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What Makes a Serum Different From a Cream

 With so many skin care products to choose from, picking out the best for you can feel like a multiple choice test with too many options. In this post we’re breaking down for two very different yet similar products – creams and serums.

The information below will demystify the two skin care products and help you decide which one will work best for your beauty routine.



Creams are all about rich thickness that’s, well, creamy. Emollients are key in achieving this. Today, creams may also contain active ingredients that go beyond moisturizing the skin.


As you may be able to tell from the consistency, serums are water-based or created using light oils. This gives serums better penetrating power into the skin, which is ideal for delivering the many different active ingredients that are packed into serums.



Creams are meant to moisturize the skin. They’re one of the oldest skin products and are still popular after hundreds of years for good reason. They work on the top layer of skin to provide additional hydration that softens fine lines and gives the skin improved elasticity.

As noted above, skin care companies are now adding other active ingredients to creams for additional benefits. However, these ingredients often serve secondary purposes and aren’t as concentrated as what you will find in serums.


Facial serums are the new kid on the block. They’re meant to treat the skin at deeper levels, rather than to moisturize it. Because of their smaller molecular structure, serums are able to penetrate deeply and are easily absorbed by the skin. Highly concentrated specialized ingredients work to correct a number of skin problems from uneven tone to collagen breakdown.

Ideal Skin Types for Creams and Serums


Due to their moisturizing properties creams work well for normal to dry skin. They’re also a good option for combination skin when applied to the dry areas of the face only. People with acne prone or oily skin may want to avoid thick creams as they could lead to pore clogging.


Serums can be used by all skin types, and are especially beneficial for people with oily skin, as well as those that suffer from acne.

The weather and environment you live in also affect your skin throughout the year. During the winter when the humidity is low you may need to switch to a cream to avoid dry skin. Likewise, if you live in an environment with high humidity most of the year, using a serum year round might be best.

Work environment can also affect your skin no matter the season. If you work in an air-conditioned office all day or fly frequently for work your skin is more susceptible to moisture loss and you may want to consider using a cream even in the summer.

Using Serums and Creams


Depending on the dryness of your skin, creams can be used day and/or night. They should be the last product you apply after cleaning and toning the skin to lock in moisture.


Facial serums can be used singularly or in combination, however, some skin experts suggest limiting it to no more than 3 serums at a time to avoid degrading the effectiveness of the products. After cleaning and toning the skin, apply the first serum. Wait a few minutes then apply the second serum if you are using more than one.

Of course there’s no reason why you can’t use serums and creams if they’re both suitable for your skin type. If you choose to use both, start with the serum and then follow up with the cream. This will help the serum to penetrate and treat deep epidermis layers while the moisturizer conditions the top layer of skin.

For more information, visit our Face Care page to see the different creams and serums we offer.

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