What exactly is an emulsion, and is it right for you? Here’s the 411 on all you need to know about emulsions.
What is an emulsion?
Popular in J-Beauty and K-Beauty skincare routines, there is no true equivalent skincare product for emulsions in the western beauty world. An emulsion is a milky moisturizer with a gel-like consistency. Emulsions are water-based, so you can think of them as a lighter version of moisturizing creams. This makes emulsions a lightweight alternative to traditional creams and face oils, which can leave a greasy, weighed down feeling. You will usually see emulsions in J-Beauty skincare products sold in a pump or bottle form, due to their semi-liquid consistency.
What are the benefits of emulsions for your skin?
Let’s talk chemistry for a moment. The molecule size of a product is a big factor that determines how easily the product is absorbed by the skin. Water molecules are smaller than oil molecules, so the more water-based a product is, the easier it absorbs. The more oil-based, the less it absorbs. Don’t get us wrong - creams are great for locking in moisture and protecting the skin barrier, since they sit on the surface of the skin, but they’re not the most effective way to deliver nutrients to deeper layers of the skin.
That’s where emulsions come in. The water-base of emulsions ensures that they easily seep into the deeper layers of the skin. They’re not all water, though - emulsions contain essential oils and nutrients, which help maintain a balance of water and oil in the skin. The unique structure of emulsions means that they can offer the benefit of a concentrated substance, making them more targeted than creams.
There’s also an added advantage to emulsions. Emulsions are considered non-comedogenic, which is basically a fancy way of saying that they won’t clog your pores.
Who should use an emulsion?
The non-comedogenic, water-based formulation makes emulsions an obvious choice for oily, acne-prone skin types than don’t require a heavy moisturizer. Emulsions are also an excellent option in hot and humid climates, as they quench thirsty skin without the greasy feeling that can accompany traditional creams and face oils. However, dry skin types can benefit from emulsions as well. When layered underneath a moisturizing cream, emulsions can provide an additional hydration boost, without the worry of product buildup.
It’s important to note that not all emulsions deliver the same benefits to your skin. Emulsions can be formulated with specific ingredients for targeted treatments, such as hyaluronic acid for hydration, or ceramides that strengthen the skin barrier. It’s definitely worthwhile to investigate the active ingredients in an emulsion, to make sure it’s suitable for your skin goals!
How should you use emulsions in your skincare routine?
You’ll benefit the most from an emulsion when you use it in the right order in your skincare routine. Not to beat a dead horse, but correct product layering is essential due to the varying molecular size of different products. If you’re using an emulsion in lieu of a moisturizer, you’ll want to apply it following your essence toner. Otherwise, you can use your emulsion as the in-between your essence toner and cream. Many people in Japan use emulsions and creams together in their skincare routine in the colder seasons. Especially if you have combination skin, you may want to apply the emulsion to your entire face, and dab on cream on select dry spots.
To apply an emulsion, dab a few dots on your cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. Lightly warm another small amount with your hands, and gently massage the emulsion throughout your face and neck, in upward motions.
Still on the fence?
If you’re not accustomed to emulsions, you might feel weary about adding yet another step to your skincare routine. But since emulsions are often multi-functional, with the right product, you might actually find yourself simplifying your skincare routine.
For a quality J-Beauty emulsion, we recommend La Vie Précieuse MOIST A.P.G. Emulsion. It’s filled with ingredients that nourish and envelope the skin in a veil of moisture. Apple-derived ceramide reinforces the protective barrier of the skin, while glycyrrhizinate brightens and softens the skin. Proteoglycan hydrates and supports the skin’s collagen and hyaluronic acid production. Whew! That’s a lot to pack in one product. But see? A little emulsion goes a long way!