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Skin Care Emulsion – Complete Guide

by Gabbi

Korean and Japanese skincare practices are quickly impacting the Western world of beauty. These K-Beauty and J-Beauty skincare routines are in-depth and sometimes even consist of ten or more products in a regimen.

However, most of these K-Beauty and J-Beauty practices can completely transform your skin. The skincare industry is now growing faster than ever, and we all want the next best thing to keep our skin healthy, hydrated, and youthful.

We’ve seen various products gain popularity from Asian beauty practices like essences, sheet masks, sunscreen cushions, and more. However, the next Asian beauty product making waves are emulsions; an ultra-hydrating step in a regimen.

What is skin care emulsion? Emulsions are a step in between a serum and moisturizer. They are almost like a serum-moisturizer hybrid with a unique creamy and liquidy texture. Emulsions are lightweight and keep the skin hydrated.

Emulsions can help take your skincare routine to the next level because they offer numerous benefits for the skin. All skin types can use an emulsion. So, what else makes emulsions so unique, and how can you use them in your routine?

What Is Emulsion Skincare?

Usually, when we think of an emulsion, we think of liquids that don’t mix together, like water and oil. 

However, what is an emulsion in skincare? It’s a lightweight moisturizing liquid with its own unique texture, and you can even find it in a gel formula.

Emulsions are a cross between a serum and a moisturizer. For example, they are thicker and less concentrated than a serum but thinner and more watery than a moisturizer. Nevertheless, its primary goal is to soothe and hydrate the skin.

Emulsion Vs. Moisturizer

What are the differences between moisturizers and emulsions? Moisturizers usually have a thick, creamy consistency. They nourish and keep the skin moisturized and help balance oil production, texture, and the skin barrier. 

An emulsion is essentially a lightweight moisturizing water cream. It’s much runnier in texture than a moisturizer, but it seamlessly absorbs into the skin without feeling heavy. Also, emulsions are water-based and offer the skin nutrients.

Emulsions can hydrate the face by themselves, or they can add extra benefits to your moisturizer.

Emulsion Vs. Serum

Now you may be wondering what makes an emulsion different from a serum? First, emulsions are thicker than serum. Emulsions are available in many different textures, depending on your skin’s needs.

For example, if hydration is what you seek, you might opt for a creamier emulsion or one that has a gel consistency. However, if you are oily, you might like a more watery emulsion or one that contains a few active ingredients.

Besides their differences in textures, emulsions aren’t concentrated as serums. Instead, serums will contain various active ingredients at a high percentage to benefit the skin.

Emulsions can also have active ingredients, but they won’t be as potent as a serum. 

Emulsion Vs. Essence 

Essence is another popular product and step in K-Beauty skincare routines. Like serums and emulsions, essences can offer numerous benefits to the skin, depending on its needs. However, what makes an essence different from an emulsion?

Emulsions are a lightweight, water-based moisturizer, and essences are another moisturizing component that prep the skin for better absorption of serums and moisturizers. 

Essences are used after cleansing/toning and before serums/emulsions.

Benefits Of Emulsions

Surprisingly enough, emulsions are a multifunctional skincare product, and almost everyone can find a place for it in their beauty regimen. While emulsions are lightweight and a liquidy-moisturizer, they can also contain active ingredients.

Depending on your needs, you can find an emulsion to hydrate and heal irritated skin, or you can find one that gently exfoliates the skin and soothes acne-prone skin. 

Emulsions can be more versatile than you’d think. So what other benefits do they provide?

Balance Skin’s pH 

Most Korean and Japanese beauty products will list the pH level of their items. It can be highly beneficial to know your product’s pH level to ensure it pairs well with other items in your skincare routine and that it won’t exasperate your skin.

However, some emulsions on the market can balance your skin’s pH level. When your pH levels are balanced, your skin barrier is happy and healthy. In addition, pH-balanced skin will help achieve a youthful, even, and plump complexion.

Soothe Acne 

Emulsions are typically calming skincare products, which are particularly good for acne-prone skin. As mentioned earlier, emulsions can be formulated with various ingredients to target what your skin needs the most help healing. 

For example, some emulsions can contain gentle BHAs to treat acne from within the skin and exfoliate. 

Because emulsions are extra hydrating, they can still moisturize oily and acne-prone skin without clogging the pores. Now you can kiss blemishes goodbye!

Keep Oil Production At Bay 

A big misconception regarding oily skin is that they don’t need to moisturize. Most people think that oil is the same as moisture when they’re different. Oily skin still needs to be moisturized to combat oil production.

However, not everyone wants to wear a thick cream. Emulsions will suit oily skin types because they will keep the skin hydrated without leaving a greasy feeling on the skin. 

Emulsions are water-based and fast-absorbing, making them ideal for nourishing oily skin types and keeping oil production at bay. 

Brighten Your Complexion

Did you know that emulsions can help guide your skin to achieving a brighter complexion? We mentioned numerous times that emulsions could contain other ingredients besides moisturizing properties to heal and treat your skin. 

For example, you can opt for an emulsion that contains vitamin C. Vitamin C is not only a superhero vitamin, but it’s also an antioxidant that can fight dark spots, free radicals, and signs of aging. Your skin will look and feel supple. 

Heal Your Skin Barrier 

We mentioned earlier that emulsions could balance your skin’s pH levels. When the skin’s pH levels are balanced, it can also produce a healthy skin barrier. You want your skin barrier to remain intact to fight irritation or inflammation. 

When the skin barrier isn’t nourished, it can lead to various uncomfortable symptoms like impurities, redness, texture, acne, and more. 

Emulsions can contain barrier-repairing ingredients like ceramides to keep irritation at bay and lock in hydration.

