In the often-overwhelming world of skincare, working out the difference between a face oil and a face serum can be difficult.
Sometimes it seems like the most obvious difference is price, with a Face Serum always costing more. So how do you know if a serum is worth the extra dollars, especially when so many companies market products as “serum” when, really, they are face oils — sad but true!
I am going to try and make this simple: a face oil is great all-rounder. It will nourish, protect, and moisturise your skin, while a face serum is a treatment product used to target a specific skin concern (but it probably will nourish, protect and moisturise your skin as well. Mine certainly does).
A good Face Oil will be made up of a blend of nutrient rich natural oils, maybe a tiny amount of essential oil and Vitamin E. So it feeds your skin with fatty acids and lipids that will be in short supply if your skin is dry. A good Face Oil will leave your skin plumped, soft, supple and glowing. It will enhance your skin barrier health and help keep your skin hydrated by stopping water loss. It will provide antioxidant protection from aggressors (skin ones I mean, like environmental stressors, pollution and irritants) and it’s got no preservatives, and ours is 99.9% organic too so you are feeding it the best. So, a good quality face oil has many health benefits.
A serum is a treatment product and therefore should include a powerful ingredient (often referred to as an active) that targets a specific skin concern such as pigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, acne, dehydration, or firmness. Ingredients to look for include:
- Retinol, (aging/acne)
- Bakuchiol (aging/acne without the side effects of Retinol)
- Niacinamide (aging/hydration)
- Hyaluronic acid (hydration)
- Glycolic acid (exfoliation)
- Vitamin C (brightening)
These ingredients will usually be in small amounts as they are potent and more will not result in better outcomes — and in many cases, more would be worse for your skin as some of these ingredients can be irritating. These ingredients are generally made of smaller molecules so they can get to work deeper into your skin.
Because a serum delivers an active ingredient to your skin to work on specific concerns you must apply it directly onto clean skin — it goes on first.
So, in short: a face oil is a great maintenance product, and a serum is a treatment product.
A face oil is what you need if you have dry skin as your skin type or if it feels drier because of cold or hot weather, or just getting a bit older. Also, great if you have sensitive, irritated skin including rosacea and eczema. My Organic Face Oil is made with super antioxidant-rich oils including Camellia, Macadamia, Avocado and Evening Primrose and a tiny amount of Frankincense for its skin strengthening properties.
And as for Serums, well there is literally one for everyone, one for every concern if you have the budget for it. Just make sure you use one that is targeted to the thing you want to improve the most.
My Restorative Serum is made with super antioxidant and hydrating oils including Meadowfoam, Squalene and Camellia and the Vitamin C-rich New Zealand Kiwi Seed Oil. It does all the things the Face Oil does, but it also has the active ingredient Bakuchiol which is a natural ingredient that has been scientifically proven to do all the things that Retinol does — reduce wrinkles, boost collagen, and reduce pigmentation and decrease acne without the harsh side effects of Retinol which are irritation, redness, dryness (the things you’re trying to fix with skincare!)
When you research Bakuchiol most experts advise pregnant women and those with sensitive skin to use Bakuchiol instead of Retinol as it has the same outcome without the risk. I mean, there is nothing more to say!