The Differences Between Toners, Essences, Serums & Ampoules

28th Nov 2017

The Differences Between Toners, Essences, Serums & Ampoules

K-beauty products and rituals are becoming more and more popular in Europe. The Korean 10-step skincare routine has become famous for its range of products such as toners, essences, serums and ampoules. They play integral roles in Korean skincare, however, for these amazing products to be effective it is important to know what is their purpose and how to use them.

We receive more and more questions on what to do with toners, essences, serums and ampoules and those questions have prompted us to write this short article.

Here we provide inside information on what the essential Korean products are and how to use them.


After double cleansing, a toner stage is the third step in the Korean skin routine. This stage’s main purpose is hydration. This is a different purpose compared to the toners from Western brands that usually are harsh and over-dry the skin. Skin’s optimal pH ranges from 4.5-6.2 and it changes when you use alkaline cleansers. Any Korean toner helps to neutralise these effects. It also removes the last traces of makeup you may have missed with your cleanser.

Toners are so popular in Korea that the 7 Skin Method is now an extremely popular beauty ritual.


DR. G Hydra Intensive Essence
DR. G Hydra Intensive Essence

Hydration is key in the Korean skincare as it is the source of glowing skin. At the same time, essences are called the heart of the Korean beauty routine. These lightweight in texture liquids provide a major boost of moisture. They protect the skin from irritation and make it radiant. In addition, many essences contain antioxidants and minerals to help nourish skin.

When I asked women in Korea how I should explain the products here at home, I was told to treat toner and essence as the preparation steps before the main treatment of the skin, which is a serum.


Serums are extremely popular products nowadays. Even the Western beauty houses are bringing serums into their product ranges. Serums are more concentrated than essences and contain active ingredients, they have a thicker texture than an essence but still absorb quickly into the skin. Serums are the products which contain ingredients meant to target and treat specific skin concern, from dryness and dullness through to dark spots and acne up to wrinkles.


Ampoules, also known as boosters, are a more concentrated version of serums. They often contain a higher number of active ingredients and are used for a limited time. They usually come in smaller dropper bottles as only a small amount of the product lasts for a long period of time.

The texture of each product can vary from brand to brand. A general rule in Korean skincare is to apply products from thinnest to thickest in texture. This normally means that products should be applied in this order: toner, essence, serum & ampoule. This allows for the best possible absorption.

As we understand that you may find this as a huge amount of products you are encouraged to apply on your face, please keep in your mind that Korean products differ a lot from what we are used to in Europe. Korean cosmetics are lighter and easier to absorb than most of the Western cosmetics. The 10-step Korean routine was created to allow quick absorption of the products. This allows use of a range of products without overfeeding the skin.

Whatever you use, we suggest you always lock all these amazing products and their ingredients in your skin by using a moisturiser.