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The Real Difference Between a Facial Serum and a Cream

Confused about the difference between your facial serum and your go-to face cream? We can help.

It can be hard to differentiate between all of the skincare products out there—sleeping masks, sheet masks, face creams, facial serums, toners, essences…the list goes on. But two of the most basic, and essential, products in your face care routine are your facial serum and your moisturizing face cream. What exactly is the difference between the two? We had Ginger Bishop, the International Education Director for Lancôme skincare, explain.

What are the primary differences between a facial serum and a moisturizing face cream?

Lancôme: Serums have a lighter texture than creams and absorb quickly into skin. We recommend applying a serum for face after removing your makeup and preparing your skin [with a toner or essence]. Facial serums should never be used alone; they need to be followed by a skincare product. Use a cream afterwards to add moisture and comfort to the skin.

Do facial serums add time to your skincare routine?

Lancôme: Applying a face serum adds maybe 10 seconds to your routine. But that 10 seconds is not much compared to the results and benefits you get in the end. Depending on your needs (whether you’re concerned about hydration, wrinkles, etc.), you can also mix your Lancôme products together to save time. We like to add 2 drops of Absolue Precious Cells Nutritive Oil serum for face into Absolue Precious Cells Day Cream. It gives it a creamy and rich texture for wintertime. So you are really gaining time by mixing! Not all products can be mixed, though. Check with a beauty advisor at your local Lancôme counter to adapt your routine based on your needs and desires.

What’s the difference between Advance Génifique and other facial serums?

Lancôme: The texture, feel, results. Advanced Génifique is our only serum for face that gives youthful radiance and softness for all skin types and ages. Our other face serums are more specific in terms of results: Absolue is more regenerative; Rénergie Multi-Lift Ultra Reviva Plasma Concentrate is more focused on lifting, firming. We have a sister serum to Génifique called Advanced Génifique Sensitive —it’s a sort of rescue serum for times when skin feels sensitive. It soothes, reduces redness, and any other problems associated with sensitive skin.

When is the best time to apply your facial serum?

Lancôme: In the morning and at night, before your face cream. Never go to sleep with unprotected skin!

Are there any times when you shouldn’t apply a face serum?

Lancôme: Do not apply a serum for face on top of your make up or after your cream. You also don’t want to apply them during the day when your skin is not clean.

What makes a better base for makeup—facial serum or cream?

Lancôme: The golden rule: One should never apply foundation without cream or face serum because you run the risk of drying out skin; it needs that protective layer. There is no ideal routine, or ideal texture—choose products that will suit your skin. Think about what results you want to get from your make up when choosing the texture of your cream: If you want a long-lasting makeup, choose light textures that are hydrating but won’t cause shine. For every day, you want something a little richer that will comfort skin.

When do you need to start applying a face serum like Advanced Génifique?

Lancôme: You can start using Advanced Génifique serum for face as soon as you begin using skincare. When a young girl says she wants to start taking care of her skin, that’s the best time to start using Advanced Génifique.

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