Is Serum Better Than Oil? Making the Choice for Your Beauty Routine

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If you were to choose between serum and oil for your beauty routine, which would it be? Or better put which should it be?

Sometimes, serums are mistaken to be oils, especially when oils are mixed to make an oil serum. Serums and oils are two different beauty products that contain different ingredients.

Moreover, there are different formulations for each tailored to address different concerns. If you want a comparison of both, you should consider where you’re applying them to.

Read on to see whether you should make a choice between serum and oil for your skin and hair. And if you choose to stick to both, this article details how to use them correctly to get results.

What Does a Serum Do?

Serums are a class of beauty products that are highly concentrated with skincare powerhouses like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, retinol, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid.

Skin serums target skin concerns like aging, discolorations, acne, dull complexion, dehydration, cell regeneration, and skin rejuvenation. Also, the ingredients in skin serum help to protect your skin from the damage of oxidative stress.

Furthermore, some serums are formulated for hair care purposes. Hair serum is used as a styling product. However, it provides more benefits than this. Hair serums help to add volume and shine to your hair.

Moreover, you can use a hair serum to protect your hair from the damage of frequent heat styling, and prevent and control frizz and breakage.

Some serums are formulated to stimulate eyelash growth and make your natural lashes look fuller and longer.

Overall, serums are moisturizing and hydrating beauty products that use moisture and other ingredients to improve the appearance of your skin and hair.

What Does an Oil Do?

Oils are yet another class of beauty products. Skincare or hair care oils are usually all-natural, containing almost no additives. Including oil in your beauty routine is embracing glow and moisture.

Some oils can serve both skincare and hair care purposes for all skin and hair types. Although not limited to the list, some examples of such oils include jojoba oil, coconut oil, argan oil, lemon essential oil, lavender essential oil, and almond oil.

In addition, oils are very moisturizing, and they fortify your skin and hair with nutrients like essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients work their way from the inside out to give you healthy skin and hair.

The topical application of oil strengthens your natural barrier, and increases your skin’s resilience against irritants that can affect the appearance and complexion of your skin. Hair oils also help to increase hair volume, help limp hair and add shine to your hair.

You can apply oils like castor oil to your lashes to stimulate growth, protect the skin around your lashes from bacterial action and give your lashes volume.

Is Serum Better Than Oil for Your Skin?

The comparison of serum and oil, in terms of which is preferable to use for your skin, may not be effective. This is because, to start with, they are two different products with different ingredients.

Skin serums are much lighter than oils and packed with actives that oils may not contain. Serums work on your skin with a targeted line of action. They absorb into your skin to treat acne, hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, and so on.

Oils, on the other hand, are much thicker than serums and rather only penetrate the outer layer of your skin.

When you apply oil to your skin, you provide your skin with an extra layer of protection to prevent moisture loss and lock in other ingredients.

Additionally, oils cannot be compared to serums because they are more on the moisturizing end of skincare products while serums are treatments.

Is Serum Better Than Oil for Your Hair?

Just like skin serums and oils are not the same, there is a difference between hair serum and hair oil. Each of these products, on its own, works wonders on your hair.

If you’re looking to make a choice, you may use them according to the present needs of your hair. Hair serums are styling products that work on the surface of your hair strands while oils nourish your hair and penetrate your cuticles to repair damages.

Both products help to stimulate hair growth, control frizz, and add shine to your hair. More so, while you may need a hair serum to protect your hair from heat styling, oils will effectively aid in detangling your strands.

Hair oil effectively prevents hair loss by penetrating your scalp during massages and stimulating blood circulation which will foster hair growth.

Hair serums protect your hair from the rigor of combing and brushing. Moreover, it helps to gather your hair into a clean bun, gathering all stray strands together.

This sums to say that hair serums can fill in for functions that hair oils cannot do and the other way around.

Can You Use Serum Without Oil on Your Skin?

What products you choose to layer or use together depends on whether you’re treating a skin concern or not. Addressing skin concerns like dehydration, aging, skin discolorations, and acne will be more effective if you use serum and oil together.

However, you may use serum without oil if your skin is much on the oilier side and you are worried about your skin breaking out with acne. But you must follow up your serum with a moisturizer to seal in moisture and make the ingredients in your serum more effective.

Can You Use Serum Without Oil on Your Hair?

Hair experts advise that you use hair serum and oil together to cater to your hair needs. It won’t be complementary to use one without the other because serums work on the outside of your hair while oils work from the inside.

