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What’s the Difference Between Hair Serum & Hair Oil?

FYI, they're not the same.

The difference between hair serum and hair oil is that hair serum is more of a styling product, which can be used to add shine and smooth hair, while hair oil is mainly used to nourish and improve the health of your hair. And while there’s no such thing as identifying one as better than the other, the two do have distinctive qualities that make them good for entirely different reasons.

If you’re unsure about which one to add to your hair wardrobe, we’ve detailed the main differences between hair serums and oils, below.  No matter what you pick, your hair is sure to thank you later!

We know, it can all get rather confusing, so here’s a breakdown of how serums and oils differ in this handy infographic below.

Hair serum vs hair oil infrographic by All Things Hair UK


What is Hair serum?

Hair serum is a silicone-based formulation that coats the surface of your hair, to lock in curl pattern and seal the cuticles. Designed to protect hair from forceful brushing, heat (from electrical styling tools), pollution, and prolonged sun exposure, serums are essentially styling products with added benefits that act as a ‘botox’ for your tresses.

Serums also possess a light-reflecting quality, which is what makes the strands appear shinier, smoother, and healthier-looking.

How to Apply Hair Serum

The best way to apply hair serum is to freshly-washed wet or damp hair. And remember, less is more in this instance: only a few drops are needed to do the job.

Tip: for easy and effective application, flip your hair over and start applying from the tip upwards, concentrating more on the ends and lengths.

Editor’s tip: Looking for a new hair serum to add to your hair wardrobe? We suggest you try the TRESemmé Colour Shineplex Serumwhich is great for boosting your mane’s shine and boosting softness.

What is Hair Oil?

Hair oil is a fantastic multitaskers that fit better into the hair care arena, with formulas (that don’t always contain silicone) designed to penetrate the cuticle, manipulating change in the hair structure, rather than simply coating it. As for the benefits? There are so many! Not only are they fantastic lubricants that can help with detangling wet hair, but they’re also great heat protectants, thanks to the sealing properties of the oil. That said, they can help control frizz and give shine, as well as soothe and hydrate individual strands for longer-lasting results.

While everybody – no matter their hair type – will benefit from using some kind of hair oil at least once a week, being the ultimate frizz-fighter, hair serums are most effective on thick, curly, or unruly locks, and those who want a product to aid easy styling, and achieve smooth, glossy results.

There’s also a misconception that oils can weigh your tresses down and make them feel heavy, but in reality, highly advanced technology means there are many multi-faceted formulations that are much lighter (and boast multi-functional benefits) on the shelves today than ever before.

How to Apply Hair Oil

When it comes to oils, the two most important things to consider is that even distribution is essential, and to apply away from the roots, from mid-shaft downwards to the very end of the hair tip (oils are great for camouflaging split ends!).

It may help to divide your hair into two horizontal sections and work the oil through each individually, bearing in mind that those with thicker, coarser locks will need a few more drops for best results.

Editor’s tip:  Looking for a new hair oil to add to your hair wardrobe? Try the Dove Shine Revived Oil Treatment, which is perfect for nourishing dry hair and tackling frizz.

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