Oils vs. Serums: Which one’s right for you?

By Jenn Rose Smith

Skincare should be easy, right? In theory, if you keep your mug clean and moisturized, you should be good to go. But, of course, it’s not that simple. Not even close!

Depending on one’s skin type, there are hundreds of products to cleanse, exfoliate, tone, treat and moisturize the complexion. And, of course, the variation in seasons can mean that any one skin type will need different products to counteract the effects that varying humidity levels and temperatures can have on the skin. 

One of the toughest categories of skin care to decode, in my opinion, is the treatment category. Used correctly, treatments like serums and oils can can brighten, firm, hydrate or smooth the complexion, boosting the complexion-boosting properties of one’s moisturizer. But, is a serum or oil right for you? Should they be used alone? Together? What about how to apply?

Read on to discover the skincare secret weapons that you need in your medicine cabinet—once you find your treatment match, you’ll be wondering how you lived without it.

So, one of the biggest differences between serums and face oils are in their textures. Serums are usually thin liquids packed with treatment ingredients like antioxidants or retinol that sink easily into the skin and leave little residue behind, whereas face oils are (obviously) more hydrating, and usually contain fewer treatment ingredients.

featured image via urban outfitters


Blemish Remedy Anti-imperfection Serum

This pick is a unique product in the serum category: it’s designed to fight blemishes with acne-fighting salicylic acid, while licorice root and meadowsweet extracts calm irritation in acne-prone skin. Apply at night, as salicylic acid can make skin more sensitive to sunlight.

C+ Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum

Aging skin has nothing on this vitamin C-packed pick brightens while it plumps the skin with CoQ10, a proprietary energy complex that improves visible skin firmness and the appearance of dark spots. You’ll want to apply this serum at night to allow its antoxidant power to fight sun damage accumulated over the course of the day.

Hydra-Essentail Bi-phase Serum

Got super-dry skin? Add this quenching serum to your skin care routine, which actually improves your skin’s ability to retain moisture over time. Apply both day and night under your moisturizer to boost its hydrating capabilities.

RMS Beauty Oil

If you have dry and/or sensitive skin (which, as we age, would describe many of us), face oils are indispensable, especially in the cooler months. Apply morning, night, and/or anytime you’re feeling dry—lightweight oils like this one by RMS can easily be patted over makeup for a midday refresh.

Skin Balancing Face Oil from Jurlique

If you’re new to face oil and worry about your skin feeling greasy, try mixing a few drops of your oil into your regular face cream or lotion. You’ll end up with perfectly balanced skin and no grease factor.

Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil

What’s that you say? You’d like to have the treatment benefits of a serum and the super-hydrating benefits of an oil in one product? Look no further than this antioxidant oil by Drunk Elephant, which fights fine lines and improves skin’s elasticity with pure marula fruit oil.