Moisturizers, Oils, and Serums

Posted by Azadeh Shirazi MD on

Let’s face it, the sheer number of skincare products on the market can be overwhelming. Throw in formulations, skin type, and seasonal shifts and we’re left dizzy wondering what our skin actually needs. When do you use a serum, versus a moisturizer, and where do oils come in? How are they different? There are so many questions to answer! Let’s dive in. 

For all of this information and more, check out my newest Youtube video!

How Are These Products Different?

Serum: is water based and intended to treat the skin.  Serums are formulated with concentrated actives, with lightweight formulas to change the skin for the better.  You only need a few drops meaning a little bit goes a long way.  Serums are usually thin and absorbent, leaving little, if anything, remaining on the surface of the skin. Though they tend to be more expensive than other skincare products, they're full of potent ingredients geared towards anti-aging, skin brightening, hyperpigmentation, and treating skin conditions like acne or Rosacea. 

Oil: Improves the overall appearance of the skin by trickling between skin cells. This softens the edges of the skin cells to give you some smoothing of the skin surface and a nice glow. However, they don’t lock in moisture or hydration. 

Moisturizer: Uses a thicker formula to create a physical barrier that locks in hydration and prevents the skin from drying out. They help retain the function of the skin barrier and prevent water loss, keeping skin cells hydrated. 

Important Things To Know About Serums

Although many serums do contain hyaluronic acid, it’s important to remember that they are not made for hydration. Serums absorb very quickly into the skin and are designed to deliver beneficial ingredients such as Azelaic Acid, Retinols, Niacinamide, Copper peptides, or Vitamin C. 

Serums are best applied to damp skin and should be applied BEFORE a moisturizer. The general rule of thumb is to apply your products thinnest to thickest. This is because applying a moisturizer over a serum really drives the actives deeper into your skin and applying a moisturizer before a serum can create a barrier that the serum cannot penetrate. 

My skin philosophy is simple: Cleanse, Serum, and Protect.  Your serum is the investment piece designed to change your skin for the better and treat your skin concerns.  They should be comprehensive with high quality science backed ingredients.  I developed this simple routine after years of treating patients who were overwhelmed with choosing products and didn’t know how to start a skincare routine. Whether it’s anti-aging, sensitive skin, or a day and night routine, our skincare bundles take the guesswork out and incorporate serums designed for various skin conditions. If you’re interested in a simple skincare routine that’s already set up for you, our bundles are listed below. 

Important Things To Know About Moisturizers

Most people think using a moisturizer is just to prevent dry skin, but moisturizers do so much more than this. They can actually be used to protect the skin barrier as well.

When looking at a condition like Acne, there is a common misconception that moisturizers clog the pores. Acne can be caused by many different things.. And yes, too much oil is one of those contributing factors but having an impaired skin barrier plays a huge role. Acne products tend to dry out the skin which in turn weakens the function of the skin barrier, and a lot of times this can lead to worsening of acne. Rosacea is another condition in which the skin barrier is impaired. Moisturizers can improve these conditions by repairing the skin barrier. Make sure to use a moisturizer that is free of fragrance, parabens, and sulfates.

The last thing to note about moisturizers is that moisturizing creams contain oils, emollients, and humectants that attract water. They also contain occlusives that seal everything in and form that protective barrier. Even the ones that say oil-free, contain a synthetic oil like silicone that feels more lightweight. These may be more pleasing to those that don’t like the feel of oil.  

Important Things To Know About Oils

One important thing to remember when using oils is that they do not hydrate the skin. Natural Oils are really there to nourish the skin and not necessarily to hydrate the skin.  They don’t support the skin barrier like moisturizers. That’s why creams or moisturizers are used to add hydration and strengthen the skin barrier offering greater protection than oils.

Oils also do not help regulate oil. The oil production in your glands is determined by your hormones and skin type.

Oils are not necessarily pure like Argon or Jojoba oil as there’s a lack of consistency in the quality.. Many of them claim to be all natural without preservatives. The problem with this is, because they lack preservatives, they degrade quickly causing them to change composition and possibly cause irritation.   

Dr. Azi’s Comprehensive Skincare Bundle Recommendations:

  • Rosacea Bundle: Clinically advanced products designed to calm redness, reduce skin sensitivity, and target the root causes in Rosacea. Includes:  Azelaic10 Serum: helps even skin tone, reduce hyperpigmentation, smooth texture, reduce breakouts, and calm redness. Intense Recovery Complex: Specially formulated to support and repair the skin barrier. 
    • Skintyte Bundle: Designed for those with sensitive skin looking for a comprehensive age-defying routine. Clinically shown to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce redness, boost elastin and collagen production, and brighten the skin. Includes: Skintyte Serum: improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduces redness, and boosts elastin and collagen production. Restore Moisturizer: provides deep hydration with age defying benefits to nourish dry skin back to healthy glowing skin.  
    • Night-Time Routine Bundle: A simple night time skincare routine that includes: Lift and Renew: combines pure all-trans Retinol & Bakuchiol with age defying antioxidants to target fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, pores, and dullness. Restore Moisturizer: provides deep hydration with age defying benefits to nourish dry skin back to healthy glowing skin.  

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    Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, MD is a Board-Certified Dermatologist.

    Specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Shirazi received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University Of Kentucky College of Medicine. After doing a Research Fellowship at Harvard Medical School at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, she completed her residency training in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in addition to completing her training in dermatology and cosmetic surgery at the University of California San Diego.

    She has received multiple research scholarships from iconic institutions including Harvard University and the University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has several peer-reviewed publications to her name.