Serum vs. Moisturizer: Should You Use Both? By NUME-Lab

Both serums and moisturizers are essential skincare products in a clean beauty routine. But, nowadays, we have cleansers, toners, moisturizers, serums, exfoliators, and tons of other products that create confusion and make it difficult to choose the proper routine for your needs and skin type. 

Here, we’ll try to explain the difference between serums and moisturizers. Do we really need to use both? Or is only a serum enough? Are both products interchangeable? Or maybe moisturizers offer more benefits? And, if we decide to use both, what’s the correct way to layer them?

Let’s dive in and see!

Table of Contents

serum vs moisturizer skincare numelab switzerland

Differences Between Serums and Moisturizers

Purpose and benefits

The first difference between serums and moisturizers is their purpose. As the name itself suggests, moisturizers have one primary purpose – to moisturize or hydrate the skin. However, that doesn’t mean that a moisturizer won’t have additional benefits such as anti-age, for instance. It all depends on its active ingredients. 

On the other hand, serums typically serve a more targeted purpose. Contrary to moisturizers which have hydration as a primary action, serums can be formulated to target different skincare concerns such as diminishing early aging skin signs, exfoliating, etc. Again, the purpose of a serum depends on its active ingredients.

Penetration rate

The second most prominent difference between serums and moisturizers is their penetration rate and absorption power. 

Moisturizers are thicker and act as a seal whose goal is to retain moisture. As such, even when they’re water-based, moisturizers will have a thicker consistency and penetrate only the top skin layers. 

On the other hand, serums typically have a more lightweight and thin consistency, with smaller active molecules that allow the product to penetrate the deeper skin layers and deliver the active ingredients.

Active ingredients

The next difference when we compare serums vs. moisturizers is their active ingredients. Although both face creams and serums can have different actives depending on the skin type and purpose, some ingredients are better used in serums, and others are more suited for moisturizers. 

In the case of a clean beauty skincare routine, a high-quality moisturizer can contain ingredients like

On the other hand, a high-quality anti-aging night serum could contain actives like Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Retinoids, Betaine, Vitamin B5, and similar.

Curious to know more about ingredients? Discover the Ingredients Glossary here.

Product strength

Finally, you should note that serums contain a more concentrated amount of an active ingredient in most cases. 

We already spoke that serums exist to deliver ingredients and target specific skincare concerns. Look at serums like treatments and moisturizers like protection or prevention. 

For instance, serums can contain 10% of Glycolic Acid, Retinol, or another active. That makes them stronger and more potent than moisturizers. Add to that their high absorption and penetration rate, and you have a rich and powerful product. 

But, beware – due to this strength of serums, not every serum will suit every skin type, especially when it comes to sensitive skin or dry skin. When using a new serum for the first time, always do a test patch first to check for irritations or allergies.

How to Layer Your Skincare Products?

If you decide to use both a serum and a facial cream or moisturizer, consider the product thickness and penetration rate when layering the skincare products. 

The order in which you layer and apply your skincare products matters, and it matters a lot. Generally speaking, the best tip is to go from thinnest to thickest regardless of which or how many products you use. 

What does that mean? Simply put, the serum is thinner and has a better penetration rate than a moisturizer. So, the serum always goes first, before the moisturizer. 

Apply your serum and wait a couple of minutes to give it a chance to get absorbed and settled. Afterward, apply your moisturizer to create a seal. Like this, the serum molecules can get absorbed and deliver the actives, and later on, the face cream will help keep your skin moisturized and hydrated during the day.

3 Steps for a Glowing Skin

We feel like today, we’re all too busy, and life is too hectic for a 20-step skincare routine that takes one hour and doesn’t let our skin breathe. So, at NUME-Lab Switzerland, we used Swiss Biotechnology and Minimalist Approach to solve everything in just three steps:

Step 1: Cleanse and gently Exfoliate (yes, with one product!)

Discover  NUME-Lab Deep Exfoliating Cleanser for this purpose


Step 2: Exfoliate and boost your skin renewal (one serum to rule them all)

 If you do not know what kind of resurfacing serum to use, discover NUME-Lab Resurfacing Night Peel Serum


Step 3: Moisturize (with a multi-purpose face cream)

 NUME-Lab Advanced Renewal Face Cream is the perfect choice to have a multipurpose face cream for day and night

With these three simple steps, we enforce sustainability in our skincare brand and manage to cover every aging skin issue, including help with fine lines and wrinkles, collagen depletion, dark spots, acne scars, moisturization, exfoliation, and more.

What If I Don’t Want To Use Both a Serum and a Moisturizer?

We’ve got your back, and we totally understand! 

Nowadays, we’re all looking for ways to simplify our cosmetic routine and focus on fewer products with more potency! And, since we’re firm believers in skinimalism, we’ve formulated:

  • our rich Advanced Renewal Face Cream with a lighter texture, meaning smaller active molecules to deeply penetrate our skin and still perfectly treating anti-aging concerns and dark spots
  • our Eye Care Absolute Radiance Eye Serum to act as two in one – a serum and a moisturizer! 


Of course, for the best anti-aging results, we recommend using both the serum and the moisturizer for a more intense treatment. However, unless you have particularly dry skin, our face cream and our serum will provide more than enough hydration to get you through the day. 

Our anti-aging Eye Serum with White Truffle, Caffeine, Squalane, Buckwheat and Eyeliss has the power of a moisturizer with the penetration rate of a serum! Perfect, right? 



When a serum only is enough:

oily skin, combined skin, normal skin, skin that doesn’t necessarily need heavy hydration

When to use a moisturizer only:

dry skin with no need of other treatments, sensitive skin, skin that needs deep moisturization

When to use both: 

anti-aging skin, acne-prone skin that needs additional treatment, dry skin, combined skin that needs extra treatments

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