Emulsions vs. Essences: Do You Need Both?

Tori Douglas

Global Digital

4 min read

Skincare Education

Discover the differences, uses & benefits of these skincare favorites.

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Emulsions vs. essences: do you need both?

They might sound similar, but don't be fooled–emulsions and essences play very different roles in your skincare routine. Depending on your skin type and specific concerns, you may want to reach for one or both. Knowing their uses and benefits is essential to creating a personalized skincare regimen to keep your skin looking healthy and radiant.

What are emulsions and essences?

Emulsions are lightweight moisturizers designed to penetrate the skin quickly and deeply, providing long-lasting hydration. Emulsions usually have a lighter texture than traditional moisturizers, which makes them ideal for oily or combination skin types that may feel weighed down by heavier creams. They typically contain a blend of oil and water, which creates a silky, easily absorbed formula and can be used in place of moisturizer or in combination with it.

Essences, on the other hand, are the first step in prepping the skin. They're usually formulated with lightweight, fast-absorbing ingredients to deeply penetrate into the skin surface while specifically delivering targeted benefits. They're designed to be applied after cleansing and toning, but before serums and moisturizing, and can make all the products applied after work better.

The key differences

Both emulsions and essences are key players in beauty routines, but they have different purposes. While emulsions are primarily focused on hydrating the skin, essences provide a boost of targeted nutrients and help to prep the skin for the next steps in your routine. Furthermore, emulsions contain an oil-water blend, which helps balance the skin's natural oil-water levels, while essences are watery serums. Another key difference between emulsions and essences is the way they’re applied. Emulsions are usually applied after cleansing and toning, and before applying SPF or makeup. Essences, however, are applied straight after toning–following the “thinnest consistency comes first” rule of layering.

How to choose the best product for your skin's needs

Emulsions are thicker and heavier than essences, as they contain more oils and moisturizing ingredients to keep the skin soft and supple. The benefits of emulsion on the face make emulsion skincare perfect for those with dehydrated or mature skin, as it provides a barrier that locks in moisture and protects the skin from environmental aggressors.

Essences, on the other hand, are ultra-lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin. They contain a higher concentration of active ingredients–such as hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, and antioxidants–that penetrate deeper into the skin to deliver targeted results. Essences are ideal for those who want to address specific concerns, such as fine lines, uneven skin tone, or acne. Discover more in our guide on how to use face essence.

Dealing with dullness, dryness, or uneven skin tone? Kombucha Treatment Essence deeply penetrates 20+ surface layers to instantly hydrate your skin and deliver healthy luminosity. This newly upgraded formula helps protect your skin from the effects of oxidative stress with double-fermented kombucha and an advanced metabiotic—leaving skin smooth and luminous.

Keep it classic, keep it fresh

Emulsions, essences, toners, or serums–explore our collection of science-backed skincare products that nourish, hydrate, and protect your skin–no matter your skin type or concern. Safe, effective, and sensorial, fresh combines ancient rituals with modern science to offer you skincare that goes beyond current trends.

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blog author tori

Tori Douglas

Global Digital

Written by Tori Douglas for Fresh. Tori is a NYC-based digital and brand strategist. Tori has worked for various publications and brands such as Kiehl's, The Body Shop, Deux Hommes Magazine, and Elite Daily with her expertise lying in the fashion & beauty space.