The Difference Between Serums, Essences & Ampoules. Korean Skincare.

Image of Difference of serum, essence & ampoule

What’s The Difference betweeen Serums, Essences & Ampoules

Skin care junkie or not, I’m sure many of us have heard of the famous Korean 10+ step skincare regime. While some components of these 10 steps make total sense, like cleansing for example (I mean how else are we gonna clean our face?), the other steps can seem pretty..unnecessary and superfluous. I mean, words like serum, essences,  honestly just pretty much mean the same thing in my skincare rookie mind. Throw the word ampoule in, and add to the confusion party, will you? Isn’t an ampoule just some kind of capsule for liquids?

These two terms – serums and essences, seem to be somewhat used interchangeably in marketing collateral and product descriptions and I, for the longest time, couldn’t wrap my head around it. What on earth is essence (and serum.. AND AMPOULE?), and what exactly does it do for your skin? I have many questions.

What if, just, what if this is all part of a skin care conspiracy to make us drop more money on products which are labelled differently, but are actually the same thing? (cue intense eye squinting here)

Anyway I put on my (skincare) mudding boots and dug deep into this topic, and here’s what I found;


Image of What is a serum - korean skincare

From left to right: Laneige Bright Renew Original Serum, Hera Preperfection Serum, Sulhwasoo First Care Activating Serum.

A serum is a very concentrated, product with a thicker consistency which is sometimes even oil-like. It’s very targeted in what it does, and often contains key ingredients to target very specific issues like anti-aging, whitening, brightening, etc.  It’s usually presented in a small bottle, which is a dead giveaway for its potency (notice how like really potent stuff usually comes in really small bottles?), sometimes with a dropper to dispense the serum more easily.


Image of What is an Essence - Korean Skincare

From left to right: Laneige Water Bank Essence, Hera Cell Essence, Missha Time Revolution treatment essence

So I guess the serum part makes sense eh, and if that’s the case, what on earth goes into essences, and what do they do?

They are kinda the same thing actually, with just a few small differences between them.

Essences are basically watered down versions of serums which were originally intended for use after toner, and before serum, to add a layer of hydration to the skin. However they pretty much are, and do the same thing, except that essences are less concentrated, and more lightweight in comparison.

In leading beauty markets like Korea, new developments in the skincare industry are actually bringing in additional steps like pre-essence and post-essence into the daily skincare routine. I can’t even manage a 2 step skincare routine, honestly, I can’t fathom how anyone will have the patience for a 12 step routine.


Image of What are ampoules - Korean Skincare

The Laneige White Plus Renew Spot Ampoule and the HERA White Program Powder Ampoule

Now onto ampoules – (by the way how did ampoule come to become a skincare thing anyway? Wasn’t it always a hair thing?) once again, it has incredibly similar properties and functions to serums, but an ampoule is meant for usage for an finite amount of time only, to target very specific issues that you may be facing your skin. Think of it as a turbocharged version of a serum, containing a higher concentration of active ingredients to aid in your skin crisis. Ampoules usually retail in smaller dropper bottles, and are recommended for use before applying essence or serum.

Now that we’ve kinda, figured out which does what between these three products, how many of these 10 steps do you think are actually essential for maintaining beautiful skin, and how much of it is just fluff?

Related Reviews

Sulhwasoo Perfecting Cushion Intense review

Laneige BB Cushion Review

Mamonde BB Cushion Review

Cinddie T

Hi I’m Cinddie, a Singapore based fashion and beauty blogger. Follow me on instagram @cinddie or hit my youtube channel for more of my content!

Related Posts

3 Discussion to this post

  1. […] Difference between serums, essences and ampoules Laneige BB cushion review Mamonde cover power cushion review […]

  2. […] Difference between Serums, Essences and Ampoules Laneige Two Tone Tint Lip bars Laneige BB Cushion Whitening Review Laneige Silk Intense Review […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *