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Facial Oil or Serum First? (Here’s the CORRECT Answer)

by Ella Goodman 16 Jan 2024

Alright, let's dive right into the heart of the matter.

You've got your fancy face oil and your superhero serum lined up on the bathroom counter.

The big question: Which goes on your face first?

Do You Put Face Oils On Before or After Serum?

Drumroll, please...

The answer is… serums before oils!

But why?

The Science of Serums

Serums are the ninjas of your skincare routine.

These lightweight dynamos are formulated to fight specific skin concerns, like aging, dullness, or those pesky breakouts.

Loaded with concentrated active ingredients (think hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, retinol), serums are designed to penetrate deeply into the skin.

Here's the deal: your skin is like a sponge, and serums are like a nutrient-rich liquid you're trying to soak it with.

They are made up of smaller molecules, meaning they dive deeper into your skin, delivering all those powerhouse ingredients where they're needed most.

When you apply a serum, you're essentially sending in a specialized task force to target your skin woes at the source.

The Role of Face Oils

Enter face oils, the charismatic, protective older sibling in the skincare family.

These guys aren't just here to make your skin feel like it's had a five-star spa day; they're about locking in moisture and fortifying your skin's barrier.

Face oils are typically made up of larger molecules. They create a protective layer on the skin, sealing in all the hard work your serum has done and keeping environmental stressors at bay.

Face oils are like that friend who always has your back, ensuring none of the good stuff escapes and no unwanted elements get in. They're all about hydration and protection, giving your skin a glowing, healthy sheen.

Why Order Matters

So, back to our original showdown: why serums first, then face oils?

It's all about effectiveness.

If you flip the order and go oils first, you're essentially creating a barrier that makes it tough for the serum to penetrate.

That's like putting on a raincoat and then trying to shower - not very effective, right?

By applying your serum first, you're allowing those potent active ingredients to sink deep into your skin, right where they need to be.

Following up with a face oil seals the deal, locking in the serum's benefits and adding an extra layer of nourishment.

Tailoring to Your Skin

Now, remember, every skin type is a unique universe.

The serum-first, oil-second rule is a great starting point, but always listen to your skin. It's your best guide.

For instance, if you have super dry skin, you might find that mixing a few drops of face oil with your serum works wonders.

What Is the Correct Order to Apply Skincare?

We get it. Navigating the labyrinth of skincare routines can feel like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube with your eyes closed.

But fear not, skincare aficionados! Let's break down the perfect skincare sequence, turning this puzzle into a walk in the park.

The Cardinal Rule: Thin to Thick

Remember this golden rule: apply products from the thinnest consistency to the thickest.

Why does this matter?

Well, again, it’s all about absorption.

Lighter products are packed with ingredients that need to be absorbed quickly and deeply. Thicker products, on the other hand, are meant to hydrate and lock in all the goodness.

Step 1: Start with a Clean Slate

First things first, your canvas needs to be clean.

A gentle cleanser kicks off the routine. It's like prepping a wall before painting – essential for the best results. Choose a cleanser that matches your skin type, and let's get that dirt and grime out of the way.

Step 2: Toners and Essences - The Underdogs

Toners and essences are often overlooked, but they're the unsung heroes in our skincare saga.

Think of toners as the bridge between cleansing and treating your skin. They remove any lingering impurities and prep your skin to absorb the next products more effectively.

Essences, slightly thicker than toners, add an extra hydration layer and often come packed with skin-loving nutrients.

Step 3: Serums - The Targeted Warriors

Here come the heavyweights of skincare: serums.

These concentrated potions target specific concerns like aging, pigmentation, or hydration. As we know by now, they're formulated with active ingredients that need to penetrate deep into the skin.

So, applying them right after toners and essences makes perfect sense. Let them sink in and work their magic!

Step 4: Eye Creams - The Delicate Detail

The skin around your eyes is like fine china – delicate and needs special care.

Enter eye creams.

Apply them before your heavier moisturizers so that the active ingredients can really target those fine lines, dark circles, or puffiness.

Step 5: Treatments, Lotions, and Creams - The Protectors

Now, it's time for treatments (like acne creams or spot treatments), followed by your lotions and creams.

These are your skin’s shield, providing hydration and protection. They're thicker and need to be applied in a way that they lock in all the active ingredients you've layered on so far.

Step 6: Seal the Deal with Face Oils

Finally, we circle back to face oils.

These luxurious elixirs are the final coat of polish. They seal in everything you've applied, ensuring maximum absorption and hydration. Plus, they add that enviable glow.

