When serums hit the market, all of us who were confidently following the old cleanse-tone-moisturize routine made popular by the Clean & Clear of our youth were thrown for a bit of a loop.
Suddenly serums were on every pharmacy shelf and beauty blog, and I was left scratching my head wondering what were they, when to use them and, was this the end of the road for moisturizer?
I’ve come up with an analogy for the two products, which helps you remember when and why to use them (spoiler alert, you need to use both) which hopefully is somewhat helpful, or at least good for a giggle at my drawings.
Imagine that your skin is going for a night out at the pub, except instead of getting hammered, your skin is hoping to repair itself in a classic case of nursing your problems at the local.
Serum is like a shot, it’s crazy concentrated and has the active ingredients only.
You take shots with the intention of putting maximum alcohol into your body, with minimum effort. Your skin uses serum to get maximum active effect to treat problem areas. For example, a serum might be designed to reduce scars and even skin-tone, work on fine lines and wrinkles, or even target acne. Popping a serum on your face first is the equivalent of taking a shot at the start of the night, it gets things off to a great start with a huge concentration of active ingredients.
After your shot, you want something less intense and enjoyable, like a mixed drink, or, in your skin’s case, a moisturizer.
The main purpose of a moisturizer is to hydrate, and protect your skin from the outside elements. A moisturizer can also contain active ingredients, but they’ll be mixed in with hydrating ingredients, so less intense, like a mixed drink. By popping a moisturizer on top of your serum, you build on the active ingredients already there, but also hydrate and protect your skin, so it feels lovely and soft.
In summary, your serum (shot) is the most potent ingredient, it goes straight on clean skin for maximum effect and you only need a tiny bit. As this is the most active element, if you’re going to spend money, spend it on a good serum.
After your serum comes moisturizer (mixed drink) whose job is to hydrate. You can choose one with active ingredients in it, or a purely hydrating moisturizer. The active ingredients won’t be as potent, so if you’re on a budget it isn't worth spending as much as you would on a serum.
Now, just in case you can’t get enough of my drawings, here’s the whole thing in a cute printable.