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What is a Skincare Emulsion?

An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that typically don’t mix well together. Emulsions are used in skincare to help moisturize the skin and keep it hydrated.  Made popular in Korean beauty, emulsions offer many of the same benefits as lotions and creams but with a lighter consistency.

Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion

This blog post will discuss what a skincare emulsion is, what it does for your skin, the difference between emulsions and other hydrators, and how to use emulsions in your skincare routine.

Emulsions offer many benefits and work well with most skin types, so let’s dig in and see how you can incorporate an emulsion into your skincare routine so that it meets your needs.

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What is a Skincare Emulsion?

A skincare emulsion is a lightweight, versatile, water-based skincare product used for hydration and moisture.

Made popular by Korean beauty brands, emulsions offer many of the same benefits as gel, lotion, and cream moisturizers, but with a lighter consistency, so your skin won’t feel oily or greasy after using an emulsion.

An emulsion mixes two dissimilar substances that don’t mix well together, such as oil and water. Additional ingredients are used in emulsions to help the two incompatible components stay together.

In skin care, you will often see emulsions as oil suspended in water-based formulas. The water base helps lighten the product feel and allows them to absorb easily into the skin.

What are the Benefits of Emulsions?

Emulsions work well for locking in moisture, and because they are lightweight like a gel, they help create a moisturized base layer on your skin before you apply other skincare products.

They’re also great as a moisturizing face spray if you don’t want to use an actual moisturizer.

The benefits of emulsions:

  • Provide lightweight moisture
  • Leave no oily residue or thickness on your skin
  • Can easily layer in your skincare routine, since the watery texture is absorbed quickly
  • Usually don’t clog pores or cause acne breakouts
  • Target specific skin concerns depending on the formula

Emulsions are lightweight enough to use in the morning under makeup if you want to add extra hydration that won’t cause your foundation to pill as some creams can.

Some emulsions are made to target specific skincare concerns. While some provide an extra hydration boost for dry skin, others target skin concerns like aging or acne-related issues.

Which Skin Types Can Use Emulsions?

Since emulsions are so lightweight, you’d think that oily skin types would benefit the most from emulsions. Think again. Most skin types can benefit from using emulsions.

Let’s start with the obvious skin type: oily skin. Oily skin can benefit from skincare emulsions since they are so lightweight. Rich and heavy creams can cause problems for oily ( and combination skin, too), like shiny and greasy skin, acne, and breakouts, so emulsions are the perfect alternative.

Acne-prone skin also benefits from emulsions since most emulsions are non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog pores. Clogged pores can lead to breakouts, blemishes, and worsen acne.

Dry skin can benefit from emulsions as an extra boost of hydration and moisture when used under heavier lotions/creams.

Sensitive skin can even benefit from emulsions that are formulated with soothing and calming ingredients.

TIP: Look for added ingredients like hyaluronic acid for dry skin, salicylic acid for oily and acne-prone skin, anti-aging ingredients like glycolic acid for aging and mature skin, and anti-inflammatory ingredients for sensitive skin.

How to Use an Emulsion in Your Skincare Routine?

It’s best to use an emulsion properly so that it’s most effective. In general, you should apply skincare from thinnest consistency to thickest consistency.

Apply an emulsion after cleansing, toning, essence, and serums, but before heavier moisturizers, creams, oils, and sunscreens.

Emulsions will lock in all of the actives underneath, so be sure to apply any serums or treatments like vitamin C or retinol before your emulsion.

Emulsion vs Moisturizer

The main difference between an emulsion and a moisturizer is that an emulsion has more of a watery texture, similar to watery lotion or gel. This makes it easier for your skin to absorb all of its goodness.

Which is better depends on your skin type and skincare needs. If you have oily or acne-prone skin and are looking for very lightweight hydration, an emulsion may be a better choice than a moisturizer.

Related Post: The Best Korean Moisturizers

Emulsion vs Serum

A serum is a skincare product that is formulated with active ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, or retinol that work on the skin to achieve specific results depending on your skincare concerns.

An emulsion’s main purpose is to provide lightweight moisture, so you will probably see more active ingredients in a serum.

Skincare serums are like the workhorse in your skincare routine by providing actives that work on your skin concerns, whereas an emulsion will lock in all of those effective actives in a serum.

A serum is applied first, and an emulsion is applied after your serum.

Emulsion vs Essence

The difference between a skincare emulsion and essence is that an emulsion is more like a watery moisturizer an essence is more like a lightweight serum.

While emulsions may contain ingredients to hydrate the skin, emulsions are usually formulated mainly for moisture, while essences usually contain active ingredients to address certain skincare concerns.

Apply an essence first, then a serum (if using one), and then an emulsion.

