10 Best Korean Lightweight Emulsions & Moisturizers

You asked— we answered! What is an emulsion in skin care? How can you use it in your daily skin care routine? What are its benefits? This is a step-by-step guide to understanding the mystery skin care product - Emulsion.

best moisturizer emulsion lightweight for glowing youthful skin korean k beauty world

If you're a fan of K-beauty products, you're most likely familiar with the famous 10-step Korean skin care routine, known among Korean women (and men) as a beauty secret to achieve a healthy and glassy complexion.

From the many steps in the extended facial care ritual, you may currently use only certain products, such as serums, exfoliators and facial cleansers, as they are pretty common in Western regimen. 

However, the number of people around the world adopting Asian-inspired skin care has been on the rise. Today, it is increasingly common to see people using some Korean products, such as sheet masks, pimple patches, and under-eye patches.

But despite the growing K-beauty trend and popularity, some skincare terms are still new and confusing—like emulsion.

Interestingly, it seems like no one can give a straight clear answer as to what an emulsion does and how to incorporate it into your skincare routine. That's why we're here to explain that mysterious skincare product, the emulsion.

What is an emulsion?

"Is an emulsion just another word for moisturizer?" or "Is it the same as a face lotion?" These are some of the most typical questions about emulsions. 

Simply put, emulsions are a lighter and more watery version of traditional moisturizing creams and lotions. They are watered down, lightweight, and non-sticky formula—they absorb into the skin faster without clogging pores, and blend better with makeup.

Benefits: What does emulsion do to your face? 

In the Asian skin care world—especially in South Korea and Japan—emulsions are considered an important skin care staple that helps to achieve a more supple and more glowing skin. 

It may not be a compelling choice for everyone, but think of it as an extra-credit step that provides an additional layer of hydration and nutrients, making skin look healthier and more radiant.

Here are the benefits of using emulsions and why you should incorporate them into your daily skincare routine.

  • Lightweight formula
  • Hydrates skin
  • Fortifies skin barrier
  • Absorbs easily
  • Won’t clog pores (Non-comedogenic)
  • Can address specific skin concerns
  • Ideal for oily, acne-prone skin 

How to use an emulsion and when to use it?

Isntree green tea fresh toner Emulsion moisturizer k beauty world

What comes first: emulsion, serum, or moisturizer? 

The answer is depending on the formulation of the products, as it varies from brand to brand. The consistency of an emulsion is generally more watery and lighter than a moisturizer, but not quite as light as a serum.

Therefore, emulsions are more commonly used after a serum but before sealing it in a moisturizer. You can choose an emulsion or a cream to finish your skincare regimen, or you can use both together to add extra hydration.

Some emulsions, however, are formulated to emulsify and soften the skin, making it easier to absorb the skin treatment - if that's the case, you'll need to use it before applying your skin treatments like serum or ampoule.

Still not sure which is which? The best way to know how to use your emulsion is to read the brand's recommendations and product instructions. 

What is the difference between an emulsion and a moisturizer?

Generally, both products are formulated to hydrate the skin and act as a moisture lock, trapping all the hydration and potent ingredients you have fed to your skin. 

Emulsions are usually water-based and oil-free formulas that absorb into the skin much faster and don't sit on top of the skin the same way some face creams do. (Helpful hint: lotions are still thicker than emulsions.)

Here's a pro tip: Emulsions can be a great alternative to regular moisturizer on summer days or for oily, acne-prone and sensitive skin because they less likely clog pores or irritate skin. 

(Related Post: How To Find The Best Moisturizer For Your Skin Type?)

What is the difference between essence, serum, ampoule, and emulsion? 

Essences are lighter than a serum and have a more watery consistency. Both contain small molecules that can penetrate deeper and dissolve faster. Serums are generally more potent than essences.

Serums are usually thin formulas that contain a few active ingredients to target your current skin concerns, such as brightening, acne scars, dull complexion. 

Ampules are a type of supercharged serum, meaning they contain a stronger concentration of effective ingredients. It is recommended to use them once or twice a week, rather than incorporating them into your daily skincare routine.

Some emulsions contain active ingredients that target specific skin problems, like serums, so they can sometimes be considered a hybrid of serum and moisturizer. You can use them in lieu of moisturizers, but they can't replace serums.

Which skin type benefits most from using an emulsion? 

Emulsions are suitable for all skin types, but work best on oily, combination, and sensitive skin, and skin prone to acne breakouts.

They are fast-absorbing and have a watery texture that provides hydration without feeling too heavy or blocking pores, while controlling excess sebum.

Dry and mature skin can also appreciate an extra layer of hydration, but if you have extremely dry and dehydrated skin, it's best to apply it before your face cream, night sleep mask or facial oil. This way, your skin will get a double up for hydration and active properties. 

Best Korean lightweight Emulsions/Moisturizers 

Cosrx Natural BHA Skin Returning Emulsion 

Cosrx Natural BHA Skin Returning Emulsion moisturizer k beauty world

This hydrating formula is enriched with natural BHA (Betaine Salicylate) to help get rid of dead skin cells and excess sebum, leaving the skin smoother and more balanced. 

