Every skincare junkie wants one thing, and one thing only: clear, radiant, fantasy-flawless skin. Turns out, that doesn’t have to be pipe dream—you’ll just need to go beyond the basics. Here’s where essences, serums, and ampoules—the workhorses of Korean skincare—come in. Below, we spell out the differences between these K-beauty superstars.

For good skin, hydration should be your No. 1 priority—and proper hydration begins with essence. These thin, watery solutions are packed with vitamins and moisturizing ingredients. Their job is simple: to prep your skin for serums and ampoules, allowing it to absorb skincare like a sponge.

ORDER OF APPLICATION: After toner and before serum

TRY: Benton Fermentation Essence, P1,100

Serums are hyper-concentrated solutions that target specific skin issues. As soon as they’re applied, these viscous liquids absorb quickly into the skin. And because they’re packed with very high levels of active ingredients, serums can deliver visible results much faster than regular skin creams.

ORDER OF APPLICATION: After essence

TRY: DewyTree Ultra Vitalizing Snail Serum, P3,950

Think of ampoules as serums on steroids. They’re almost identical to serums, except ampoules contain a superior concentration of actives. In short, they’re more potent, and should only be used if necessary. Whenever a recurring skin problem rears its ugly head, these are the potions you reach for to placate it.

ORDER OF APPLICATION: After essence and before serum, only when needed

TRY: Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule, P1,250

WHY YOU NEED THEM

One word: customization. Essences, serums, and ampoules give your skin TLC with a laser-like focus. This means you can select, match, and layer them to fit your unique skin type. Whether it’s acne, sun spots, sagging skin, or a Pandora’s box of problems you’re struggling with, there’s nothing these solutions can’t fix.

For more cool stories and members-only perks, sign up for BeautyMNL!