Moisturizers vs Serums: Which do you need?

moisturizers vs serums

Beautiful skin is something we all dream of, but nothing comes without a cost – which is why investing in good skincare products are important. But when it comes to the hydration must-haves, such as moisturizers vs serums, how do you decide which is better for your skin?

moisturizer serum for skincare

Essential skincare products like moisturizers and serums are useful in combating acne and acne scars. A common cause of acne is due to lack of hydration, and by locking moisture in the skin, this can keep acne breakouts at bay.

A typical skincare routine

Though the basic steps remain the same for everyone, the products used in each step vary as per individual’s skin, choice, preferences, and budget. A regular skincare routine includes:

  1. Cleansing
  2. Toning
  3. Moisturizing
  4. Sun-protection
typical skincare routine

Cleansers and toners are well-named. However, many people become confused between moisturizers and serums and often mistake one for the other. Both provide the skin with ample moisture, but the main difference is that serums are somewhat stronger than moisturizers and contain actives that your skin needs to keep it healthy.

First, let’s see how moisturizers and serums work on our skin.

Moisturizers: Benefits and how they work

Moisturizing is a “must” to achieve smooth and flawless skin. It is an integral part of skincare as well as in a makeup regime. Even the costliest make-up base cannot perform up-to-the-mark in the absence of a good moisturizer.

Moisturizers Benefits and how they work

They act as “defenders of the skin” by:

  • Protecting it from excessive dryness: Harsh weather conditions or continuous exposure to air-conditioners readily suck out the moisture from the skin causing extreme dryness and associated roughness, eczema etc. Moisturizers nail them.
  • Defends against acne: Dryness stimulates sebum secretion which can block the pores and cause acne. In properly hydrated skin there is no dryness and thus no excess oil secretion.
  • Restores youthful skin: Moisturization makes skin plum and stretched making wrinkles and fine lines less obvious. It also boosts the skin’s natural ability to repair itself and produce collagen to give a younger look. Additionally, Vitamin C and E content enhance the anti-aging effects by virtue of their antioxidant properties.
  • Relieves dullness: The additional sheen of moisture adds a delightful glow to the skin.
  • Soothes inflammation and reduces blemishes: By virtue of ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, oatmeal, and honey.
  • Photoprotection: Some moisturizers contain SPF to provide additional protection for the skin from the Sun, keeping the skin well-hydrated and protected in the outdoors.

How do moisturizers work?

Moisturizers are mainly formulated with 4 components:

  • Humectants: Like glycerin, honey which pull water towards the superficial layer of skin either from the surrounding air or from the layers underneath and thus, amplify hydration.
  • Occlusives: Like petroleum form a barrier to prevent moisture loss due to evaporation.
  • Emollients: Impart smooth texture.
  • Additional components like vitamins and minerals help to nourish the skin.

In toto, moisturizers maintain the hydration level of the skin – thus giving it a soft healthy glow.

How do moisturizers work

What type of moisturizer is for me?

The perfect moisturizer and the right skin type can work together to reflect the best overall health of the skin. For starters, these types of moisturizers are best for the most common skin types: oily, dry, and sensitive skin.  

  • Oil-free, water-based non-comedogenic moisturizers do best for combination or oily acne-prone skin.
  • Dry skin goes well with oil-based heavy moisturizers containing hyaluronic acids and higher concentration of glycerin, petroleum to seal the moisture.
  • Sensitive skin individuals should try chemical-free (fragrance, color) moisturizers containing soothing agents such as aloe-gel.

Serums: Benefits and how they work

Serums are light-weighted liquid skin-aids loaded with active ingredients like antioxidants, peptides, skin brighteners, and nutrients such as Vitamin C, E, and K targeted towards a variety of skin conditions.

Serums Benefits and how they work

These serum molecules, being smaller in size when applied topically, easily penetrate the superficial skin layers and reach the deeper layers where they deliver the active ingredients to nourish, protect and help repair any damages.

Thus, they act as the customized “warriors of skin” by serving it in the following ways:

  • Fight aging: If aging is your concern, anti-aging serums ingrained with antioxidants, vitamin C, retinol, caffeine, green tea, proteoglycans, and hyaluronic acid come to your rescue. They effectively combat fine lines and wrinkles towards eternal youth.
  • Drives away dryness: A hydrating serum containing hyaluronic acid, ceramides, peptides, and essential fatty acids facilitates an immediate burst of hydration to quench the skin and also strengthen the skin’s natural barrier to trap moisture. Serum potentiates the hydrating effect of moisturizers too.
  • Wards off pigmentation: Skin-brightening serums rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, saffron and pigment suppressing agents like kojic acid, azelaic acid not only remove dark spots, scarring, or pigmentation but also impart a radiant, enviable glow to the
  • Kicks off inflammation: The anti-inflammatory serums contain niacinamide and zinc to calm down blemishes and redness whereas zinc, arnica, aloe vera and goldenseal to prevent inflammatory cell damage.
  • Covers photodamage: Vitamin C-rich serums underneath the sunscreen add to the protection against UV light.
  • Ward off acne: Serums rich in retinol possesses anti-acne properties. Even the constant hydrating effect of serum inhibits sebum production and thus acne formation.
  • Youthful bliss: Serum with collagen and Vitamin C tightens the skin leading to visibly younger-looking skin.
  • Reparative and renewing properties: Vitamins B5, C and E in serum promote collagen production which is the key protein for skin repair. Other active agents like seaweed, green tea, ceramides, retinol, resveratrol, antioxidants, essential oils, and Omega-3 fatty acids also potentiate skin rejuvenation.
  • Protection from free-radical damage: Antioxidant-rich serums containing vitamin Cvitamin Egreen tea, resveratrol, and astaxanthin are the best to prevent oxidative damage from UV light and pollution.

What type of serum is for me?          

what serum is for me

Most serums work well with any skin types, but it works best when you correspond right ingredients with your skin’s needs. For example, if you struggle with oily skin, you can try a hydrating serum to counter the oiliness and shine. A brightening serum may work better for people experiencing a duller complexion.

Which is more effective: Moisturizers vs serums?

Both serve different purposes and play individual roles in your skin care regime. Here is an overview of the difference between moisturizers vs serums.





Thinner and lighter

Thicker and creamier

Molecular size




Multiple active ingredients

Emollients, Humectants, Occlusives

Site of action

Deeper layer of skin

Superficial layer of skin


Skin issues like aging, acne, pigmentation, sun damage, etc.

Hydration and barrier for external pollutants.


Serums repair and cure the skin, whereas moisturizers protect and hydrate it. They cannot replace each other but they can complement one another.

If you are adding both to your skincare regime, it can go like this:

  1. Cleansing
  2. Toning
  3. Serum
  4. Moisturizer
  5. Sun-protection

The right skincare products used in the correct manner can result in beautiful and clear skin devoid of imperfections and scars, with long-lasting effects.

Share your favourite moisturizers and serums in the comments below, or send us a message here!