What is Emulsion Skin Care? The K Beauty Secret To Glass Skin

what is emulsion skin care
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Emulsions are a secret weapon in the k-beauty world for glowing, dewy skin. They are light, hydrating, and can help improve your complexion, giving you that coveted “glass skin” look.

If you’re not sure whether emulsions are right for you, keep reading to learn more about who should use them and how to incorporate them into your skincare routine!

What is Emulsion Skin Care?

An emulsion is essentially two “unmixable” liquids, such as water and oil, that have been combined into a fine distribution of minute droplets bound by an emulsifying wax.

Korean emulsions are typically oil in water. This means the oil particles in the formula are surrounded by water, making the lotion feel moist and less greasy.

This also allows the lotion to be easily absorbed into the skin without leaving any oily residue.

Understanding exactly what an emulsion is, helps us to better understand what emulsion skin care is.

Emulsion skin care is a step commonly found in Korean beauty routines in which a lightweight water-based emulsion cream is applied. This is generally one of the last steps in a K Beauty regimen, applied after cleansing, toning, and serums, but before a heavier cream or SPF.

Applying an emulsion to the skin helps to seal in all the previous steps of your routine, providing an extra layer of hydration and protection.

So now that we know what emulsions are, let’s take a look at why you should be using them daily.

What Are the Benefits of Emulsions Skin Care?

There are several reasons to add an emulsion to your skincare routine.  Here are five of the most valuable benefits:

1.  Emulsions provide an extra boost of hydration to your skin but don’t leave it feeling greasy or oily like many thicker creams would.

2.  They are usually non-comedogenic, which means they won’t clog your pores or cause acne.

3.  Most importantly, emulsions absorb with ease into the deep layers of the skin. Chemically speaking, oil molecules are generally too large to deeply penetrate the skin barrier while water molecules are small and can be effortlessly absorbed.

In emulsions, the oil particles are encapsulated by water which allows the formula to easily infiltrate the deeper layers of the skin and carry fortifying nutrients right along with it. 

4.  This speedy absorption, also makes emulsions ideal for a busy skincare routine where you need to be smudge-proof.

5.  The lightweight nature of emulsions also makes them perfect for those with oily skin.  Oftentimes, skin is oily because it is dehydrated and is overproducing sebum (our skin’s natural oil). 

Adding a nongreasy moisturizer like an emulsion can help curb this vicious cycle. Because they absorb quickly, leaving no greasy residue behind, they are a perfect solution for keeping your skin hydrated without the shine. 

It’s obvious that emulsions are a super beneficial addition to your beauty regimen.  Now let’s find out how to incorporate it into your daily routine.

what is emulsion skin care

How Do You Use an Emulsion?

An emulsion should be applied after cleansing and before applying makeup but there are several steps that can and should be included in between.  In a typical Korean beauty routine, these steps include the following:

Step 1 – Oil Based Cleanser

Because oil and water repel each other, a water-based cleanser will not efficiently remove all of the oil-based contaminants on your skin. The best cleanser for removing oils, SPF, makeup, and natural sebum is one that is oil-based

Step 2- Water Based Cleanser

A water-based cleanser is often a foaming or gel-based product that will wash away dirt and sweat left over after your oil-based cleanser.

Step 3- Use an Exfoliant

This step involves utilizing a chemical or physical exfoliant to free the skin of dead skin cells. This will help to keep the pores clear and boost overall skin radiance.

Don’t overdo it! Exfoliants can be irritating. Start with applying this step just once per week and build on it as your skin adjusts.

Step 4 – Apply a Toner

Using a toner or mist will nurture and prepare your skin to absorb your serum.  Moist skin makes it 10 times more permeable than dry skin, so this is a critical step in your routine.

Step 5- Apply an Essence

Essences are a unique step in Korean skincare They’re crafted with fermented ingredients to help moisturize and protect the skin.  Many essences also contain ingredients like antioxidants and vitamins that can help to brighten dull skin.

