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Serum vs. Cream: What’s the Difference?

Serum vs. Cream: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve browsed the skin care aisle at your favorite local beauty store recently, you’ve probably noticed just how many skin care products there are.

Whether you’re new to taking care of your skin or are just looking to change up your current routine, it can feel overwhelming to wade through all of them. 

For example, serums and creams may sound similar, but they both have very distinct uses and benefits. We’re here to discuss these two skin care products, as well as answer any questions you may have about when to use them.

What is a serum?

Serums are skin care products that are usually lighter in texture and consistency, easily absorbed into the skin and formulated to target specific issues. Most serums are designed with higher concentrations of powerhouse ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and retinol than other skin care products. 

But when should you use a serum? If you’re looking for a skin care product that can make a noticeable change in your appearance, serums should be the first in line in your skin care routine.

While many people use serums to target dark spots, dullness and fine lines, you can use serums even if you don’t have a specific skin care concern. There are plenty of serums that can benefit everyone, especially serums with extra hydrating and brightening ingredients.

Read on for a list of our favorite serums.

Youth Serum

A great example of a serum-based skin care product is our Youth Serum. This formula is designed to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while also encouraging a youthful glow. The best part? You don’t need to wait until you start showing signs of aging to use this serum — Youth Serum can also help preserve an already-youthful appearance.

One of Youth Serum’s heavy-hitter ingredients is hyaluronic acid, which is incredibly helpful when it comes to maintaining the skin’s moisture balance. Providing your skin with the proper hydration can also help it look instantly more plump and firm. 

Youth Serum also has a bioactive peptide (a short amino acid chain called oligopeptide-10) that can help fight breakouts and diminish the appearance of redness. This peptide works in tandem with honey extract and allantoin (a plant extract) to soothe the skin, creating a more even-toned, radiant complexion.

Glow Factor

Our Glow Factor serum puts vitamin C front and center. This serum starts with the most biologically active and well-studied form of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid. 

To increase its brightening potential, we added powerful antioxidants and 0.5% ferulic acid. This helps make the ascorbic acid even more effective. Plus, sodium lactate and a derivative of azelaic acid help to reduce the appearance of redness and irritation.

Glow Factor can help to even out your skin tone, support your skin’s natural defenses against environmental stressors (UV radiation, pollution etc.), support natural collagen production and encourage beautiful, glowing skin. 

What is a facial cream?

Creams, on the other hand, are far more universal. Their main purpose is hydration, which they achieve by adding moisture to the skin and creating a barrier to seal that moisture in. 

Facial creams are designed to support the moisture barrier, which is the uppermost layer of skin that helps keep environmental factors out and hydration in. Creams also tend to be thicker in texture and consistency and can sometimes feel more like an ointment.

Creams are usually the final step in any skin care routine because of how thick they are. Their thick texture can prevent thinner serums and skin care products from being able to penetrate through the skin. 

Another way that creams differ from serums is that you’ll likely only use one cream in your skin care routine, while you can easily combine serums, as long as they have complementary active ingredients.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite facial creams.

Eye Sculpt

Whether you struggle with dark circles, under-eye puffiness or simply want to prevent visible signs of aging, having an eye cream like Eye Sculpt in your routine is essential.

Think of it as a moisturizer designed specifically for the delicate skin around your eyes. Eye Sculpt provides an extra layer of hydration with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and niacinamide. It’s also packed with anti-aging and brightening ingredients that improve the appearance of dark circles, reduce puffiness and smooth skin texture.

The best part? Our lightweight, fast-absorbing eye cream layers well with your other skin care products, too! Apply Eye Sculpt after your serums, then follow with your favorite moisturizer.

Face Whip

If you’re looking for a luxe moisturizer that you can use daily to support hydrated and smooth skin, try our Face Whip

Like our Youth Serum, Face Whip is packed with hyaluronic acid to moisturize the skin. It backs up those benefits with other complementary ingredients — like ceramides and squalene — to lock in hydration longer and more efficiently. 

The consistency of this formula doesn’t just lock in moisture — it can also help lock in your serums and other skin care products. This can result in soft, supple and plump-feeling skin, a stronger, more resilient moisture barrier and an improvement in the visible signs of aging.

High Beam

If your primary skin care concern is a lack of radiance, using a cream like our High Beam brightening lotion can help bring back that youthful glow. Our High Beam is lightweight and full of botanical extracts, peptides and arbutin (which helps tackle areas of excess pigmentation).

While creams are naturally thicker than serums, they don’t have to be completely occlusive to show results. High Beam just proves that point.

In addition to its impressive hydrating abilities, High Beam’s lightweight formula helps encourage an even, radiant complexion without weighing down your skin or clogging your pores.

Recovery Lotion

If your skin is really in need of hydration, try our Recovery Lotion. Our Recovery Lotion is a true powerhouse, offering soothing and moisturizing benefits to even the driest skin. 

This moisturizer is packed full of barrier lipids, which can strengthen and protect the skin, and hyaluronic acid, which can support immediate hydration. It’s especially beneficial for stressed or irritated skin, like skin that’s just gone through an intense treatment. (However, once your skin has returned to its baseline, you may want to switch to a less occlusive cream.)

Can you use serum and cream products together?

The best part about a quality skin care routine is that there is plenty of room for multiple products, especially if they work well together. While this does require some forethought, choosing the right products and combining them in the right order can be an effective way to improve the appearance of your skin.

As a general rule of thumb, serums are used to treat problem areas, while creams are used for overall hydration. However, the good news is that you don’t have to pick one over the other — when you choose skin care products with complementary ingredients, they can actually provide better results together than they would on their own.

Should you apply serum or cream first?

When using serums and creams in tandem, it’s crucial to know the order in which you should apply them. You’ll always want to start with your serums, as these are lighter in texture and consistency. 

Before applying your serum, it’s important to cleanse your skin. Cleansing can help remove makeup, dirt, sweat, oil and bacteria that your skin may have collected during the day.

When you cleanse, make sure to rinse your skin thoroughly with lukewarm water. Rinsing with hot water might feel soothing, but it can actually dry out your skin. On the other hand, lukewarm water can help break down the gunk that might be clogging your pores and prepare your skin for the rest of your skin care routine.

If you’re using more than one serum, you’ll want to put them on in the order of lightest to heaviest consistency. It’s also important to give your serums time to absorb before moving on to the next one.

Once you’re done with your serums and everything has been absorbed into your skin, you can move on to your cream. You shouldn’t need much — just a dollop or two. 

If you’re doing your nighttime routine, this will be your last step. If you’re doing your morning routine, you should finish with sunscreen, unless your cream has one built in. (If it does, make sure it has an SPF of 30 and provides broad-spectrum protection.)

The bottom line...

If you’re trying to decide between serum and cream, we have good news — you don’t have to pick one! The right combination of skin care products (not just serums and creams, but also cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreens) can be an absolute game-changer for your appearance. It may take some time to customize your skin care routine, but it’s well worth it. 


Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging | PMC

Arbutin as a Skin Depigmenting Agent with Antimelanogenic and Antioxidant Properties | PMC

Understanding the Epidermal Barrier in Healthy and Compromised Skin: Clinically Relevant Information for the Dermatology Practitioner | PMC


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