Essence vs. serum

Essence and serums/ampoules are very similar in concept as well as its purpose, and it makes you wonder …. do I really need both?

There are a lot of considerations to make when deciding what to incorporate into your day to day glass skin beauty routine. Top among those deciding factors are cost, time consumed, and overall sustainability.

Questions that might knock around in your head are:

  •  Can I continue to afford this product?
  •  How much more time am I willing to devote to my glass skin beauty routine to achieve the glass skin of my dreams??
  •  Can I continue to sustain this practice through busy schedules, late nights, and/or traveling?

I’ll try to touch on these and provide my insight as we dive into this topic.

What is an Essence?

As detailed in the Glass Skin Beauty Routine for Perfect Skin article, the K-beauty glass skin routine steps are as follows:

  1. Double Cleanse
  2. Exfoliate
  3. Toner
  4. Essence
  5. Serum/Ampoule
  6. Moisturize

Essence is a product developed and widely used in East Asia as a staple in skincare regimes. This product, in fact, existed for many many years before it became popular in North America along with the Glass Skin trend. I found in recent years, popular makeup and skincare retailers like Sephora are stocking up on their Korean skincare brands as they have realized the efficacy and demand for the products. No one can deny – Korea has their skincare products and techniques down pat.

With this shift in skincare trends, essences are now easily accessible in North America. The problem is, it’s still very unclear to many North Americans in what order to use these products, and what they are for. I am here to help.

Essence is used following application of toner, followed by a serum or ampoule, and is a product designed to prepare your face for the serum step. Essences are normally a lightweight, liquidy solution – the function of which is to provide the skin with some hydration after application of toner and in fact, helps your face to absorb the concentrated nutrients in the serum more efficiently.

What is a Serum/Ampoule?

Serum bottle

As for serums and ampoules, this solution is generally a slightly thicker, semi-opaque, highly concentrated formula often packaged in a smaller bottle with a dropper or pump mechanism. Out of the three products (toner, essence, and serum), serums and ampoules have the thickest consistency. Toners are usually quite watery and essences only slightly thicker than the consistency of many toners.

Perhaps it will help you to remember the order of application by the viscosity (thickness) of the solutions? You’re welcome. 🙂

This is a step that you can use to really target your skin concerns. For example, if you have dull skin, you might want to opt for a serum that is highly concentrated in vitamin C which is known to brighten the complexion. If you have a concern of fine lines and wrinkles, you might want to opt for a serum that has more collagen boosting properties to smooth those frown and smile lines.

It’s now also a popular trend to incorporate some sort of roller application to help your face absorb the serums.

Jade Roller

Jade rollers are highly used and praised not only for their serum distribution and improved absorption uses but often used in combination with serums for the rollers’ detoxifying properties, and the way it aids in smoothing lines, improving blood circulation to the face, and even de-puffing the skin (especially in the morning).

What’s the difference, anyway?

All that being said, the difference between essences and serums are that essences are not as concentrated in the benefits it delivers and is used more as an additional hydrating layer in the glass skin routine. Serums on the other hand, are much more concentrated and can be used to customize your glass skin routine to target your skin’s needs, whether that be dry skin, breakouts, dull skin, or wrinkles.

One rose, one choice? Or, Can I have both?

The question still remains, do I need both? Do I want both? Can I afford both?!

In order to answer these questions, we have to consider the cost, time consumed, and overall sustainability.

Essences are usually packaged in larger bottles in larger quantities as they are more watery in consistency and not as concentrated in its benefits. In most cases, essences are less costly than serums/ampoules can be, likely because they are less concentrated.

Oppositely, serums are more concentrated, and thereby have a higher price tag as they pack a heavier punch in the effects that it has on your skin.

If you have a higher budget for your skincare regime, I would certainly recommend that you purchase both – especially when starting out with implementing the glass skin beauty regime so you can fully understand and see the results of the routine. It is certainly worth trying out.

I was in the same head space when I was out of options and nothing I was trying at the time seemed to work as well. Why not give it a try?!

On the other hand, if budget and time is a concern, you could likely combine the essence and serum step for efficiency and invest into a moderately priced serum that has some targeted vitamin/collagen additions that you want added to your skincare routine.

I believe though, that the glass skin routine is very much about layers of hydration. ????
Another way to “make up” for skipping the essence step is to add a more hydrating toner into your routine and apply 2-3 layers of the highly hydrating toner in place of the essence.

Customize your own Glass Skin Beauty Routine

Depending on your lifestyle, budget, and skin type/needs, you can certainly find ways to customize your own glass skin beauty routine.
The glass skin beauty routine outlined above is a template that you can begin with – it does not have to be followed as strictly as you might think. Remember, your skin is not the same as your sister’s, or neighbour’s, or the girl at the Sephora counter. Your skin is your skin, and only you can see what works, and what doesn’t!
There is also an enormous range of products you can create your own glass skin routine with, from drugstore products to designer skincare brands that can cost in the range of $100-300 bottle of serum. You do not need the most expensive products to achieve your dream glow.

I hope this article helped to clear up those questions you might have had, and got you one step closer to acheiving your glass skin glow!

glass skin


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