Essence vs Serum vs Ampoule: Which One Is Best For You?

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a woman hand confuse about the products essence vs serum vs ampoule over the plate

Essence vs serum vs ampoule — have you ever wondered what the differences among these skincare products are?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

These skincare products are part of the trending 10-step Korean skincare routine, which is a tried-and-tested regimen that helps you achieve your skin’s best.

Consistency is the key to achieving your beauty goals with the 10-step K-beauty skincare routine

You must also know exactly what you put on your skin to know if you should be using a product in the first place. 

Part of the 10-step K-beauty skincare routine is putting on essence, serum, and/or ampoule.

If you still can’t distinguish the difference between ampoule and serum or the difference between essence and serum, we hear you!

Read on to understand these products and what they can do to your skin.

What Makes Essence, Serum, and Ampoule Different From Each Other? 

What is the difference between essence and serum? And what is an ampoule?

The Korean 10-step skincare routine is notorious for the numerous products included in the regimen.

Let’s break down the three must-have items in this skincare system so we don’t get overwhelmed. 

First on the list is essences. Essence aims to provide more potent hydration to keep skin radiant and free from irritation. It also contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish the skin. 

The second vital product in the 10-step K-beauty skincare is the serum. This concentrated liquid targets skin dryness, dullness, and wrinkles. It is also more viscous than essence. 

Finally, the ampoules are the heavier and most concentrated product among the three. It works like a booster to help improve the skin’s appearance for an upcoming occasion. 

Let’s compare essence vs serum vs ampoule briefly here:

TextureWatery fluidRich and heavy, viscousSoft and viscous   
FunctionFor nourishment and hydrationAdds extra moisture, brightens skin, removes fine lines and wrinklesErases blemishes, brightens dark spots, and prevents acne breakouts
UsageTo apply on the skin after toning To apply before putting on lotionTo apply before or after the essence

But which exactly is best for you right now? Serums vs essence? Or ampoule vs serum? 

Get to know more about the perks of using these products and how to differentiate them below.

By knowing which to use to address your current skin condition, it becomes easier to take your pick!

For your convenience, it’s important to decide what exactly you need before visiting your favorite online Korean skincare shops to get the perfect essence, serum, and ampoule for your skin.

Essences for Instant Hydration

What Is an Essence?

asian girl wearing black shirt is using essence spray for face

Consider the essence as the heart of the Korean skincare regimen.

Essence provides intense hydration to your skin, so if you’ve been skipping this product in your routine, it’s about time you change that. 

The main ingredient of essence is water, but it can also include other active ingredients to address various skin conditions. 

Some of the typical ingredients added to an essence include: 

  • Glycerin — also known as glycol, helps retain the skin’s moisture 
  • Botanical plant extracts — offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits 
  • Hyaluronic acid — plumps and moisturizes the skin
  • Yeast fermentation by-products — introduces a plethora of benefits like UV protection
  • Lipids, minerals, and vitamins — adds nourishment and strength to the skin cells

Essences are commonly used after the cleansing and toning part of the 10-step process. Doing this will introduce more hydration to your skin before putting on your serum and preferred moisturizer. 

Benefits of Using Essence on the Skin

The essence may be light and watery, but it is packed with numerous perks for your skin. We love how this Korean skincare product offers the following benefits: 

Produces a protective barrier 

Essence can protect the skin from external risks like UV rays by covering it with an invisible layer. 

Hydrates and balances pH level 

Since this skincare product comes with water, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid, it effectively boosts the skin’s hydration.

It also balances your skin’s pH level to prevent dryness and irritation. 

Smooths and softens the skin 

Essences come with a strong moisturizing effect. Because of this, you get to enjoy softer and younger-looking skin. 

Assists the skin in absorbing other skincare products 

Using your favorite essence prepares the skin to absorb as many beauty products as possible. It can also help the skin take in your preferred moisturizer and maximize its benefits. 

