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Essence vs. Serum vs. Ampoule – What’s Best for My Skin?

Essence vs Serum vs Ampoule

Every skin care enthusiast desires clear, vibrant, and flawless skin. Turns out, it’s not as far reaching as you think. 

You just need to go beyond the basics and add some extra oomph into your skincare routine. 

There are a plethora of available products in the market so don’t let them overwhelm you. 

But recently, the question about the differences between essences vs. serums vs. ampoules has been trending. 

Aren’t they all just the same?

Below, we’ll be talking about the differences between each and how you can possibly enjoy them in your routine!

Table of Contents

Essences Hydrate Your Skin


Hydration should be your top priority in your skincare routine!

Korean skin care experts consider this as the most essential (coming from the name itself) K-Beauty product.

YES, it is the heart of ALL skincare routines.

All the most popular Korean essences are thin, watery solutions, full of vitamins and moisturizing ingredients. 

Essences primarily contain water, along with some active ingredients, extracts, and HCAs. These ingredients brighten skin and retain moisture. 

Often, ingredients differ, depending on the skin type of the consumer and desired solution.

Since essence has a very watery consistency, you might feel it evaporating quickly. But don’t worry. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be!


Our skin is often exposed to the heat of the sun, free radicals, and pollutants.

They make your skin dry, dull, and tired. Essences help by adding another layer of hydration

For skincare routine, they’re still considered as skin prep, right next to toners. 

  • They allow better absorption of serums and ampoules, which contain higher concentrations of active ingredients.
  • Having a good, hydrated skin barrier prevents issues like skin irritation. It also allows you to maintain a radiant complexion.
  • As you age, you will notice fine lines and wrinkles developing too. Essences contain anti-aging and anti-wrinkle qualities to help prevent those dreaded skin issues.

When and How to Use

As you do your skincare routine, you may apply essence after washing and applying toner to your face. 

  • Take one pump into your palms and apply product starting from your chin, up to other parts of your face.
  • Add pressure from your fingers when spreading the essence. Move in circular motion for better absorption.
  • Some may come in a spray bottle which makes it easier and best used as a mist.

It is best to use essences in the evening to give more time for your skin to absorb all the magical ingredients it contains!

Serums Target Specific Skin Concerns


Serums are hyper-concentrated solutions. We like to think of serums as much stronger moisturizers.

They’re absorbed quickly by the skin because they are packed with high levels of active ingredients. 

They also have a more viscous texture compared to essences, almost oil-like.

Serums are gel-like, thick, spreadable, and lightweight. Some may feel greasy. 

If you have oily skin, consider choosing something more absorbent and fast-drying.


They are made to target specific skin issues. 

Serums are perfect for treating dark spots, wrinkles, and dullness. You get to see visible results much faster than other skin treatments. 

For hyperpigmentation, we recommend you check out the best Korean Vitamin C serums since they have brightening properties.

All kinds of ingredients are packed into serums; among these are a blend of active ingredients like peptides that stimulate cell growth and repair, vitamin C, HCA, and AHAs.

These add to the ability to produce collagen. They also help with aging issues.

When and How to Use

Serums come in a bottle much smaller than toners or cleansers. They also have droppers to help dispense the product. Some also come with pumps for better and more hygienic control.

To apply, take a few drops or one pump of product and apply evenly on your face.

They are quick to absorb because of its consistency so you can just gently tap them into the skin after spreading.

A friendly tip, wait a few minutes before moving to the next step of your routine for best results.

Serums can still be applied during the day under your sunscreen. You can apply them at night too, after applying toner or essences.

Ampoules Increase Collagen Production


Ampoules are like serums except ‘on steroids’ since the ingredients are much stronger and activated. They have the most potent formula among essences and serums so they should only be applied as needed.


Ampoules help increase collagen production in skin. They add moisture and restore skin health.

Ampoules are super charged with rich ingredients that boost your routine. Because of its strength, you can opt to use them sparingly. You can use them as skin prep for finite periods to treat a major skin crisis altogether.

When and How to Use

As we can’t emphasize enough, only apply ampoules as needed. 

You will find these packaged in smaller vials or dropper bottles. This is enough indication that a little product goes a long way!

Apply ampoules after cleansing and toning for best results.

Ampoule consistencies depend on the brand and its formulation. 

They can contain active ingredients, peptides, plant extracts, vitamins, and essential acids. They are highly concentrated and extremely potent. Do not use this in place of a serum.

Toners to Balance pH Levels


Before you apply any of the skincare products mentioned above, you should always start your skincare regimen with a good toner.

We recommend these effective Korean toners!

Dermatologists everywhere recommend applying a toner after a good facial cleanse.

These are necessary to bring the skin’s surface pH levels back to normal. Some soaps raise skin’s pH levels to an unhealthy level which make them harsh options for our face.

So it’s best to consider gentler facial cleansing options.

Why Should You Start Your Skincare Routine with A Toner?

Toners are no stranger to the proper 10-step Korean skin care routine.

  • Toners provide a base layer of hydration on the face, making skin more amenable to whatever product you apply on top of it.
  • It also contains antioxidants and serves as a skin prep for the remaining steps of your skin care routine.

You might encounter confusion with labels like ‘treatment toners’, ‘treatment essences’, or ‘treatment lotions’. 

It is often difficult to tell them apart, as well distinguish what their particular uses are.

The easiest way to recognize a toner is to see if it comes in a larger bottles. It’s also generally more watery than everything else.

Toners do not contain ingredients as potent as you would find in essences, serums, and ampoules though.

Final Thoughts

Don’t fuss yourself too much on essences, serums, and ampoules when it comes to your skincare routines.

Find out what your skin needs and choose the products with ingredients that fit your skin best.  

There will never be just one fixed solution! Curate your skincare regimen!

Different skin types and skin issues mean you should select, match, and layer many different products to end up with the best result. 

Who knows, this could be an enjoyable experience in your skincare routine!


August 20, 2021 – Updated article formatting and content

July 16, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.