Serum or Moisturizer First: Getting It Right With Skincare Application

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Getting skincare right is not just about the products, it also includes the right application of your products. There is a rule of thumb that governs the application of skincare products and it says that serum should come first in your routine before you apply moisturizer.

The rule of thumb says that the lightest products should be applied before the heavier products. The heavier products create a seal over the lighter ones and help to lock in moisture. Results of skincare products are seen with the correct application.

If you’ll like to get your skincare routine right, you have landed on the right article. Continue reading to see how to use serums with moisturizers.

Should You Apply Serums or Moisturizers First?

Serums come before moisturizers in your routine. A board-certified dermatologist and surgeon, Dr. Heather Rogers, explains that while you want the active ingredients in your products to penetrate your skin, only a small amount can, therefore you need to apply products the correct way.

The formula of serums is much lighter than that of moisturizers. Serums are water-based and penetrate your skin faster than moisturizers which are thicker and occlusive.

Serums contain high concentrations of active ingredients that target specific skin concerns. And you sure want to get the most out of your serum and say goodbye to skin blemishes.

You should apply serum first so that the ingredients get delivered to the deep layers of your skin where they are most needed.

Furthermore, when you apply moisturizer, it creates a film that the molecules in the serum cannot penetrate.

After delivering hydration and high doses of actives to the deep layers of your skin via serums, you should apply a moisturizer to seal in moisture and keep the actives locked in.

How Long Should You Wait to Moisturize After Serum?

The rule of thumb of skincare also says that you should not apply another product immediately after applying one. After applying serum to your skin, you should wait for at least a minute before you moisturize.

The waiting time allows the ingredients in the serum to penetrate your skin and hydrate it before you layer on a heavier product like moisturizer. Allow the serum to fully absorb into your skin before you moisturize.

Most importantly, your skin should retain a good amount of moisture before you moisturize. Products absorb more quickly through damp skin, compared to dry skin. Therefore, the serum should not dry up before you apply moisturizer.

Is Moisturizer Necessary After Serum?

Yes, it is. You should apply moisturizer after your serum to seal in moisture. Moreover, it creates a protective barrier over your skin to shield it from environmental irritants. This seal helps to preserve the potency of the serum and gives you desired results.

In addition, some moisturizers contain SPF which protects your skin from the damage of UV rays. If your serum contains active ingredients like retinol, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid, you must moisturize after applying the serum.

These ingredients have a great tendency to dry out your skin and make it photosensitive. Applying moisturizer after serum can help bypass these effects and keep your skin supple.

Also, during cold weather conditions, you should apply moisturizer after serum to keep moisture levels steady. During winter, the atmosphere does not contain moisture, and an ingredient like hyaluronic acid has a high affinity for moisture.

When there is no moisture in the air, it begins to draw moisture from the deep layers of skin. Consequently, your skin becomes dehydrated, dry, and flaky.

However, under certain conditions, serum alone may be enough to moisturize your skin. For instance, during summer, if you use oil-based serums, and if you have oily skin, you may not always have to apply moisturizer after your serum.

Can You Use Moisturizer Without Serum?

It’s not wrong to use moisturizer without serum but you really shouldn’t. Serums penetrate your skin and get to the depths where the ingredients in your moisturizer cannot get to. The former is very hydrating and helps to treat skin issues.

Additionally, if you’re looking to treat concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, saggy skin, dull complexion, and dehydration, you need to use a serum beneath your moisturizer.

More so, serums enhance the hydrating effects of moisturizers, and they synergize together to improve the health and appearance of your skin. If you have sensitive skin, you may skip serum and just moisturize your skin.

Can You Mix Moisturizer With Serum?

Yes, you can. Mixing moisturizer with serum saves the time that you’d naturally spend layering products. You can save time by adding drops of serum to a pea-sized amount of moisturizer. Then, apply the mix to your face.

Although this sounds like a great idea, it’s not without buts. Serums are lightweight, compared to moisturizers which are thick and heavy. When you mix the two products, there is no opportunity for the actives in the serum to penetrate your skin.

Additionally, mixing serum with moisturizer can denature the active ingredients in the serum and reduce its potency. This method of application is good for skin types that find serums rather too irritating.

How Much Moisturizer Should You Use After Serum?

A pea-sized amount of moisturizer is enough to seal in moisture after applying serum. You do not want to over-moisturize and cause worse skin problems. Facial skin is very tender and stuffing it with products will be counterproductive.

Moreover, when you apply too much moisturizer, you lock in too much moisture, and this can weaken your skin barrier. Consequently, your skin becomes prone to moisture loss, dehydration, and flaking. It can also result in clogged pores and acne breakouts.

