What is a Serum vs. Ampoule vs. Essence?

Serum vs Ampoule vs Essence - Cosmetic Composition

You may know from past blog and Instagram posts that I have a slight (read: major) obsession with Korean Skin Care… and while I’ve briefly touched upon what an essence is, I wanted to explore this product area a bit more. Now that I’m in esthetician school I’m learning a lot of classical skincare. Traditionally, serums and ampoules were only used in the spa setting, being a specialized treatment that was a luxury. In today’s modern world of skincare and #selfcare, everyone’s on the hunt for that magical potion that can cure all our skin woes. In order to look for that magical potion, it helps to know what these potions are all about, so let’s take a closer look at exactly what a serum, ampoule, and essence do.

Serum – the best multitasker

Serums may be the most well know of the above 3 products. The watery gel consistency is meant to be worn after cleansers and toners but before a moisturizer. Typically a serum will be water-based and contain a variety of ingredients that can address specific concerns like antioxidant properties, dehydration, pigmentation, acne, brightening, etc. The best serum will provide both moisture and an included property above – for example, I personally enjoy a zinc + niacinamide serum that is anti-inflammatory, assists in brightening and is targeted towards breakouts. To accelerate your skincare game use at least one antioxidant serum in the AM and a treatment focused serum at each night. Since serums boast such a high success rate for treating skin issues purchasing one from a reputable brand with effective ingredient is the key for this product.

Ampoule – how to do the most skin care

In classic skin treatments, an ampoule is a very concentrated treatment. Amouple is a product that has the same texture and touch as a serum but is a highly concentrated form of one ingredient. These products may come in the form of small capsules, individual shots or small serum packs. Ampoules have been on the rise since the popularity of K-Beauty has hit America – many professional brands are starting to highlight their own ampoule products more frequently. An ampoule is typically a very strong ingredient meant to treat skin condition like aging, brightening, or acne. Depending on your skincare routine, an ampoule can be used instead of or with a serum and before moisturizer. If you’re attempting to do the absolute most with your routine including an ampoule can be a great addition. If you’re looking to not do 10-step every morning and night, I’d recommend leaving ampoules for your next spa visit where you can work with your esthetician towards beating that skin concern.

Essence – the low key hard worker

Dereck Zoolander said it best “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty”. Despite how close you may be to reaching glass skin level, everyone’s skin can use some hydration. From combination to aging to acneic all skin is thirsty and will drink up the hydrating ingredients put on it. Using an essence is the perfect way to add low key hydration. Most commonly known from Korean sheet masks, essence is a thin and watery product that typically takes on the feel of water but is chalked full of hydrating and beneficial ingredients. Essence is best used after cleansing and toning, before serums and moisturizer. A large majority of essences focus on providing extra hydration to the skin but can also include ingredients to help with other skin concerns. Personally, I always add a hydration-focused essence in the winter time to help combat dry and tight skin and use the warmer seasons to experiment with other essence types.

Okay, ready for your Korean skincare quiz? With this knowledge, I hope you can go out and find the ~extra~ product that is right for your skin type and concerns! Leave any questions or comments you have below.


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