Let's play a quick riddle: List the differences between essences, serums and ampoules.
If you find yourself reaching out for your gadgets to browse for the answer, that's okay, we won't judge. It wasn't an easy one wasn't it? What we are going to talk about today might blow your mind or shift your view of Korean Beauty entirely. Are you ready?
We know the 10-step K-Beauty skincare routine where we layer 10 different products on our skin to enjoy the benefits of hydrated, supple, glowing and youthful-looking complexion. But have you ever wondered which products make this routine so unique? Essences, serums and ampoules! There is a lot of confusion as to their differences especially because sometimes the terms are used interchangeably to mean different things. Today, we are here to give you the answers and resolve all the confusion between the most integral products of any K-Beauty skincare routine; and also which one you should be using!
The heart of K-Beauty 10 steps - Essences! Essences hydrate and plump your skin from within after you cleanse and tone it, to prepare for the next steps of your routine. They also help brighten and even out skin complexion by giving your skin a supple, dewy appearance. Essences generally have the most lightweight, watery texture that absorbs quickly into your skin as compared to serums and ampoules, almost as if they are evaporating as you are applying them! But they are indeed working hard to give your skin a shot of extra hydration and antioxidants.
The primary ingredient of essences is water and other actives depending on the benefit it promises and skin type it is designed for. Essences are used after cleansing and toning to give your skin additional hydration before applying your serum and moisturiser. Sometimes, the words 'essence' and 'serum' are used interchangeably, but in general, essences are more lightweight, fast absorbing, with a more watery consistency.
Serums can be considered another 'star' of your skincare routine because despite having a lightweight, fast absorbing texture, they are loaded with powerful ingredients that help target specific skin concerns that you may be experiencing like fine lines, dark spots or dullness. They are designed to penetrate into deep layers of the skin to deliver nutrients thanks to their small molecules. Serums are slightly heavier and tend to have a slightly more viscous texture as compared to essences, but depending on each brand and active ingredients, you will still be able to find serums that have gel-like, watery consistency.
Serums can be considered one of the most important steps of your skincare regimen because they quickly give you visible results which is not only satisfying to see, but it also shows that your skin's overall health is in check! They can come in any form of packaging including dropper bottles or pumps. You only need to take a few pumps to spread all over your face and neck, let it sink into your skin (this is where the magic starts!) before continuing to the next steps.
Out of the three, ampoules have the highest concentration of nutrients and active ingredients. You can think of them as a 'booster' to add to your skincare routine. They usually come with smaller packaging, like in a dropper bottle and you only need to use a few drops each time. It is no surprise that a little goes a long way because they are made up of intensive doses of ingredients.
Ampoules are commonly used when your skin is suffering from a severe condition like extreme dryness or reactions, as they quickly deliver a high dose of active ingredients to quickly resolve the skin concerns that you may have. You can also mix a few drops with your essences or serums for added benefits to your skin, or even mix it with your moisturiser. Unlike its lighter-weight friends, ampoules are only used for a short duration of time to treat skin concerns or when your skin somehow refuses to 'cooperate' with you, and not meant to be part of your everyday skincare routine unless recommended by your dermatologist.
It should be kept in mind that there is no strict order in which they have to be applied, because this will depend on the consistency and texture of each product which varies by brand and ingredient. Therefore, we recommend that after cleansing and toning, you should apply essences, serums and ampoules in order starting from the one that has the thinnest consistency. This will allow your skin to effectively absorb all the goodness that you are giving it! Also, since they do not contain emulsifiers or emollients like moisturisers do, they penetrate into your skin faster which is why they should always go before your moisturiser.
Which one should I use?
Now on to the most exciting part, which one should I be using or adding to my skincare routine?
Looking for Serums or Essences to Control Oil?
Oiliness, acne-prone, blemished skin are some of the common skin concerns faced by teenagers and even adults. If your skin tends to be oily, prone to breakouts, have blemishes and so on, your skin will totally fall in love with these products!
A K-Beauty holy grail, Mugwort. Known for its potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, I'M FROM Mugwort Essence is a must-have in your routine. This essence contains nothing but 100% pure mugwort extract from Korea, its lightweight formula with herbal scent penetrates quickly to instantly calm and detoxify the skin.
Find out more about Mugwort here.
A serum to make your skin as bright as a Yuja! SOME BY MI Yuja Niacin Blemish Care Serum contains 82% Korean Yuja and 5% Niacinamide to provide your skin with brightening effects, visibly improve the appearance of blemishes, dark spots and acne scars. Its non-oily formula makes it perfect for sebum control. Who's ready to see glowing, fresh, radiant skin?
Smooth your way to healthy, blemish-free skin with COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule. Enriched with 83% Black Bee Propolis, this ampoule has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to fight acne, prevent scarring and does not leave greasy residue. The viscous texture spreads easily on the skin and is absorbed quickly for maximum benefits.