Boost Your Moisturizer 

Emulsions are versatile and multifunctional. So, an emulsion can be used on its own or before your moisturizer. This benefit is helpful for those with dry or dehydrated skin. Emulsions can be another hydrating step to prevent water loss.

Some emulsions can even be mixed into your moisturizer for extra nourishment. It will all depend on your emulsion, formula, and recommended use. Some emulsions need to be layered before moisturizer, and others can even be mixed with face oil.

Regardless, emulsions can aid your moisturizer and offer intense hydration when paired together. 

Can All Skin Types Use Emulsions?

You may be surprised to hear that all skin types can benefit from an emulsion. 

The trick is to find one that will work the best for you! A serum can be formulated with specific active ingredients, and so can an emulsion. However, it will be less concentrated.

Later on, we will mention all the different ways you can use an emulsion. While they can benefit almost everyone, they accommodate dry, mature, acne-prone, and oily skin types the most.

Emulsions can quench and treat the skin when it’s needed.


It might be surprising that a moisturizing product would benefit oily and acne-prone skin. When we think of skin that lacks moisture, we usually think of dry or mature skin. However, oily and acne-prone skin needs moisture for multiple reasons.

An emulsion will keep oil production at bay, reduce the appearance of blemishes, and help strengthen the skin barrier. It provides all of these benefits without clogging the pores or leaving a thick residue on the skin.


Emulsions can also infuse the skin with multiple anti-aging properties. 

These anti-aging properties will improve the skin’s elasticity and firmness. Mature skin can also be prone to feeling drying, so it will receive the hydrating benefits of an emulsion. 

You’ll find that some emulsions are formulated with collagen water to increase the skin’s elasticity. Emulsions can contain antioxidants to combat signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles as well.


If you find that your skin is severely dry, you can benefit from using an emulsion. Emulsions will heal dehydrated skin too. However, emulsions will be especially helpful for dry skin when they are paired with a moisturizer.

Layering an emulsion with a moisturizer will allow dry skin to reap benefits from both products and prevent water loss. Emulsions can infuse the skin with additional nourishing properties lacking in a moisturizer.


We’ve mentioned numerous times that emulsions can balance your skin’s pH levels and strengthen your skin barrier. This is fantastic for sensitive skin. Emulsions that are soothing and have barrier-repairing properties can minimize irritation.

When Can You Use An Emulsion?

Emulsions can fit virtually anywhere in your routine. However, the best way to incorporate an emulsion into your skincare routine is by following the directions on your product. Emulsions are generally safe to use morning and night. 


If you like to keep things quick and minimal in the morning, you will love an emulsion. Emulsions will infuse your skin with hydration and nutrients, and they will layer perfectly under sunscreen. Just two skincare steps and you’re out the door!


If your emulsion contains active ingredients like a chemical exfoliant, it may be best to use it at night. Also, this will be an excellent time to pair your emulsion with a serum. It will give you the best of both worlds. 

Then you can add a moisturizer if your skin needs it.


Most emulsions are safe enough to be applied daily. However, emulsions can also be used as a nourishing or hydrating treatment. You can add this product into your routine a couple of times a week or whenever your skin needs some TLC.

How To Apply Emulsions 

Most of us agree that applying a new skincare product to the face is exciting and relaxing. So, how can you use an emulsion on the face? We mentioned earlier that emulsions are a versatile and multifunctional product.

You can use emulsions in numerous ways, and it will depend on your skin type and needs to find the best method for you. Through testing application methods, you’ll see what your skin loves the most! 

After Serums, Before Moisturizers

A general rule of thumb is to apply your emulsion between serum and moisturizer. Layering is essential in skin care because you want all your products to work efficiently, and sometimes products can reduce the efficacy of others.

So, add your serums, and when they are absorbed into the skin, add your emulsion. Finally, seal it in with a moisturizer.

Under Sunscreen

Because emulsions are weightless and fast-absorbing, they will work wonderfully with most sunscreens. Sunscreens can also be thick and heavy, so using another thick moisturizer underneath won’t be ideal, especially for oily/acne-prone skin.

As A Spot-Treat 

Emulsions also make an excellent spot treatment. Rather than treating blemishes, using an emulsion as a spot treatment can add boosts of nourishment to areas of the face that need it the most. This will work beautifully for combination skin types.

Mixed In Face Oil 

We mentioned earlier that emulsions could be mixed into moisturizers to boost their effectiveness and nutrients. However, some emulsions can even be mixed into facial oil. Face oils do a fantastic job at sealing in all your skincare as the last step.

However, face oils don’t offer moisture. Instead, they lock in the moisture that is already on the face. So adding an emulsion to a face oil will ensure your skin gets all the necessary hydrating components it needs while also sealing it in with the oil. 

As A Final Step 

Emulsions can also be applied entirely by themselves without a moisturizer. 

Some emulsions are even designed to be the last step in your skincare routine. However, it’s crucial to remember that emulsions give the skin hydrating and nutritional elements.

If you are particularly oily, you might fall in love with this method of applying emulsions. Your skin gets the moisture it needs while also keeping oil production and acne flare-ups at bay. 

As Directed By Your Product 

If you are still feeling overwhelmed about adding an emulsion into your skincare routine, follow the directions! Every brand will provide step-by-step instructions on how you can incorporate an emulsion into your routine without fail.

You can also seek advice from a dermatologist to see what kind of emulsion will be best for you and how you can apply it to the skin. While emulsions are generally soothing products, you can also perform a patch test to avoid irritations. 

Patch tests are great if you use a chemical exfoliant or other active ingredients and you want to make sure an emulsion will pair well with your other products. Using your emulsion as directed on the labels will ensure you avoid any skin mishaps.

Overall, emulsions are lovely products to nourish the skin. They are also prevalent in K-Beauty and J-Beauty practices. Will you be adding one to your beauty regimen?

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