Do You Need Both Serum and Moisturizer in Your Skincare Routine?

Share this:

After long stares at your bottle of serum and tube of moisturizer, it’s easy to convince yourself that you do not need both products. But the opposite is the case. Yes, you need both the serum and moisturizer in your skincare routines.

But why? you may ask, especially when your serum and moisturizer contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, the super skin hydrator. Again, you need both serum and moisturizer.

Serums are lightweight products that penetrate deep into your skin, moisturizers are heavy creams that sit on your skin.

While the serum absorbs into your skin, it needs a moisturizer to lock in moisture with a seal that also prevents moisture loss. You’ll agree with me that both products are very important to the success of your routine. Continue reading to see more.

Do You Need Serum and Moisturizer for Dry Skin?

If you have dry skin, you need a serum and moisturizer to provide your skin with intense hydration. Serums penetrate the deep layers of your skin and plump your skin cells. Layering on a moisturizer will seal in moisture and enhance the effectiveness of the serum.

Furthermore, it prevents moisture loss which can worsen dry skin. During dry climate conditions like winter, the atmosphere has little or no moisture. When you apply a serum that contains hyaluronic acid (a humectant), a moisturizer becomes very important.

Without a moisturizer, hyaluronic acid will turn to your skin for moisture since the atmosphere lacks moisture. Consequently, it strips your skin of moisture and leaves it dehydrated. This can result in skin irritations, a compromised skin barrier, and the development of skin wrinkles.

For dry skin, a serum alone is not sufficient to supply moisture and keep your skin looking healthy and vibrant.

Do You Need Serum and Moisturizer for Oily Skin?

Oily skin connotes skin with some level of moisture. Most times, you may not need a moisturizer over the serum; a serum alone may be sufficient to moisturize your skin. Therefore, you may do without a moisturizer but you don’t have to.

Oily skin naturally produces oil; therefore, you may not need a moisturizer. The emollient and occlusive ingredients may be too heavy for oily skin. It can aggravate your skin and make it produce more oil and look greasy.

Under certain conditions, a moisturizer becomes necessary for oily skin. Serums that contain exfoliating acids best suit oily skin. These serums treat acne by exfoliating the skin and keeping your pores clear. However, they can be very drying on the skin.

To counter this effect and soothe your skin, apply moisturizer over the serum. Also, moisturizers that contain SPF work with sunscreen to protect your skin from photosensitivity.

Do You Need Serum and Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin, especially those suffering from rosacea and eczema, may find serums too irritating. A compromised barrier is one characteristic of sensitive skin.

As a result, the active ingredients in a serum penetrate the skin and cause irritations or worsen existing skin conditions.

Applying moisturizer after serum will soothe your skin and keep it hydrated. When your skin is well hydrated, it enhances the proper functioning of your natural barrier. Also, it protects your skin from further damage.

However, you need to take caution with the moisturizer. Use a formula that suits your skin and avoid using too much product which can break your skin. It can make your skin greasy and eventually break out with acne.

Do You Need Serum and Moisturizer for Combination Skin?

Combination skin has some peculiarities. As its name implies, it is the presence of more than one skin type. This could be a combination of normal and either dry/oily skin or dry and oily skin.

More so, products that effectively tame oiliness may not effectively hydrate the dry areas. For this reason, layering skincare products works well for this skin type. It offers your skin great benefits and keeps the skin types present looking healthy and vibrant.

The serum penetrates the skin and addresses the skin-related conditions of the oily T-zone and dry cheeks and jaw. Layering in moisturizer locks in moisture which helps control shine and smoothens out rough skin.

Is Serum the Same as Moisturizer?

A serum is not a moisturizer. They do not only differ in appearance, their differences extend to the roles they play in your routine. Serums are lightweight and penetrate the deep layers of your skin where they deliver active ingredients to address specific skin issues.

Moisturizers, on the other hand, are heavy, working on the surface level of your skin. Although both products are hydrating, a serum cannot hydrate your skin, as well as moisturizers, would.

Moreover, serums are more concentrated than moisturizers and the effects last longer than that of moisturizers.

Can Serum Replace Moisturizer?

No, it cannot. Serums are not formulated to work like moisturizers. They lack the occlusive and emollient ingredients that moisturizers use to soften your skin and provide intense hydration.

Also, serums absorb quickly into your skin and leave the surface of your skin exposed to dryness. Moisturizers, on the other hand, create a film over your skin and prevent moisture loss, which serums cannot do.

Can You Use Serum Without Moisturizer?

You may use serum without moisturizer if the serum is moisturizing enough. This applies to people with oily skin. If you have dry skin, it is best to use a serum with moisturizer to boost hydration levels and prevent moisture loss.

Can You Mix Serum With Moisturizer?

Yes, you can. Mixing serum with moisturizer merges two steps of your routine into one and helps to save time. It also helps calm the irritating and drying effect of certain ingredients like retinol.

Take the moisturizer in your palm and add a few drops of serum to it. You can either rub both palms together to mix the products or use a finger to mix.

This seemingly easy way to use a serum and moisturizer can be bad for your routine. While it reduces the time spent on skincare, it reduces the effects of the serum as the ingredients do not get to penetrate the skin.

How to Use Serum and Moisturizer in Your Skincare Routine


The cleansing step of your routine is as important as the products you apply. Cleansing makes a clean canvas for better absorption of the products. Post-bathe, use a mild cleanser or micellar water to remove soap, makeup, oil, and dirt residues.

Up next, serum

While your skin is still damp, pump out the serum and release a few drops onto your palm. It is best to stay away from a fan or air conditioner while you apply the serum

You can warm the serum between your palms or use your fingers to gently tap it all over your face. Give the serum time to absorb into your skin by itself.

Lock in moisture

After applying the serum, follow up with the moisturizer to seal in moisture and keep your skin hydrated. A pea-sized amount of moisturizer is enough to cover your skin. Take the cream in your palm and rub it on your skin.

Always give at least a minute between your products to allow them to absorb deeper into your skin and yield better results. Thereafter, you can apply any other heavy cream in your routine and seal it up with facial oil.

Shield up

The last step of your skincare, just before you apply makeup is to shield your skin with sunscreen lotion. Sunscreen protects your skin from sun exposure and prevents the harsh effects of any ingredient that makes the skin photosensitive.

This step is only necessary for your morning routine. Afterward, you can go ahead to apply your makeup.


Is serum better than moisturizer?

Serums are not better than moisturizers. Both products are individually unique and work to improve the texture and appearance of your skin. Serums are reparative while moisturizers are hydrating and both functions are important to your skin.

Is it necessary to use a serum with moisturizer at night?

Yes, you should. The best time to layer skincare products is during your night routine. At night, your skin goes into self-repair and it is protected from the environmental factors that can interfere with the action of the products.

Can you use moisturizer alone?

You can use moisturizer alone for a simple routine. If you have super sensitive skin that cannot tolerate a serum, you may hydrate your skin with a moisturizer alone. Also, if you do not have any major skin issues, you may skip using a serum.


There is a great tendency to think that some products in your routine aren’t as necessary or as others. When two different products carry out similar functions, it’s easy to tilt this way. Serums and moisturizers are both hydrating products and you need them both.

Serums are lightweight and work better when used with a moisturizer to seal in moisture and prevent moisture loss. Most importantly, your skin type and its needs are very important to how you use your products.

Thanks for reading.

Serum101 has the best guides on what products are great for your skincare routine and how to use them correctly to maximize results.