creams and serums may contain humectants to moisturize and hydrate, as
well as emollients to help seal in moisture and protect your skin. One
of the biggest distinctions between these three is consistency.
Lotions are usually thinner in texture, because they contain greater
amounts of water than oil. Creams, however, are oil-based and thick,
containing deeply moisturizing ingredients. Serums are water-based,
designed to be used in conjunction with both lotions and creams. And
although they offer incredible benefits to the skin, serums are
Because lotions are lightweight and made with minimum amounts of oil,
they’re ideal for normal to oily skin. Drier skin types typically
require more hydration. Lotions get absorbed quickly and can be used day
and night. You’ll find a wide array of formulas.
Because of their thick and rich consistency, creams provide dry and
sensitive skin with extra moisture. Moisturizing creams contain many
healing ingredients, including oils, plant extracts, hydrators and
humectants, and they provide the skin with a protective layer, sealing
in moisture and fending off environmental damage. They also give skin a
smooth, velvety appearance and certain anti-aging creams will even
improve the depth of fine lines.
Cream is also beneficial for combination skin that shows a slight
shine during the day but requires more moisture than a lotion can
provide. Use cream sparingly or strictly on the driest parts of your
skin (such as the cheeks and neck).
One of the biggest benefits of serums is that they’re designed to
penetrate deeper into the skin. They contain less “oils, wax and heavy
lipids,” and are lighter, according to Daniel Maes, Ph.D., vice
president of research and development at Estée Lauder, in Notebook. In addition, serums deliver high concentrations of skin-nourishing ingredients.
Many people find that with seasonal changes they need to switch
moisturizers. For instance, normal skin can get oily during the summer
(thereby needing a lighter moisturizer) but might need extra hydration
in the winter (from a cream).
You might want to consult a skin care specialist about which
combination of products is best to use. For example, some moisturizers
can hamper the effectiveness of serums. “In the case of products
formulated with alpha and beta hydroxy acids, the oils used in creams
and lotions can interfere with the acidity of the active ingredients,
making them less effective,” dermatologist Natasha Cook, M.D., tells Notebook.