Do I really need to use a serum?

We get a lot of questions on serums. People are confused about what they are, how to use them and how to incorporate them into their daily regimen. If this sounds like you, read on to see the answers to your most common questions!

What is a serum?

Serums are lightweight, fast-absorbing liquids used as an alternative or in addition to moisturizing creams or lotions. Serums are usually formulated to have the highest concentration of active ingredients in a skin care line-up. That means they can contain the most potent dose of anti-aging or acne fighting ingredients you can find outside of prescription products.

What is the difference between a serum and a moisturizer?

Serums are formulated to penetrate the skin and deliver potent active ingredients into deeper layers of your skin than a regular moisturizer. A moisturizer might also contain active ingredients, but it is primarily designed to form a barrier between the skin and the outside world, helping the skin to retain moisture. Unlike moisturizers, serums do not contain occlusive, or airtight moisturizing ingredients such as petroleum or mineral oil that keep water from evaporating. They also contain fewer lubricating and thickening agents, like nut or seed oils. Most serums are water-based, eliminating oils altogether.

Shower woman washing face

Why should I use a serum?

Serums are not mandatory in a regimen. If you have specific skin care concerns such as wrinkles or age spots that your regular moisturizer is not addressing, you may want to consider incorporating a serum into your regimen before your moisturizer. Customizing your skin care routine with a targeted treatment can help deliver results faster. Because serums are usually oil-free, lightweight and non-greasy, they can be a great alternative to moisturizing creams and lotions for people with oily skin year round or those with combination skin during warmer months.

When should I avoid serums?

Those with chronic skin conditions like eczema or rosacea have weaker skin barriers. The liquid or gel-like texture of a serum can penetrate the skin too quickly, causing irritation. Speak with your dermatologist if you have serious skincare issues before incorporating a serum into your regimen.

Are serums worth the extra money?

Yes. Serums contain higher concentration of active ingredients, which are more expensive than thickeners. So the higher price of the serum is justified. The good news is you only need to use a few drops of a serum, so a 1 ounce container should last you months.

Piggy bank and miniature home resting on pile of dollars on white background

How do I incorporate one into my skin care regimen?

Different serums are meant to be used with different frequency and at different times of day. Read all instructions carefully to avoid overusing or combining active ingredients. To maximize the effect of your serum, after cleansing your face, apply a pea-sized amount of serum, patting it evenly over skin with your finger. Then apply your moisturizer. If you have sensitive skin, wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face before using serum. Applying a water-based product to damp skin is more likely to lead to irritation.


Getting healthy glowing skin requires a holistic approach – living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet and using a consistent skincare regimen. Deciding what products to incorporate into your regimen can be confusing. OKU can help by analyzing your skin and identifying your skin twin and which products would best for you to use. Learn more at!

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