The Difference between Lotion, Serum, and Moisturizer

the difference between lotin, serum and moisturizer

In recent and past years, the terms lotion, serum, and moisturizer have been used interchangeably to refer to one or all of the items. The underlying fact is that everyone needs to take a good look at their skin. However, does this imply that we don’t have to worry what composition we are applying to that skin?

Serums, lotions, and moisturizers are different in the way they are made; i.e. they are made up of different ingredients. Hence, they are not designed to work in similar ways. Although they are all targeted at achieving the same end: a good-looking skin but have different forms of reaction.

For serums and moisturizers, one of the major difference between them is the ingredients which are included in their formulation; or rather the ingredients which are not included as part of their formulation. For instance, serums exclude ‘sealing ingredients.’ These are ingredients that are often used by moisturizers in order to keep moisture from leaving the skin. These sealing ingredients include mineral oils, petrolatum, et cetera. Serums are known to contain a fewer amount of fillers, lubricating agents, and thickeners.

Also, there is another difference between serums and moisturizers which is that serums actually work more effectively. This could be attributed to two reasons. One, the smaller particles found on serums make it possible for them, to penetrate and act on the skin cells directly.

Two, the fact that serums have no thick sealing ingredients which are available in moisturizers, the ingredients found in serums are able to penetrate faster and are more effective than the ingredients found in moisturizers.


Most people are quick to brand moisturizers as lotions and are quick to do the same for lotions as well, branding them moisturizers.

While these two are alike in certain ways, lotions and moisturizers are two products that are fundamentally unequal. Although, one should note that these skincare products are used by individuals and applied on the face or body in order to heal or prevent irritation or dryness.

You should know that these two products are used for various circumstances and aimed at achieving diverse outcomes.

Essentially, a lotion differs from a moisturizer as per where and when they are applied. Lotions are particularly creams of light consistency and designed to be applied to the body for several reasons.

Moisturizers, however, are creams that are basically aimed at moisturizing. Moisturizers are often designed to be used on the face and may be slightly thicker or lighter than a lotion.

Without further ado, this piece is designed to help you understand the difference between these three items and to know what you are buying the next time you are shopping for a cream.



Moisturizers are fundamentally products that are aimed at trapping moisture on the human skin. Generally, moisturizers are grouped into two categories which can be Occlusive or Emollient.

Moisturizers are important to help you reduce the daily loss of water which travels through the epidermis. Depending on the individual’s age, skin type, and location, the routine loss of water can range from being severe to minimal.


Emollient or Occlusive

Emollients are commonly referred to as lotion, but not totally lotions. Emollients work by the act of penetrating through it in order to close the gaps being created when the links found between dead cells become broken.

Occlusive, on the other hand, can be described as moisturizers can come in form of paraffin, petroleum, and mineral oil.

Occlusives are not readily absorbed and can be fast solutions to lips, feet, or hands that have been severely chapped. It may not be a highly recommended product for those who are looking to use it for the long term.

Nonetheless, both categories of moisturizers work by trapping the moisture even though the procedure with which they carry out the activities are dissimilar. Moisturizers are generally known as products that are targeted at sustaining hydration, help to age, and relieve sun damage.


How Do Moisturizers Work?


As earlier noted, moisturizers are products that are aimed at hydrating while forming a barrier in order to ensure that the skin stays hydrated. In comparison to serums, moisturizers are made to have larger molecules.

This helps to ensure that moisturizers do not penetrate deep into the epidermis. The ultimate benefit of using a moisturizer is that they do a good job of sealing the human skin, thereby locking in nutrients and much-needed moisture.



Having noted that moisturizers are good and very effective when used to retain the moisture, then, what is the importance of using serums? A serum also does a good job of retaining moisture. However, it has far more benefits than just promoting moisture retention.

Serums have certain ingredients which are very powerful and effective and are added in order to replenish, nourish, and rejuvenate the skin. Some of these ingredients include antioxidants, Vitamins C and E, anti-aging ingredients, and botanicals.

Unlike the large holes found on moisturizers, serums have small holes which when combined with the presence of the high concentration of the ingredients can give more nourishment.

This implies that serums are able to penetrate more deeply than a conventional lotion. Serums provide effective methods by which fine lines can be reduced while, following the same process of a face steamerbringing the skin to a beautiful state.

You should note that serums are made of ingredients that can become unstable when under the influence of air and light, serums have to be stored in climate-controlled locations where there is minimal or no exposure to light.

In order to enjoy the full benefits of applying a serum, you are advised to apply the serum during the night just before you go to bed. This is the period when you can avoid exposure to natural light.


How Do Serums Work?


Serums are intensive and lightweight skincare products. They are formulated to deeply penetrate the skin, which makes the active ingredients to fight damage, aging, acne, pigmentation, and scarring by a means of delivering vitamins and nutrients into the cells.

