K-BEAUTY 101: Korean Essences, Serums and Ampoules

by Alethea Demetriou

If you are as obsessed with K-Beauty as we are here at PURESEOUL, and en-route to achieving that effortless Korean 'glass-skin' glow - you might find yourself overwhelmed with the array of different skincare products you can mix and match with in your routine.

More often than not, one perfect example of this is coming to grips with understanding Serums, Ampoules and Essences. What are they? What are the differences? Are all, or none of these necessary? Don’t worry - we've got you covered!

This is your go-to guide to understanding what each type consists of and the key differences between them, with the hopes that this can help identify which type is right for you to implement in your own journey to flawless skin. But first, before all the juicy details… let's start one step at a time by going through each one in the order they should be used.

What is an Essence?

An essence, which comes a step after your toner and before your serum, is traditionally the thinnest texture of them all. Gentle and lightweight, they contain hydrating ingredients to make sure your skin is prepped and ready for the steps that follow. In essence… (pun-intended) they deeply nourish the skin to allow for better absorption of the products you wish to apply next. A must have for all skin types, their quick absorption promotes skin cell turnover to unveil smoother texture, revealing happy glowy skin!


COMBO SKIN: DR. ALTHEA's Skin Relief Essence

BALANCED SKIN: JUMISO's Snail Mucin 95 + Peptide Facial Essence

DRY SKIN: MAKE P:REM's Comfort Me. Panthenol Moisture Essence

What is a Serum?

A serum, the most commonly found and well-known of the bunch, is slightly more viscous in texture and follows the essence step. They are typically more concentrated with combined active ingredients to target different skin concerns. For example, this could include acne, redness, signs of aging, hyperpigmentation or dark spots, etc. This means that all skin-types can find a serum that would be most suitable for their routine, and I've included a few different types that could address the most common concerns.

OILY SKIN: IUNIK's Tea Tree Relief Serum

COMBO SKIN: PURITO's Centella Unscented Serum

BALANCED SKIN: SOME BY MI's Beta Panthenol Repair Serum

DRY SKIN: KAINE's Chaga Collagen Charging Serum

What is an Ampoule?

Supercharged and potent - Ampoules are essentially highly concentrated serums that act as a booster-shot for your skin concerns. The formulations tend to be centred around one main active ingredient, increasing the purity and efficiency of the product. As a result, it's effects are almost immediate and some are not intended for everyday use. For example, many ampoules consist of ingredients such as Retinol and Vitamin C, and are advised to only be used a few times a week to prevent irritation.

However, take this with discretion, as there are daily-use ampoules out there that contain high concentrations of gentle ingredients that intend to soothe and hydrate - such as Centella Asiatica Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, etc. Always make sure to follow the recommended guidelines of use!

So, here are our personalised recommendations of ampoules that are totally worth the hype!

So... which one is right for you?

To Summarise:

  • Essences are lightweight to hydrate and prep the skin for the next steps of your routine.
  • Serums are slightly more viscous and contain various active ingredients to target skin concerns.
  • Ampoules are highly concentrated with a key ingredient to provide your skin potent care when it needs it most.

So that's that! I hope this made it simpler to understand the easily confused differences between serums, ampoules, and essences. All are an essential part of the Korean skincare routine and can be used interchangeably to serve different purposes in taking care of your skin.

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