Step 6– Apply Facial Serum

Serums often have a high concentration of active ingredients used to target specific skin concerns such as hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, or acne. 

Some serums should not be used daily depending on the ingredients.  If you are using retinol and glycolic acid, they should be alternated daily  Read this article to find out more about how to use these serums together. 

Step 7-Apply A Sheet Mask

This is another step in Korean skincare that does not need to be done every day. A sheet mask is a paper mask saturated in active ingredients that you will lay over your face for 10-20 minutes.

Step 8- Apply an Eye Cream/Oil

These creams or oils are designed to target the delicate skin around our eyes. These formulas promise to help with darkness, puffiness, and fine lines. They often include active ingredients like hyaluronic acid or caffeine to hydrate, stimulate blood flow, and reduce inflammation.

Step 9– Apply Moisturizer 

This is when you would apply your emulsion lotion/cream all over your face and neck.  If you have dry skin you may also want to layer on a heavier cream that will create a stronger barrier to prevent moisture loss.

Step 10- Apply SPF

Many serum ingredients will make skin more susceptible to sun damage, so for the morning routine, following up with sunscreen is critical in Korean skincare.

Do Emulsions Work For All Skin Types?

Emulsions do work for every skin type but if you have dry skin you will probably want to add a heavier cream at night after your emulsion.  

As mentioned previously, emulsions are a perfect solution for oily and combination skin due to their hydrating and non-oily properties. 

Emulsions can also work well for sensitive skin depending on the ingredients.  Be sure to look for a hypoallergenic formula with minimal ingredients and free from the following: alcohol, fragrance, essential oils, dimethicone, mineral oil, parabens, PEGS, and synthetic colors

Best Emulsions For Each Skin Type:

Here are our recommended emulsions:  

Emulsion for Oily Skin:

Skin Food Peach Sake Emulsion

This light, refreshing emulsion is specifically developed for oily skin to control sebum and tighten pores. The result is a matte complexion that looks healthy and balanced.

Emulsion for Acne-Prone Skin:

Skinfood Peach Cotton Emulsion

This lightweight, mattifying formula is also perfect for oily skin types. It won’t clog your pores, and it’s great for acne-prone skin.

Emulsion for Sensitive Skin:

Avene Tolerance Extreme Emulsion

Avene Tolerance Extreme Emulsion,

A minimalist formula that contains only six ingredients. This light lotion is designed to soothe and protect sensitive skin, and it’s free of fragrances, parabens, and other potential irritants. 

Emulsion for Dry skin:

It’s’S SKIN Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Emulsion 

Formulated with hyaluronic acid which is known for its ability to hold on to moisture, this emulsion provides intensive all-day hydration, leaving your skin feeling soft, smooth, and supple. 

Emulsion for Normal Skin:

ETUDE SoonJung 10 Free Moist Emulsion

This hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic emulsion is suitable for all skin types, and it works to soften, hydrate, and protect your skin. The light, refreshing formula is quickly absorbed, leaving your skin feeling refreshed and looking radiant.


Which is better emulsion or moisturizer?

Emulsions are a great choice for those with oily or acne-prone skin as they are light and non-greasy. They can also be beneficial for those with dry skin, as they help to lock in moisture, but you may need a heavier cream to increase hydration.  If you have normal skin, you may find that emulsions or moisturizers work equally well for you. It really comes down to personal preference.

Is emulsion the same as serum?

No, emulsions and serums are not the same. Emulsions are typically water-based and help to hydrate and lock in moisture on the skin. Serums, on the other hand, can be oil-based or water-based and are designed to penetrate deep into the skin to deliver active ingredients targeting a variety of skin concerns from hyperpigmentation to acne. 

Can emulsions be used as a toner?

No, emulsions are not typically used as toners. Toners are designed to balance Ph and remove excess oil and impurities from the skin, while emulsions are meant to hydrate and lock in moisture.

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