Risks of Using Essences 

Since Korean essences contain naturally occurring ingredients, there is only a rare chance of experiencing these adverse side effects if you are allergic to glycerin or if you have sensitive skin: 

  • Redness
  • Hives
  • Itching 
  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Dryness

Never forget to check the labels of any products you plan to use if you have allergies and sensitivities.

Nonetheless, this product remains to be one of the safest skincare items to use, no matter what your skin type is. 

How to Use Essence 

There are several crucial instructions you must keep in mind when using an essence. 

  • Apply your preferred essence on your skin as part of your morning and evening skincare routine. 
  • Use the essence immediately after using your cleanser and toner. 
  • Let the skin absorb the essence before you put on other K-beauty products such as serum, ampoule, cream, or moisturizer. 

Serums for Specific Skin Concerns

What Is a Serum? 

a woman in a white towel is applying serum to her face happily

While essences and serums aim to hydrate and moisturize the skin, these K-beauty and skincare products come in different textures and components. 

The serum particularly comes in a denser and thicker form than essences.

The formulation of serums is usually packed with numerous concentrated ingredients like hyaluronic acid for moisture retention, antioxidants like vitamin C for collagen production and cellular repair, and retinol for anti-aging properties. 

These ingredients help the skin achieve a youthful and healthy glow. 

Since serums are more concentrated, these products come in smaller packaging than essences and moisturizers.

It also enhances the effect of other beauty products like moisturizing creams. 

Benefits of Using Serums

Your skin can enjoy numerous perks when using a serum, such as the following: 

Reduces Signs of Fatigue

Staying up late at night for work or partying can leave your skin tired and dull. Fortunately, a good serum can reduce visible signs of stress on your skin.

This product can repair and regenerate skin cells to help give your skin a radiant glow. 

Refines Pores 

Open pores can cause various skin issues like excess sebum production, reduced skin elasticity, and decreased collagen production.

Improve this condition by using an effective serum to keep your pores clean and oil-free. 

Erases Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Serums effectively reduce visible signs of aging due to active ingredients like dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) and alpha lipoic acid (ALA).

This eventually reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Helps Skin Retain Moisture

Get the glassy and blemish-free look most Hallyu celebrities possess using an effective skin serum. This product locks in moisture for a healthier complexion. 

Risk of Using Serums 

Serums are relatively safe for the skin, especially if the product features natural ingredients. However, too much of something can still be bad for you. 

Skin experts warn against applying too much serum on the skin. When you do, you may dilute or negate its efficiency. 

Putting on different serums with salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids at once may trigger the following side effects:

  • Burning or tingling
  • Overproduction of oil
  • Irritation 
  • Dryness
  • Flaky skin
  • Redness

So use serums separately depending on your skin’s needs. Always follow your dermatologist or read product labels when using serums. 

How to Use a Serum?

Maximize the efficiency of your favorite serums by doing the following: 

  • Use this product only once a day due to its high concentration.
  • As much as possible, apply your serum on your skin after using your toner at night. 
  • Wait for the serum to dry before applying your other skincare products. 

Also, keep in mind to let your skin rest when using a serum. You can consistently apply this product for three to four months, then skip it to let the skin breathe. 

It is recommended to do skin fasting at least once a month and take a break from using serums for a week. You may replace serums with essences while resting the skin. 

Ampoules as Supercharged Serums

What Is an Ampoule? 

an asian girl in white towel and head band applying ampoule skin care in brown bottle

If you want to get the most nutrients for your skin, then investing in ampoules is definitely a must for your skincare regimen.

So what is the difference between serum and ampoule?

Ampoules are the thickest compared to essences and serums. For this reason, you may consider it an intensive treatment for various skin conditions like acne, age spots, and wrinkles. 

But unlike essences and serums, ampoules should not be included in your daily skincare routine. Instead, you can only use it occasionally, especially when your skin needs instant treatment. 

