Nov 14, 2018

What are the Differences Between Creams and Serums

Stepping into the realm of private label skin care can be overwhelming. There is a wealth of information and very diverse opinions on skin care products. It can become overwhelming when you trawl through all the articles and product information, searching for a product to private label. You need to understand the latest trends in skin care ingredients, but most importantly, you need to understand skin care products. Familiarizing yourself with the different formulations is key to building your product line.

What are creams?

Attention to aging skin has been a priority for over 3000 years. The Egyptians used anti-wrinkle creams made with essential oils and frankincense. Thick facial creams with ingredients like wax, resin, oil, grass and plant juice were created to preserve moisture on mature skin. Facial creams today still serve the same purpose, to hydrate and protect the skin.

The ingredients in creams or moisturizers are often divided into three categories: occlusive agents, humectants and emollients. Occlusive agents prevent or slow down water loss. Humectants retain or preserve water. And emollients soften and soothe the skin. The most effective occlusive moisturizers are petrolatum and mineral oil. Creams are more occlusive than serums and form a thick barrier to keep the moisture in. Great attention is paid to different skin types since they all require different levels of oil and moisture.

Moisturizers are often water-based, but still contain oils and butters. The oils mostly help hydrate the skin, but botanical oils also nourish the skin with vitamins and antioxidants. If you have particularly dry skin, look for a moisturizer with hydrating active ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid. It is a powerful humectant and keeps your skin plump by retaining the moisture in your skin. Oils made from argan and avocado, as well as shea butter, helps to keep the skin soft.    

Glycerin is often overlooked in the beauty industry these days, but is still very useful as a hydrating agent to balance moisture levels in the skin. It aids bruised or swollen skin, helps the cells mature properly and creates a protective layer to keep the moisture in.    

What are serums?

A serum is a light, fast-absorbing liquid, and the most powerful non-prescription skin care product available. Most serums are water-based and don’t contain any occlusive ingredients like petrolatum and mineral oil. It prioritizes nourishment over hydration. Serums have a high concentration of active ingredients to help fight free radicals that cause cell degeneration, or aging. They also contain anti-oxidants, peptides, and skin brighteners. It can extend the life of cells and protect the skin from pollutants and UV damage.

Serums are often used to target specific areas of the skin and to address certain skin care issues. Some serums contain ingredients such as mulberry extract, addressing brown spots and leaving you with even-toned skin. Eye serums are popular for targeting the delicate skin under your eyes to relieve puffiness, sagging skin and crow’s feet. There are also acne-prevention serums that won’t leave your skin feeling greasy and will prevent you from having breakouts. Some people with oily skin will opt for a serum instead of a cream. The serum, however, doesn’t help keep the moisture in.

Serums are more expensive than creams and are usually sold in small 1 oz bottles. It is often a pump bottle or a bottle with a medicine dropper to get just the right amount. Due to its high concentration, you need only use a few drops each time, which means that 1 oz bottle will last several months.

Apply the serum after cleansing or toning your skin, and before applying any moisturizer or sunscreen. This helps the active ingredients to seep into your skin directly, without being blocked by a layer of moisturizer. If you have very sensitive skin, wait for your skin to dry before applying the serum. Take about a pea-sized amount and pat it all over your face using your forefinger. After you applied the serum, wait a few minutes for your skin to absorb it. You can use a moisturizer on top of the serum to lock in the active ingredients. Serums can be applied both morning and night.


A serum does not necessarily replace a moisturizer, and vice versa. Rather, they are two very different skin care products that can be used in conjunction. Serums focus on nourishing your skin and making sure it gets all the minerals and vitamins it needs. Creams hydrate your skin and retain moisture. There is no choosing one over the other. It really depends on the type of product you want to market, and which audience you want to target. Knowing the different consistencies and formulations, as well as the purpose of each will help you develop a brand that connects with your target audience.

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