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Serum vs Moisturizer: Which Is More Effective?

Woman with fair skin holding an Urban Skin Rx® product


Have you ever thought, “Is a moisturizer and a serum the same thing?” The simple answer is no. They aren’t the same. A moisturizer is made to do exactly that… moisturize. It adds moisture to your skin and helps to keep it in there. A serum’s main purpose is to address other aspects of your skin. Types of serums you may be familiar with are ones for anti-aging or anti-acne.


Serums have active ingredients, like antioxidants and peptides, that are beneficial to you in ways other than keeping your skin hydrated. They can accomplish many things for you, such as:

  • Exfoliating the skin
  • Firming the skin
  • Repairing sun damage
  • Reducing wrinkles


Because of its active ingredients, you’ll want a serum to penetrate your skin as deeply and effectively as possible. This means serums should be applied as soon as you’ve cleaned your face. It should come before using moisturizer, eye cream, or any other product. And you should allow enough time for it to absorb before adding the next products in your routine.


Can one product be both?

Some serums are known to enhance the effects of your moisturizer when you use them together. That’s a win-win! Also, some serums can be helpful in hydrating your face all on their own. This is because either the serum contains ingredients that hydrate your skin or because their impact on the overall health of your skin results in it retaining its natural moisture better.


Also, some moisturizers help achieve other skin goals such as anti-aging. So, serums and moisturizers can mimic each. They can also do a nice dance together, complimenting one another. But they aren’t the same thing. They are pretty much always created and packaged separately for different purposes.


Here are a few other notable differences. Moisturizers usually feel thicker. In fact, at a molecular level their properties are larger. (This is the main reason they can’t really create a serum and moisturizer together in one bottle.) Although your moisturizer may feel heavier on your face–which we kinda like when our skin feels dry– it doesn’t mean it’s reaching the deeper layers of your skin the way a serum does. Serums have smaller, more concentrated particles made to penetrate those layers of the skin. Because it’s more concentrated, usually a little goes a long way.


So, Serum or Moisturizer?


We like to say that moisturizers comfort the skin. They protect or seal it too. Serums repair the skin at a cellular level. If you’re asking the question, “Which do I need? A serum or a moisturizer?” we’d probably say you’d benefit from both! Give it a try! We know it can be difficult to navigate the number of products recommended to you. Or maybe it feels daunting to think about a multi-step skincare routine. Just remember, your skin has many needs and is just as unique as you are. But don’t worry! You got this. And we’ve got your back too. When it comes to your skin, it’s always worth taking the extra step.

By: Alea Petersen 

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