Bonus Tip: Sunscreen - The Ultimate Guardian

In the morning, sunscreen is your finale. It’s the ultimate protector against the arch-nemesis of skin: UV rays.

Always, always end with sunscreen in the daytime.

Which Is Better: Serum or Face Oil?

Alright, let's get real: choosing between serums and face oils is like picking your favorite child. Impossible, right?

But let’s break it down, not just to pick a winner, but to understand why each of these skincare superstars deserves a spot in your routine.

The Power of Serums: Precision Targeting for Your Skin

Serums are the secret agents of skincare — lightweight, fast-absorbing, and loaded with high concentrations of active ingredients.

They're designed to penetrate deeply into your skin, delivering a high dose of nutrients and tackling specific concerns.

Think of serums as your specialized task force, each formulated to address issues like:

  • Aging: Loaded with antioxidants and peptides, serums can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Acne and Blemishes: With ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil, they can unclog pores and reduce breakouts.
  • Hydration: Hyaluronic acid serums are like a drink of water for your skin, providing deep hydration.
  • Brightening: Vitamin C serums can help fade dark spots and even out skin tone.

Serums are versatile. Depending on what your skin is screaming for, there's likely a serum out there with your name on it.

The Comfort of Face Oils: The Ultimate Hydration and Protection

On the flip side, face oils are the nurturing, protective element of skincare.

Contrary to popular belief, face oils aren't just for those with dry skin. Even oily skin can benefit from the right kind of face oil.

Here’s what face oils bring to the table:

  • Moisture Lock: Oils create a barrier on the skin, sealing in moisture and the active ingredients from your other products.
  • Nutrition: Rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, face oils can nourish and rejuvenate your skin.
  • Balance: Some oils can help regulate oil production in the skin, which is a boon for those with oily or combination skin.

Face oils don't discriminate. They're like a big, warm hug for your skin, providing comfort, glow, and a healthy barrier against environmental stressors.

Synergy Over Singularity: Why It’s Not About Picking Sides

The truth is, it’s not about which one is better. It’s about how serums and face oils can work together in harmony.

Your skin's needs can vary daily, based on factors like environment, stress, and age.

 Some days, your skin might be crying out for the intensive care of a serum. Other days, it might just need the soothing touch of a face oil.

The magic happens when you tailor your skincare routine to your skin’s current mood.

It's like having a well-stocked wardrobe: some days call for a sleek, tailored suit (hello, serums!), and other days, you just need a cozy, comforting sweater (cue the face oils).

Can You Put Serum Over Oil?

Now let’s break some rules. Can you put serum over oil?

Technically, you could, but should you?

Well, it's a bit like putting on your raincoat underneath your sweater – technically possible, but not exactly practical.

Understanding the Science Behind the Products

To get why this order matters, let's talk a bit about the science behind these products.

We know that serums are the high achievers of skincare, formulated with tiny molecules packed with powerful ingredients — and designed to penetrate deep into the skin to deliver targeted treatments.

Now, picture your skin as a multi-layer cake. The serum's job is to soak into each layer, delivering its goodies all the way through.

Face oils, on the other hand, are the sealers. They’re like the icing on the cake, creating a protective layer that locks in moisture and the active ingredients from your other products. Their larger molecules sit on the surface of the skin, forming a barrier.

Why Order Is Everything

When you apply oil first, it creates a barrier on your skin that is hard for other products to penetrate.

So, if you go rogue and apply your serum after your oil, you're essentially sending your serum on a mission impossible. It's like trying to send a text message underwater – the signal just won’t get through.

This isn't just a theoretical concern – it's grounded in dermatology.

The effectiveness of a product is significantly influenced by its ability to penetrate the skin, which is why the sequence of application is crucial.

The Golden Rule: Serum First, Oil Second

To get the most out of your skincare regimen, stick to the golden rule: serum first, oil second.

This order ensures that the serum's active ingredients are absorbed effectively before the oil seals the deal and adds an extra layer of nourishment. It’s about working with your skin’s natural processes, not against them.

Exceptions to the Rule? Maybe, but with Caution

Now, are there exceptions?

In the ever-evolving world of skincare, sure.

Some beauty enthusiasts mix a few drops of oil into their serum for an extra boost of hydration.

However, this is a bit like a culinary experiment – it can be hit or miss, and it's essential to know your ingredients well to avoid any skincare faux pas.


And there you have it, the lowdown on serums and face oils.

Remember, your skin is as unique as you are.

So, experiment, have fun, and find what makes your skin feel like a million bucks.

Happy layering!

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