Moisturizer + Oil Serum - Do you really need both?

Moisturizer + Oil Serum - Do you really need both? - Three Ships

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from our customers is: Should I buy the oil serum or the moisturizer? Do I really need both?  In this blog post, we hope to answer this question and highlight the differences and similarities between the two.

The short answer to this question:

No, you don’t necessarily need both. But everybody has a different skin story so let’s break the main question down into smaller questions to help you navigate which product type works better for you, based on your skin concern, environment, and an explanation as to how each product type works on the skin! 

What are oil serums?

Oil serums from Three Ships is a concoction of high-grade botanical oils, selected from hundreds of emollients that have a highly beneficial impact on all skin types. Our selection of facial oils is chock-full of antioxidants that help to brighten the skin and smooth the texture of the skin. Each oil serum has a specific uniqueness to them, so feel free to take the skin quiz test to figure out which one is best for you! 

Glow 49% Jojoba Oil Serum Image

How does an oil serum work on the skin?

The molecules that make up the basis of oils are large. In fact, they’re too large to be absorbed past the surface layer of your skin. These molecules are called triglycerides, and once applied to the skin, they sit on top, that’s why when you apply an oil serum to your face, you can feel it hours later. That is not to say that they do not provide any benefit. On the contrary, oils help to lubricate the top layer of skin, by smoothing out cracks and flakes. They also help to support the skin’s native lipid barrier, which is essential for having a healthy skin microbiome and healthy-looking skin. Oils such as rosehip in our Boost 49% Rosehip Oil Serum also contain a high concentration of antioxidants, which only need to work on the surface layer of the skin to combat free radicals, and brighten up the skin.

How does a water-based moisturizer work on the skin?

A water-based moisturizer is when water is the first ingredient on the ingredient list. Closely following it on the list is typically glycerin. Water-based moisturizers contain ingredients that are small enough to penetrate the first layer of skin and go past the epidermis to the dermis where our blood vessels are.

Florida Dermatology - The Layers of Skin

Source: Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers - The Layers of Skin

These ingredients like glycerin, are humectants meaning they love to cling onto water, and because they’re able to go so deep to the dermis, they cling onto water from our blood vessels to plump themselves up and to plump up the skin. This is what gives water-based moisturizers, such as Radiance a deeper level of hydration than oil serums. 

The water-based moisturizer also dries down very quickly, and this might not be beneficial to someone that has flaky skin. Using a water-based serum without occlusive properties, makes the skin susceptible to trans-epidermal water loss - this is when the environment is dry, therefore the environment pulls moisture from the skin, making you feel dry. 

What skin types work best with oils and what skin types work best with a water-based moisturizer?

All skin types work with both types of moisturizers. If you have oily skin, you can still use oils. It might be more preferential for you to gravitate to using a water-based moisturizer, but that is skin preference. Both the oils and water-based serums from Three Ships have great antioxidants and brightening capabilities, and so the choice is yours in which texture, finish, and thickness you’re looking for! If you’re looking for a healthy glow that lasts throughout the day, an oil serum is right up your alley, and if you’re looking for something that absorbs quickly into the skin a water-based serum works great!  

Radiance Grape Stem Cell + Squalane Day Cream - @siogalloway

The seasons are changing and it’s fall/winter. What should I use?

Fall/winter is cold and dry, so it’s best to use something with hydrating and occlusive properties. A hydrating ingredient would be a humectant like glycerin, and an occlusive would be something like squalane, which are both in Radiance. As an extra step, applying oil on top acts as another measure of moisture protection against trans-epidermal water loss, and help soften the texture and smooth the skin. 

If I use both an Oil and Water-based Moisturizer, which one should I use first?

Apply the water-based moisturizer before the face oils, because if you did the reverse, large molecules within the oil serum would effectively work as a barrier to block the water-based ingredients from being absorbed by the skin.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also like: Skin Tips for Dry Skin Types or 4 Ways to Protect Your Skin from the Harsh, Cold and Dry Weather.

Glow 49% Jojoba Oil Serum

Supports Skin Barrier


Add to Cart

Boost 49% Rosehip Oil Serum

Reduces Skin Damage


Add to Cart