There is a reason why K-beauty has some of the most sought-after products out there. The innovation in products, techniques and ingredients brought on by K-beauty experts has transformed the idea of skincare for many. And no, we don't just mean the 10-step routines that satisfy lovers of OTT skincare! We also mean the new product formulations that can help simplify existing complex routines.
One such section of K-beauty that has attracted lovers of minimal formulations is emulsion skincare - combining the hydrating properties of a serum and the moisturising properties of a cream, emulsions are the new 'IT' staple for everyday skincare.
We have detailed everything you need to know about emulsions below…
- What is emulsion
- Benefits of emulsion skincare
- Who can use emulsion skincare
- Where should emulsions be applied in a skincare routine
- How to make the most of your emulsion skincare
- Emulsions vs Lotions - Explained
- Emulsions vs serums - Explained
- FAQs about emulsion
What is emulsion
The technical definition of an emulsion includes a state of matter where two liquids that do not mix are combined into a lightweight and watery suspension. In skincare, emulsions are created by combining two water-based compounds to form a milky textured product that doesn't ever fully mix. They feel super light, go on your skin smoothly and offer the benefits of serums and moisturisers without feeling too heavy or greasy at the same time.
This is why people with oily and acne-prone skin have started to put their trust in emulsions - they feel almost non-existent on their skin, but are extremely hydrating. There is quite frankly no other product right now that can mimic the action of emulsions, making it an essential item that you need to know about.
Benefits of emulsion skincare
The main idea behind emulsions is to add an instant boost of hydration to your skin. An emulsifier is added to emulsions in order to make the two liquids bond and maintain the final texture and consistency. Some of these common emulsifiers are ones that you are already familiar with - Cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, and polysorbate 60. This unique formulation affords these major benefits -
- Emulsions lightly deliver hydrating compounds to your skin without feeling too oily or greasy like a thicker cream or face oil might feel.
- They are non-comedogenic in nature, meaning they will not clog your pores and lead to acne or breakouts.
- They have a very speedy absorption, making them ideal for a busy skincare routine where you need smudge-proof products and be shine-free on the go.
- They can be formulated with other active ingredients like salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid and mandelic acid to target specific skin concerns like acne, dryness and exfoliation respectively.
- They can help strengthen your skin’s lipid barrier to inhibit transepidermal moisture loss caused due to environmental factors like humidity and harsh climates.
Who can use emulsion skincare
Unlike other innovative formulations like ampoules or chemical exfoliators, emulsions can be used by every skin type, especially sensitive and blemish-prone ones. There are no additives in emulsions that can exacerbate any current skin condition of yours, thus making it safe to be added in both AM and PM routines for all skin types.
Having said that, there are some skin types that benefit more from emulsions because of their almost gel or water-like finish. Acne-prone skin that is in need of hydration, but breaks out easily because of heavy formulas can use emulsions to remedy that. They are also a good alternative for heavier creams and serums for oily and combination skin types.
Where should emulsions be applied in a skincare routine
K-beauty relies a lot on the right layering of products in order to make the most of them, and emulsions are no different. The ideal spot of an emulsion in a skincare routine varies from person to person. If you are someone who is using only an emulsion for moisturisation, it should be applied before the final step of your skincare product, which is the sunscreen. If you are using an emulsion as a hydrator, use it before your actual moisturiser.
Some people also like to sandwich their active ingredients, like a retinol serum, in the order of emulsion-serum-moisturizer, to counter the irritating effects of the ingredient and seal it in as well. Just make sure you are not applying your emulsion after a very heavy product as that will render it almost useless!
How to make the most of your emulsion skincare
Given the lightweight texture of emulsions, you will need to upgrade your cleansing and exfoliation routine for them to work better. Emulsions will get better absorbed on skin that does not contain a lot of dirt, oil and product buildup. A good tip to use is to opt for the double cleansing method of washing your face. Start with an oil cleanser to break down oil, makeup and sunscreen on your skin and then wash it off with a foamy cleanser.
Also, make sure to use chemical exfoliation at least once a week to slough off stubborn dead skin cells that can hinder the work of emulsions in your routine.
Emulsions vs Lotions - Explained
A common misconception that many have is that emulsions are just a fancier version of lightweight lotions and both can be used interchangeably. The reality is that the two offer distinctive benefits to your skin. Lightweight lotions work to penetrate the surface of your skin and soften it. On the other hand, an emulsion works as a moisture barrier on your skin to lock in the nutrients you add from other products.
Which means that, while emulsions can be used on their own, lotions have to be layered on with a barrier-boosting product to keep delivering nourishment to your skin. Lotions are also slightly thicker in consistency as compared to emulsions, making the two totally different kinds of products to be used in a skincare routine.
Emulsions vs serums - Explained
Another common mistake that people tend to make is to replace serums with emulsions at the same point in their skincare routine. While emulsions are slightly thicker than serums, they are less potent in their formulation. Even though emulsions can contain actives like salicylic and hyaluronic acid, they cannot fully replace serums.
Also, serums are meant as a treatment for your skin while emulsions are hydrators that may or may not help treat specific conditions like acne or excessive dryness.
FAQs about emulsion
Q. Can emulsions work on dry and mature skin?
A. If a texture is not your priority, the extremely hydrating nature of emulsions have shown good results in people with dry and mature skin as well. This is because excessively dry and mature skin needs an added dose of hydration to help maintain the health of their skin. Emulsions are often layered with thicker creams or face oils to help alleviate skin dehydration and keep the moisture locked in the skin for long hours.
Q. Can you use essences and emulsions interchangeably?
A. No, essences and emulsions differ in terms of the benefits they provide and their textural consistency. While essences are lighter and are applied after a cleanser and toner, emulsions are ideally the last moisturising step in your routine. An essence is used to quickly add a dose of hydration to skin that has been recently cleansed and may not be needed on an everyday basis. But if an emulsion is the only form of moisturiser you use, it should be used on a daily basis.
Written by Sumona Bose on Oct 26, 2021
Sumona Bose is a writer, skincare junkie and a self-professed makeup connoisseur. Equipped with a Master's degree in Fashion Management and over 3 years of experience writing in the beauty and fashion space, her passion for learning new things has no bounds. Working closely with dermatologists, beauty excerpts, makeup artists and hairstylists, she brings you the best of all things beauty. From trending skincare ingredients to makeup looks that help you slay, she manages to bring something new (and vital!) to our readers every single time. Her hobbies include home workouts, watching foreign films and binge-watching makeover shows!