Essence vs Serum: What’s The Difference?

Lately we’ve been taking a lot of our skincare cues from Korea, and for good reason. Koreans have developed their skincare routine into a form of art. The result is absolutely stunning skin and some wonderfully innovative products and devices.

Products originally developed for the Asian skincare market are slowly filtered through to our own shelves. One product that’s making waves is essence. But when it comes to understanding what essence does, there’s some confusion around its difference to a serum. Today, we’re looking at both products to help you figure out which is better suited to your skincare needs!


Let’s begin with the lesser known. Originating in Asia, essence was originally formulated as a lightweight treatment with concentrated ingredients. It is mainly used as a boost of hydration and prepping the skin for the products that follow. Essences are generally a watery, thin consistency, similar to that of a toner.

Application: Essence isn’t designed to be swabbed with a cotton pad across the face or massaged in like an oil. The trick to applying an essence is to pat it into the skin after cleansing (and toning, if you like to include this step), allowing it to absorb. Some with oily skin might not find they are suited to it, while drier or stressed skin types can really benefit.


Serums, in terms of active ingredients, are a step up from an essence. While they might be thicker, or more tacky in consistency, a serum tends to contain a higher concentration of ingredients which allow you to tackle a specific area of concern. If you are using an essence and a serum in the same skincare routine, serum would be applied directly after your essence. They can actively treats issues such as hydration, anti-ageing, collagen production and more.

Application: Apply directly after cleansing (you can even apply to a slightly damp skin for greater absorption) pressing gently into the skin. Wait 3 -5 minutes before following up with essence or moisturiser.

There is no right or wrong product for you to use and you can use one or the other, or both together! It all depends on finding the product that contains the correct ingredients tailored to your concerns.

Best advice: Do your research on your product before you buy. As you look at more specialised products, they tend to go up in price so make sure you’re buying something you both need and can afford.

Rachel x


Image Credit: Miu Mag

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