Hair serum and hair oil complement each other to improve the texture of your hair. The ingredients in serums coat your strands and make them look voluminous and glossy.

Oils, on the other hand, nourish your hair and scalp from within, repairing and conditioning it. Therefore, it is best to use both for the overall health and texture of your hair.

Can You Use Oil Without Skin Serum?

No skincare product works all the magic on its own. They follow each other in routines to achieve maximum results. It’s okay if you want to use oils without serums to make your beauty routine short and simple.

However, you should not expect the same results you’d get when you pair oil with serum. You should use a serum underneath oil to drive in the active ingredients your skincare oil does not contain.

Oil will then nourish, seal in the ingredients, moisture, and create an extra layer of protection over your skin.

Can You Use Oil Without Hair Serum?

Yes, you can use oil on your hair without applying serum. Hair serums are not a daily hair necessity (unlike what they are to your skin). You should only apply serum to your hair on your wash days or when you’re treating hair issues like frizz, brittle or limp hair.

Oils can be used daily to moisturize and condition your scalp and hair. Also, it serves as an extra form of protection for your strands against harsh weather conditions.

Should You Use Serum With Oil on Your Skin?

Yes, you should pair serum with oil in your skincare routine. Serums deliver high concentrations of actives to your skin to treat targeted skin issues. And oils provide nourishment and extra layer of protection to your skin.

You may use both exclusively in a special routine to address specific concerns or use them with other products. In essence, you may layer oil immediately over the serum or use moisturizer in between both products.

Should You Use Serum With Oil on Your Hair?

Yes, you should. Serums work on the outside to coat your cuticles with molecules that protect your strands and add volume to your hair. On the other hand, oils penetrate your cuticles, supply nutrients, and moisturize your hair from within.

In tandem, they will improve the health and physical appearance of your hair. Moreover, serums are heat protectants, shielding your strands from the damage of heat tools. Hair oils are natural hair sunscreens that protect your hair from harmful sun rays.

How to Use Serum and Oil in Your Beauty Routine

For skin

  • Begin your routine with a mild cleanser. Dampen a clean cotton pad and gently wipe across your face to remove dirt, excess oil, and makeup residue
  • Afterward, pump out the serum and release about four drops into your palm
  • Use your fingers to gently tap the serum all over your face and neck
  • Wait a few seconds to allow the serum to absorb into your skin
  • Thereafter, apply drops of oil onto your palm and gently massage it into your face
  • Then, apply sunscreen before you step out in the morning to shield your skin from sun damage. If it’s part of your evening routine, oils finish off your routine

For hair

  • Take your hair oil in your palm and massage it into your scalp and strand
  • The essence of applying oil to your hair before washing is to aid the shampoo in cleaning your scalp. Also, it protects your strands from absorbing water and getting dry and brittle
  • Then, apply a sulfate-free shampoo to your scalp and gently lather it with your fingers
  • Rinse off the shampoo with clean, lukewarm water
  • Afterward, apply the conditioner and rinse it out. Use a lint-free towel to dry your hair such that there is still moisture in it for hair serum application and absorption
  • Apply serum all over your hair and gently detangle it with a brush that will not tug or pull at your strands
  • Thereafter, apply oil to moisturize your hair, provide nourishment and add shine to your hair


Is serum better than oil for the face?

No, it is not. Skin serum is different from facial oil; the former contains actives that treat skin concerns, and the latter nourishes your skin and acts like a seal over the ingredients in serums and moisturizers. Also, facial oils help to hydrate your skin.   

Is hair serum the same as hair oil?

No, it is not. Hair serums may look like hair oil, but they are different formulas. Hair serums coat the surface of your hair strands while hair oils penetrate your cuticles to nourish and hydrate your hair.  

Does castor oil grow eyelashes?

Castor oil does not make your lashes grow. It nourishes your lashes, keeps them moisturized, and protected against the elements that can make them dry and shed off.

Consistent application of castor oil to your lash line will stimulate blood and nutrient circulation which is necessary for healthy hair growth.


Is serum better than oil? The answer to the question is determined by the needs of your skin and hair at a given time. It’s not much of a matter of comparison between these two products.

Each of them has powerful ingredients that address the particular needs of your skin and hair. Together, they make a perfect duo for your beauty regimen. Most importantly, to reap the benefits, you should pick the ingredients that work for your skin and hair type and concerns.

To sum it all up, serums are not better than oil or the other way around. Use both products together as your skin and hair demand.

Thanks for reading.

Check Serum101 to read more comparison articles that guide you to make good choices of skincare products.