Korean Skincare: The Difference Between Serums, Essences & Ampoules

Korean skin care essence serum is a product that has been in the Asian beauty market for many years. It is typically used to combat wrinkles, dark spots, and dryness.
Korean Skincare: The Difference Between Serums, Essences & Ampoules
Photo: iStock

Picture: iStock

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Reading: korean skin care essence serum

In case you’re into skincare – or truthfully, even in the event you’re not – there’s a great probability you’ve heard of the notorious Korean 10+-step face care routine. Whereas sure merchandise within the routine make plenty of sense to western magnificence junkies (I completely perceive face cleanser!), there are some classes that in all probability have you ever scratching your head. Like essences, for instance.

As I began actually delving into the routine, I used to be having a tough time sussing out precisely what an essence does. Complicated English translations on merchandise from Korea, intelligent advertising and marketing lingo and the sheer variety of merchandise within the class all added to the problem. My confusion peaked once I began attempting to find out the distinction between an essence and a serum, so I made a decision to seek the advice of Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, the co-founders of pure Okay-beauty e-commerce web site Glow Recipe to assist me determine it out. Include me down the rabbit gap of concentrated, barely gooey skincare merchandise, gained’t you?

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Photo: Missha

Picture: Missha

Earlier than we will talk about essences, let’s discuss toner. After you cleanse your face, you’re supposed to make use of toner, a step that’s additionally clearly frequent in western skincare regimens. A dermatologist as soon as instructed me that toners had been invented as a result of cleaning soap was so harsh that it might increase the pH of your pores and skin to unhealthy ranges. The toner would then carry the pores and skin’s floor pH again to regular. That’s probably not a difficulty anymore with all of the light face cleansers we have now. Now most toners comprise antioxidants or different helpful components and so they function a pores and skin prep.

Based on Lee, toners in Korea present a base layer of hydration, making the pores and skin extra amenable to what’s about to go on high. She suspects that girls within the U.S. usually use firming as a second cleaning step, although. (I’m completely responsible of this. Many nights I’ll suppose I bought every thing off, after which once I use toner, the cotton pad is horrifyingly gunked up afterwards.) The simplest method to acknowledge a toner? They’re usually actually watery and are available bigger bottles.

Strive: Missha Pore Correcting Toner, $14, out there at Sokoglam


Photo: Be the Skin

Picture: Be the Pores and skin

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OK, so your face is cleansed and toned. Technically that is when you must use an essence, however I’m going to maintain you in suspense only a bit longer to speak about serums, which is a class I really feel like I’ve a really agency grasp on. I like serums. I’m addicted. I’ve serum rituals and seasonal serums and I attempt each single one which will get despatched to me.

Usually, a serum comprises a number of key lively substances to deal with particular points like brightening, darkish spots, wrinkles, and many others. The actives are often extra concentrated than what you’ll discover in, say, a moisturizing cream. Serums are a bit thicker in consistency – nearly oil-like – and often are available a bottle that is a lot smaller than a toner or cleanser bottle. Usually the bottles have droppers to dispense the product, although I’ve seen serums which can be opaque and nearly lotion-like, in small pump bottles.

Strive: Be the Pores and skin Botanical Pore Serum, $35, out there at Peach and Lily


Picture: The Lotus

So, what the hell IS an essence then? That is going to be controversial, however right here goes: An essence and a serum are basically (haha pun!) the identical factor. Thoughts-blowing, proper? BUT. There are some essential caveats to notice.

Based on Lee, essences historically had been extra light-weight and fewer concentrated than serums, and had been used after a toner so as to add one other layer of hydration earlier than you utilized serums. (SK-II’s essence is a traditional instance of the feel.) Now, nevertheless, whilst you can nonetheless discover the extra watered-down essences (and I steadily see this kind of product known as an “emulsion” as properly), that line is totally blurred. Serums are getting extra light-weight and essences are getting thicker, and so they each can comprise excessive concentrations of lively substances.

In actual fact, the very phrases “essence” and “serum” are nothing however advertising and marketing phrases now. Principally (and I am generalizing right here), western ladies perceive “serum” and Asian ladies perceive “essence,” so now that we’re all exporting our merchandise to one another’s nations, the phrases essence/serum/focus are virtually interchangeable. Lee tells me that she learn a paper by a professor of cosmetics science in Korea that famous as a lot. It is all advertising and marketing. (A enjoyable instance on this Glow Recipe weblog submit: Estée Lauder’s Superior Evening Restore serum is nicknamed “Brown Bottle Essence” in Korea.)

“Both essence and serums are used at the same treatment step of skincare to achieve similar results. There may be small differences in texture, but now the lines are increasingly blurry,” Sokmin Yu, the top of Korean cosmetics lab Cosmax USA, explains. Prepared for the true thoughts f*ck? He continues, “In leading beauty markets like Korea, there are many new developments in essences, which are bringing even more steps such as the pre-essence and post-essence to the skincare routine.” Pre-essence? Oh, please no.

That is in all probability additionally a great time to say remedy toners, additionally known as essence lotions or essence toners. These have a consistency that folks extra historically affiliate with an essence – thinner however with a little bit of physique. Clinique’s just lately launched model is an ideal instance. They’ll exchange a conventional toner, however have extra hydrating oomph. (This one by Whamisa is gorgeous. The luxury French skincare model Sisley additionally has a luxe model, known as Sisleya Important Pores and skin Care Lotion, launching in March.) They fall someplace between a toner and a serum on the gooey scale.

Read more: Well Ahead Blog

Strive: The Lotus Essence, $43, out there at Glow Recipe


Photo: Lee Jiham

Picture: Lee Jiham

A fast phrase on ampoules, as a result of they’re in the identical household as essences and serums. An ampoule is a supercharged serum with increased concentrations of lively substances that you simply’re meant to make use of for a finite period of time as a booster or once you’re having a pores and skin disaster of some kind. Chang recommends utilizing them earlier than your essence or serum. Ampoules often are available smaller bottles with droppers.

Strive: LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule, $38, out there at Glow Recipe (I have been loving this for additional hydration and glowiness throughout a really worrying week.)

The Backside Line


So long as ladies are taken with making use of 27 completely different merchandise, firms will probably be joyful to introduce them. However do not panic.

• First, determine what your pores and skin wants and select merchandise with substances that match the invoice. Do not get caught up in whether or not it is a serum or an essence. Ignore every thing on the label besides the substances.

• After you determine the proper substances on your pores and skin points, select a texture that fits your pores and skin kind and your sensibility. Check out completely different textures to see what you want. Don’t fret about following some cookbook notion of what your skincare routine ought to appear to be. It ought to continuously evolve, relying on what your pores and skin wants.

• Do not forget that skincare merchandise exist on a continuum. You’ll be able to at all times discover one thing extra concentrated or extra watery or richer or lighter.

• Lastly, regardless of which or what number of merchandise you utilize, the overall rule-of-thumb is to use essentially the most watery product first and the thickest, richest one final.

There. Clear as an essence.

Read more: Our Top Skincare Tips & Tricks

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