Serum vs. Essence: What’s the Difference?

You are currently viewing Serum vs. Essence: What’s the Difference?

Within the last few years, serums have become an indispensable part of our skin care routine, moving us well beyond the basics of the cleanser, toner and moisturizer of our teen years.  Now that our focus has shifted to prevention, the basics are more likely to include cleanser, serum, sunscreen and moisturizer.  Lately, you may have started hearing more about an essence. How does it fit into the grand scheme of things?  And how is it different from a serum?

Although not as ubiquitous as BB and CC creams, the essence is another product originating from Asia, where taking care of the skin is an art form in itself.  North Americans may have 3 or 4 steps in our skin care regimen.  But in Korea, for example, a woman’s routine may involve ten or more steps to achieve flawless skin with the essence coming in around the third step of the process.

So what’s an essence?  Originally formulated as a lightweight treatment containing a concentration of active ingredients, an essence’s main purpose is to hydrate the skin while preparing it for the products that come afterwards.  With a viscous consistency, an essence is applied over the entire face and allowed to fully absorb before continuing with the next step of the routine, which happens to be the serum.

Serums are no strangers to us.  They contain high concentrations of active ingredients that can be tailored to suit the needs of the skin (such as hydrating, increasing collagen production, providing antioxidants).  Serums are featherweight, quickly absorbed and are an excellent vehicle for delivering specific treatments to the skin without the heaviness of a cream or lotion.

If you’re thinking by now that essences and serums sound strikingly similar, you’d be completely right.  Essences may have originated as less concentrated and lighter treatments than serums but the lines between the two are blurring.  Both contain potent active ingredients, both are applied to a clean face as a treatment to feed the skin, and both can now be found in a variety of consistencies from a thick liquid applied with a dropper to a thin, cloudy emulsion between a gel and a lotion.

The bottom line is whether you use a serum or an essence, as long as the ingredients  target your specific needs, you can’t go wrong.

Leave a Reply