One question I get all the time: What essence/ serum/ ampoule do I use for my skin?
The simple answer would be to decide what your skin needs, and then choosing a treatment that suits this need. Think of your essence/ serum/ ampoule as a treatment step — this is where you address your problems in a targeted and efficient manner.
After identifying your skin needs, you have to acquaint yourself with the right active ingredients to answer your problems. Here’s a quick rundown of how to use your essence/ serum/ ampoule effectively, and how to choose the right one for your skin.
Note: this post will not talk about acids and chemical exfoliation. That’s another topic for another day!
When do I use my essence/ serum/ ampoule, and what are these skincare products exactly?
These days, you’ll find treatment steps being marketed under myriad different names — essences, first care essences, skins, serums, ampoules, treatment serums, lotions, etc. Just think of it as the treatment step in your beauty routine, and you should be golden.
Use your treatments after toner and before moisturiser, unless the bottle states something else (for eg, a first care AHA essence should go on before toner). If you’re using a sheet mask that day, either put your serum on before your sheet mask, or skip serum that day, since sheet masks function as super powerful essences/ serums anyway.
Glow tip: Use your essences/ serums/ ampoules together with regular exfoliation. When you slough off your dead surface skin, you increase the efficacy and absorption of your treatment product, and can go on to achieve the best glow of your life!
Note: Since an essence/ serum/ ampoule by any other name is just as sweet, I’ll be using the word ‘serum’ to refer to all treatment products for the rest of this post.
Ingredient Spotlight #1: Hyaluronic acid for starters
What is Hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies that replenishes and repairs skin, leading to elastic, bright, luminous skin. Hyaluronic acid is famous for being able to hold 1,000 times its weight in water. This means it has tremendous ability to lock moisture into your skin, giving it a youthful appearance.
Who should use Hyaluronic acid?
I think everyone should use it! It’s a great serum for anyone, whether you have dry/ sensitive/ combo skin. If you’re looking for all-round awesomeness, get yourself some Hyaluronic acid pronto.
Favourite Hyaluronic acid serums:
Hyaluronic acid is a moisturising ingredient commonly found in skincare products, so even if your serum isn’t called a “Hyaluronic acid serum”, chances are it’s in there somewhere. Look out it on your ingredients list as Hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate.
- MD Dermatics, Hydraboost Serum, $128
- The Ordinary, Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 serum, $17
- DrGL, Collagen Essence, $198 (If you don’t mind spluring, this has the cleanest ingredients list here, and is a beautiful elegant formula)
- Now Foods, Hyaluronic Acid Serum (If you don’t wanna spend too much, this is a great place to start)
Ingredient Spotlight #2: Snail mucin for anti-aging
What is snail mucin?
Before you say yucks, let me assure you that there are so many benefits in snail products that you’ll soon be slathering that stuff all over your body. Snail slime is basically nature’s hyaluronic acid, and contains incredible glyoproteins and antimicrobial peptides that will soothe, heal, moisturise, firm, and brighten skin.
There are also NO ACTUAL SNAILS in your snail mucin products. Snail products use snail slime (those trials snails leave behind when they’re gliding), and extraction is done naturally and in a cruelty-free manner. No snails would’ve been harmed in the process of making your skincare.
Who should use snail products?
Um, anyone who doesn’t want to age should call upon the power of snails to prevent and treat skin damage associated with ageing. It seems like there’s nothing snails cannot do — they treat a wide range of problems including dry skin, wrinkles and stretch marks, acne and rosacea, age spots, sunspots, and pigmentation, and are even known to reduce old scars and promote healing.
Chances are, you have one of the above problems. So get your snail fix ASAP.
Favourite snail serum: As far as I know, there’s only one snail essence to rule them all, and that is the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. It costs ~$22, and contains a mind-blowing 96% of snail secretion for super intense healing and hydration.
Ingredient Spotlight #3: Propolis for balancing
What is propolis?
I’m sure you are familiar with honey, so I’ll talk about propolis here. Propolis, also known as ‘bee glue’, is produced by bees to protect their baby bee chambers and act as a natural disinfectant against bacteria. Thus, propolis when used in skincare has incredible antibacterial, antiseptic, antioxidant, healing, restorative and rejuvenating properties.
Who should use propolis products?
Anyone with problematic and unbalanced skin that needs repairing and soothing. Problems arise when your skin’s moisture barrier is compromised, and that’s where propolis comes in to restore and heal your skin.
Favourite propolis serums:
- LJH, Vita-Propolis Ampoule (Contains 50% propolis! Add a 1-2 drops of this into your favourite essence, moisturiser, or even your BB cream)
- Banila Co, Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil
Ingredient Spotlight #4: Vitamin C for healing
What is Vitamin C?
You’re probably already familiar with the edible form of Vitamin C, and its skincare benefits are similar. Vitamin C, when topically applied on skin, help prevent and treat UV and sun-induced photodamage. Its role in boosting collagen production also makes it a good treatment if you’re looking to heal your skin.
Who should use Vitamin C products?
If you have sunspots, pigmentation, or scars that need to go away. When used in the day under sunscreen, Vitamin C serums help to protect your skin from further damage throughout the day. Since using Vitamin C with my sunscreen religiously, I’ve noticed not only that my pigmentation is fading, but also that I’ve not gotten any new spots!
Note that Vitamin C has a ‘maximum absorption’ rule, so it is recommended to use Vitamin C serums once a day, since any excess cannot be absorbed by the skin.
Favourite Vitamin C serums:
Ingredient Spotlight #5: Niacinamide, aka Vitamin B3, for ultimate glow
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is more or less the beauty industry’s darling these days. There seems to be nothing that Niacinamide cannot do — it boosts skin immunity, restores your moisture barrier, reduces redness and irritation of skin, balances out oil production, protects skin from infrared light (which then activates free radicals), reduces hyperpigmentation, and erases fine lines and wrinkles.
Who should use Niacinamide?
I love Niacinamide because I find it the most reflective of my skin philosophy — that of prevention > cure. If you use a serum with Niacinamide in it, you won’t only be seeing less irritated, and stronger skin, but you’ll find your barrier remaining strong enough to ward off future damage.
In fact, all the actives I’ve listed above are about prevention > cure, but Niacinamide has a special place in my heart because of the glow it gives my skin. No highlighters needed — just this.
Favourite Niacinamide serums:
Because Niacinamide is so popular, it’s present in many products. You can add a layer of Niacinamide serum to your other serums (yes, by all means, layer away), or you can use serums that contain Niacinamide together with other actives.
- The Ordinary, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
- LJH, Vita-Propolis Ampoule
- Holy Snails, Shark Sauce (One of my ultimate HGs)
You can check out this insane list of products known to contain a high level of Niacinamide to go beyond serums. Yes, redditors are that crazy about the ingredient.
Note: Do not use Niacinamide in conjunction with any Vitamin C products. The resulting chemical reaction will result in alarming redness and flushing on your skin.
So that’s what I have for now! There are a ton of other ingredients you can use to treat your skin, so I’ll follow up with a Part 2 soon.
In the meantime, check out our spanking new Glossary to become a pro at reading ingredients lists and understanding what to use on you skin!
What are your favourite ingredients, and how do you like to use them?
Love and light,