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Should You Use Serum or Oil First in Your Routine?

by Yu-Jun Park 27 Sep 2023

Hey, glow-getters!

We’ve all been there: staring at the pretty bottles on our vanity, a serum in one hand, a facial oil in the other, and a big ol' question mark hovering over our heads.

The great debate of serum vs. oil is as old as skincare itself.

Which goes first? Which one will give you that K-drama glow?

Buckle up, buttercups, because we’re diving deep.

The Skin Science Behind the Magic

Let's break it down barista-style: Imagine your skin as a fancy coffee.

Serum? Think of it as the rich espresso shot, potent and deep.

Oil? That’s your silky-smooth milk, providing a luxurious finish.

Now, would you pour milk into your espresso machine? Heck no! Sequence matters, and here's the lowdown.

Serum: Your Power-Packed Potion

What Makes it Tick?

When you think of serums, envision these potions as the supercharged Teslas of the skincare world.

They’re fast, efficient, and downright revolutionary.

But let’s delve a bit into the 'why' and 'how'.

The Science Behind the Potion

Serums are formulated with smaller molecules. In the grand theater of skincare, think of these molecules as the nimble dancers that can glide through even the tiniest gaps. This small molecular structure is precisely what allows serums to dive deep beneath the skin's superficial layer.

Active Ingredients Galore

It's not just about penetration; it's about what’s being delivered. Serums are typically brimming with a cocktail of potent ingredients like vitamins, antioxidants, and peptides. These aren't just fancy terms; they’re the heavy lifters that work overtime to rejuvenate, hydrate, and protect your skin.

Hydration without the Heaviness

Despite their potency, serums have a watery consistency. They hydrate without leaving a greasy residue, making them a win, especially for those with oily skin or living in humid climates.

Why the Hype?

In the bustling world of skincare, where every product claims to be a 'must-have', why have serums taken center stage?

Let's decode the magic.

Addressing the Root, Not Just the Surface

While creams and lotions act on the skin's surface, serums go deep. Think of them as those heart-to-heart chats that touch the soul, not just surface banter. By reaching the deeper layers, they address the root causes of skin issues, not just the symptoms.

Versatility is the Name of the Game

Serums are a bit like your wardrobe staples. Just as you'd pick a raincoat for drizzly days and a sun hat for beach outings, you can select serums based on your skin’s daily needs.

There are serums for hydration, anti-aging, brightening, and so much more. Skin feeling a tad dry? There’s a serum for that. Dark spots becoming bothersome? Yep, there’s a serum for that too.

Quick Absorption, Quicker Results

Thanks to their lightweight nature, serums get absorbed pronto! This rapid absorption means your skin starts benefiting almost immediately. It's the difference between taking the express train versus the local—it gets you to your destination (read: skin goals) faster.

Oils: The Glow-Boosting Guardians

The Luxe Lowdown:

If serums are the nimble dancers of skincare, think of oils as the regal cloaks wrapping everything up in opulence.

But there's more to these luxurious liquids than meets the eye. Let’s break it down.

Nature's Essence

Facial oils are nature's bottled wonders. Derived directly from the laps of Mother Earth, they carry the pure essence of plants, seeds, or nuts. Each drop is like a concentrated dose of botanical goodness, bursting with vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants.

The Barrier Brigade

Here’s a tidbit for you: Oils are occlusive. In non-jargon terms, this means they create a protective layer on your skin.

Picture it as an invisible shield, a valiant knight if you will, standing guard, ensuring all the precious nutrients from your serums and moisturizers don’t evaporate but instead stay put, working their magic.

Why We Adore Oils

Okay, let’s play a guessing game. What's velvety, naturally radiant, and looks like it's been kissed by the morning sun?

Yep, it's skin that's been treated to the wonders of facial oil!

Now, let’s jump into the rabbit hole and discover the secrets behind the allure of oils.

Defenders Against Dangers

In our everyday hustle, we expose our skin to a myriad of invisible foes. From pollution particles to rogue free radicals, the list is endless.

Oils come to the rescue, creating a protective layer that acts as a barrier against these environmental culprits. So while the world wages war, your skin stays serenely protected.

Hydration Heroes

Dry skin can feel like the Sahara desert during a particularly brutal summer.

Oils, with their emollient properties, act as hydration boosters. They not only lock in moisture but also replenish the skin's natural oils, ensuring that you wake up to soft, supple skin every morning.

Glow Gurus

Every skincare aficionado will attest to the unbeatable, radiant glow facial oils impart. That dewy finish isn’t just superficial.

Oils nourish the skin from within, ensuring that the glow isn’t a fleeting illusion but a lasting luminance. With regular use, you’re not just stepping out with a daily glow; you're on a path to consistently healthy and radiant skin.

Soothing the Storm

For those moments when your skin feels like it's in the middle of a temper tantrum, oils can be the calming lullaby.

Certain oils, like chamomile or rosehip, are known for their soothing properties. They can alleviate redness, calm inflammation, and even aid in the skin's natural repair process.