Refresh and Hydrate for Dewy, Plump Skin
If your skin often feels tight, dehydrated, have visible fine lines or perhaps you want to delay aging skin by getting a headstart in your anti-aging skincare regime. We recommend including products that have high water content or contain hyaluronic acid. These refreshing and hydrating trio are great additions to your skincare routine to help bring back your skin's glow and health.
Who's not familiar with LANEIGE Water Bank products? LANEIGE Water Bank Hydro Essence contains green mineral water extracted from vegetables to refresh, hydrate and moisturise your skin from inside out. The antioxidants in it helps keep your skin clear, smooth and radiant without stickiness, making it perfect to use at anytime of the day, even underneath makeup.
Replenish your skin's hydration with AROMATICA Lively Superbarrier Cica Panthenol Serum! This hydrating serum is enriched Aloe Vera, Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin B5 Panthenol to maintain optimal moisture balance of your skin while keeping it soothed. With no artificial fragrances present, this serum is also ideal for those with sensitive skin.
Not all ampoules are rich and dense. MIZON Hyaluronic Acid 100 is probably one of the most weightless ampoule you'll ever use! Packed with 50% hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate your skin and give it a plumper, dewy appearance. It also contains ceramide and adenosine to help repair and strengthen skin barrier to prevent moisture loss.
To find out more about hyaluronic acid, click here.
Moisturise Your Way to Youthful-Looking Complexion
Maintain and prolong your skin's youthfulness with products like these that firm, lift, and illuminate your skin. They help give your skin a plumper and energized appearance, as well as diminish aging signs.
Turn back the clock on your skin's age with MISSHA Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Rx. This potent essence contains Cica Yeast Ferment exract to clarify, even out skin texture and boost moisture levels to help improve the appearance of premature aging signs like fine line and wrinkles. On top of that, it contains pearl and rice extracts for added brightening effects to bring back your skin's luminosity and healthy glow.
There is a reason why the Pearl is the queen of gems. Moisturise and brighten your skin with KLAVUU White Pearlsation Special Divine Pearl Serum. Made with high quality Korean pearls and seaweed complex, this multi-tasking serum provides your skin with brightening effects, anti-aging care and moisturise the skin to improve skin tone and diminish pigmentation. The richer texture of this serum glides easily on the skin and quickly penetrates into the skin so you can immediately feel the moisturising effects.
Sleep deprivation hitting your skin hard? IOPE Stem III Ampoule is here to the rescue! This anti-aging ampoule contains 78.2% AllantoLiposome to revitalize, firm and repair your skin for youthful-looking, smooth and firmer appearance so you look like you've had an additional 3 hours of sleep! How amazing is that? Its hypoallergenic, dermatologically-tested formula is free from animal derived ingredients and mineral oils, making it safe to use even on sensitive skin. Say goodbye to weak, sagging, wrinkled skin!
Revitalize tired skin and strengthen your skin barrier with THE FACE SHOP Dr. Belmeur Cica Peptide Ampoule. This soothing ampoule contains Centella Asiatica and Peptite complex to repair skin barrier, improve skin texture and improves skin elasticity to give your skin a firm, healthy complexion. The weightless, watery formula of this ampoule makes it fast absorbing to effectively target your skin concerns.
Nourish and Repair to Restore Your Skin's Radiance
As we age, the skin loses its elasticity, skin cell turnover is lower and age spots start appearing. Rejuvenate, deeply moisturise and nourish your skin with these beauties to stimulate collagen production and protect the skin against damage. It is no secret that investing in high quality skincare and taking the time to properly care for your skin is one of the most effective ways to maintain your skin's health.
Let your skin bask in SU:M37 Secret Essence, formulated with 80 different botanical ingredients that have been fermented at a temperature of 37˚C, to extract all the skin-benefiting ingredients to care for your skin. This luxurious essence also contains Niacinamide to help brighten, smooth the skin's surface to diminish wrinkles and fine lines for smooth, rejuvenated skin.
SULWHASOO First Care Activating Serum is infused with Korean herbs and made with Sulwhasoo's patented ingredient, JAUM Balancing Complex to keep your skin's perfect moisture balance. This serum improves skin elasticity, nourishes and clarifies the skin for healthy, glowing complexion. It also helps boost the absorption of consequent skincare products that you apply to nourish your skin.
MISSHA Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule 5X is a premium anti-aging ampoule incorporated with a patented Extreme Ferment Method that improves the skin's vitality, elasticity, firmness and help restore moisture. Its rich texture wraps around the skin well to effectively deliver nutrients, leaving the skin soft, firm and radiant.
Now that you have a better idea of the differences between essences, serums and ampoules, who's ready to welcome a new addition to their skincare routines?