Skin Emulsions: What Are They And How Do They Work?

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Like it or not, changes in the skin can happen on a daily basis and particularly with a change in season. While chapped faces are a common complaint in the dry winter, your skin may feel like an oily mess in the summer.

But, whether you have dry or oily skin, moisturizers are a non-negotiable product for all seasons. Admittedly, not all of us like that icky, heavy feeling that lingers from applying traditional moisturizers, especially in the hot summer months.

So why not swap your conventional moisturizer for something lighter in consistency? Emulsion creams can give you just that light, dewy glow that you are looking for! But, are emulsions really the same thing as moisturizers? For the complete low-down on what emulsion skin care is and why you need to consider adding it to your daily skin care routine, keep reading.

What Is An Emulsion?

First, let’s brush up on some basic chemistry! Remember what you were taught about miscible and immiscible liquids in school? If you do, then you probably know that immiscible liquids are two liquids, such as water and oil, that do not completely dissolve in each other.

But, there is a secret to blending together two substances that do not mix naturally. This is exactly what an emulsion is – a mixture of two substances that would not ordinarily mix together. The unique ingredient that helps the two liquids to bind and stay together is called a ‘surfactant’ or ‘emulsifier.’

In the cosmetic world, an emulsion can be described as a watered-down or diluted version of a moisturizer made by blending water and oily substances. It is considered something of a hybrid between a moisturizer and a serum.

Let us now review what an emulsion can do for your skin.

What Do Emulsions Actually Do?

To understand what emulsions do for the skin, you first need to know the difference between hydration and moisturization.
Most people think hydration and moisturization are the same. But, that is not true. While both hydration and moisturization keep your skin supple and prevent it from drying out, they both work in different ways.

Hydration essentially refers to the water content in the skin’s cells. Proper hydration is vital to improve the elasticity of your skin and keep it looking plump (1). Moisturizers, on the other hand, help maintain or seal in moisture by acting as a protective barrier on the skin. Both hydration and moisturization are important to keep your skin healthy, and emulsions help to strike just the right balance between these two.

These lightweight creams are formulated to deliver oil-based ingredients to the skin without leaving any oily residue. When the product is applied, any excess water evaporates from the surface of the skin. A layer of the oil-soluble product is left behind along with some water or moisture content. This water is bound to the skin by surfactants, thus increasing the water content in the skin (2).

If you are not well-versed in emulsion skincare, you could be confused about when to work this product into your skin care routine. Find out more about this below.

When Do You Use Emulsions?

An emulsion is not as dense as a moisturizer, but it is also not as light as a serum. So, ideally, the best time to use an emulsion is immediately after applying a serum or just before slathering on your moisturizer.

That said, emulsion products can vary. Some emulsions are formulated to create a moisture barrier and act as a sealant. Therefore, they are more effective when applied after serums or other products. This helps to trap all the products in the skin and get the most out of their ingredients.

Other emulsion products, however, may work well even when applied last in your routine. They do not create a moisture barrier, allowing products to penetrate and nourish the skin. Check the label for instructions on how and when to use the product.
If an emulsion does not include any specific instructions, you may stick to using it after serum. Some people with oily skin may also forgo moisturizer altogether and use only emulsions instead. So, how you use an emulsion product eventually comes down to your skin type too.

Now, you might be wondering if emulsion skin care is suited for your skin type. After all, everyone’s skin is different and requires a personalized skin care routine. So, let’s find out what skin types benefit the most from emulsions.

Do Emulsions Work For All Skin Types?

Korean emulsions are known to work best on oily skin and skin that is prone to acne as it provides an instant boost of hydration without making the skin greasy or clogging its pores. But, this does not mean that these products are not suited for other skin types. People with combination skin or dry skin can reap the same benefits too.

For oily, combination, or acne-prone skin, the Korean emulsions work as an alternative to moisturizers. Dry or normal skin types, on the other hand, can use emulsions in conjunction with moisturizers.

Interested to learn more about the benefits of emulsions for your skin? Keep reading.

What Are The Benefits Of Emulsions For Your Skin?

Below are some of the incredible benefits of using emulsions:

  • Hydration

Emulsions are lightweight and can deeply hydrate the skin. So. if your skin requires more extra hydration, emulsion skin care may work for you. This may help repair damaged skin, restore skin elasticity, and make your skin look more youthful.

  • Gets Absorbed Easily

Unlike moisturizers and heavy creams, emulsions are much lighter. Their lightweight formula allows them to sink into the skin quickly and deliver immediate results.

  • Non-Comedogenic

Comedogenic products such as heavy and greasy moisturizers can clog your pores, resulting in acne, whiteheads, and blackheads. Fortunately, emulsions don’t contribute to this problem. They leave little or no greasy residue behind as they are water-based.

  • Strengthen The Skin Barrier

You probably know that the skin barrier is your body’s first defense against bacteria and external damage. A healthy skin barrier is, therefore, essential for healthy skin. Emulsions form an oily layer on the skin that helps to protect the lipid barrier. This layer can protect your skin from sun damage, dryness, and problems such as inflammation, irritation, and itching.

  • Addresses Specific Skin Issues

Emulsions not only moisturize and nourish the skin but target specific skin issues, too. So if you want more than just hydration for your skin, look for emulsions that can treat specific skin complaints.

Emulsions containing salicylic acid, for example, can be helpful for treating acne. If you have dry, cracked, or flaky skin, you can choose an emulsion formulated with humectant ingredients like hyaluronic acid.

This brings us to the important question: How do you apply emulsions to the skin?  Let’s find out!

How To Apply Emulsion

  1. Lightly dab a few dots of the product onto your cheeks, forehead, nose, and chin.
  1. Gently glide and spread the emulsion all over your face with your fingertips using upward motions. As the product is not sticky, it should be easy to work with.

You’ll benefit the most from an emulsion if you use it in the final steps of your skin care routine. This will ensure that the products you put on your skin are locked in. Make sure to follow up the emulsion with sunscreen if you are stepping out during the day.

If you are still not convinced that emulsions need to be a part of your skin care routine, here are some reasons why you should consider otherwise.

Why You Should Consider Adding An Emulsion To Your Skin Care Routine

If you are new to emulsion skin care, you may be wary of adding this new product to your skin care routine. But like we mentioned earlier, emulsions offer a whole range of benefits for the skin. If you have greasy, oily skin, this product can be particularly good for you.

Unlike standard moisturizers and creams, emulsions work more quickly and effectively. So, if you are struggling with dry or dehydrated skin, it is another reason why you should incorporate it into your skin care routine.

Emulsions can penetrate the skin’s barrier more deeply, helping to instantly restore the glow to your complexion. Moreover, since these products have a lightweight formula, you do not have to worry about breakouts or your face looking like a greasy mess by mid-day.

The Bottom Line

Korean emulsions are loaded with many ingredients that can leave your face looking youthful and healthy. No matter what your skin type, you can use this product to make your skin look refreshed, hydrated, and smoother than before.

If you are unsure about which emulsion is right for you, consult your dermatologist to pick a product that works best for your skin.

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).