Emulsions For Every Skin Type

For Normal Skin: Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion

Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion

Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion is a water-based moisturizer with a lightweight and milky texture.

This emulsion is formulated with super collagen water (hydrolyzed collagen), whose smaller molecular weight penetrates the skin deeply for a burst of moisture. Hydrolyzed lupine protein moisturizes, and vitamin E offers antioxidant protection.

The emulsion moisturizes the skin while keeping it hydrated and plumped all day long for a bouncy and dewy complexion. Please note that this emulsion contains a light fragrance.

For Normal/Dry Skin: Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum Emulsion

Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum Emulsion

Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum Emulsion emulsion contains Jeju green tea extract from Korea’s Jeju Island, which contains 16 hydrating amino acids and offers antioxidant properties.

It has a lightweight lotion consistency that’s ideal for normal and dry skin types, thanks to its ability to provide extended hydration. It’s ideal for use during the day due to the inclusion of antioxidant green tea extract, which protects the skin from damage caused by UV exposure.

This emulsion absorbs easily into the skin for a quick boost of moisture that’s perfect for layering underneath other skincare products. It contains a light, fresh fragrance.

Related Post: Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum Review

For Dry Skin: AHC Aqualuronic Emulsion

AHC Aqualuronic Emulsion

AHC Aqualuronic Emulsion is ideal for dry and dehydrated skin thanks to triple hyaluronic acid in the formula. Three kinds of hyaluronic acid at low-, medium-, and high-molecular weights provide hydration at multiple levels of the skin.

This emulsion contains ceramides and French sea water to hydrate the skin and support a healthy skin barrier. Niacinamide brightens and offers anti-aging benefits. Asiaticoside from the Centella Asiatica plant heals and offers antioxidant benefits.

The watery gel texture of the emulsion is light enough to wear under makeup but moisturizing and hydrating for dehydrated and dry skin. This AHC emulsion contains a mild fragrance.

For Combination, Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: SkinFood Peach Sake Emulsion

SkinFood Peach Sake Emulsion

Skinfood Peach Sake Emulsion is a lightweight emulsion with rice sake and peach extract that lightly hydrates the skin without feeling greasy. It minimizes the look of pores and shiny skin.

SkinFood’s best-selling Peach Sake pore care line is formulated to control excess sebum production and smooth and soften the skin.

The emulsion smells peachy sweet and is loaded with actives to nourish the skin. Licorice root extract brightens the skin. Soybean extract has multiple benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging benefits.

Centella Asiatica extract has anti-inflammatory benefits and moisturizes the skin. Chamomile extract and allantoin soothe the skin.

This emulsion is perfect for combination, oily or acne-prone skin types as it really helps control oil all day.

Related Post: The Best Korean Moisturizers for Oily Skin

For Aging Skin: The Face Shop Heaven Grade Ginseng Regenerating Emulsion

The Face Shop Heaven Grade Ginseng Regenerating Emulsion

The Face Shop Heaven Grade Ginseng Regenerating Emulsion is a firming and anti-wrinkle emulsion made with Korean herbs and flower extracts to rejuvenate the skin.

Korean ginseng and safflower energize and tone the skin, while Gojiberry improves skin radiance and glow. Ginseng has antioxidant benefits, which can help smooth fine lines and wrinkles.

This lightweight moisturizer has a luxurious feel. It provides a layer of hydration, sinks in quickly, and never leaves your skin feeling sticky or tacky. It leaves the skin soft, smooth, and glowing. The emulsion contains a soft white floral ginseng scent.

For Sensitive Skin: Etude House SoonJung 10 Free Moist Emulsion

Etude House SoonJung 10 Free Moist Emulsion

Etude House SoonJung 10 Free Moist Emulsion is a low-irritant moisturizer that relieves sensitive and irritated skin.

This pH-balanced Korean emulsion is free from 10 ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin: synthetic perfume, animal materials, mineral oil, color additives, polyacrylamide, silicone oil, imidazolidinyl urea, triethanolamine, PEG surfactant, and parabens.

This soothing emulsion is formulated with calming panthenol and madecassoside, which makes it perfect for irritated and fragile skin dealing with a weakened or compromised skin barrier. It also contains squalane for lightweight hydration and green tea extract for its antioxidant protection.

The hypoallergenic formula hydrates and moisturizes the skin without leaving it feeling greasy. Plus, it’s noncomedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.


Emulsions are a great option in the warmer summer months or year-round as additional hydration for dry skin or a single layer of weightless moisture for oily and acne prone skin.

Whether you use an emulsion in a 10-Step Korean skincare routine or a skincare routine with only a few steps, an emulsion is a quick way to add lightweight moisture to your skin. Just keep in mind your skin type and the skin issues you want to target.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, here’s to your good skin health!