Face serum vs. Face oil: What’s the Difference?

well.ca with Seanna Cohen Skin Care Therapist

Read the ingredients

Confused about serums and oils? Which is which? These days, many brands call their products ‘serums’. Don’t get caught up on titles. Look at the ingredient list to figure out the difference between a serum vs. an oil.

A serum contains water-soluble ingredients like aloe, fruit extracts, or hyaluronic acid. An oil or blend of oil contains ingredients like jojoba, rosehip, seabuckthorn, and argan. Always apply the lightest products first (like a serum with water soluble ingredients), and work your way to the heaviest products (like your oil blends). 

Face serum vs. oil

A serum in the traditional sense of the word is a water soluble product. It contains highly concentrated ingredients that are meant to target specific skincare concerns like, dehydration, pigmentation, or fine lines. It’s like a specialized treatment, or multi-vitamin for your face. Apply these immediately after cleansing and toning (before moisturizer).

Oils are sourced from a number of therapeutic plants. Just like serums, oils target specific skincare concerns, but also act as a natural barrier for the skin to protect, heal, and nourish. Apply these last. Oil are the last line of defence against the elements and environment.

Watch this!

In this video with well.ca, I explain the difference between the two types of products and when to use either one. Have a watch!

Go Makeup-free with these skincare tips

How to Go Makeup Free Preview Image

Going makeup-free always seems to be a goal we all have, but rarely do. We always feel that we have something to cover up or conceal.

You will never have flawless skin (because that doesn’t exist outside of photo filters!) but you can achieve healthy skin that will be radiant with, or without makeup. Try these tips to get your skin on the road to being healthy!

Improve Texture

Whether you’re wearing makeup or not, the texture of your skin can be quite noticeable and says a lot about your skin’s health.

  1. Exfoliate: Use a scrub to polish the skin, and an alpha hydroxy acid to help improve overall tone. For example, lactic acid can be very anti-inflammatory and can help diminish fine lines and mild scars. Try: Pure + Simple Lactic Acid. 
  2. Use a targeted serum: Dehydration is one of the main causes of rough skin and a serum with hyaluronic acid can help to boost the skin’s overall moisture level. Try: Viva Organics Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids for acne during pregnancy | elodiebeauty.com

Get a Natural Glow

Combat dull and lacklustre skin using these two strategies: 

      1. Add fat: Just like a good diet, fats are essential to keep skin healthy. When skin is healthy it actually glows! Apply a face oil after your moisturizer which will nourish cells with fatty acids and protect the skin from moisture loss and environmental damage. Try: rosehip oil for dry skin, or seabuckthorn oil for combination skin. 
      2. Use a targeted serum for brightening: Vitamin C is a fantastic option to help brighten and fade pigmentation. Try: FitGlow Super C Serum.

Fitglow Super C Serum | elodiebeauty.com

Increase circulation


Healthy skin need nutrients to thrive. Increased circulation can help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin to keep it nourished. When skin is nourished it has a natural healthy rosy glow. 

    1. Try facial massage: Spend some time massaging your facial oil using an up and out motion. Be careful around the eyes and don’t forget about the neck!
    2. Use ingredients that will stimulate blood circulation: Try a face mask with clay or caffeine, like Province Apothecary Detoxifying + Clarifying Clay Mask, or 100% Pure Caffeine sheet mask. 

Clay masks for oily skin | elodiebeauty.com

Brighten your skin with Vitamin C

FitGlow Super C Serum

Vitamin C is a super ingredient for the Skin

My clients know I’m not a big fan of most products labelled “anti-aging”. In my opinion, they’re often gimmicky and over sell their benefits. Instead, I often preach prevention and simple daily rituals to keep skin healthy as you age (rather than having to repair later down the road).

That said, there are a few great “anti-aging” ingredients that I do promote and vitamin C is one of them. Many studies have shown that vitamin C when applied to the skin can help brighten the complexion, fade pigmentation (aka “sun” spots) and post inflammatory scarring (aka red spots), help boost collagen production (for firmer skin), and help fight UV damage. Pretty great, right?

Not all forms of vitamin C are created equal 

Depending on the version, it can be highly unstable when exposed to water, light, and oxygen, and poorly absorbed. There are about 7 or 8 versions of vitamin C used in skincare products and ascorbic acid (often labelled as L-ascorbic acid) is the most common version, but also the most irritating which can cause stinging and sensitivity because of its low pH level. It’s also much harder to stabilize (meaning it can oxidize easily making it useless and even harmful).

Sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) is a good stable, bio available (meaning easily absorbed) version of vitamin C, and has had encouraging results when studied. It also causes less sensitivity, however depending on the state of your skin you may find it still causes a slight tingling sensation.

FitGlow’s Super C Serum is one of the best vitamin C serums I’ve found on the natural market. It is well formulated and uses 20% SAP (which is the ideal percentage) with super hydrating hyaluronic acid and other antioxidants of vitamin E and ferulic acid to enhance the performance of the vitamin C. The serum is super light weight, champagne in colour, and feels silky after applied. This serum would be ideal for most skin types (see below for more), but particularly good for anyone who tends to struggle with breakouts and wants anti-aging benefits.

For an added boost, you can try FitGlow’s Super C Cream formulated with vitamins C & B and green tea. This healing and hydrating cream feels very nourishing when applied, but dries matte, making it perfect  as a makeup base. I don’t recommend the cream for anyone who has trouble with breakouts or clogged pores though. It can be heavy and contains shea butter, which is great for most dry mature skin types, but can be troublesome for acne-prone skin (like me! Shea butter causes me to mildly breakout). If you want an added vitamin C kick, use seabuckthorn or rosehip oil after your moisturizer in the evening for a nourishing treatment while you sleep.

Just note: For stubborn sun spots and pigmentation, vitamin C serum won’t be your knight in shining armour (unfortunately stronger measures might have to be taken). Over time though, you’ll notice dark spots and pigmentation significantly lighten. In just over two weeks of using Fitglow’s serum, I noticed my post-inflammatory scars (aka red marks from breakouts) significantly fade. 

What you should know:

  • If you have sensitive skin or conditions like rosacea or eczema, be cautious when trying vitamin C;  avoid it all together, or try a product that contains a low concentration (5-10%) –which may be more tolerable, but also less effective.
  • Do not use if your skin barrier is compromised (ie. extremely dehydrated or irritated as a result of harsh weather conditions, allergic reactions etc.). Depending on the concentration and pH level, the serum may sting and exasperates the irritation. If your skin is compromised, use a hydrating serum with pure hyaluronic acid first and a nourishing moisturizer to boost your skin’s health before starting on a vitamin C regime.
  • Start slow to see how your skin reacts. Patch test first.
  • If the serum turns brown, throw it out. This means it has oxidized.
  • Make sure the serum is in an opaque container and (preferably) in a pump to protect it from air.
  • High quality vitamin C serums are not cheap. Instead of using it all year round (which you can) try using it as a booster treatment for a couple of months twice a year to help repair any damage and protect from UV damage. Try it out during the summer to protect against and again during the fall to repair.