Can Serum and Face Oil Be Used Together? Usage, Layering & Comparisons

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Serum and face oil have similarities and differences, and, yes, they can be used together. You can layer them so that they work together to address certain skin issues.

These two skincare products have clear-cut differences that tell that they are not interchangeable. From their opposite consistencies to when each comes in on the skincare routine order, both provide nourishment and hydration to your skin.

Furthermore, they protect your skin using their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Whether you are using them separately or together, your skin is safe.

In this article, I will show you how to use a face serum and face oil together for maximum results.

Can Serum and Face Oil Be Used Together?

Yes, you can use a face serum and face oil together. Conventionally, face serums are followed by a moisturizer before your face oil. But when the need arises, you can use face oil after your serum.

When you are doing this, you should take note of the consistency of each of them. Face oils are heavier than face serums. Therefore, if you’re going to use both, you should apply your face serum first.

After it has been absorbed into your skin, you can layer on a face oil that contains lightweight plant-based oils like squalene oil, argan oil, or jojoba oil.

If your skin is dull, saggy, or dehydrated, you can layer any lightweight face oil over vitamin C or hyaluronic acid serums.

Another exception to the order of skincare products application is if you are using a face oil that contains an ingredient like retinol. This ingredient is photosensitive, and it is best delivered via oils.

Rub the oil into your skin in gentle circular motions and seal in moisture with a moisturizer. Then, apply sunscreen with SPF15 or higher to shield your skin from the damage of UV rays.

Should Serum or Face Oil Go First?

When it comes to which goes first, the rule of thumb for skincare product application still applies.

Dr. Craig Austin, a board-certified dermatologist says, “Always layer by consistency. Lighter serums will be easily and quickly absorbed while the heavier hydration serums/oils seal in the ingredients and leave your skin soft.”

Serums are thin, lightweight water-based products. Face oils, on the other hand, are dense, oil-based formulas. The contrast in weight and formula is the reason why you should apply a serum first.

While your pores are still open after cleansing and exfoliation, serums can easily penetrate your skin. But if you apply face oil or any other product before the serum, it sits on your skin and evaporates eventually.

Face oils do not penetrate your skin as serums do. Therefore, you should layer them over face serum to lock in the active ingredients and moisture. Also, the lipids, antioxidants and other nutrients in the oils nourish and protect your skin.

How to Layer Serum With Face Oil

Now that you know serum and face oil can work together, you need to know how to use them effectively.

The steps below highlight how to layer serum and face oil.

  • Start with cleaning your face with a mild cleanser or toner to get rid of dirt, oil, grime, and makeup.
  • Afterward, pump out the serum and apply about four drops to your face with gentle taps rather than rubbing it in.
  • If you are using more than one serum, start with the thinnest and the one that best addresses your skin’s pressing needs.
  • Allow the serum to absorb into your skin by itself before you layer on the face oil
  • Apply drops of oil onto your palm and massage it into your face in gentle circular motions. This will improve circulation and improve your skin glow.

In addition, serum and face oil layering are best done at night. During this time, your skin is not exposed to elements like UV rays that can interrupt the process. Also, this is when your skin repairs itself.

Should You Replace Serum With Face Oil?

No, face oil cannot and should not replace serum. Each of these products is in its class of skincare solutions.

Although they both have hydrating and moisturizing benefits, they are not the same. Your skin needs the active ingredients that serums have to offer and so does it need lipid fortification.

The occlusive coat of face oils cannot replace the swift penetration of the active ingredients of a face serum. You should use them together in your skincare routine.

Face Serum vs Face Oil

There are differences between face serums and face oils that you should know. The knowledge will help you to not make the mistake of using one to assume the use of the other.

1. The compositions

Face serums are lightweight liquids that contain high concentrations of active ingredients. These ingredients include vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, retinol, glycerin, peptides, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), stem cells, vitamin E, botanical oils, and extracts.

On the other hand, face oils are heavy oil-based liquids derived from plants. They contain botanical, cold-pressed oils, and essential oils. These oils may be extracted from the seeds, leaves, nuts, roots, bark, and flowers of plants.

While your face serum is made of smaller molecules, face oils have a larger molecular structure.

2. Their place in your skincare routine

When you are not layering both, you should apply a face serum while your skin is still damp from cleansing and toning. Follow up your face serum with moisturizer, other creams, face oil, and sunscreen.

3. Their functions

Face serums specifically target skin concerns while face oils work to improve the health and strength of your skin. The active ingredients in serums target skin wrinkles, fine lines, acne, and hyperpigmentation.

The moisturizing benefits of face oil are the core of its formulation. It acts as an occlusive seal over all other skincare products and prevents the ingredients and moisture from evaporating. Face oils do not penetrate beyond your skin’s surface.

Its molecules stay on the surface of your skin and strengthen the natural lipid barrier.

With a face serum, results are more effective when you layer on a moisturizer. Face oil, on the other hand, can be used alone or with a moisturizer.

Furthermore, you can add drops of face oil to other beauty products like moisturizers, foundation, and even serum. This does not work with serums.


What is the difference between serum and face oil?

Serums are lightweight formulas with small molecular structures that penetrate deep into your skin to fortify it with active ingredients. Face oils, on the other hand, are heavier liquids that do not go beyond your epidermis, yet they nourish your skin.

Another difference between a serum and face oil is in their respective key functions. Face serum is specific to addressing skin concerns while face oils work to hydrate and moisturize your skin.

Do you need to use a face serum with face oil?

Every skin type has its needs, and these are what make each peculiar. If you have skin conditions that need both formulas, you should use them.

When you do, you address the skin concern and enjoy the benefits of using both skin formulas. A face serum penetrates your skin and delivers active ingredients. Then, your face oil seals in the active ingredients, water, and moisture content of your skin.

Can you use more than one serum with face oil?

Yes, you can. Beauty experts recommend that you layer not more than two serums per routine.

When you layer, apply from the thinnest to the thickest and use serums that address your skin concerns. Allow the first serum to absorb fully before layering another and before sealing both with face oil.

What is an oil-based serum?

An oil-based serum is a type of serum that contains botanical and essential oils like argan oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil as its base. It functions the same way a water-based serum functions.

Oil-based serums are essential for retinol delivery and are great for oily and acne-prone skin types. If you want to go without a moisturizer and face oil altogether, you can use an oil-based serum alone.


Every product in your skincare routine is just as useful as the others. While you try your best to attain your skin goals with the right products and routine, skin experts advise that you dare to mix and match.

Layering products is very beneficial in addressing specific skin concerns. Serums and face oils begin and end your skincare routine respectively. However, there have been questions on whether they can be brought closer and layered.

They certainly can but to do this, you need to pair the right formulas. For instance, dry skin can enjoy benefits from layering hyaluronic acid with a face oil and acne skin can layer vitamin C serum with hydrating face oil.

Face oil has numerous benefits. You might be interested in learning about the benefits of face oil and why everyone needs one.

Thanks for reading.