Serums which provide peptides, antioxidants, Vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid are likely to have swift and dramatic effects on the skin’s radiance by exfoliating, brightening, and hydrating.

Serums are made to replenish the skin at a cellular level while acting on a wide spectrum of factors all at once.

If you are experiencing skin damage, aging, sun damage, or scar, serums are the best choice in order to minimize visible impacts being pronounced on your skin. This is because serums are designed to reduce wrinkles and fine lines while improving smoothness, firmness, and luminosity.


Serums Costs and Benefits

Serums can usually be the most expensive items in several skincare lines which can be attributed to the fact that active ingredients which are what serums are made of are more costly than thickeners.

When properly applied, a single ounce container comprising serum can last for months. Serums are particularly great for those who have oily skins. They are not made for everyone as the gel-like texture can be poor for those who have chronic conditions such as rosacea or eczema.

These conditions weaken the skin and may cause serum to penetrate into it which could cause irritation.


How to Apply Serums or Moisturizers

Adding serum to one’s beauty routine has its own benefits. Here are steps to applying the serum.

  • Cleanse your face. For better results, use a deep cleansing brush. Thereafter, apply a pea-sized quantity of serum. Ensure you pat it evenly over your face using your finger.
  • For those with sensitive skin, you should wait for about 10 to 15 minutes after cleansing your face before applying the serum. The reason for this is that applying serum when the skin is damp would lead to irritation. Hence, allowing it to completely dry would reduce the penetration.
  • By using your moisturizer over the serum, you would be able to lock in the anti-aging nutrients and actives of the serum.


Reasons for using Serums

  • To reduce wrinkles and repair sun damage
  • For deep hydration
  • For improved texture and firmness
  • Exfoliation helps to gain a smoother and more radiant skin
  • It helps to calm sensitivity and redness of the skin
  • Serums prevent blemishes
  • Fading of brown spots and pigmentation



A lotion is a cream that has a high water base together with a low oil content. Lotions are designed to be used on the body and are usually available in a wide selection.

This implies that you will find hand lotion, baby lotion, hand lotion, et cetera. Nonetheless, there have been more types of lotions appearing in the market being designed for facial use or those suffering from acne.

These lotions have light consistency in order not to clog the pores.

They are made to have various ingredients including glycerol, fragrances, dyes, proteins, preservatives, petroleum jelly, and stabilizing agents.

As such, they have a variety of uses which are but not limited to anti-fungal, anti-acne agents, antibiotics, antiseptics, corticosteroids, as well as being used for moisturizing, soothing, smoothing, or as a protection agent.

Since moisturizers are good for moisturizing, they have been labeled as lotions. However, as noted in this piece, lotions do more than just moisturizing it. Lotions can be earmarked for both day and night use depending on the consistency. Lotions with lighter texture are good for daily moisturizing, while those with heavier texture are good to be used at night.

One of the big differences between a lotion and a moisturizer is that lotions consist of oils that are designed to be utilized as lubricants in order to avoid friction. On the other hand, moisturizers are utilized in order to replenish the moisture beneath the skin.

Many moisturizers out there can be used for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes. They are manufactured to bring expected outcomes on the body for different situations including water loss and are ideal for those with scaly or dry skin.


How to Apply Lotions

  • Wash and prepare your face or body for lotion
  • With a clean, soft cloth, pat your face or body until it has become damp
  • Apply the ideal amount of lotion
  • Extend lotion application to the neck
  • Allow the lotion sink into the skin. This implies that you wait for a minimum of 5 minutes before applying anything else.


How Does a Lotion Work


Lotions are water and oil-based creams with the primary functions of shielding from irritation, beautifying, as well as moisturizing.

Lotions work by forming a barrier in order to prevent the entry of irritation elements. Nonetheless, in the case of severe conditions such as eczema, the lotion may do damage as it would block the natural repair mechanism, subsequently making it even drier.


Benefits of Using a Lotion

  • It helps to hydrate dried skin
  • Replenishes rough spots
  • Makes you feel and smell good
  • Helps the individual relax
  • Lotions help to soften the rough parts of the skin or body
  • Lotions also make the skin glow



Again, moisturizers are fundamentally hydration creams. Lotions can be used as moisturizers, but they offer more than that. They can be used as anti-fungal, anti-acne agents, antibiotics, antiseptics, corticosteroids, as well as being used for soothing, smoothing, or as a protection agent.

Serums are made to replenish the skin at a cellular level while acting on a wide spectrum of factors all at once.

Having noted the differences between lotions, serums, and moisturizers, hopefully, you can now distinguish between the products.

With this profound knowledge, you can shop for any cream knowing the exact use they are designed for, and the outcomes they are intended to have.

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