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Should You Use Serum Before Moisturizer? Turns Out, There’s a Right Answer

by Ella Goodman 31 Oct 2023

Hey there, skincare enthusiast!

So, you've probably stared at your vanity counter countless times, juggling your serum bottle in one hand and your moisturizer in the other, wondering which goes first.

We get it. And we've got you.

And we give you the ultimate breakdown of the serum and moisturizer dance.

Who takes the lead, and who follows?

Do You Put Serum on Before Moisturizer?

Let's cut to the chase: Yes, you absolutely put serum on before moisturizer!

Here’s why:

The Magic Behind the Serum

Serums are the unsung heroes of the skincare world. Thin but mighty, they pack a powerful punch.

Ever wondered why?

  • Concentration: Serums have a higher concentration of active ingredients. This means they can address specific skin concerns more effectively, be it hyperpigmentation, fine lines, or acne. They're laser-focused on giving your skin the best.
  • Molecular Size: The tiny molecular size of serums ensures they dive deep. They're like the undercover agents of skincare, sneaking beneath the surface layers, providing those active ingredients precisely where they’re most needed.
  • No Fillers, Just Thrillers: Unlike heavier creams, serums are often free from ingredients like mineral oils or petroleum, which can sometimes clog pores. Instead, they're formulated to deliver fast, transformative results.

Now, remember the analogy of the magic elixir? Well, your serum is like that coveted potion in RPG games. You know, the one that boosts your powers and levels you up?

Apply your serum after cleansing and toning to ensure these potent ingredients are the first to grace your skin.

The Protective Embrace of Moisturizer

If serum is your elixir, your moisturizer is like the protective barrier spell, guarding all the benefits your serum has to offer.

But why is moisturizer such a game-changer?

  • Hydration Lock: Moisturizers are designed to retain water in the outermost layer of the skin. They play a crucial role in ensuring your skin doesn’t dry out, leaving it plump, hydrated, and happy.
  • Sealing the Deal: A good moisturizer forms a protective seal on your skin. This ensures that all the goodness of your serum is locked in, maximizing its benefits.
  • A Shield Against the Elements: Moisturizers often come with ingredients that form a barrier against environmental factors. Think of it as your skin’s personal bodyguard against pollution, temperature changes, and other external aggressors.

In essence, while the serum penetrates deep to address concerns and rejuvenate the skin, the moisturizer ensures those benefits remain, nurturing the surface and guarding against external harm.

What Is the Correct Order for Skincare?

Pondering the right sequence for your skincare routine is like plotting the perfect playlist. Each product is like a song, setting the stage for the next.

1. Cleanse: The Opening Overture

Think of your cleanser as the prelude to your skincare symphony. It sets the tone (pun intended), by sweeping away the residual makeup, dirt, and the tales of a long day.

A well-chosen cleanser clears the canvas, prepping your skin to soak in the subsequent act's benefits. It's not just about cleaning; it's about initiating the dialogue between your skin and the products.

2. Tone: The Harmonizing Interlude

Once the stage is set, the toner steps in as the interlude. It’s not just a bridge between cleansing and treatment. It adjusts the pH levels of your skin and tightens the pores, ensuring a balanced base.

This crucial step ensures that the active ingredients in the subsequent products penetrate deeper, offering optimal benefits.

3. Serum: The Captivating Solo

Ah, the serum - the spotlight stealer of your skincare routine!

With its concentrated actives, it targets specific concerns like a maestro directing each section of an orchestra. Whether you're combating fine lines, dark spots, or dehydration, this is where the magic happens.

Remember, though, not all serums are created equal. Depending on the ingredients and your skin concerns, you might adjust which serum plays the lead on different days.

4. Eye Cream: The Delicate Aria

The skin around your eyes is like the violin section of our orchestra: sensitive, delicate, and requiring specialized care.

Enter the eye cream. It targets concerns like puffiness, dark circles, and fine lines, ensuring your eyes reflect the beauty and vitality you feel inside.

5. Moisturizer: The Grand Crescendo

Your moisturizer is the crescendo in this magnum opus. It’s the rich blend that envelops all the preceding notes, sealing in their benefits.

Whether you opt for a lightweight gel or a sumptuous cream, this step ensures that the hydration is locked in, and the skin's natural barrier is fortified against external aggressors.

6. SPF (For Daytime): The Encore of Protection

Every masterpiece deserves an encore, and in the skincare realm, SPF takes the stage. UV rays are one of the most significant factors in premature aging and skin damage. An SPF, especially during the day, acts as your shield, ensuring that all the hard work you put into your routine defends against the sun's challenges.

See? Perfect harmony!

How Long to Wait Before Applying Moisturizer After Serum?

We know, when you're on a skincare roll, it's tempting to slap everything on at warp speed.

