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Let's Talk Hydration: Essence vs Serum

March 19, 2021

Let's Talk Hydration: Essence vs Serum

Dehydrated skin is often misdiagnosed or over treated in skincare. Many think it requires piling on heavy-duty moisturizers. But that may not be the best approach. Not all dehydrated skin is classified as dry. Skin that is both dry and oily is actually evidence of chronically dehydrated skin.

Let's look at more ways to hydrate the skin.

Internal methods such as increasing your water intake will improve skin hydration, and eating high water content foods (fruits and veggies) help hydrate skin. External methods such as using a humidifier when the air is excessively dry and avoiding long hot showers will prevent dry skin. And, of course, protecting the skin from harmful UV will help the skin retain hydration. 

But my favorite way to topically rehydrate the skin is with the application of essence and/or serum. Understanding the difference between an essence and a serum will help you choose what is right for your skin. 


If you've been following me, you may recall I show you how to do a 7 Skins Treatment for extreme hydration using my favorite essence called HYALBut let's get to the bottom of how these two products (essence vs. serum) differ and how to use them

On the surface, you might think an essence is the same thing as a serum, but it's not.

What is an Essence?

An essence is always clear and feels more like water because its primary ingredient will be water, or water-like ingredients, for immediate hydrating benefits. An essence may have a hint of viscosity but will still feel watery. An essence will contain active ingredients, such as various forms of hyaluronic acid, as well as other healing and nourishing ingredients in a super lightweight water-based formula

More is Better with an Essence

Because an essence is so lightweight, it will rarely suffocate or overtreat the skin and can be used in super hydrating treatments like 7 Skins Treatment.

What is a Serum?

A serum is a product with a high concentration of active ingredients with a formula designed to treat a specific issue like dark spots, brightening, damaged skin, or advanced anti-aging.

While a serum feels lighter than a moisturizer in viscosity, it is much more powerful than a moisturizer. Because most serums typically are not for the purpose of hydration, they must be followed with a moisturizer. Some high-performance serums will offer hydration, but it should still be followed with a moisturizer to balance skin.

More is Not Better with a Serum

Overuse of a serum (applying too much in an application) can have an adverse effect and create irritation and dryness. This is because ingredients are in a concentrated form and will *work* the skin. For this reason, use serums sparingly. Most often, a pea-size amount is enough in the area you are treating. Always follow the instructions on the container because they are written based on the formula inside the container.

How to Use an Essence and a Serum 

Since both essence and serum can target similar skin concerns but with different formulas, knowing WHAT you want to treat is where you start. 

Next is choosing an essence or a serum containing the active ingredients necessary to treat your particular needs.  

And finally, you may want to use a serum when the skin condition is more severe or more advanced anti-aging is required.

Using an essence may be a better choice if you have a less severe condition or sensitive skin. 

TIP: Using both an essence and a serum can help the serum penetrate better and therefore improve the benefits of the serum. 

Choosing one or the other, or both is a decision unique to each person's skin and needs. Experimenting and adjusting usage is the best way to find out what works for you. Pay attention to how your skin responds and give products time to work by using them at least 4 - 6 weeks. However, if your skin has an adverse reaction to any product, stop using it immediately.  

On days you don't want to use a heavy serum, a plentiful application of essence will deliver hydrating, nourishing, healthy benefits. TIP: Never go outside without sun protection.

For days you want the full treatment, you can use a serum, or both a serum and an essence. It's up to you.

The order in which to apply these products is:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Apply any prescribed medicinal
  3. Essence
  4. Serum(s)
  5. Moisturizer
  6. Sun protection


The only exception to this rule is when using NeoGenesis Recovery. It should always be applied to slightly damp, cleansed skin. Then follow the normal steps. If using other brand serums with your NeoGenesis serums, apply NeoGenesis serums first to allow the exosome delivery system to work.

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