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When you’ve decided to start a skincare routine, you may get overwhelmed by all the terms and beauty products that are out in the market.

Right now, two of the most popular but also most confused and switched-up products are, face oil and face serum.

Surely you wouldn’t want to make a mistake in your skincare? So it’s best to understand what a face oil or a face serum is.

While they’re usually interchanged, they aren’t one and the same. Learn more about both products by understanding their differences.

A Brief Background On Face Oil And Face Serum

One of the most common mistakes in beauty write-ups today is that sometimes a face oil and a face serum are wrongly marketed as the same. But these two are essentially different products. It’s believed that face oils hydrate skin to keep it moisturized, nourished, and well protected from damage.

A face serum, on the other hand, is known to target specific skin conditions. For example, there’s a face serum supposedly for anti-aging, collagen restoration, acne control, and irritation. Not all face serums, however, claim to act as a moisturizer since, generally, this would depend on the main ingredient that the serum has. If it’s claimed to have moisturizing properties, you could probably skip a moisturizer to try using only your serum.

Their Order Of Application

Having settled that a face oil and face serum aren’t one and the same, it’s important also to touch on their order of priority. Understanding how both should be applied would ensure you’re using them correctly on your skin. Otherwise, no matter how good your oil and serum products may be, they wouldn’t work their supposed magic if incorrectly applied.

Usually, serums come first than oils because the former is water-based. This means it’s lighter. The basic rule of thumb in skincare some people follow is starting with the lightest products first and ending with the heaviest in terms of composition and ingredients. After the serum is absorbed in the skin, that’s when you could top it off with a face oil. 

The Purpose Of A Face Serum And Face Oil

As face serums and face oils are different, it also means they have different purposes or goals to achieve for your skin. A serum is usually concentrated with ingredients like antioxidants, which are believed to provide benefits like rejuvenation and skin tone correction. Other claimed benefits of face serums are as follows:

  • Treats hyperpigmentation so that the skin color stays consistent;
  • Brightens, firms, and smoothens the skin;
  • Repairs sun damage.

On the other hand, a face oil is said to protect the skin from damage while repairing the skin’s barrier and keeping the skin supple. Because oils are naturally classified as emollients, apparently they need to be massaged on the face for better absorption. 

Tips When Choosing Between Both

It’s not all the time you’d need to have both a face oil and a face serum. Your dermatologist could help you determine which one you need, for now, usually depending on your skin type and the season. This would also depend on your skin’s condition and the issues you’re trying to correct.

This means if your skin condition changes, your need for the products would change, too. Whether you’d need either or both of them for now would be determined best through an appropriate examination by a dermatologist—to form part of an effective skincare routine.

Tips When Using Face Oil

If your dermatologist sees the need for you to use face oil more than a serum, it’s important you also know how to apply it. Misuse of a beauty product is akin to not using it at all, so it’s best to know how to apply it correctly.

That said, here are insights on how to appropriately apply face oil:

  • Use only a small amount as this could get quite greasy.
  • Massage it gently on your face and neck in an upward motion.
  • Start applying this in the evening to give it room to rest.


With this crash course on face oils and face serums, hopefully you now understand the difference between the two. If you think your skin needs to have face oil and face serum, you could perhaps incorporate both in your skincare routine. Just be sure you’re choosing from a good quality brand. 

Most importantly, if there’s anything you’re unsure about, the best recourse is always to ask advice from a dermatologist. In doing so, you’re sure that whatever products you incorporate into your skincare routine—a face oil and face serum included—matches your skin type and the issues you’re trying to correct, in the name of beauty.

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