Face Oil vs. Serum: What’s the Difference?

Face Oil vs. Serum: What’s the Difference?

Liudmila Busch

Confused about the difference between face serums and oils? We don’t blame you. The distinction isn’t always clear--especially since many serums also contain oils. 

Generally though, you can think of serums as a concentrated dose of ingredients meant to address a specific need, like fine lines or acne. Meanwhile, oils are meant to hydrate your skin and lock in moisture and nutrients. 

Want to learn a little more? Here are the details:

All About Oils 

Nearly everyone can benefit from using facial oil, especially as we age. Our skin tends to get drier with the years, so a good quality oil is essential to maintaining that youthful, dewy look.

Although everyone can use a face oil, it’s important to use the right one for your skin. For example, people with drier skin types will benefit from an argan or grapeseed oil, while people with oilier skin may like jojoba or marula oil. If you’ve got acne prone skin, you may do well with an anti-inflammatory choice like evening primrose oil.

If you’re not sure what type of skin you have, or if it shifts with the seasons, squalene oil (or a  serum that contains it) is a great choice for just about any skin type. 

Why Should I Use Face Oil ?

Face oils are special because they can mimic your skin’s natural sebum production, which means they do a great job of balancing the oil your skin is already producing. This means face oils can not only lend some moisture to dry skin, but can actually help oily skin to be  less oily. 

Face oils are also excellent for “locking in” the other products you’ve put on your skin, so you can get maximum benefit from everything you’re applying to your face and keep your skin hydrated at the same time. 

Woman taking face serum out of a bottle

The Skinny on Serums

Unlike oils, serums tend to include a combination of ingredients in concentrated doses. Whether you’re looking to reduce hyperpigmentation or reduce the appearance of acne scars, there’s a serum for that.  

Serums also tend to be lighter than oils because they’re made of smaller molecules. This means they can penetrate deeper into the skin for maximum benefit. 

Why Should I Use a Serum? 

Serums are a convenient and highly-effective way to address a specific skin concern in a way that other products can’t. While other products in your routine, like cleansers and moisturizers, are excellent for general skin maintenance, a serum is the one product that makes a targeted change to your skin’s appearance. 

Which Is Better: Serum or Oil? 

Neither serums or oils are better. They simply have different uses. And in fact, they work best when paired together. 

However, if you’re going to only choose one of the two, we recommend going with a serum that’s designed to target your specific skin needs. You’ll likely see more profound change than you would with just using an oil. 

That said, if there’s nothing you’d like to change about your skin and simply want to keep it well-moisturized, a good oil may be the best choice for you. 

How to Apply Oils and Serums

Your oil and serum should be applied after you finish cleansing and toning your skin. If you’re going to use both a serum and an oil, apply the serum first. This will allow it to penetrate your skin for maximum effectiveness, and the oil will lock in the results. 

For many serums, it’s a good idea to wait at least a few minutes before applying anything on top of it. This gives the ingredients time to take effect. We recommend applying your serum then taking a break to brush and floss your teeth before going on to apply your oil or moisturizer. 

The best way to make sure the serum penetrates your skin is to firmly pat it in. On the other hand, oil is best massaged into the skin--and you may want to warm it in between your hands first so that it’s closer to your skin’s temperature. 

Depending on the intensity of the serum you’ve chosen, you may be able to apply both your serum and oil in the morning and the evening. Be sure to wear sunscreen always, but especially if you’re using a serum. Many of those targeted ingredients that make up the serum can also make you more susceptible to sun damage. 

If you’re only going to use your oil and serum once per day, use them at night. This is the time when your body is repairing itself (via sleep) anyway, and you also don’t need to worry about sun exposure. 

Woman applying oil to her face

Choosing Cold-Kept Serums and Oils for Best Results

Especially because serums penetrate so deeply into your skin, you don’t want to choose one that’s formulated with synthetic ingredients and toxic preservatives. The only way skincare can be made without these harmful ingredients is if it’s preserved with cold instead. 

Wild Ice Botanicals is the only skincare company to keep our products cold from the moment they’re made until we ship them off to you, so you’re applying the highest quality, purest ingredients to your skin. 

This includes our  Cryo-C serum, which is made with high quality vitamin C, nourishing antioxidants and squalene oil to help you get glowy skin with less visible dark marks and scarring. 

And if you’re looking for an indulgent oil to hydrate and nourish the skin on your body, we’ve formulated  Berry Boreal Bod with elderberry to prevent wrinkles while it soothes and moisturizes your skin. 

Grab a bottle of each and get started locking in moisture and nutrients. You’ll thank us later! 

Mila Founder of Wild Ice Botanicals

Mila (pronounced 'mee-luh') is the founder of Wild Ice Botanicals, a clean & natural skincare company dedicated to using cold preservation to deliver fresh products free of chemical preservatives so that women of all ages and skin types can confidently look their natural best.