Can You Use Two Serums At a Time?

Yes, you can use two different serums at a time. Skincare experts advise that you can dare to mix and match products, and this includes layering serums. When you use more than one serum, you should take note of the ingredients in your serums.

For instance, you should not layer a retinol serum with a serum that contains either an AHA, a BHA, benzoyl peroxide, or vitamin C. If you do, you expose your skin barrier to damage.

A hyaluronic acid serum is the best serum to pair with any other serum. It rarely has any side effects and will help to hydrate your skin and soothe the drying effect of actives like retinol.

Should You Use Moisturizer After Hyaluronic Acid Serum?

Yes, you should. Hyaluronic acid serums are hydrating serums that plump skin cells and retain moisture in the outer layer of your skin. After applying a hyaluronic acid serum, you should follow up with moisturizing your skin to seal in hydration.

However, if you have oily skin or during summer, a hyaluronic acid serum may be enough to hydrate your skin. Under harsh weather conditions like winter, you should moisturize your skin after serum to boost hydration levels and prevent transepidermal water loss.

Should You Use Moisturizer After Vitamin C Serum?

Always apply moisturizer after vitamin C serum to seal in hydration and protect your skin from the common side effects. Vitamin C can be irritating to the skin and can make your skin dry out, turn red and even peel.

Layering moisturizer after vitamin C serum will soothe these effects. The moisturizer creates a protective seal over your skin and prevents moisture loss. More so, it preserves the integrity of your natural barrier.

Should You Use Moisturizer After Niacinamide Serum?

Niacinamide serums are hydrating serums. They are delivered through a water-based formula to hydrate your skin and control sebum production.

After applying niacinamide serum, moisturize your skin to lock in moisture and keep the active ingredient trapped in the layers of your skin.

If you have oily skin or the temperature is favorable, you may skip moisturizing after applying serum. But you should moisturize your skin after your serum to keep it hydrated.

Should You Use Moisturizer After Retinol Serum?

Retinol has a notorious drying effect on the skin. Therefore, you should apply retinol serum with the utmost caution. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to apply moisturizer before applying retinol to your skin.

After retinol, you should moisturize your skin again. The moisturizer before retinol makes your skin receive retinol better and reduces the risks of skin irritations. Layering moisturizer after retinol also prevents the drying effect of retinol.

Are Serums Better Than Moisturizers?

Using serum on your skin is as good as using a moisturizer. Each product has its unique benefits and they both work together to help you achieve your skin goals.

Skin serum targets specific skin concerns and helps to supply hydration to the deep layers of your skin. A serum is a better vehicle for delivering active ingredients to the areas where they are most needed.

On the other hand, a moisturizer seals hydration by preventing water loss. Also, it helps to strengthen your skin barrier and keep out irritants that can alter the texture and appearance of your skin.

Serums and moisturizers are important products in your routine. They complement each other to keep your skin hydrated and protected against adverse weather conditions and environmental irritants.


Can you apply moisturizer immediately after applying serum?

It is best to hold on for a minute before moisturizing after serum. Allow the serum to fully absorb into your skin and deliver the active ingredients before you seal in moisture. Skincare will be less effective if you stuff your skin with ingredients.

The waiting time allows the ingredients to reach the targeted areas and keeps them from piling up on your skin.

Should you use serum with moisturizer at night?

Yes, you can use a serum with moisturizer during your morning and night routine to seal in moisture and keep your skin hydrated. Skincare layering is best done at night when your skin enters self-repair.

Also, at night, your skin is protected from the harsh elements of the day.

Can you skip moisturizer if you use serum?

You can, but it is advised that you always apply moisturizer after serum. If you have oily skin, you may skip moisturizing your skin after using a serum.

During the hot seasons, a serum alone may suffice to hydrate your skin. Under these conditions, it is okay to skip serum on some days.

On the other hand, people with dry skin should always moisturize their skin after applying serum to seal in moisture. During the dry seasons, it is best to layer a moisturizer over serum to boost hydration levels and strengthen your skin barrier to resist moisture loss.


The correct order of skincare begins with the thinnest or lightest products and progresses to the thicker, oil-based products. Therefore, serum should come first before moisturizer. The best results are seen when you correctly apply your products.

Moisturizers are occlusive skincare products that create a seal over your skin and lock in moisture. They also help to preserve skin integrity and keep out irritants that can damage your skin.

Additionally, not everyone will find moisturizer necessary after serum. Complementing the rule of thumb of skincare, the best routine you can give your skin is to apply what works for your skin at a given time.

Thanks for reading.

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