Difference Between Essence, Serum and Ampoule

Essence is the next step in the skin care routine and is applied after a toner.  

However, if you start looking around at skin care products, you will also find an ampoule and serum.  

And they are also the next step after a toner application.

It could be very, very confusing (well, it was for me at least) to understand what is the difference between essence, serum, and ampoule.  Which is better – essence of serum?  What is an ampoule anyway?  Or maybe you can use all three together (why not, the more, the better, right? Lol)  

There are too many questions, so let’s dive into finding the answers.

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how to use apmoule

What is essence?

Essence is a liquid skin care product enriched with useful hydrating, brightening, whitening, anti-aging elements and vitamins. It’s purpose is to solve many skin care problems, including acne. 

High absorption is one of the main qualities of an essence. 

In Korean skin care essence is the most important step in a skin care routine.   You should use essence daily, usually twice a day (if you do not use serum or ampoule) right after toner application.

The consistency of the Korean essence is similar to a very light gel or tonic, but more viscous and dense in texture. 

You should apply essence with your hands only.  Do not use cotton disks or balls because it will make you waste lots of products. 

How to use essence

  • Use essence in the morning and evening routine.
  • Apply essence during morning and evening care immediately after cleansing and toning.
  • Wait for essence to absorb and follow with other caring products: serum or ampoule, or mask, or moisturizer and cream.


The Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence

This essence contains very interesting ingredient called galactomyces ferment. This essence will help to hydrate and sooth red, irritated skin. It also contains aloe vera juice which is famose for its healing properties.

MISSHA Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence

This is an amazing essence that many people love myself including. It provides a very good hydration and is packed with anti-aging ingredients that will help to erase wrinkles and age spots. It also contains niacinamide, allantoin and galactomyces ferment.

Purito Fermented Complex 94 Boosting Essence

One of my favorite of all times essences. It really boosts hydration and skin glow.

purito boosting serum

What is serum?

Serum and essence are very similar, but differ in texture and content of active components. The serum is denser and more concentrated.

It is skin care product that is packed with concentrated ingredients, that hydrate, brighten, rejuvenate, gently exfoliate, protect and nurture our skin.   There are many anti-aging serums, serums that shrink pores and serums that fight acne.

Serums contain special components that make useful ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin.

Comparing to essence, serums are more concentrated which is why you will notice that serum bottles are less in size, than essence bottles.  

Serums help to enhance effect of the cream.  For example, if you use an anti-aging cream and anti-aging serum, then you will double anti-aging effect in your routine. 

As you probably guessed, a serum is a “step up” from an essence and is more suitable for mature, dehydrated, or problematic skin.

ampoule vs serum

How to use the serum

  • Because serums are so concentrated, use them once a day only, preferably at the bed time. 
  • Use serum after a toner.  You can also use essence and then apply serum to enhance the effect.  Apply with your clean hands.  You only need few drops of serum.
  • Wait for serum to dry and then follow with other skin care products. 
  • Serums are very concentrated that is why you should use them in courses.  For example, use serum for 3-4 months and let your skin rest with essence.  

Ciracle Pore Control Tightening Serum

This serum has tightening ingredients so it will help to significantly minimize skin pores, even out skin tone, regulate skin oil production, remove inflammation, strengthen and increase the elasticity of the epidermis. Apply before bedtime.

Centella Green Level Buffet Serum

This serum contains 49% of centella asiatica extract. Centella asiatica is a plant, famous for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. It is excellent for skin that is prone to acne, redness, and irritation. It also moisturizes and heals your skin.

Murad Retinol Serum

As you probably guessed from the name, this serum contains retinol – famous anti-aging, anti-wrinkle ingredient.

clear essence cream

What is ampoule?

Ampoule is another product that follows toner.  The number of nutrients is far more concentrated than in essence or serum.  Ingredients work faster and very efficiently.  

Ampoule has thicker and richer consistency compared to essence and serum.

You can think of an ampoule as a intensive treatment for whatever issue your skin has – dehydration, age spots, wrinkles, dull tone, acne and so on.

Ampoules are not used on a permanent basis, but only when your skin really needs extra help. 

How to use ampoule?

  •  Apply ampoule after a toner.  
  • Use it when you skin needs extra treatment.  Use for 3-4 weeks or as directed by a manufacturer. 
  • You can use ampoule after applying essence and serum.

Skin care routine for combination skin

MISSHA Time Revolution Night Repair Probio Borabit Ampoule 

If you follow Korean skin care (I am a huge fan), then you probably heard about this ampoule. I tried it and I loved it and ordered another bottle.

