e.l.f. Discovery

Moisturizer vs. Facial Oil: What’s the Difference?

By Aimee Lubrano

With all the available options—face moisturizers, lotions, gels, face oils—you may find yourself asking which skincare product quenches thirsty skin best? What should I use in the morning? At night? What’s best during the day? Winter vs. summer? Hydration or Moisture? Or both? And the list goes on.

But with all the hype each product carries, there are two scene-stealers that pack the biggest punch for hydration. Face moisturizers and face oils. Cue the questions—what’s the difference between the two? Which is best for my skin? What’s the best oil for face? What’s the best face moisturizer? Not to mention, can I use them together? If so, how?

Even though face moisturizers and face oils can deliver powerful hydration and moisture to the skin, they’re actually quite unique in their own rite, and even more powerful as a dynamic duo. Understanding the benefits of each on their own and the potential when used together will help you put your best face forward—a hydrated, glowing face, to be precise.

Read on to learn how and why having this perfect pair as part of your daily skincare routine can deliver maximum moisturizing benefits both you, and your skin, will love.

What’s the Difference Between Moisturizer and Facial Oil?

Even though both can leave your skin softer and more hydrated, their form and function are quite different.

Moisturizers are made with both water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients. Plus, they pull double-duty as they hydrate and moisturize skin (No, it’s not the same thing). First, they deliver the hydration to the surface of your skin, then lock in the moisture. This two-step process is essential to keeping your skin hydrated throughout the day and night. Face moisturizers generally work well for most skin types and textures, including oily and blemish-prone skin. Depending on your skin type, skin concerns, and texture preference, a variety of must-have moisturizers with skin-happy ingredients can work for you, like our Holy Hydration Face Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 and Gel-Yeah Moisturizer.

Facial Oils are oil-soluble and dense with lipid-based nutrients that focus their power on moisturization, not hydration, making them a perfect partner to dry or maturing skin. Since both skin types struggle to maintain hydration, facial oils help seal in moisture and function as a protective layer on the skin’s surface, even delivering additional lipid-based nutrients to create a glowing, bouncy, nourished complexion.

Face moisturizers are generally used after cleansing, or before sunscreen or makeup application, while face oils are often applied as the final step in a skincare routine. Moisturizers are versatile, addressing a variety of skin concerns, yet face oils are beneficial for anyone looking for extra nourishment.

What is a Moisturizer?

Moisturizers are known as an O.G. of skincare. Whether you prefer a lightweight formula, a richer, creamier, more luxe texture, or a gel-based formula for a plumper complexion, a moisturizer is an essential skincare staple that anyone and everyone should have in their daily routine. Designed to hydrate and retain moisture, as well as improve skin texture, moisturizers absorb easily and help balance skin. Just think of them as M2—they marry and maintain moisture to the skin. (Now, those are metrics we can get behind.)

Moisturizers are made with a mixture of water, emollients, humectants, occlusives (yep, big word) and other effective ingredients. OK, what does that really mean? Luckily for you, we have a cheat sheet.

How to Apply Moisturizer

What is a Facial Oil?

Facial oils have been skincare staples for centuries—each with a unique combination of essential nutrients and fatty acids that help revitalize skin and provide skin-soothing benefits. Choosing the best oils for the face are usually ones made with Squalane, Neroli, Hemp Seed Oil, Argan, Tea Tree, Jojoba, Rosehip, and Marula oils that can potentially deliver unique moisture-rich, ultra-soothing benefits to most skin types.

If you struggle with dry or mature skin, opt for facial oils because they don’t include water like traditional moisturizers and are rich in antioxidants.

But face oils don’t just moisturize. These mega multi-taskers are face favorites for anyone looking to even out their complexion and brighten dull skin, leaving a youthful, dewy glow. Even though facial oils are more often chosen by those with dry or mature skin, choosing the right face oil can be a challenge. But fear not. Even if you struggle with blemish-prone, oily, or combo skin, you, too, can enjoy the skin-nourishing benefits of face oils.

Not sure which to try? Give your face a fresh boost with one of our Facial Oil Mists with mood enhancing aromas and essential oils that can balance, sooth, restore and give your skin a little TLC whenever needed.

How to Apply Facial Oil

How to Layer Moisturizer and Facial Oil

The combination of layering a moisturizer and a face oil can be a game-changer for any skin type, especially those with drier, more mature skin. So if you’re looking for hydration and a softer, plumper complexion that stays hydrated you may want to make this match made in moisture-heaven your go-to skin combo.

But caution: For supreme skin-quenching results, the order you apply and layer them is crucial.

Not to fret. Face moisture M.O. is easy to remember – thinnest to thickest. Moisturizer first, and oil second.

Moisturize, then seal and protect. Repeat that dynamic combo every day in your daily skincare routine, you’ll not only see and feel ultra-hydrated skin, but it’ll soon become your favorite skin-happy ritual.

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  • The Difference Between Moisturizer and Facial Oil