Getting Nerdie With The Skin Nerd: Why Serums Are Better Than Moisturisers

The Skin Nerd“Cleanse, tone, moisturise” was one hell of a marketing campaign, to the point that it is what people base their skincare routines on now.

There’s only one issue: skincare has evolved since the CTM template was created.

Cleansing will always be key, toning has always been redundant in my eyes (depending on what the toner is supposed to do), but moisturising has been ousted by serums in my eyes.

Serums changed the skincare game.

Before they came into the domain of popular skincare, we were content to hydrate the upper layers of our skin with the humble moisturiser.

There is nothing wrong with moisturisers. They get the job they’re supposed to do done – they moisturise.

The issue with moisturisers is that they are heavy and are made up of molecules that are too large to penetrate into the skin deeply. This is what gives them the instant comforting effect and what makes your skin feel so nice straight after usage.

How and ever, moisturisers more give the illusion of thorough skin hydration than actual skin hydration.

The issue with moisturisers is that they are heavy and are made up of molecules that are too large to penetrate into the skin deeply.

Serums, on the other hand, are more lightweight and have a smaller molecular size, meaning that they can get much deeper into the skin.

The skin has a barrier function so that large molecules struggle to get into it – for good reason – so it makes sense that for something to pass through the barrier, it needs to not register to the skin as a foreign body, basically.

This top barrier layer, the stratum corneum, is made up of lots of dead skin cells packed tightly together, and so ingredients need to reach deeper than this dead layer to make a change to the living skin.


The ingredients in serums are usually more concentrated and because of this, they work kind of like a super-moisturiser.

Because serums protect the skin from deeper down, they eliminate the need for a barrier cream as the skin cells are healthy, strong and operating at a higher level.

Although, of course, when it comes to medical conditions like eczema and psoriasis, if you are recommended a barrier cream, you should obviously continue using it.

Avene Serums
image via @katyusha on Instagram

To put it simply, the average serum is more expensive than the average moisturiser. There is no way of getting around this.

I find that a serum will last me longer than a moisturiser as the user only needs 3-4 drops of serum compared to a scoop of moisturiser.

There are oodles of affordable cleansers, SPFs and sheet masks out there that do a fabulous job – some of my favourite cleansers and SPFs come in at a price point of around €20, so put aside a chunk of your beauty budget for a serum.

What serums do you recommend?

Not all serums are the same – cosmeceutical and cosmetic serums will be different and drive different results.

One option that suits the vast majority of skins, if not all skins, is the IMAGE Ormedic Balancing Antioxidant Serum (€67).

It contains sodium hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid, to hydrate and plump up the skin, aloe leaf extract for soothing inflammation, camellia sinensis/Japanese green tea extract (ALSO known as EGCg) for protective antioxidant properties and a copper complex to help speed up the cell regeneration process and stimulate the skin’s natural production of elastin and collagen to firm the skin.

At €67, it is on the steeper side of things. Your serum should last you about three months so that makes it a much more palatable and doable €22.30 per month. Look at me getting maths nerdie now too!

I’ve recently been introduced to Avéne A-Oxitive Defense Serum (€31.50) which contains pre-tocopherol, a precursor to vitamin E, and ascorbyl glucoside, a precursor to vitamin C.

As you may already be aware, vitamin E and vitamin C are incredibly potent antioxidants and their precursors are actually more potent.

Pre-tocopheryl is proven to be 40 times more potent as an antioxidant than tocopherol (vitamin E) and twice as photostable, meaning that it does not become less potent when exposed to light.

Ascorbyl glucoside actually hunts out free radicals, the things that cause environmental-related skin damage, and neutralises those suckers.

The serum is lightweight and feels silky and is ideal for protecting and hydrating the skin.

If ageing and/or pigmentation are your main concerns, Dr Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum (€93.75) is a good shout.

This serum contains a retinoid, a retinol that is time-released and a retinol booster. Vitamin A, what retinol and retinoids derive from, speeds up how quickly your skin sheds the top layer of cells, which is how it helps to even the skin tone.

It is what you need for wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots and general youthfulness.

So, now that you’re skinformed, what are you waiting for?! Replace that moisturiser with its strong, sophisticated sister: the serum.

Jennifer Rock is the founder of The Skin Nerd online skin consultancy and online cosmeceutical skincare store. If you’re interested in having a consultation with one of her expert Nerdettes, click here for more information.

You can follow Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (@theskinnerd).