Featuring 70% Centella Asiatica leaf water and hyaluronic acid, this weightless formula provides instant relief from skin dehydration, irritation and redness. This is an ideal moisturizer for oily, congested and blemish-prone skin.

💘 Check out Cosrx Natural BHA Emulsion 

Laneige Balancing Emulsion

Laneige Balancing Emulsion moisturizer for oily acne redness skin korean k beauty world

Laneige offers two different types of products designed for specific skin types— a moisturizing version for dry combination skin with flaky, dead skin cells and a light version for oily and acne-prone skin.

The moisturizing-type emulsion is designed to alleviate dry and dehydrated skin, while the matte-type moisturizer helps balance and regulate sebum control, leaving skin more radiant and clear.

Formulated with hydro-ion mineral water and Opuntia ficus indica extract - a cactus plant rich in antioxidants, vitamins and linoleic acid to hydrate and revitalize the skin.

Dr. Jart+ V7 Emulsion

Dr. Jart+ V7 Emulsion face moisturizer for oily combination skin k beauty world

Formulated with 7 types of vitamin complexes to brighten, illuminate and hydrate skin for a healthy, radiant appearance. 

The exfoliating acids AHA and BHA smooth out old keratin, refine skin texture and transform a dull complexion into a clear and revitalized one.

The gel-like texture is easily absorbed into the skin without irritating it, delivering hydration and nutrients to the deep layers of the skin. 

Etude House SoonJung 10-Free Moist Emulsion

Etude House SoonJung 10-Free Moist Emulsion Korean skincare k beauty world

This low pH product contains madecassoside and panthenol, known for their soothing and repairing properties. They work well for relieving inflamed acne and reducing the itching sensation while replenishing moisture content.

The product is made from 93% naturally derived ingredients and is free from parabens, artificial fragrances and coloring, mineral oil and animal substances, making it suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. 

💘 Check out Etude House Soon Jung Emulsion

The Face Shop Yehwadam Pure Brightening Emulsion 

The Face Shop Yehwadam Pure Brightening Emulsion korean face lotion k beauty world

If you're thinking of buying a new anti-aging product to brighten your skin, this soft and fresh emulsion can help you restore moisture and fight the signs of aging. 

Formulated with pearl powder and 6 kinds of natural oriental herbs and flowers, such as white ginseng, honey seed and peony extract. It is specifically formulated to improve dark spots and a dull, uneven complexion, hyperpigmentation and visible fine lines.

Missha, Super Aqua, Ultra Hyalron Emulsion 

Missha, Super Aqua, Ultra Hyalron Emulsion korean skincare k beauty world

This hypoallergenic formula combines 10 different types of hyaluronic acid—small, medium and large molecules—that help bind water to collagen, which then traps moisture into the skin, hydrating skin cells and giving it a radiant glow. 

Smaller hyaluronic acid molecules are better able to penetrate the dermis for a plumping effect, while larger molecules sit on the surface of skin cells for instant smoothing and firming effects.

Isntree Fresh Green Tea Emulsion

Isntree Fresh Green Tea Emulsion moisturizer for oily acne redness sensitive skin k beauty world

Enriched with green tea leaf extract from Jeju Island—rich in antioxidants to protect skin from premature aging and UV damage while soothing irritated and sensitive skin. 

This refreshing emulsion features the brand's special formulation, Anti-Sebum P (HD), which controls oil production and leaves the skin feeling comfortable and refreshed without making it greasy or too shiny.

💘 Check out Isntree Green Tea Emulsion

Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion 

Etude House Moistfull Collagen Emulsion moisturizer korean skincare k beauty world

The milk-like consistency with moisture-rich Super Collagen™ Water (hydrolyzed collagen) and Baobob extract provides long-lasting hydration and replenishes the skin's moisture barrier, leaving skin feeling plump and supple.

Made without harmful chemicals, such as mineral oils, tar dyes and PEG surfactants, it is suitable for all skin types. 

Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Emulsion 

Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Emulsion moisturizer vegan organic k beauty world

This vegan moisturizer is filled with 98.3% natural ingredients, including tea tree extract, which has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and oil-moisture balancing properties.

The cruelty-free formula also contains burdock root, comfrey root, giant plantain leaves and aloe vera juice, which soothe and heal redness, swelling and painful skin conditions and moisturize the skin. Best suited for oily skin and skin prone to breakouts.

AHC Hydrating Aqualuronic Emulsion Face Lotion 

AHC Hydrating Aqualuronic Emulsion Face Lotion for oily skin korean k beauty world

A nutrient-rich emulsion lotion from AHC—Aesthetic Hydration Cosmetics—is especially suitable for dry, dull or tired skin. 

The triple blend of hyaluronic acid, ceramides and French seawater restores moisture levels and skin suppleness for smoother, softer and more balanced skin. Suitable for all skin types.

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