A few weeks ago I shared a blog post about my Winter Moisturizers for Combination/Dehydrated Skin, and it was a hit! Today I wanted to tell you about the most extensive category of products that I own in my skincare wardrobe: ampoules, essences, and serums, that I use during the winter months. Normally it takes just one moisturizer to seal the deal, so to speak, but when it comes to hydrating essences and serums, I use a combination of them all layered one over another.
When it comes to a multi-step Korean skincare routine, the order in which products are used can be pretty confusing. Just remember that most products should be applied from the thinnest consistency to the thickest, with the exception of certain active treatments that increase cell turnover, but we’ll talk about those in another post.
Skincare is very YMMV, so what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa, but I feel like it’s important to talk about my skin type. In case you missed the previous blog posts, I determined that I have combination/dehydrated skin type. How did I know it’s dehydrated and not dry? Dry skin type lacks the necessary oils needed to seal in the water, and dehydrated skin may or may not have the necessary oil, but it certainly doesn’t produce or retain enough water to keep the skin supple and plump. Adding oils targeted for dry skin to my routine only made me break out horribly, but adding products with water greatly improved the appearance of my complexion.
I grabbed seven hydrating serums straight from my vanity table to show you today. Just like the products from the previous skincare wardrobe post, all of these are actively in use, so you get a glimpse of my actual routine. Sometimes when bloggers review individual products it’s hard to tell how those fit in with their lineup. I rarely review individual products anymore, because think this bundle-style format gives you the full picture, and a few alternatives, too 🙂
Note: I will assign numbers to each product for reference, so you can easily tell where it fits in the skincare sandwich on my face. The numbers in brackets indicate how I use the products, when I do.
Products in my must-haves category are the ones I use daily, regardless of my skin condition. They are basically my staples at this point, and will either be repurchased, or I already have backups of.
1 // Blithe Vital Treatment 8 Nourishing Beans [1 -> …] – After reading so many rave reviews about Blithe first essences [basically, Korean term for what we think of as hydrating toners], I caved and bought one to try during the VIB sale at Sephora. Guys, forget all you know about toners, because this is next level of awesome. I thought dropping $48 on a toner was probably not the brightest idea, but after I started using it, I changed my mind. I read an interview with a famous Korean actress who is revered for her amazing skin, and one of her beauty secrets was a so-called “3-second rule”, where you have to apply the first essence within 3 seconds of cleansing to prevent dehydration. I’ve been following that rule for about 2 months now using Blithe Vital Treatment 8 Nourishing Beans and I think it’s helping. I love it so much, I haven’t skipped a day yet, and my skin definitely feels happier now! I plan to either repurchase this essence when I run out or try a couple similar Korean toners from Whamisa and dear Klairs.
Blithe Vital Treatment 8 Nourishing Beans looks kind of like a runny jelly and has a light herbal fragrance. The formula contains 8 different peptide and vitamin-rich beans [including lentils, black beans, red beans] and nourishing Vitamin E beads that help soften and protect the skin. Blithe has strict product quality standards, and the products are always free of parabens, synthetic dyes & fragrances, and mineral oils.
2 // LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence [1 -> 2] – I don’t know if I can rave about this watery essence any more than I already have, so I’ll just remind you that I’ve got at least 4 more bottles sitting in the drawer, because I won’t be caught dead without it. This essence is a godsend for those of us with breakout-prone sensitive skin. Usually products targeted for acne contain alcohol, which makes my whole face sting so bad, but this essence is alcohol-free and yet it’s been incredibly effective for minimizing redness, irritations, and reducing the size [and the occurrence!] of pimples practically overnight. If you take a look at one of my older posts where I share the before and after pictures, you’ll notice a bottle of LJH Tea tree 90 Essence in the photos. Rightfully so, as it was an important product that helped improve my skin. It’s quite a stunning difference, really!
While it looks like plain water, the actual composition is anything but. The essence is made with 90% anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory Tea Tree Extract, hydrating Hyaluronic Acid, which can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, soothing Centella Asiatica, brightening mushroom extract, and other skin-loving goodies. It’s highly concentrated, so half a dropper [or about 4-5 drops] is all you need for a full-face application.
3 // Elemental Herbology Cell Nourish [1 -> 2 -> 4 -> 3] – I am such a fan of this serum! It’s one of the newest products in my routine, but I am already obsessed with the way it makes my skin look and feel. I would say, this is the skincare equivalent of taking a multivitamin. It’s something that supplements your regular daily routine with things you could always use more of, like a powerful dose of free radical-fighting antioxidants and skin-loving botanical oils. I’m normally very pale throughout, but since I started using Cell Nourish, my skin looks way more awake, and the cheeks actually have some color on them for once. No, it’s not one of those irritating products that makes your face red, instead I think it somehow helped the micro-circulation, so the capillaries are finally working as they should. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not an esthetician, but I am a pretty good guesser, and that’s why no one wants to play cards with me hehe 😉
I wrote a long and detailed review about Elemental Herbology Cell Nourish serum, if you want to read about it in more detail. In short, this is a brightening and revitalizing treatment with Vitamin A, C and E, Co-Enzyme Q10, and Green Tea to fight against free-radical damage and oxidation, Squalane for softness, Pomegranate for minimizing the harmful effects of sun’s rays, Kombucha to boost radiance and improve skin texture, Damask Rose Water and Aloe Vera to soothe and protect. Lots of great extracts and vitamins and just one little chubby bottle.
