The ultimate guide to essences and serums
Do you need one or the other? Or both? We make it crystal clear for you.
You know the classic three-step skincare routine — cleanse, tone, and moisturise. But where do essences and serums come in? How do you tell them apart, and more importantly, how can they help you achieve beautiful skin? Here’s all you need to know.
What are essences?
Essences are light yet powerful formulas that treat skin on a cellular level. This means they deliver rich ingredients deep into your skin fast — all the better to hydrate, rejuvenate, and freshen up your skin. Essences are typically clear and watery, with a mild, almost-unnoticeable scent. Their lightweight texture means your skin can quickly absorb all the goodness, and the water-based formula is suitable for virtually every skin type.
Some essences are formulated with aging care or anti-blemish benefits, while others focus on smoothing and softening skin. But almost all of them contain ingredients for rejuvenation and hydration to give you dewy skin.
Rejuvenate your skin for natural radiance
Your skin has a natural renewal rate of about 28 days, which is the full cycle it takes for new cells to replace dead ones on the surface of your skin. Age, environmental stresses, or lack of sleep can slow down this process. Essences help get it back on track, promoting natural cell turnover to reveal your natural radiance and healthy-looking skin.
Hydrate your skin quickly and without stickiness
Your skin needs lots of moisture, and essences deliver that quickly and effectively. Many essences are chock-full of hydrating components such as Hyaluronic Acid, a humectant that keeps skin plump and young looking, and Niacinamide, a vitamin that strengthens your skin barrier to prevent loss of moisture.
Essences are light and less occlusive than creams or lotions, which helps penetrate the skin more quickly.
Benefits of essences
Ultra-lightweight and quickly absorbed, essences are suitable for most skin types and can deliver rich ingredients to hydrate or rejuvenate skin fast.
Benefits of serums
As concentrated boosters for your skin, serums tend to be thicker in consistency than essences. However, serums can target specific concerns with faster, better results.
What are serums?
Think of serums as boosters for your skin. As they’re more concentrated, they tend to have a thicker consistency that’s closer to gels or lotions. While essences provide a host of benefits for your skin, serums deliver a suite of active ingredients to target specific concerns or areas with faster, better results.
Serums let you customise your skincare routine based on what your skin needs most, and the huge variety in the market means there’s a serum for everyone. Here are the main types of serums, and what they can do for your skin.
Slow down signs of aging
Anti-aging serums typically contain ingredients such as peptides and antioxidants. Peptides help boost the production of collagen in skin, a process that slows down naturally with age. This plumps up skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Antioxidants like Vitamin A neutralise free radicals – unstable molecules that break down your skin’s collagen and accelerate multiple signs of aging – to prevent oxidative damage.
Brighten up your skin
Brightening serums are high in brightening ingredients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, and flavonoid-rich fruit extracts such as blackberry and prune. UV exposure causes unprotected skin to produce melanin, leading to uneven pigmentation and dark spots. These powerful ingredients work to inhibit melanin production and target dark spots for radiant, clear skin.
Where do essences and serums belong in your routine?
Your skincare routine can have multiple essences and serums, depending on your skin’s needs. So, which comes first? The general rule of thumb is always go from light to heavy. That means thinner, less viscous products go on first.
Use your essence right after toning and cleansing, then layer on your serum(s) (also in order of weight), and finish off with your moisturiser to seal it all in. The only exception to this rule is serums that have acids such as BHAs and AHAs – they may require a specific pH to function and should be applied before any other essences or serums.