Is Serum Better Than Lotion for Hydrated and Youthful Skin?

Share this:

On the spectrum of moisturizers, lotions are on the lightweight side. There are body serums that look and feel like body lotions. The similarities in their rich concentration with hydrating ingredients and other actives make it tempting to wonder if skin serum is better than lotion.

When choosing your skin products, what works for your skin should be a major factor. A serum is not better than a lotion; both products are not comparable. They are formulated differently and serve different purposes in your skincare routine.

Serums are thinner and packed with active ingredients that target specific skin-related conditions while lotions are moisturizers that primarily hydrate your skin. This and many other differences differentiate serum and lotion.

What Are the Benefits of Using Serum?

One of the many benefits of using a serum is how well it hydrates the skin. You should expect nothing less of a moisture boost from these water-based products. Serums penetrate deep into the layers of your skin and plump skin cells with moisture.

They are also great skin protectors. Serums offer reparative and preventative skin benefits. As it hydrates your skin, it fortifies it with ceramides and peptides that strengthen your skin barrier. This consequently increases skin resilience against UV rays that can cause premature aging.

Alongside these ingredients, other actives like retinol may be included in the formula to make an anti-aging serum. These serums stimulate collagen synthesis and enhance skin elasticity.

Other benefits of using serums include brighter skin, firmer skin, controlled sebum production and clear pores, acne treatment and control, and even skin tone. Additionally, serums are largely tolerated by every skin type, including sensitive skin.

What Are the Benefits of Using Lotion?

If you have oily skin and you’re looking to cut down on oil-based moisturizers, a lotion is your best bet. Lotions employ more water than oil in their formula. This makes them lightweight and quickly absorbing on the skin.

The hydration from moisturizing lotions may not last for as long as creams do but they have lesser chances of irritating your skin and leaving residues. More so, they are great for every skin type.

The right formula can help you calm skin irritations like itching and peeling. Just like every moisturizer, it prevents moisture loss and keeps parched skin hydrated. In addition, some lotions can aid the treatment and management of concerns like acne and aging.

Lotions that contain SPF create a protective barrier over your skin and protect it from sun damage.

Serum vs Lotion

A serum is lighter than a lotion. Serums do not contain oils, fragrances, emollients, and occlusive ingredients that lotions contain. Therefore, they are thinner and absorb quickly into your skin, unlike lotions which are heavier on the skin.

However, serums do not moisturize your skin as much as lotions do. Serums are skin treatment products. They do not primarily moisturize your skin.

Unlike lotions, they are highly concentrated with actives that penetrate the deep layers of your skin to address tissue and skin cell damage and rejuvenation.

This doesn’t undermine what a lotion can do. Lotions are great for parched skin; as light moisturizers, they quickly penetrate your skin and improve the appearance of visibly aging skin. They have a much quicker effect.

A lotion is a quick-fix moisturizer, its effects do not last long. Therefore, you will have to reapply during the day. On the other hand, the effects of using a serum are long-term.

Is Serum Better Than Lotion?

No, a serum is not better than a lotion, nor the other way around. Both products are essential to your routine. With the right products and correct application, better skin days are ahead.

Although on different levels, serum and lotion keep your skin hydrated and increase moisture retention capacity.

When choosing what product to use for your skin, you should factor in your skin type and its needs. These determine what ingredients you should and shouldn’t apply to your skin.

Also, weather and climate changes can determine what products suit your skin at a given time.

On some days, a serum best does it and your skin (especially oily skin) may not need a lotion. On other days, a serum alone is not sufficient to moisturize your skin. Ultimately, you should pay attention to your skin.

Can You Use Serum Without Lotion?

You may stick with just serum but it’s not advisable. With oily skin, it could be quite tempting to use serum without lotion.

But unlike cream moisturizers, they do not weigh down your skin or leave it greasy. Lotions are great picks for oily skin when you need a moisturizer to seal in moisture.

If you have dry skin, you should always follow up serum with a lotion to prevent moisture loss and a compromised barrier. Serums alone cannot completely hydrate dry skin; they need the support of lotions to boost hydration levels.

Lotions are very soothing and can help with skin irritations that may arise from active ingredients like retinol, salicylic acid, and vitamin C. It also prevents hyaluronic acid from stripping your skin of moisture during dry climate conditions.

Can You Use Lotion in Place of Serum?

No, a lotion cannot fill in the role of a serum. Each skincare product is specifically designed to meet specific needs. In this case, a lotion cannot work as a serum. Lotions contain active ingredients but not in rich concentrations like serums contain.

Moreover, they do not penetrate your skin. Lotions cannot reach deep into your skin to tackle issues that plague your skin. Some lotions are formulated to address acne and improve signs of aging, however, they will not produce the long-lasting results that serums produce.

In essence, stick to moisturizing your skin with a lotion and use a serum to treat your skin. You get the best results when you use your products religiously.

Can You Mix Serum With Lotion?

Yes, you can. To merge two steps of your routine into one, you can add drops of serum to your lotion. This also makes some serums more tolerable for people with sensitive skin. It saves the time spent on layering products and waiting for one to absorb before applying another.

However, this can be less effective, when compared to layering. After the serum mixes with lotion, your skin can no longer absorb the actives in the serum. It becomes one product that cannot penetrate the deep layers of your skin.

Also, depending on the ingredients in both products, it may not always be a good idea because one active may end up being denatured at the expense of another.

Do You Need to Use Both Serum and Lotion?

Ideally, you should use both products in your skincare routine. As it is said, no one product is one-size-fits-all. They depend on each other to be more effective and yield greater results.

Look at it this way, the serum works from the inside out while lotions work on the surface level of your skin. Together, they improve the quality of your skin.


Should you use serum or lotion first?

The rule of thumb of the application of skincare products still applies to how you use serum and lotion, whether on the face or body. Serums are thinner, therefore, they should come before lotion which would come in after to seal in moisture.

Can you use body serum as lotion?

Body serums are also hydrating. They may not be as hydrating as body lotions but they can suffice for the moment, during summer, for instance.

Moreover, they are richer and contain more active ingredients than lotions contain. They also absorb quickly without leaving residues.

Is lotion necessary?

A lotion is a moisturizer and it is necessary unless you have a cream moisturizer. You need lotion to hydrate your skin, seal in moisture and keep it supple around the clock.

The occlusive ingredients in lotions create a protective seal over your skin that prevents moisture loss and subsequent dehydration.


The differences between serum and lotion answer the question of which is better. Moreover, they aren’t so comparable because they have specialized purposes that cannot be juxtaposed. Separately, they enhance your skin and do even more together.

If you can have both products in your routine, you don’t have to choose. Ultimately, what works for your skin is very important. For skin concerns like signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, acne, skin resurfacing, and skin tightening, serums will do a better job than lotions.

Lotions, on the other hand, are moisturizers and will hydrate your skin better than a serum. Always listen to your skin and give it what it needs.

Thanks for reading.

Check Serum101 to read the best product comparison articles.