How Different Is A Serum From A Cream?

If you’re looking to take your skincare routine to the next level, you may have come across serums and creams and wondered what the difference is between the two. While both products aim to nourish and improve the appearance of your skin, they have distinct formulations and benefits. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of serums and creams to help you understand how they differ and how to incorporate them into your skincare regimen for optimal results.

What are face serums?

Face serums are lightweight, fast-absorbing liquids that deliver a high concentration of active ingredients directly into your skin. These potent formulas target specific skin concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dullness, and dehydration. 

Serums are designed to penetrate deeper into the skin than traditional moisturizers, allowing the active ingredients to work more effectively.

Serums often contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid for hydration, vitamin C for brightening, retinol for anti-aging, and niacinamide for reducing inflammation and improving skin texture. The lightweight texture of serums makes them ideal for layering under other skincare products like moisturizers and sunscreens.

Face Serums

What are face creams?

Face creams, on the other hand, are thicker and more emollient than serums. They are designed to hydrate, nourish, and protect the skin’s surface. Creams create a barrier on the skin, locking in moisture and preventing water loss. They are typically the last step in a skincare routine, sealing in the benefits of the products applied before them.

Face creams come in various formulations to cater to different skin types and concerns. For example, those with dry skin may benefit from a rich, nourishing cream that contains ingredients like shea butter, ceramides, and oils to deeply hydrate and soothe the skin. 

Those with oily or acne-prone skin may prefer a lightweight, non-comedogenic cream that won’t clog pores.

Face Creams

What are the main differences between serums and creams?

  1. Texture and consistency: Serums have a thin, liquid consistency that allows them to absorb quickly into the skin. Creams, on the other hand, have a thicker, more emollient texture that sits on the skin’s surface, creating a protective barrier.
  2. Concentration of active ingredients: Serums contain a higher concentration of active ingredients compared to creams. This allows them to target specific skin concerns more effectively.
  3. Absorption: Due to their lightweight texture, serums penetrate deeper into the skin, delivering active ingredients to the lower layers of the epidermis. Creams, being thicker, tend to stay on the skin’s surface, focusing on hydration and protection.
  4. Purpose: Serums are designed to address specific skin concerns and deliver targeted benefits, while creams primarily focus on moisturizing and protecting the skin.

Can you use serum and cream products together?

Yes, you can and should use both serums and creams in your skincare routine for optimal results. Serums and creams work synergistically to address your skin’s needs. Serums target specific concerns and deliver active ingredients deep into the skin, while creams lock in the benefits and provide a protective barrier.

When using both products, always apply the serum first, followed by the cream. This allows the serum to penetrate the skin effectively without being hindered by the thicker texture of the cream.

Should you apply serum or cream first?

As mentioned above, it’s essential to apply your serum before your cream. This is because serums have a lighter consistency and are designed to be absorbed into the skin quickly. Applying a cream first would create a barrier that could prevent the serum from penetrating effectively.

After cleansing and toning your skin, apply a small amount of serum, gently patting it into your skin until fully absorbed. Follow up with your moisturizing cream, which will help seal in the serum’s benefits and provide additional hydration and protection.

Layering your skincare products in the correct order ensures that each product can perform its intended function without interference from the others.

Face Serum vs Face Cream


Understanding the difference between serums and creams is crucial for creating an effective skincare routine tailored to your individual needs. Serums offer targeted treatment with a high concentration of active ingredients, while creams focus on hydration and protection.

By incorporating both serums and creams into your daily regimen and applying them in the correct order, you can maximize their benefits and achieve healthier, more radiant skin. Remember to choose products that suit your skin type and address your specific concerns for the best results.


Can I use a serum alone without a cream?

While serums are powerful skincare products, they are not designed to replace moisturizers completely. Serums lack the occlusive properties that creams provide, which help lock in moisture and protect the skin. 

It’s best to use a serum in conjunction with a cream for optimal hydration and nourishment.

How often should I use a face serum?

The frequency of serum application depends on the specific product and your skin’s needs. Most serums can be used twice daily, in the morning and evening, as part of your regular skincare routine. 

However, some potent serums, such as those containing retinol, may be best used only at night or every other day to minimize the risk of irritation.

Can I mix different serums together?

While it’s generally safe to layer different serums, it’s essential to be cautious when mixing them together. Some active ingredients may not be compatible with each other and could cause irritation or decrease their effectiveness. It’s best to apply serums one at a time, allowing each to absorb fully before applying the next. 

If you’re unsure about mixing certain serums, consult with a skincare professional or do a patch test first.

How long does it take to see results from using a serum?

The time it takes to see results from a serum varies depending on the specific product, its active ingredients, and your skin’s individual response. Some serums, such as those containing hyaluronic acid for hydration, may provide immediate benefits. 

Others, like those targeting fine lines and wrinkles, may take several weeks or months of consistent use to show noticeable improvements. Be patient and consistent with your serum application, and you will likely see the desired results over time.

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