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Essence vs. Toner vs. Serum: What's The Difference?
Life and Style Daily
September 15, 2022
2 min

Since Korea has blessed us with its 10-step skincare routine, numerous products and innovations have taken over the beauty world, from cleansing balms to facial serums.

So much so that taking care of your skin has become more complicated than ever! With skincare taking the world by storm, you might be confused about where to begin.

Whether you’re a certified skincare junkie or a newbie, skincare is an integral part of your life. We need to protect the largest organ, of course! However, with a plethora of buzzwords and new terms concerning skincare, meanings can get lost.

If you’re looking for products to add to your skincare routine, you have likely heard of essences, toners, and serums. In fact, there have been multiple discussions online regarding each product’s necessity!

Some argue that essences are glorified toners, serums are overhyped, and toners are generally bad. Often, these things get interchanged with one another. All of the hubbubs might make it more confusing. But, let go of all these hearsay because this article will tell you precisely what these are!

All About Toners

Let’s first dive down with the most commonly known among the three: toners.

Toners get a bad rap sometimes, and that’s because they used to be primarily alcohol-based. But, thanks to innovation, there are better toners now on the market, from hydration to oil control!

People usually use toners after the cleansing step, and thus, it is believed to restore the face’s pH balance. Moreover, toners remove any leftover dirt or impurity after cleansing. But this isn’t necessarily true anymore because facial cleansers are now better formulated to remove all dirt!

Toners are essentially used for hydration, brightening, or oil control. They have a very watery consistency.

It’s Time For Essences

Toners and essences get mistaken for each other a lot. But they are very different apart from consistency!

Essences can sometimes be watery or slightly viscous and are often used in face masks. They contain up to two active ingredients that address specific skin concerns.

It’s only going to get confusing from here but bear with us. Some companies label a toner an essence which may contribute to the misunderstanding. But, as a general rule of thumb, essences are like a watered-down version of a serum with fewer ingredients.

Serums, Serums, Serums!

Face serums are a great component of any skincare routine. They are more concentrated than essence and carry more active ingredients. Additionally, a face serum & treatment can have a very milky and gel-like consistency.

You don’t always need serums in your skincare kits, but they can do wonders for your skin! The main downside of serums is that they’re a bit pricier and come in smaller bottles. Are you familiar with those tiny glass bottles with droppers? Yep, those are commonly serums!

The main difference here is that serums are more concentrated. They can either have ample concentrations of niacinamide, glycolic acid, retinol, vitamin C, you name it. Nothing can pamper your skin like a face serum & treatment!

Essence vs. Toner vs. Serum: Do You Really Need All Three?

The short answer is no, but it depends on your skin and preference.

Skincare is also self-care, after all, so if you want to have all three, then, by all means, go for it! However, in terms of skin benefits and health, you’ll survive by incorporating just one or two into your routine.

A common question that’s often asked in skincare is ”how many products should I use?” and with Korea’s 10-step skincare routine, a lot of people might tell you you need a ton. But, the reality is that you only ever need what your skin needs.

There is no definite number of steps or products that everyone needs to follow. Everyone will have varying needs!


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