Serum or Moisturizer — Which Goes First?

If you’ve decided to elevate your skincare regimen by adding a facial serum to the mix, you may be wondering if it’s better to apply serum or moisturizer first. In most cases, it’s best to use serum after cleansing and before moisturizing. You can also use serum alone without added moisturizer, but this may reduce the power of the serum’s active ingredients.

Serums contain active ingredients such as oat oil, vitamin E and hyaluronic acid that pull moisture into the skin for deep hydration. However, unlike moisturizers, serums can’t seal in moisture when worn alone. When you apply a moisturizer after serum, it helps to lock in hydration and ensures the serum’s active ingredients are properly absorbed for maximum results. 

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    Using Serum or Moisturizer First in Morning Skincare Routines vs. Nighttime Skincare Routines

    Whether you use serum as part of your morning or evening skincare routine or both, applying it before your moisturizer is the best way to achieve desired results. It’s also important to follow the application directions on your serum. Some formulas are specifically designed for night use, while others are recommended for daytime use.

    Applying serum to clean skin prior to bedtime offers many benefits. As you sleep, your body goes through a natural repair process. During this time, the skin cells turn over and regenerate, and serums are formulated to enhance this natural turnover. 

    Serums containing antioxidant-rich niacinamide and vitamin C may help promote skin radiance and lighten the look of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. When used at night prior to bedtime and paired with the appropriate moisturizer, these serums have several uninterrupted hours to repair, nourish and strengthen the skin. 

    Hyaluronic acid is a substance that’s naturally present in the body, and it keeps the skin and tissues lubricated and cushioned. Natural aging, environmental factors and lifestyle habits such as smoking can cause the hyaluronic acid in the body to deplete over time.

    Serums containing synthetic hyaluronic acid may help replace lost moisture and skin buoyancy. These serums can be used in the morning or evening to provide daily or restorative hydration. 

    Ingredients in Serums and Moisturizers That Shouldn’t Be Used Together

    Using serum and moisturizer together can help increase skin hydration, control sebum production, calm redness and even skin tone. However, certain active ingredients in serums and moisturizers can lead to adverse reactions or reduced benefits when used together. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to avoid when pairing serum and moisturizer.

    Water-Based Serums and Oil-Based Moisturizers

    Water-based serums are lightweight and absorb quickly, while oil-based moisturizers contain rich emollients formulated to nourish and protect the skin. While both products work great on their own, mixing an oil-based moisturizer with a water-based serum can create a filmy residue and hinder moisture absorption.

    Niacinamide and Vitamin C

    Niacinamide is a powerful form of vitamin B3 that may aid in reducing redness and controlling sebum when used as an active ingredient in a serum or moisturizer. Topical vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that promotes brighter skin, encourages skin cell turnover and provides hydration. 

    Niacinamide and vitamin C are highly beneficial when used on their own, but pairing these ingredients with serum and moisturizer may increase sebum production and lead to breakouts. Some serums are formulated with both niacinamide and vitamin C, and these products are both safe and effective. However, layering a vitamin C serum with a moisturizer containing niacinamide may cancel out the benefits of each standalone ingredient. 

    Moisturizers and Serums With the Same Active Ingredients

    Using moisturizers and serums with the same active ingredients can sometimes result in “too much of a good thing.” If your serum and moisturizer both contain hyaluronic acid, using these products together may create a moisture imbalance and lead to breakouts. 

    The same goes for moisturizers and serums formulated with vitamin C. This active ingredient is highly potent, and a little goes a long way. When moisturizers and serums that contain vitamin C are used together, it can increase the risk of skin irritation and potential breakouts. 

    Customize Your Serum and Moisturizer Routine With a Prose Skincare Consultation

    Now that you’ve learned the ins and outs of using serum or moisturizer first, Prose can help you take your skincare routine to the next level. Our dermatologist-tested skincare line of serums, moisturizers and cleansers is formulated with naturally effective ingredients that protect, hydrate and nourish the skin. Take the Prose skincare consultation today and build a bundle of customized products to meet your skin’s unique needs.

    Prose Custom BeautyFind your custom skincare routine.Take the consultation today!