 This is the 3rd generation of the very popular Borabit ampoule, the famous Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair dupe! It contains 10 probiotics to provide hydration, rejuvenation and brightening. You will notice a huge improvement in skin’s tone, improved turgor and elasticity.

[MEDI-PEEL] Bor-Tox Peptide Ampoule

Medi-peel is a company that I really love. This company produces concentrated skin care products packed with revolutionary and working ingredients. This is a very strong anti-aging ampoule, packed with peptides and hydrolyzed collagen. It will provide your skin with lots of anti-aging components as well as amazing hydration boost.

Frequently Asked Questions about Essences, Serums and Ampoules

Which is better: essence or serum?

Both products are good and needed for our skin.

Essence should be used on a daily basis and in morning and evening routine.  Essence is a light product with almost water like texture.

Serum is a more concentrated product which will give your skin an extra boost.  It often has a thicker consistency then an essence.

Can you use essence and serum together?

Yes, you can.  As you remember, essence is an excellent, but light product and serum is more concentrated and targets more specific skin problems.  So, if you feel your skin needs extra hydration, nourishment and other, then you can certainly introduce serum in addition to essence.

Does essence go before serum?

Yes.   If you decided to use both products in your routine, then apply essence first, let dry and follow with a serum. 

Can I use serum and ampoule together?

In simple words: yes, you can.

If you feel that your skin is really dehydrated, inflamed, dull and tired looking then you can use strong products as serums and ampoules together.

Always apply serum first, wait until dry and then apply an ampoule.

I have to remind you that ampoule is used for a period of time only: 2 to 4 weeks.  

Both serums and ampoules are applied once a day only.

You need to watch your skin and “listen” to it.  Sometimes applying too many strong ingredients means “overfeeding” our skin.  In this case skin can react in not a very pleasant way: breakouts, redness, inflammation and oiliness.   

Evaluate your skin’s needs and if you feel that your skin does not love your products, then try to withdraw one product or another. 

Can essence replace a toner?

If you really have to, you can, however, you should not skip a toner.

You see, toners have 2 very important jobs:

 1.   To restore skin’s pH, that is disturbed after cleansing (even the mildest cleanser will through your skin’s pH out of balance).

2.    To restore moisturizing and protective lipid-layer of our skin (this is an outer layer of the skin, that keeps moisture inside the skin).

For sure, toners have other ingredients in them, but they are mostly an addition to the 2 major points above.   

Essences are designed to complement toners and provide our skin with other useful ingredients.

So, yes, you can skip toner after cleansing your skin and go straight to an essence, but it would not be your best choice.

Exception:  there are some essences that were specifically designed to be used without preparation of the skin with the toner.  

MUJI – Sensitive Skin All-In-One Essence

This is all-in-one gel like product that will act as a toner, essence and a moisturizer. Excellent product to carry with you on a go or when you are travelling.

Dr.Louie Revitalizing All-in-One Essence Oil Free

Toner + Serum + Moisturizer in 1 bottle You can get everything in just one bottle! DrLOUIE’s signature product, Revitalizing All-in-One Essence is a combination of toner, lotion and cream that takes care of signs of aging – loss of elasticity, enlarged pores, fine lines and dry skin. Emblica Extracts and Vitamin C renew your skin and facilitate the formation of collagen and Hyaluronic Acid for firmer-looking skin. 

Kiehl’s Iris Extract Activating Essence Treatment

Unique, velvety liquid concentrate delivers anti-aging and hydrating ingredients to skin’s surface layers. It contains Iris Florentina Root Extract, known for its deeply nourishing and anti-aging benefits to skin. This is your essential “first step” anti-aging treatment to maintain skin’s youthful texture, reduce fine lines, and activate radiance.

Can I use essence everyday?

Absolutely.  You should use essence at least 2 times a day and more if needed. 

To summarize, essences are an essential part of you skin care routine.   Essences are packed with a variety of hydrating, rejuvenating, nourishing, exfoliating and protective ingredients.   Essences are used on a daily bases, morning and evening. 

Serums are more concentrated than essences and are designed to target more specific skin care issues.   Use serums ones a day and apply them after applying an essence. 

Ampoules are even more concentrated than serums and are basically treatments for very specific skin issues.  Use ampoules once a day for 2 to 4 weeks and then give your skin a break. 

You should apply a toner right after you cleanse your skin. There are many posts on this website, that will explain how to clean your skin properly and what toners do.

hyaluronic acid facial toner

4 Reasons You Should Be Using A Facial Toner

What is Double Cleansing Method and Why You Need to Do It

12 Easy Steps To Have a Spa-Like Facial At Home

Stay beautiful!!!!

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