The Perfect Sequence: Serum Before Oil

Why, Though?

Skincare isn’t just a regimen; it’s an art that requires a dash of science.

Don’t worry; we won’t go full-on chemistry class on you, but there are a few basics that'll help you get the most out of your products.

The Molecular Mambo

At the heart of the serum and oil debate is the tale of molecules. Now, molecules are the tiny building blocks of any substance. In the world of skincare, their size matters.

Serums, with their lightweight consistency, have relatively tinier molecules. These molecules are like agile ninjas, swiftly navigating and penetrating the deeper layers of your skin.

Oils, on the other hand, are made up of larger, plumper molecules. These big guys, while excellent at forming a protective barrier, aren’t the best when it comes to delving deep.

Layering Like a Pro: Dive Deep, Then Seal

The skincare layering game is akin to diving into a pool. You want to start in the shallows (the skin's surface) and then work your way to the deep end (deeper skin layers). Here’s the deal

  1. Dive with the Serum
    As serums come packed with a high concentration of active ingredients and smaller molecules, they get the privilege of the first dive. They seep into the deeper layers of the skin, delivering targeted treatment. Whether it's hydration, brightening, or anti-aging – the serum ensures the active ingredients find their way home.
  2. Seal with the Oil
    After the serum has set up camp in the deep layers, it’s time for the oil to play its part. Acting as a barrier, oils ensure that the active ingredients from the serum are locked in and continue to do their job.

    Additionally, oils prevent environmental pollutants and irritants from wreaking havoc on your skin. It’s like putting a protective seal on a treasure chest – guarding all the precious elements inside.

The Party Analogy

Alright, storytime!

Picture your skin as the most happening party in town. You've sent out invites, and the guests are starting to pour in.

Now, you've got two main guests – the serum and the oil.

  • The Punctual Pal - Serum
    The serum is that eager friend, always on the dot, and never wanting to miss out on any fun. With their agile moves (thanks to the smaller molecules), they easily navigate through the crowd, finding the perfect spot to groove and mingle.
  • The Fashionably Late Diva - Oil
    Enter the oil – glamorous, poised, and always making a grand entrance. While they might be late to the party, they have an essential role. They set the ambiance, make everyone feel cozy, and ensure the party vibes remain top-notch.

However, if our diva, the oil, came in first and took center stage, our punctual pal, the serum, would find it hard to get through. The beats might drop, the energy could fizzle, and the party might not be as lit as you'd like.

Beware the Pitfall: The Piling Trap

So, we’ve dived deep into the skincare pool, understanding the rhythm of serums and oils.

But hold that splash! There’s one hiccup we haven’t touched on yet: piling.

Ever noticed those tiny, flaky balls appearing on your skin after you've applied your products?

That’s piling, and it’s the skincare world’s version of a party foul.

Piling 101: What's Happening?

When you're putting on your skincare products, especially in layers, sometimes they don’t play nice. Instead of blending smoothly, they roll, ball up, or leave a flaky residue.

This is piling. Think of it as when two dance partners are out of sync; they might step on each other's toes, causing a misstep.

Why Does Piling Occur?

  • Incompatible Ingredients:
    Sometimes, it's not you; it's them. Certain ingredients don’t get along. For instance, water-based serums might not mesh well with silicone-based primers.
  • Too Much Product:
    Remember, more isn't always merrier. Using excessive amounts means there’s too much to be absorbed. Some of it just sits atop your skin, leading to those pesky rolls.
  • Application Technique:
    Rubbing products harshly or in a rush can also be the culprit. The friction can cause products to ball up. Remember, skincare is a gentle waltz, not a rock concert!

Connecting the Dots: How does this relate to our Serum and Oil story?

Given that serums are packed with active ingredients and have a water-like consistency, they need time to be fully absorbed.

Immediately layering a thick oil can trap portions of the serum on the skin's surface. When you try to blend everything in, voila! Piling appears.

Similarly, if you’ve applied too much serum and then try to seal it with an oil, you might find your skin unable to absorb everything.

The result? That undesired flaky appearance.

Avoiding the Party Foul: Tips to Prevent Piling

  • Wait it Out:
    Patience, glow-getter! Allow your serum to sink in completely before you introduce the oil. Give it a minute or two. It’s a small wait for a flawless finish.
  • Less is More:
    Ditch the generosity when it comes to quantities. Start with a small amount. You can always add more if needed.
  • Gentle Touch:
    Apply with care. Use upward, gentle strokes, letting the warmth of your fingers aid in absorption.
  • Know Your Products:
    Ensure that the products in your regimen are compatible. Sometimes, it’s about finding the right dance partners for the skincare ball.

Celebrate the Skin You're In

Whether team serum or team oil, the real win is understanding what works for YOU.

So, revel in the journey, discover the symphony of serums and oils, and let the world see you shine.

After all, skincare isn’t just a routine; it’s a rhythm. And honey, with Korean skincare by your side, you’re set to dance to your skin's unique beat!

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