Your Guide to Serums, Oils and Moisturisers
Once upon a more much simple time, our skincare routine consisted of cleanser, toner and moisturiser. Now, we have oils, serums, elixirs, moisturisers, balms and every option in between.
The cosmetic industry, as we know it, is a well oiled machine designed to get us to consume more products and more often. And it’s very good at it!
Without a solid knowledge base, we’re often left to look for answers within the beauty industry, which is carefully curated and laced with confusing (and often misleading) jargon. With beauty trends coming and going faster than you can say ‘elixir who’, how do we know what’s what, what is necessary and what we can simply do without in our natural beauty cabinet?
At conscious.kin we believe knowledge is power! And we love nothing more than to set our kin up for life with a solid base of natural skincare education. As such, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know about serums, oils, moisturisers and everything in between. And how and when to apply them for the best results.
So the next time you’re about to make a natural beauty purchase you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make the best selection for you and your skin.
‘Is like a ‘superfood’ for your skin’ ~ Imelda Burke.
Serums can be water based or oil based and are a considered a serum because they contain concentrated amounts of potent ingredients and bio-actives. There is often some confusion out there in the beauty industry between serums and oils. The giveaway is that serums are usually more ‘watery’ with a gel like consistency.
Serums are designed to penetrate beneath the top layer of the skin and are designed to be protective, preventative and nourishing. They may even help ‘diminish spots, heal scars, contour, add life, brighten and even out pigmentation or minimise fine lines and expression lines’ (The Nature of Beauty).
All skin types can benefit from a serum treatment, but particularly dehydrated, dull skin or more mature skin.
How to apply: Depending on the season and your skin's individual needs, you might really love the lightness of using a serum on its own without an oil or moisturiser. However, if you are going to follow it up, we recommend applying your serum prior to moisturising. You can even blend serum with your chosen facial oil, massaging both in at once for convenience. Just before bed is the perfect time to apply a serum to allow the active ingredients to work their magic in the small hours.
2/ Facial Oil
Like serums, facial oils are formulated specifically to penetrate and nourish the skin. They are generally made up of carrier oils (which make up the majority of the contents) and a combination of essential oils.
Essential oils naturally contain vitamins and when combined with active ingredients, a good facial oil becomes one of the most simple and potent products in our natural beauty cabinet. If serums are a superfood, then facial oils are the all-rounder multivitamin for your skin, offering moisturising and ‘skin food’ in one.
The difference between an oil based serum and a face oil is the oil contains a blend of plant based oils without the ‘bio-actives’ of a serum. It is for this reason that facial oils are often cheaper than serums, though the benefits are still many.
Natural and pure plant oils effectively moisturise the skin without clogging pores. As well as containing potent essential oils, a good facial oil will have a high content of essential omegas (fatty acids). Our bodies don’t naturally produce omegas, so it’s important to replenish our supply topically through natural skin products, as well as through what we ingest.
A common concern we hear about facial oils is the fear of ‘adding’ oil to the skin, especially for someone with a propensity to oily skin or oily zones. But our skin is a pretty magical organ and it has a natural relationship with and affinity for oil! Applying the right oils can actually work with the ones we naturally produce to get the balance under control.
Where moisturisers occasionally cause blocked pores due to their binding agents (emulsifiers and wax), oils penetrate the deeper layers to work with our own natural oils and deliver juicy, radiant skin. When selecting a facial oil we recommend going with certified organic oil blends where possible, to ensure what you are putting on your skin has undergone a meticulous extraction process and contains unadulterated ingredients.
How to apply: While there are no hard and fast rules for when and how to apply facial oil, Imelda Burke of The Nature of Beauty (a conscious.kin favourite) suggests using your facial oil as you would a moisturiser, applying it after a mist or serum. Massaging a few drops into already damp skin assists in the penetration process. As always we invite you to experiment with your skincare routine and find out what works best for you.
The key word here is surface. Moisturisers are designed to lock in moisture and protect the top layer of skin, providing a barrier against the elements, like dirt and pollution. They’re usually made up of water, oils, actives and waxes (which are designed to bind the ingredients and ensure a stable formula).
You might think with the options available for oils and serums, that moisturisers have become obsolete, but not so. There is still a place for them in your skincare routine. Depending on your skin type, climate and other lifestyle factors, you might decide a moisturiser is not necessary and that an oil is enough. Or you might find that your skin really craves that extra layer of moisture and protection.
How to apply: Think of moisturiser as the cherry on top. It’s the final step of our skin routine as it works with the surface of the skin. For best results, after cleansing, toning, and following any serum or oil treatment you’re using, apply moisturiser to the face, neck and decolletage.
Elixirs fall into the same category as serums; highly potent, highly concentrated power boosts of active ingredients, vitamins and nutrients. Similarly, elixirs can be used to target certain conditions or with the aim of repairing, regenerating and evening out skin complexion.
How to apply: Because of the high content of active ingredients, less is definitely more. A couple of drops applied to the face, neck and decolletage following cleansing and toning is enough to penetrate the skin. Massage into the whole area before applying your oil and let it sit for a few minutes before moisturising. Image credit @Sarahfaithgray