Because there’s no such thing as a silly question—and because we get this one a lot—it’s time to break down the differences between a serum and a moisturizer. Read on below to clear up common misconceptions and get full details on how to use them, when, and most importantly why.
Sometimes, Size Matters
The biggest difference between a serum and a moisturizer is size. Serums are made up of smaller molecules, so they’re able to penetrate the skin more deeply, carrying their potent punch of ingredients to a lower, more elemental skin level.
Moisturizers, however, are full of bigger molecules, preventing them from traveling as far as serums. But the top layer of skin is where they belong! More on that below.
Who’s on first?
Washing one’s face is typically followed by moisturizing—but when you introduce a serum to your routine, it fits between these two common steps. Serum should be the first thing you put on your face after cleansing. Apply to slightly damp skin for maximum absorption.
Give your serum 1 minute to fully sink in before you grab your moisturizer. This is the perfect moment to do a quick morning stretch, or put on your water for tea. Moisturizer as the final step, or the icing on the cake, works as a protective layer to seal in all the good stuff in your serum, and prevent skin’s natural moisture from escaping into the ether!
Can One Replace the Other?
Maybe. Serum can be very moisturizing on its own—take RESCUE’s Serum Concentrate. In addition to fighting cellular damage with the adult human stem cell-derived active ingredient MDFc19, Serum Concentrate has a ton of moisturizing ingredients. The ultra-hydrating carrot seed oil, aloe, and almond seed extract in the serum give skin a lot of moisture without hindering absorption of the active ingredients. If you have oily skin, you may find that RESCUE’s Serum Concentrate gives your skin enough moisture.
However, skipping moisturizer means you’re forgoing that protective top layer for skin. This is excusable at night, but skin needs more armor in the daytime while you’re out and about. Don’t be wary of too much moisturization, just moisturize differently!
Plus, as we get older, sun damage, a decrease in natural oils and slowed cell renewal can all lead to drier, rougher skin, which means that both serum and moisturizer together will become more beneficial with every year. As always, just listen to your skin—it’ll always tell you what it needs.
Last But Not Least
While serum penetrates deeply, moisturizer typically sits on the top layer of skin. But RESCUE’s Ultra Moisturizer works a bit differently than the average lotion, because the active ingredient MDFc19 targets the lower layers of skin.
So when you double up with the serum and moisturizer combo, you’re hitting your skin with a double dose of hydrating and healing ingredients, encouraging cellular turnover at the root of the problems, before skin issues reach the surface. We suggest swiping on RESCUE Ultra Moisturizer on dry areas if you tend to get too oily in others, or simply using half a packet on oily skin. Hydration is skin’s best friend—and RESCUE delivers.
Related: What's Right For Your Skin Type?