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Serum vs Oil for the Face: The Differences + How to Choose

If you’re someone who’s looking to boost the effectiveness of your skincare routine, you may be wondering if a facial serum or oil is the right choice for you. While these products often get bunched together, they’re actually quite different. 

Each product has its own advantages, but they can also work together to provide powerful benefits. Let’s dive into the difference between a serum vs oil for the face, how to use them, and which one will help you best achieve your skincare goals.

Serum vs Oil for the Face

What Are Face Serums?

Serums are water-based, concentrated liquids formulated to address specific skin concerns, such as uneven skin tone or fine lines and wrinkles. They are often made from a base of lightweight hydrators, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid.

In general, face serums have a thinner viscosity which allows them to absorb quickly and easily into the skin. They’re often formulated with highly concentrated actives, such as retinol to combat fine lines and wrinkles, exfoliating acids to improve skin tone, or salicylic acid to fight acne.

Serums are highly concentrated, so they’re not always suitable for everyday use. And while they often provide short-term hydration, they tend to evaporate quickly, so sealing them in with an emollient moisturizer or facial oil is essential for lasting moisturization.

What Are Face Oils?

Facial oils are made from botanical oils and natural actives that nourish and protect the skin. They’ve been a skincare essential for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians, like Cleopatra, used oils extracted from seeds, nuts, fruits, and flowers to preserve their skin’s youthful appearance.

Facial oils like our Honey Infused Face Oil absorb fast and deliver potent antioxidants, fatty acids, and other key nutrients to the skin, providing rich moisture without clogging the pores or leaving behind a greasy feel.

They are formulated to support the skin barrier with a balance of beneficial lipids and fatty acids. Facial oils help to prevent transepidermal water loss and protect the skin against environmental damage, preventing dehydration and promoting a healthy glow.

The magic of face oils comes from their ability to mimic the sebum in the natural skin barrier, making them especially beneficial for smoothing, moisturizing, and balancing the skin - all while providing a protective barrier on the skin’s surface.

Oils for skin

Key Differences Between Facial Oil vs Serum

Confused about the role of these two power players in your skincare routine? Despite the fact that both contain potent ingredients that repair and protect the skin, serums and oils are actually quite different, and each one helps the skin in its own unique way.

The fundamental difference lies in the composition of their formulas. Serums are water-based and formulated with lightweight hydrators like ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Their primary purpose is to deliver concentrated active ingredients deeply into the skin.

On the other hand, facial oils are made from highly emollient botanical oils and gentle, natural actives that provide long-lasting intense moisture and essential nutrients to the skin barrier. They provide additional benefits through their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Why Use Both a Facial Oil and a Facial Serum?

It turns out, oil and water do go together after all - at least when it comes to a healthy skin barrier and overall skin health! That’s because the dermis of the skin holds water, elastin, and collagen - the building blocks of plump and youthful skin. 

On the other hand, the epidermis, or skin barrier, contains sebum which is made up of beneficial skin oils like lipids, ceramides, and fatty acids. It forms a protective barrier against moisture loss, harsh weather, and environmental toxins while lubricating the cells of the skin and promoting a smooth, soft texture.

Unfortunately, the production of natural sebum in the skin barrier slows with age and can also be reduced by factors like harsh cleansers, wind, and cold weather. Skin issues like rosacea and eczema also have a negative impact on skin barrier function. 

When the water and oil content of the skin is balanced, it’s at its healthiest. Because the skin cannot create water-based moisture, we must add it to the skin through water-based products like serums and moisturizers. 

Facial oils bring the other half of this equation into balance. There’s a common misconception that facial oils should not be used on oily skin, but that’s entirely incorrect. Applying the right oil in the right amount reduces natural oil production and promotes balance.

While facial oils are ideal for promoting long-term skin barrier health and resilience, serums are the go-to choice for addressing immediate skin issues. Since they each have a different consistency and composite, they penetrate the skin differently, allowing each one to target skin concerns in their own way.

Serum vs Oil for the Face

How to Apply Facial Oils and Serums

Incorporating facial oils and serums into your skincare routine will reward you with better skin health and a more radiant complexion. Each can be used on its own, or you can layer them both into your routine to amp up the benefits and address a variety of skin concerns.

Remember to always apply your skincare products in order from thinnest to thickest. Serum should be applied after you cleanse, exfoliate, and tone your face, but before you moisturize. Facial oils should be applied after your moisturizer to seal in moisture, protect the skin barrier, and prevent your other skincare products from evaporating away too quickly.

Simply add a few drops of the product into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together, and then gently pat or massage it into the skin. This will provide an added boost of circulation, bringing blood and oxygen to the skin’s surface and further promoting that healthy, radiant glow.

Facial Serum vs Oil: How to Choose

When choosing a facial oil or serum to add to your daily routine, it’s important to take into account your skincare goals. Here’s what to look for, based on your individual needs.

Visible Aging

Layering a facial serum and a facial oil into your routine is ideal for combatting the visual signs of aging. A serum that contains retinol or bakuchiol (a natural retinol alternative) will be ideal for encouraging cellular turnover and boosting collagen production.

Layering your serum with a facial oil that contains natural botanicals like rosehip seed oil and evening primrose oil will provide powerful rejuvenation benefits. Vitamin E, often found naturally in facial oils, provides powerful antioxidant benefits to promote healing and prevent future damage.

Uneven Skin Tone

There are so many factors that contribute to an uneven skin tone, from sun damage and premature aging to a buildup of dull, dead cells on the skin’s surface. When choosing a serum to even out the skin, look for brightening and exfoliating actives like glycolic acid, lactic acid, or licorice root.

Facial oils that contain skin-loving natural actives like honey provide powerful benefits for brightening the complexion and reducing inflammation. Botanical oils like rosehip oil and evening primrose oil are also ideal for reducing hyperpigmentation.

Dry and Dehydrated Skin

The obvious first choice for dry and dehydrated skin is a facial oil. It will work with your moisturizer to provide a double layer of moisturization while protecting the skin barrier against moisture loss. Botanical oils like safflower oil, grape seed oil, and jojoba oil are all ideal.

Dry and dehydrated skin can also benefit from a serum that’s formulated with hyaluronic acid. This type of serum will draw moisture into the skin, which your facial oil can build off of for even deeper and longer-lasting hydration.

Problem Skin

If sensitive, acne-prone, or problem skin is your primary concern, choose products that are formulated to soothe and balance the skin without harsh ingredients that may make your skin issues worse.

Facial oils are often the best choice for problem skin because they contain soothing natural compounds, healing nutrients, and deeply moisturizing oils that mimic the natural oils in the skin, promoting balance and supporting the skin barrier while reducing irritation and inflammation. Jojoba oil, safflower oil, and rosehip oil are all good choices for this skin type.

Ready to Introduce a Facial Oil Into Your Routine?

If you’re ready to introduce a facial oil into your skincare routine, our Honey Infused Face Oil is the perfect place to start! Made from 95.7% cold-pressed botanical oils and backed up by the power of Mirsalahi Honey, our award-winning facial oil is rich in vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and potent antioxidants to nourish and protect the skin barrier, fight the signs of aging, and promote a healthy balance.

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