Skincare 101: What’s The Difference Between Serums, Ampoules, Essences & Emulsions?

Anandita MalhotraAnandita Malhotra  |  Aug 27, 2021
Skincare 101: What’s The Difference Between Serums, Ampoules, Essences & Emulsions?

We’re pretty sure that skincare fanatics and newbies alike have heard of the famous (or rather infamous) 10-step Korean beauty routine. While some steps like cleansing and toning are basics to any skincare routine, others like using essences completely baffle us. What the hell are these products and what are they doing for us, other than depleting our bank balance?

Serums, ampules, essences and emulsions all belong in the same step in the K-beauty routine and are applied right before moisturiser. However, you don’t need to invest in all three. Simply, understand what each of them is about and then pick which one best suits your skin’s needs.


The Power- Packed Serums

Serums are lightweight formulas that contain some active ingredients that can address specific skin concerns like dark spots, wrinkles, dull skin and fine lines. These have a more concentrated formulation than moisturisers but are thinner in texture. Whether these have antioxidants, peptides, hyaluronic acid or any other ingredient, serums can carry smaller molecules deep within the skin where the maximum benefits can be reaped.

Suitable for: All skin types

Ampoules Deserve Some Time In The Spotlight Too

Ampoules are highly potent serums that are intended to target specific skin concerns and you a facial boost. They help with dryness, discolouration, hyperpigmentation and dullness, uneven skin tone and texture. Sounds similar to what you read earlier right? Yes, just like serums these too can penetrate deep within the skin’s layers but the difference is that ampoules are more concentrated than serums and hence, can show you the desired results quicker. They are ideally added to a beauty routine after a period of high stress like following severe sun damage or when your skin needs a bit more while the seasons are changing.

Suitable for: Dry skin

Essences Are Superb

Again, essences have similar benefits to serums because they too are smaller in molecular size and can penetrate into the layers of the skin. They hydrate and balance the skin’s pH levels using super concentrated actives. This hydration allows the skin to absorb all the goodness of the next product that is going to be added even more than usual. So, ideally, these go after toners and before serums as they are less concentrated.

Suitable for: Dull and dehydrated skin

Let’s Understand Emulsions

Emulsions are more like moisturisers but lighter in texture. They are typically water-based and go on thinner than heavy creams. They can sometimes come in gel or liquid form but are definitely heavier than serums. They are usually non-comedogenic and don’t clog pores. They also get readily absorbed into the skin and help in maintaining a strong skin barrier and preventing moisture loss.

Suitable for: Acne-prone skin

Yes, all of these products are confusing but we’re always here to help you understand skincare better. Hope you have a good (skin) day!

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