The Simple Guide To Oils, Serums and Moisturisers: Face Care 101

natural face serums

How are face products categorised and which are best for you  

When it comes to naming a product, some claim that the beauty industry is flexible to a point where beauty brands are able to decide what to call a product, whether it be a cream or lotion, a serum or elixir, or a moisturiser or balm. However, there are guidelines to categorising a product and there is good reasoning to each and every one of the product types offered at Mellow Naturals.

The below explains in particular the different categories for face products including face oils, face serums, and face moisturisers, where we often find most overlaps and blurred boundaries. 


A face oil is made up of oils and essential oils and should not be categorised as a serum. Face oils are used to hydrate the skin and also provide additional nutrition to the skin. Related product: Mellow Naturals Hydration Drops - Argan, Rosehip and Strawberry Face Oil. It is important to realise the misconception that oils will make those with oily skin even oilier, they do not. Effective oils do not add more oil to the skin, but actually help to balance the skin, through the countless molecules found in just one single essential oil, making them quick to absorb and able to work down deep into the skin. This is different to thicker moisturisers or emulsions which can sometimes clog the pores, resulting in more unbalanced and oily skin.

Application: light oils such as the Hydration Drops can be applied after cleansing and toning, while the skin is still slightly damp. The oil should be allowed to be absorbed for a few minutes prior to application of any serums or moisturisers. Although light oils can also be applied as the final layer for those who prefer the texture, heavier oils should only be applied at the end, after serums and/or moisturisers as their key objective is typically to lock in moisture beneath the oil. 

Serums and Elixirs

The words serum and elixir tend to be used interchangeably, and ultimately comes down to brand marketing. These products are able to penetrate the skin on a deeper level due to the way they are formulated and processed with smaller molecules. Serums are often formulated with specific concentrated active ingredients, to target specific skin concerns such as a dark spots, whitening, anti-aging or skin repair. 

Water-based face serums: contains water and actives. Suitable for oilier skin, morning use prior to makeup, and/or during wetter climates or summer seasons. Related product: Mellow Naturals Vitamin C Natural Glow Face Serum.  

Oil-based face serums: contains water, oil and actives. Suitable for drier skin, nighttime before bed use and/or during drier climates or seasons. Related product: Mellow Naturals Botanical Concentrated Face Serum

Application: serums are to be applied after cleansing and toning (and light oils, if applicable). The serum should be applied to the entire face or neck and allowed to be absorbed for a few minutes prior to application of any moisturiser or alike products. Typically only 2-3 drops are sufficient per use as the formula is often concentrated with potent actives where too much serum is not always a good thing. 


A moisturiser contains water, oil and some form of wax or emulsifier to allow binding of the molecules, resulting in larger-sized molecules compared to those in oils or serums. An easy distinction in objectives between moisturisers and oils or serums, is that a moisturiser works on the upper layers of the skin, aiming to protect and hydrate the layer by locking in moisture, while the latter targets deeper into the skin. 

Application: moisturisers are to be applied after cleansing, toning, oils and serums as the final layer to protect the skin, to allow skin repair and nourishing to occur below. 

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