With the incredible amount of skincare available to us these days, it can be tricky to understand which products do what. What is the difference between a serum and an essence? How often should I use an ampoule? Today, we’re going to break down the difference between serums, essences & ampoules, as these three products can often be confused for one another.
Let’s start with what they all have in common: serums, essences & ampoules usually come with some sort of dropper and are usually of a consistency thicker than toner but thinner than a classic moisturizer. However, these products do have key differences including how often to use them and what their overall goals are.
You might be most familiar with serums as they’ve become very popular in the US as modern skincare regimens come into fashion. Overall, serums are a lightweight moisturizer, however, unlike a cream moisturizer, they typically have a few active ingredients in higher concentration, meant to address a specific issue (wrinkles, dark spots, brightening etc.). Hydrating serums are not meant to replace your heavier cream moisturizer though. Even though they penetrate deeper, they actually better serve to boost your regular moisturizing cream.
Think about serums as being the step that gives your skin the nutrients you need. Because of their lightweight consistency, they are fit to better deliver higher concentrations of the things your skin needs deeper into your skin. Choosing the right serum depends on what your skin goals are. Popular active ingredients in serums are things like hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, and vitamin C.
How often you use a serum depends on the purpose of the serum. One meant to deliver hydration is likely to be one you use daily, but one used to chemically exfoliate may be meant for a few times a week. Always be sure to follow the recommended usage of a serum, considering the higher concentration of active ingredients, there is a possibility of over usage.
Serums typically are meant to exist after toner when your skin is prepped to absorb product but before your cream moisturizer. You can also use a serum under your face mask to help it absorb deeper into your skin.
The words “serums” and “essences” have been used interchangeably as Korean skincare routines have come to the US. However, in many cases essences serve a different purpose than serums and are closer to a toner. They are even more lightweight than a serum and are used to prep the skin to help absorb the following products better.
To determine if the “essence” you are using isn’t actually more of a serum, check the percentage of the active ingredients. Essences tend to have lower concentration of active ingredients and are meant to be used as a secondary toner to your skin. Pick an essence with active ingredients that are not present in your other products that your skin needs.
Most essences are a daily product you use to help prep your skin between your toner and serum or moisturizer.
Essences should be used after a toner and before other products with active ingredients to better help the skin absorb the subsequent products.
Like serums and essences, ampoules exist to address a specific skincare concern like, however, they have a huge concentration of an active ingredient. We’re talking sometimes more than 50% of an active ingredient. Because of this a very little goes a long way and these are not meant for daily use. These are quick hit products often meant to boost the other products you are using, not replace them.
Ampoules are like supercharged serums that deliver a high dose of an active ingredient fast. They can come with a high price point, but the goal is to see results fast as a treatment instead of a daily use product.
Due to the high concentration of active ingredients in an ampoule, they should be considered like a treatment instead of a daily product. Take our Stem Cell Culture Medium Ampoule. With its high concentration of stem cell culture, it is meant to boost your skincare routine for quick repair and healing. We recommend using it with your mask to boost the efficacy of your masking routine.
Many times you can use an ampoule on its own as a spot treatment. Because of the lightweight formula and easy absorption, we recommend putting the product right on your face and massaging it in with your fingertips, so your cotton pad doesn’t soak up the majority of the product. We love using ampoules as part of your masking routine as well. Just add it under the mask to boost the active ingredients in your mask.
The key to your perfect skincare routine lies in understanding what your skin needs and then choosing products that best provide those benefits. Look for active ingredients, their concentrations and their recommended usage to build a skincare routine that is as unique as you are.