Skin Nerd: The pros and cons of moisturisers and serums

Skin Nerd:: THE classic ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise’ skincare routine has been drilled into us since we’ve been able to spell the word ‘beauty’. It has become the norm.

Skin Nerd: The pros and cons of moisturisers and serums

The classic ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise’ skincare routine has been drilled into us since we’ve been able to spell the word ‘beauty’. It has become the norm.

A moisturiser is its own category, but it is technically any product that prevents dryness in the skin. I tend to not get too caught up in types of products. I focus more on their ingredients. It’s not the texture that makes a difference, but when people think of hydration, they think of a rich, creamy, fluffy moisturiser that smells like pot pourri. But much thinner, lightweight serums can provide the same level of hydration, while having longer-lasting effects.

Moisturisers are designed to sit on top of, create a film across, and nourish the uppermost layers of the skin. Some can penetrate into the skin, depending on the quality and purpose of the moisturiser, but, for the most part, they’re supposed to be a comfort blanket. On the other hand, good serums are formulated to penetrate as deeply into the skin as possible, allowing the skin to do with this hydration what it may. It can take a while to acclimatise to a lightweight serum, as, psychologically, we feel that something lighter isn’t as effective as something richer. But that just ain’t the case.

When we hydrate skin using serums, rather than with only a moisturiser, we are usually giving the skin high amounts of active ingredients, including vitamins and potent hydrators, like hyaluronic acid. With these ingredients, the skin can take them as fuel and hydrate its upper layers itself, which usually means moisture that hangs around for longer. The skin is an organ and can do much more than it lets on.

From my experience, people are using moisturisers when most of them would do better with a serum. Does this mean that there’s no place for moisturisers? Heck, no.

I’m a big fan of a curated skincare routine, with added bits and pieces as a rotating tool kit. For example, some people will get more than enough moisture from serums in the spring, summer and autumn, but, come winter, they may need even more hydration to prevent cracking and this is when they bring a moisturiser out. Some people will find that their skin is dry or dehydrated only when they’ve been out in the wind, but is otherwise perfectly hydrated. It’s nice to have a moisturiser around for those unexpected patches.

There is an exception. People with very dry, irritated skin — including those with rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis — may need a daily emollient moisturiser to back up their skin’s ‘defective’ barrier. This isn’t my phrasing, and I know these peoples’ protective barriers are trying their best.

If you have dry skin and are looking for a moisturiser that won’t leave your skin gasping for more, look for ceramides and fatty ingredients that mimic your skin’s barrier. CeraVe Moisturising Cream (€18.99) is a tub format, thick, ceramide-filled cream that is much-beloved in online skincare communities.

If you’re looking for something a smidge lighter, yet still rich, my very own Skingredients Skin Good Fats (€42.00) contains ceramide NP and an anti-itch ingredient for soothed, nourished skin. Another favourite of mine is the Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture (€75), with vitamin-rich plant oils.

I adore it for a boost of moisture after flying or post-peel.

The Nerdie Pick

Skin Formulas Hydra Hyaluronic Acid Serum; €50.00, available from MEDISKIN Clinic, Nenagh,, and stockists nationwide (visit

Skin Formulas is a brand created by the phenomenal Geraldine Jones, owner of MEDISKIN Clinic, Nenagh. Anyone who has used this serum raves about it, probably because it contains hyaluronic acid, antioxidant niacinamide (vitamin B3) and growth factors for plumper, hydrated, younger-looking skin. It’s a little tougher to get your hands on, as it is available through clinics, salons and online clinics only but it is worth the effort.

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