Benefits of Using an Ampoule 

Due to the highly concentrated active ingredients, your skin will achieve these benefits by using ampoules: 

Rejuvenated skin 

Ampoules with retinol can help enhance your skin’s appearance by improving its tone, reducing fine lines, and providing gentle exfoliation. 

Lifts sagging skin 

Ampoules have become a go-to treatment for those who want to lessen the appearance of wrinkles. It can also reduce skin roughness and uplift dry skin. 

Lightens eye area

The skin around the eyes is one of the thinnest parts of the body. It is drier and more at risk of getting irritated.

You may apply an ampoule to enhance this area and remove dark spots. 

Brightens skin tone

Ampoules can reduce skin pigmentation and improve skin tone. It can also help protect your skin from pollutants and photodamage. 

Risks of Using Ampoules

While ampoules are relatively safe to use, you must practice precaution when using this product to ensure that it will not trigger any allergic reaction before applying it on your skin. 

Like most Korean skincare products, ampoules are formulated with a wide variety of active ingredients like glycerin, niacinamide, and essential oils. In fact, most ampoules contain more than 50% of the active ingredient.

This high percentage can be pretty strong on the skin, especially on sensitive ones. Here are signs you should look out for:

  • Allergic reactions 
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Irritation 

It is also best to consult your doctor if you have any skin disease or other skin issues. You may also skip this product if you have sensitive skin.

How to Use an Ampoule 

Get the most out of your ampoule by doing the following: 

  • Apply the entire dose of the ampoule after toning your skin. 
  • Use this skincare product every time you need immediate skin uplifting. You can apply it consecutively for three to four weeks or as the manufacturer advises. 
  • Apply the ampoule once you are done with the essence and serum application. 

Are Essences, Serums, and Ampoules Vital in Your Skincare Routine? 

an infographic comparing essence vs serum vs ampoule

Investing in essence, serum, and ampoule is essential if you want smoother, clearer, and younger-looking skin. Picking one over the others could not give you an advantage. 

These products perform different functions to take care of the skin. 

Essence can help make your skin look brighter and more radiant by penetrating deeply into your pores.

Meanwhile, the gel-like serum eliminates aging signs. Ampoules leave the skin firmer and smoother. 

Using all products together as part of your Korean skincare routine will ensure that your skin will always look younger. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Which Among the Three Is a Better Product?

Essences, serums, and ampoules offer different benefits to the skin, which is why it is hard to pick which one is the best. 

But if you want a product for daily use, you should invest in good essence. It would also help if you get yourself a reliable serum and ampoule when your skin needs additional nourishment. 

Can I Use All These Products Together? 

If you find yourself wondering, “Can I use essence and serum together?” The answer is yes, and your skin will thank you! You can even apply your ampoule afterwards. 

This triple threat is actually recommended if your skin becomes dull and dehydrated. 

What Happens When You Use Ampoules Every Day? 

Ampoules are highly concentrated. Because of this, it is not recommended to use it daily. 

This can cause skin irritation and bring about other skin issues. Hence, it is wise to use it once or twice a week only.

Are Essences a Good Replacement for Moisturizers? 

Your essence is not formulated to serve as a replacement for other skincare products like moisturizers. 

While it can deeply penetrate the skin for better hydration, essences cannot provide long-lasting moisture to the external layer of the skin like moisturizers do. 

How Long Should You Wait Before Applying the Next Skincare Product?

However, you must wait for at least one minute before you pile on your Korean skincare products like essence, serum, and ampoule to let them do their work. 

Essence vs Serum vs Ampoule? All of the Above!

We believe you now know what these products can do for your skin and that all three can actually work wonders together!

You can also ask your doctor for recommendations about the right skincare product to help improve your current skin condition. 

Remember to always check the labels to see if any ingredients may trigger allergic reactions. Once you find the right products, be diligent and consistent in your routine to achieve the best results!

Finally, always apply the most watery product before putting on the most viscous one. It means that you must use your essence before using the ampoule and serum to make all products work. 

Get to Know More About Korean Skincare Here: 


  • Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

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