The products in my situational category are the ones that I use on and off, kind of when I remember or when I think my skin is not in its best shape. Usually I pile on the goodies when my face starts feeling extra dry all of a sudden, or if I notice a line forming.
4 // Farmacy Invincible Root Cell Anti-Aging Serum [1 -> 2 -> 4] – Kind of like Cell Nourish above, this serum was made to address dull, uneven complexion, but the texture is closer to LJH essence, perhaps even runnier. I will say, it’s a nice serum and it does seem to gradually make my skin more even over time, but I am slightly put off my the earthy fragrance. I have nothing against naturally-scented skincare, it’s always way better than lab-made chemical scents, but something about this one just doesn’t give me any skintertainment. At this time I use it as a situational treatment to erase acne scars faster, but I can’t bring myself to wear it daily because of the fragrance.
The formula boasts over a dozen different botanicals, including Farmacy’s patented Echinacea Purpurea Greenenvy™ Root Extract, that’s the most potent Echinacea plant variety currently known.
5 // Secret Key Multi Cell Night Repair Ampoule […. -> 5] – This nighttime ampoule is supposed to be a good dupe for best-selling Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum, at a fraction of the cost. To be honest, that’s why I got it in the first place. A couple years ago I received a travel-sized sample of ANR in a beauty box and couldn’t decide if I liked it or not, so I got a few more samples. I didn’t like it after all. Then I read about the Secret Key ampoule on some beauty blog, and supposedly this inexpensive dupe was even better than the original, so I bought a bottle to try. I actually liked it at first; it made my skin look well-rested and glowy in the morning. Lately, however, I don’t seem to see the same results as I did in the past. It’s possible that the ingredients have oxidized or somehow became less potent over time, since I had this bottle open for about 8 months now, so now I use it when I remember just to finish it up.
P.S.: In case you are confused about the brackets, this ampoule is always the last one I apply, and goes under the moisturizer.
Here are the products I am currently testing to see how they perform long-term, and so far these are only my first impressions. I usually test products for at least one month before making the final verdict, but if my experience so far is any indication, I think at least one of these will make its way into my daily routine.
6 // Yuripibu Cellum Amaid Essence [1 -> 2 -> 7 -> 6] – This essence is so thick, it actually looks like a serum or even a runny moisturizer! I bought this baby during the Black Friday sale at Glow Recipe, because I heard so many good things about the brand and this particular product. This is meant to be a brightening treatment that will also improve the texture of the skin and give it nice youthful glow. I already used up a third of the bottle, and still don’t see any improvements, even though the ingredients for success are all there: niacinamide, centella asiatica, and galactomyces filtrate. The good news is the ingredient list is full of clean, non-toxic, non-irritating botanicals and CosDNA gives it a green light for safety, which is more than I can say about a lot of the skincare out there.
7 // Jan Marini Hyla3D HA Activating Complex [1 -> 2 -> 7] – I received this serum just a couple weeks ago and already can’t stop using it. I pretty much look for any excuse to squeeze a pump or two into my AM and PM routine. The formula combines several types of Hyaluronic Acid, peptides, and Coenzyme Q10 to offer relief for dry and dehydrated skin. I am very impressed so far! The skin on my face [especially my cheeks] has been very dry and tight this winter, and Hyla3D serum turned out to be the best single product to address those concerns. Usually I am only able to achieve the same level of comfort by layering several serums and essences, but Hyla3D does it all in one-two pumps. This is easily one of my favorite skincare discoveries lately!
As you know, I am a big proponent of layering skincare, but I almost never use all of these at once. Layering hydrating serums is very easy, as long as you keep in mind the consistency of each product. Here is how the products I mentioned in this blog post stack up against each other from the thinnest consistency to the thickest:
- Blithe Vital Treatment 8 Nourishing Beans
- Farmacy Invincible Root Cell Anti-Aging Serum
- LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence
- Secret Key Multi Cell Night Repair Ampoule
- Jan Marini Hyla3D HA Activating Complex
- Elemental Herbology Cell Nourish
- Yuripibu Cellum Amaid Essence
There is this big misconception that layering skincare will clog the pores and cause breakouts. It’s certainly possible if you apply a very generous helping of each product, but when done correctly, it’s the best way to customize your skincare routine to get the results you want. I dose each of my serums according to the way my skin is feeling that day. Sometimes it needs a little extra antioxidants to freshen up, and other times it demands more moisture. A pump here, a drop there, and we’ve got the perfect cocktail 🙂
What serums are you loving right now? Do you have a skincare wardrobe? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclosure: This post features PR samples and products purchased by Glamorable, and may contain affiliate or referral links. For more details about my product review policy, copyright, and information about affiliate links, please refer to Disclosures & Content Use page.