Emulsions vs. Serums

Kaleigh Fasanella

Beauty Expert

2 min read

Skincare Education

Do emulsions and serums both deserve a spot in your skincare routine? Find out here.

Fresh Rose Emulsion and Rose Serum

When it comes to skincare, there are certain game-changing products that can take your routine—and the results you get from it—to the next level. Emulsions and serums are two such products. They’re both hardworking formulas that offer a multitude of benefits, from long-lasting hydration to barrier support and much more. But what makes them different? And do you need both in your routine? Read on for the full lowdown.

What are emulsions?

Emulsions are lightweight, water-based elixirs that contain oil as well as a host of emollients to seal in hydration and prevent water loss–similar to a moisturizer. The difference is that they feel extremely light and have a fluid, milky consistency that sinks into the skin immediately. Emulsions improve skin health by flooding it with moisture and helping to prevent hydration loss, which ultimately creates an optimal barrier for skin to thrive in.

What are serums?

Facial serums are lightweight, highly concentrated solutions that contain active ingredients designed to target specific skin concerns—dehydration, hyperpigmentation, dullness, and aging, to name a few. Consistency-wise, face serums tend to have a watery or gel-like texture, though there are some exceptions of course. Serums are beneficial to anyone who’s looking for something beyond basic hydration in their skincare routine, whether it be help with fading fine lines and wrinkles, diminishing sun damage, or brightening up a sallow complexion. Additionally, they’re designed to deeply penetrate the skin, which makes them very effective and often fast-acting.

What’s the difference?

“Emulsions tend to be thicker than serums and are primarily designed to hydrate the skin,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “Serums tend to be lightweight and more concentrated formulations containing key active ingredients such as antioxidants.”

From an application standpoint, serums are typically applied earlier in one’s routine—usually after cleansing and before moisturizing—while emulsions are applied either as the last step, or right before your moisturizer.

Where do these products feature in your skincare routine?

This all comes down to your skin type and personal preference, but here’s how we do it at fresh.

  • Dry skin: Cleanser, essence, serum, emulsion, moisturizer
  • Oily skin: Cleanser, serum, emulsion
  • Sensitive skin: Cleanser, serum, emulsion, moisturizer

How to add each skincare product to your daily routine

Our new Rose Deep Hydration Balancing Emulsion is an excellent option for anyone looking for a weightless super-hydrator that softens, plumps, and balances the skin. It’s infused with rosewater, damask rose, low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, and yarrow extract—and it sinks into the skin immediately. Great for all skin types, including sensitive, it helps skin act more predictably on a day-to-day basis when used regularly.

Another one of our best sellers you can always reach for? The Rose Deep Hydration Oil-Infused Serum enriched with squalane and rosehip oils. This multi-tasking elixir features an innovative bi-phase technology that prevents moisture loss, strengthens the skin barrier, and soothes irritation. For this reason, it’s an especially amazing option for anyone struggling with dry or sensitive skin.

Oily-skinned beauties, we didn’t forget about you: Our Tea Elixir Skin Resilience Activating Serum is a great one for all skin types, but especially those that are oily and acne-prone as it helps minimize large pores. Proven to boost skin’s visible resilience by 62 percent,* it’s enriched with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, as well as our exclusive Adaptive Phytocompound Tea (APT) Technology™ for added antioxidant protection.

Find your hydration must-have

Whatever your skin type or current concern, there's a fresh product waiting to offer deep nourishment and hydration so that you can enjoy radiant skin year-round. Browse our range of skincare, bodycare, and gift sets to find the products that leave you feeling fresh.

*observed results, clinical study, self-assessment by scoring, 33 subjects, 8 weeks, based on an average of smooth, visible lines, look of pores, bounce (plump & elasticity), and glow

Author Profile
blog author Kaleigh Fasanella

Kaleigh Fasanella

Beauty Expert

Kaleigh is a New Jersey-based beauty and wellness writer and editor with a decade of experience contributing to both digital media outlets and brands. Before going freelance, she held positions at Allure, Teen Vogue, and Bustle Digital Group. Having a rare genetic skin condition, she's particularly passionate about normalizing all types of skin and spreading the notion of skin acceptance.