What are the Differences Between Essence, Serum and Ampoule?

What are the differences between essence serum ampoule Korean Beauty Blog Nudie Glow Australia

While cleansing and moisturising are pretty self explanatory, when it comes to your skincare routine, the jumble in the middle can get pretty confusing. Have you ever wondered what on earth are the differences between an essence, serum and ampoule? Here’s your 101:

Essences: Also known as “Treatment Water”, essences predominantly add hydration to the skin but include other skin-loving ingredients such as antioxidants, niacinamide and plant extracts. Think of essences as sheet masks, but without the masks. They are normally applied after using a toner, but before slathering on a moisturizer. A popular Korean essence is MISSHA First Treatment Essence, which has received something of a cult status as a dupe for the SK-II essence that costs nearly twice as much.

Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist Nudie Glow Korean Beauty Australia

Serums: Here is where things get a little more tricky. All serums used to be called essences in Korea, but now serums and essences coexist and there's a blurring of the lines when it comes to defining them. Generally, a serum is thicker in consistency, and have a higher concentration of active ingredients to address specific skin concerns such as acne, large pores, dullness etc. These days, the words essence and serum are largely interchangeable, and more of a marketing tool rather than a definition, as both products are applied to the face at the same step within a skincare regime and both produce almost similar results. Koreans generally would not apply both essence and serum together, as essences today are often extremely similar to a serum.

Ampoules: Ampoules are nicknamed “Supercharged Serums” because they are often more concentrated in their active ingredients than a serum, therefore making them the priciest but most effective item discussed in this post. A little goes a long way with ampoules, so Koreans don't normally use ampoules on a daily basis, as they are more commonly used temporarily for stressed skin, or when your skin is not “cooperating”.

COSRX Centella Blemish Ampule Nudie Glow Korean Beauty Blog Australia

Essentially, serums, essences and ampoules are all the same thing: concentrated skin treatments. While ampoules are the most concentrated and essences the least, the concentration varies depending on how the product itself is formulated by specific brands (after all, there’s no concentration formulation standard that all serums have to comply with in order to be a serum). These wordings are mostly marketing tactics to differentiate skin care products, when they all generally function in quite similar manners.

Do you have a go-to essence, serums, or ampoules? Share with us in the comments below!



When it comes to flawless skin, everyone has to try to get the best skincare products that work well on their skin. But, the big challenge is to find the best skincare brands. Without any doubt, I can say that Korean Products have proven as the best Skincare products.

Ruchika Singh February 26, 2020

Been trying several brands previously, trying to find which is best for my skin with a good price.
Discovered Atomy Absolute CellActive Ampoule, using 3rd bottle now, it originates from the same manufacturer of Laneige, SK-11, so quality-assured, can give it a try :)

Subee December 04, 2018

I have recently started using Whamisa organic flowers toner, which seems like an essence to me as it is deeply hydrating and nourishing for my skin.

Linda October 16, 2018

i do love missha time revolution fte but i couldnt find any best serum or ampoules for me yet. any suggest?

rizka edmanda November 03, 2017

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