What is the difference between a serum and a cream?

When you are shopping for skincare products, it can be overwhelming due to the sheer variety of options available.  Add to this your skin type and seasonal variations, and the choices can leave you scratching your head.

In this article, we will talk about the differences between face serums and face creams. The goal is to help you understand which one is right for you and help you choose the best skincare products with a little less confusion.

What are face serums?

Face serums are some of the most effective anti-aging skincare products available to you. They contain a high concentration of active ingredients, such as vitamin C or hyaluronic acid, and act as “boosters” for your skin.

What are face creams?

“Face cream” is an umbrella term used to describe all sorts of skincare products from moisturizers to night creams. They serve a variety of functions such as hydration, skin brightening, sun protection, and anti-aging effects.

Serum vs. Cream

What are the main differences between serums and creams?


Face serums are thinner, lighter, and more absorbent in texture. They penetrate deep into the skin such that very little of the product remains on the skin’s surface.

Face creams are thicker and creamier in consistency than face serums. They create a physical barrier on the skin’s surface to prevent the skin from drying out.


Face serums are formulated to address skin concerns such as aging, dullness, and acne. They penetrate deep into the skin and deliver the active ingredients where they are needed in the deeper skin layers.

The main purpose of face creams is usually hydration. However, some face creams have anti-aging ingredients or double up as sun protection creams. Face creams contain larger molecules and they cannot penetrate deep inside your skin. The function of face creams is essentially to strengthen and protect the surface of the skin.

Frequency of Use

Overuse of face serums can potentially dry out or damage your skin, depending on the specific ingredients. Face creams, on the other hand, are gentler and can be applied morning and night.

When to Start Using

Everyone’s skin is different, but in general, dermatologists recommend that you start using a face serum in your early 30s. This is when cell turnover in the skin begins to slow down and the body needs antioxidants to protect against harmful free radicals and environmental toxins.

Face creams or moisturizers should be part of your skincare regimen at every age. The sooner you start using a face cream, the longer you will retain a youthful softness and smoothness to your skin.


Face serums tend to cost more than face creams. This is because face serums contain more potent ingredients at higher concentrations. However, keep in mind that a small bottle of face serum can last you for months.

Frequently Asked Questions About Face Serums vs Face Creams

Can you use a face serum and face cream together?

It depends on your skin type and the ingredients in the specific products. For instance, if you have very dry skin, layering a moisturizing face cream on top of a serum can be very effective. The face serum will deliver hydrating active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid to the deep layers of your skin while the face cream will help to lock in the moisture on your skin’s surface.

What’s the right order: Serum or moisturizer first?

Dermatologists recommend that you apply a serum before a face cream or moisturizer. Face serums are lighter and more absorbent and contain more active ingredients. Face creams tend to be thicker and oilier. Applying the serum first gives your skin the chance to absorb the active ingredients and the moisturizer to lock in the moisture.

How to use a face serum?

Begin by cleansing and exfoliating your skin.  Next, take a small amount of face serum and apply it all over your face and neck with gentle motions of your fingertips. Wait 1-2 minutes to allow the serum to be fully absorbed before applying any other skincare products. Read the instructions on the package to find out whether to use the serum in the morning or at night. Consult your dermatologist if you are unsure which face serum is right for your skin type.

The choices in skincare products are endless. We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between face serums vs face creams. Now you can find the ideal products that will keep your skin looking soft, smooth, bright, and youthful for years to come.

Some of our Favorite Serums

TNS Advanced Plus Serum

This amazing all-in-one product has been clinically shown to improve the appearance of sagging skin.  This is the only skincare product on the market that has this type of clinical data.  Plus, the participants in the study felt they looked up to 6 years younger in just 12 weeks.  This data point was validated by a third-party psychometric scale.

TNS Advanced Plus Serum
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Revision Skincare Hydrating Serum

This amazing hydrating serum is packed with 2 powerful forms of Hyaluronic Acid (HA).  It is light and sheer so your skin does not feel greasy after you apply it.  Hyaluronic acid is very hydrophilic, which means it attracts water, so your skin is left feeling dewy and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles are improved after using this serum.

Hydrating Serum
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Some of our Favorite Creams

Skinbetter AlphaRet® Overnight Cream

This overnight cream contains a retinoid combined with an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which delivers skin rejuvenation while providing little-to-no irritation.  This product improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while also improving uneven skin tone and texture.

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Epionce Medical Barrier Cream

This hydrating cream is designed for individuals with very sensitive skin.  This includes skin types that are visibly red, irritated, dry, and scaly.   Made with key botanical ingredients this cream is perfect for individuals with delicate and compromised skin that cannot tolerate other products that have sensitizers and preservatives in them.

Epionce Medical Barrier Cream
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