin cell turnover. It fights uneven skin tone, wrinkles and loss of elasticity and is a great intro to retinol for the uninitiated.

Aspect Pigment Punch – What’s better than treating pigmentation? Preventing it. As one of the biggest indicators of aging and damaged skin, pigmentation is a big concern for many people so using a tyrosinase inhibitor like pigment punch works to stop melanin from forming in the first place.

So, who are oils best for? Oils are great for anyone wanting to add an extra level of hydration and replenishment to their skincare routine. They can help you repair damage from overuse of active ingredients and restore your barrier.

What are serums best for? Serums are best for targeting specific skincare concerns and returning your complexion to optimal health.

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