But just like waiting for the beat drop in your fave tune, timing is everything.

Understanding the Absorption Process

First things first, let's unravel the science behind absorption.

Serums are typically formulated with smaller molecules, packed to the brim with active ingredients.

These actives are designed to penetrate deep into your skin, addressing various concerns at a cellular level. When you slather them on, your skin starts the process of drinking up all those nutrients.

But here's the catch: it needs some uninterrupted time to do so effectively.

Why the Wait?

Now, if you quickly follow up with a moisturizer, you risk diluting the serum or worse, hindering its absorption altogether.

Imagine preparing a perfect cup of tea only to dilute it with too much water before it's had a chance to steep. That’s precisely what’s happening if you rush your skincare steps.

The moisturizer, given its denser composition, can form a barrier, preventing the serum from delivering its maximum punch.

The Perfect Pause

So, what's the golden timeframe?

Ideally, after applying your serum, wait for about 2 to 3 minutes. This is the sweet spot where your serum gets the chance to delve deep, settle in, and begin its targeted action.

This duration isn't arbitrary – it's rooted in understanding the average time it takes for products to absorb.

Of course, the exact time can vary based on the serum's consistency and the specific ingredients, but as a general rule of thumb, this window works wonders.

Making the Most of the Wait

Instead of staring at the clock or twiddling your thumbs, use these couple of minutes productively.

Maybe give yourself a gentle facial massage, promoting circulation. Or work on your neck and décolleté, areas that often get neglected.

You could also take this time to breathe deeply, centering yourself and transforming your routine into a mini-meditation session. Remember, skincare is not just about the external, but also the internal wellness.

The Grand Finale: Moisturizing Time

Once you feel your skin has drunk up all the serum goodness, it's time for the moisturizer to take the stage. Its primary role is to lock in the serum's benefits, create a protective barrier against environmental aggressors, and provide that quenching hydration.

What Is the Correct Way to Apply Serum and Moisturizer?

Alright, technique time!

And no, it's not just about slathering it on. The way you apply these products can genuinely amplify their benefits.

Serum Application 101

  • 1. Quantity Matters: Begin with the right amount. Typically, 2-3 drops of serum are all you need. Given the serum’s high concentration of active ingredients, it’s essential to remember: quality over quantity.
  • 2. The Warming Ritual: Take those 2-3 drops between your palms. Gently rub them together to warm the serum up. This isn’t just for the luxurious feel – warming the serum can help activate certain ingredients, prepping them for optimal absorption.
  • 3. The Pat and Press Method: Ditch the rigorous rubbing. Delicately press and pat the serum onto your face. This method champions even distribution and minimizes the chances of pulling or dragging your skin, preserving its elasticity.
  • 4. The Forgotten Territory: The neck is like the underappreciated middle child of skincare. Extend your serum application from your jawline down to the collarbone. Your future self will sing praises for this foresight.

Moisturizer Mastery

  • 1. The Pristine Scoop: To maintain product integrity and ensure hygiene, always use a spatula (or if unavailable, spotlessly clean fingers) to extract your moisturizer. Aim for a dollop roughly the size of a dime.
  • 2. Strategic Dotting: Instead of one large blob in the center of your face, distribute little dots of the moisturizer on your forehead, both cheeks, nose, and chin. This serves as a blueprint ensuring every part of your face gets its share.
  • 3. Graceful Glide: Now comes the art of spreading. With tender care, massage the moisturizer in soft upward strokes. Why upward? It fights the natural pull of gravity and encourages lymphatic drainage, thus reducing puffiness. Treat your skin like a canvas, smoothly painting it with hydration.
  • 4. A Lift for the Neck: As with serums, the neck deserves attention. Using gentle upward strokes ensures you're not pulling the skin down, which over time could lead to sagging.

But Why All This Precision?

The skin, magnificent as it is, acts as a barrier. For our skincare products to work their magic, they need to bypass this barrier and penetrate the skin's deeper layers.

Correct application techniques ensure maximum absorption. They optimize the products' performance, ensuring you reap the full spectrum of benefits.

Moreover, our face isn't just a blank canvas; it's a map with different territories, each with unique needs. The T-zone might be oilier, while the cheeks could be dry.

By paying attention to each region and being deliberate in our application, we're addressing these distinct needs more efficiently.

And That’s a Wrap!

And there you have it! The ultimate guide to mastering the serum and moisturizer game.

By incorporating this skin science into your daily routine, you're not just going through the motions; you're making every moment count.

Remember, whether you’re a skincare newbie or a seasoned pro, it’s all about understanding and honoring what your skin needs.

So, next time you're gearing up for your skincare jam session, let this guide be your backstage pass.

Your face is your stage, and with this routine, you're set to rock it!

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