Which To Use & When

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Face Oils vs. Serum: Which To Use & When

Face Oils vs. Serum: Which To Use & When

When you’re building a skincare routine, you may wonder whether you truly need one of every kind of product. While you can streamline your skincare routine in many ways, face oils and serums are products that both deserve a spot in your routine.

They may seem similar, but face oils and serums usually have different ingredients and different benefits. Read on to learn more about face oils and serums, their benefits, and how to use them both.

What Are Face Oils?

Face oils are skincare products with an oily consistency and are made with nourishing skin oils to hydrate the skin. These products look very similar to serums and might even be packaged the same way, but you can often tell the difference by simply looking at the labels and ingredient lists.

Common oils featured in face oils include the following:

  • Avocado oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Castor oil
  • Mineral oil
  • Rosehip seed oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Jojoba seed oil
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil

These oils are often used as a base. Other nourishing oils and ingredients may then be added to give the face oil certain properties. For instance, calendula oil may be added to make the face oil more soothing, and peppermint oil may be added to help tighten the appearance of pores.

The main goal of a face oil is to lock hydration into the skin. The ingredients in face oils are often occlusive, which means they stay on your skin’s surface and create a physical layer that helps prevent moisture from escaping from your skin. 

What Are Serums?

A face serum is a skincare product that contains a higher concentration of active ingredients. Often, they have a thin, lightweight consistency. Serums are frequently formulated to address specific skincare concerns, such as signs of aging, blemishes, or dark spots.

These products are the heavy hitters of your skincare routine. Inside these formulas, you’ll often find powerful ingredients in combinations designed to deliver visible results.

These ingredients may include:

  • Retinol
  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like lactic acid and glycolic acid
  • Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Glycerin
  • Vitamin E
  • Niacinamide
  • Vitamin C

Which Should You Use: Face Oil vs. Serum?

Although these products may look different, they have drastically different uses. While serums are designed to target specific skincare concerns, face oils are formulated to seal in moisture to help the skin feel more hydrated and supple. 

This means it’s not about choosing between these products. Rather, they can work together to help your skin look and feel smoother and brighter.

Because these two products have different purposes, they should be used in different spots in your skincare routine. You should generally use serum after you cleanse and tone your skin and face oil after you moisturize (depending on your skin type).

When choosing a face oil or serum, keeping your skin type in mind is important. For instance, if you have oily skin, avoid ingredients like mineral oil, coconut oil, lanolin, and shea butter, as these can clog your pores. Instead, look for face oils with non-comedogenic ingredients like rosehip seed, grapeseed, and jojoba oil.

Alternatively, if you have dry skin, you may want to avoid serums with potentially drying ingredients like benzyl alcohol and sulfur. 

How To Use Face Oils and Serums

If you want to get the most out of your face oil and serum, it’s important to use them at the right stages of your skincare routine. 

Let’s look at a sample skincare routine that uses both serums and oils.

Step 1: Cleanse

The first step in any skincare routine is to cleanse the skin thoroughly. Beyond washing off debris, sweat, and makeup, this step also prepares the skin to properly receive the active ingredients delivered in the forthcoming steps of your routine

For this step, consider The MANTLE Skin Conditioning Wash. This gentle cleanser provides a double-cleanse designed to support the skin’s acid mantle without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

When you cleanse, make sure to use lukewarm water. Hot water can strip your skin of its oils and cause dryness and irritation. It’s also important to pat your face dry with a washcloth, as harsh scrubbing motions can damage the skin and cause irritation.

Step 2: Serum

Next, it’s time to use your serum. Make sure your skin is slightly damp so that it’s able to fully absorb the product, and massage your serum into your skin.

When it comes to serums, the Resurfacing Compound checks all of the boxes. This resurfacing serum features powerful ingredients like stabilized retinol, stabilized vitamins C and E, and multi-hydroxy acids. Driven by dual patent-pending SIREN Tech, such ingredients are delivered with precision to the areas of the skin that visibly need them the most.

Some serums have such harsh formulas that they’re often advised to be used once a week or every other day. 

However, you can use the Resurfacing Compound every morning and night thanks to our proprietary technology, which makes the formula gentle on the skin without sacrificing efficacy.

Step 3: Moisturize

Once your serum is applied, it’s time to seal it with moisturizer. This is often the last step of a good skincare routine simply because of how thick moisturizers usually are. Skincare products should generally be applied from thinnest to thickest.

Consider The SUPER Hydrator. This skin moisturizer contains purified oat extract, peptides, avocado oil, and shea butter to provide up to 48 hours of moisture.

Step 4: Face Oil

After the moisturizer has fully absorbed, apply a face oil. Massage well into your skin, allowing each layer time to absorb before applying the subsequent layer. If you want, you can also incorporate facial massage techniques into this step.

For this step, try The SUPER Intensive Face Oil. This face oil is made with avocado oil, hyaluronic acid, and vegan squalane to encourage a nourished and hydrated appearance.

Wrapping It All Up

Face oils and serums are similar products but have very different uses. While face oils are designed to deliver instant and sustained deep hydration to the skin, serums target specific skincare concerns. If you’re wondering which to use, the answer is both—you can use both in the same skincare routine as long as you layer them correctly.

At U Beauty, we are on the cutting edge of skincare technology. Our products are designed to encourage a fresh, nourished, and dewy appearance at every step in your skincare routine. 

To learn more about how to build a skincare routine, visit the U Beauty blog.


Calendula Information | Mount Sinai - New York

Skin serum: What it can and can’t do | Harvard Health

Know Your Skin Type Before Choosing Skin Care Products | Cleveland Clinic

Dry Skin (Xeroderma): Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention | Cleveland Clinic

Featured Products


The SUPER Hydrator

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Resurfacing Compound

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