Do you need a face oil, face serum, or both?

face oil or face serum
Do you need a face oil, a face serum, or both. Photo by Daria Shevtsova

Understanding how skincare works empowers you to make an informed purchase, selecting products suited to your skin type/condition and getting the most out of them as part of your routine.

Today we are exploring the difference between face oils and face serums, helping you to determine which you need and giving you expert advice on how to use them.

Book in for a Skin Session with Sofia if you are looking for some tailored advice for your skin and scalp.


Some oils are now marketed as serums which can understandably be confusing. Put simply, the purpose of a face oil is primarily to nourish, protect and moisturise the skin while a face serum targets specific skin concerns (such as wrinkles, fine lines, dullness, dryness, acne, irritation and redness). Due to the latter serving a particular purpose, serums tend to be more expensive than oils.

Serums tend to be concentrated and contain ingredients such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories which affect the functions of the skin. Their molecules are very small, allowing them to absorb deeply for rejuvenation, regeneration, luminosity, balance and many more benefits. Just some of the things serum can do include:

  • Treats hyper-pigmentation
  • Repairs sun damage
  • Fights acne and future breakouts
  • Exfoliates away dead skin cells and speeds up cell turnover
  • Calms red, puffy skin
  • Reduces the appearance of pores and prevents them from being clogged
  • Brightens, smoothes and firms skin

Oils are designed to protect the skin from changes in weather/temperatures whilst also retaining moisture, repairing the skin’s barrier (improving overall resilience), keeping it supple and providing a source of anti-oxidants, fatty acids and vitamins. Due to their emollient nature and thicker texture, oils need to be massaged in to help deliver softness and smoothness to skin. When used as the final step in your skincare routine, they protect the serum from evaporating from skin

Both products are highly concentrated and frequently come in a glass bottle with a dropper or pump for easy application.


It depends on your skin type as to whether you need to use both a face oil and serum. If you have a particular skin concern then yes, we recommend using both products. This will ensure the specific problem is being addressed, while also receiving all of the benefits of face oil. Some serums also contain moisturising ingredients such as Hyaluronic Acid which may mean you do not necessarily need a face oil too, although it has been shown that dryer skins may benefit from sealing the hyaluronic acid into skin with a face oil, so that it doesn’t easily evaporate.

We are delighted that more of us are now embracing the ageing process and are investing in caring for our skin earlier on in life. However, as we age, natural oil production will inevitably decrease, meaning our skin will often need a helping hand through the use of a face oil. You may also choose to use a serum to target any skin concerns you may have.

Many people with oily/combination skin believe it’s a ‘no no’ to add more oil to your skin, however this is not the case. We talked more about using face oils with oily skin in this post, but in short, the correct face oil for your skin type, when used sparingly, will be beneficial in helping to lock in moisture and protecting the skin, keeping it consistently healthy and hydrated.

Whether you opt for one or both of these products, always start by washing your hands to prevent the spread of bacteria.

You might also like to read: The Best Way To Use A Face Oil


  • Use a small amount (2-6 drops, dependent upon your skin type) as a little goes a long way for achieving great benefits. Reduce the amount you are using if you experience breakouts and/or have an oily/combination skin type. If your face oil is 100% oil then you will also require fewer drops.
  • Massage into the face and neck, following this guide to increase absorption into the skin. Apply on damp skin to trap in moisture.
  • Always use after your toner, serum, or moisturiser as applying underneath this prevents penetration into the skin. We also do not recommend using face oil alone as the skin requires access to water and oil, meaning some underlying moisture is required.
  • Apply last in your routine as this acts as a barrier on the outer layer of the skin.
  • Start with applying it in the evening as this is when the skin has time to rest, enabling it to repair and protect as you sleep. A single drop can also be applied in the morning, particularly on no make-up days when your skin is able to breathe.


  • Establish the skin concern to choose a serum with the most appropriate ingredients. 
  • Test a small area with 3-5 drops before applying serum more widely on the skin.
  • Apply prior to moisturiser and oil but after cleansing and toning, as skincare is best applied from the thinnest to thickest consistency.
  • Press into the skin evenly – serums are most commonly water-based therefore have a more lightweight texture that requires pressing rather than massaging.
  • Use once per day, either in the morning or evening, as this is sufficient for the potency of most serums.

Leave us a comment telling us which you use and how you use them.




  1. 24/03/2023 / 08:53

    great informative blog, thanks for sharing

  2. nidhi
    19/07/2021 / 17:55

    Thanks for your valuable information.l m really confused what to use either oil or serum as my skin is rather dull n have freckles on my face.Kindly suggest what ll be appropriate for my skin.

    • Sarah
      25/10/2021 / 18:50

      I’m not a dermatologist but I was a beauty consultant for some time. Serums focused on brightening your skin would be beneficial for you and oils depend on if you have dry skin. If you have dry or combination is can be wonderful to add into your routine even if you have oily skin it can still be positive addition. Overall using both is most likely going to be a good thing! Just check your brands! never use brands like yes-to or st. ives. They will tear your skin up.

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