Dear, Klairs


K-Beauty Talk: Difference Between “Essence”, “Serum” and “Ampoules”

Serums and essences, and ampoules, oh my.

When first diving into the world of K-Beauty, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the plethora of products and product types to choose from. And, if you’re coming from a US or European skincare background, there are going to be things that leave you scratching your head — like what is an essence?

serum ampoules

Fear no more. Today, we’re here to straighten out the confusion on these three different products.


Probably the most well known product of the three, serums are often more concentrated in its active ingredients, as they are free of filler ingredients that can prevent their actives from reaching the skin. They’re thicker than most essences, but not as concentrated as their ampoule cousins, which we’ll get to in a little bit.



Essences are the heart of the Korean skincare routine. These liquids are packer with concentrated anti-aging, moisturizing, and complexion evening agents that lend to that shining from within look. Viscosity-wise, they’re thicker than toners and thinner than most serums, and feel like a watery lotion.

Beyond their main function – hydration – many essences also contain nourishing ingredients to keep skin healthy, radiant, and free of irritation.


Ampoules are considered to be the most concentrated of the trio. Think of it as a boost to your skin. Because they contain a higher concentration of active ingredients, they may come in smaller vials or dropper bottles, as a little definitely goes a long way, and usually take the form of more watery liquids.

The Bottom Line

Whatever it might be serum, essence or ampoule, they’re all the same thing: skin treatments. While there are slight differences amongst the three, they all function similarly.

And remember: everyone’s skin is different, which is why it’s crucial you figure out what your skin needs and choose the product that work for you. Regardless of whether it’s a serum or essence, focus on the product’s key ingredients, and choose a texture that works for your personal preferences.

No matter what product you use, the most important thing is to make sure it works for you.