KOREAN SKINCARE ROUTINE 101: Part 3: Sheet Mask, Essence/Serum/Ampoule & Eye Cream

**Previously: Part 2: Toner and first treatment essence**


In part 3 of this series, we will look at steps 6, 7 and 8 of the skincare routine:


  1. Oil Cleanser (Makeup remover)
  2. Facial Cleanser
  3. Exfoliator/Wash Off Mask*
  4. Toner
  5. First Treatment Essence
  9. Moisturiser
  10. Sunscreen (Daytime)
  11. Sleeping Mask/Pack* (Nighttime)

(*Doesn’t need to be used everyday; usually a 1-2x weekly treatment)



This is the fun step after cleansing, toning and your first essence. I have a separate post on sheet masks – What are sheet masks? – which covers everything you need to know about them so I won’t go into too much detail here.

To give a brief overview, sheetmasks are designed as 1-2x weekly treatments (although you can use more often if needed), to give your skin an extra and immediate boost of hydration. They are a thin sheet of material soaked in an essence/serum which you apply for 15-30 minutes and give you fast but temporary skin benefits such as brightening, moisturising, calming, smoothing out fine lines etc.  After sheet-masking, you shouldn’t wash off the excess essence but massage and pat into your skin.

Note: Some people like to use a sheet mask after their essence/serum step because the mask is able to trap and lock in all the active ingredients so they can penetrate better into your skin and prevent moisture from evaporating. On the other hand, if your skin doesn’t need as much hydration, sometimes just topping off a sheet mask with a moisturiser is all that you need. There’s no hard and fast rule that says you should also apply additional essences and serums, as a sheet mask is supposed to eliminate the need for those extra steps. Do what works best for your skin type.

Product recommendation: Whamisa Organic Hydrogel Sheet Mask, My Beauty Diary Black Pearl Mask, Etude House 0.2mm Therapy Air Mask, Mediheal Masks



This is basically the heart and soul of the Korean skincare routine; the most essential for treating your skin needs and problem areas. These 3 product types are all sandwiched between the toner/first essence step and eye cream/moisturiser step.

So what do essences, serums and ampoules do? They are basically concentrated formulas with the most powerful ingredients that are designed to combat and treat various skin issues and the signs of ageing. However while they are all treatment products, they vary slightly so we’ll break it down into each category.

  • Essence – this is the most popular skincare category amongst Koreans and generally have the most lightweight, watery consistency compared to serums and ampoules. They still contain active ingredients that can help brighten, even out, smooth and firm the skin, but its thin formula makes it convenient to layer up multiple essences to target different skin concerns and hydrate without feeling heavy.
  • Serum – these usually have a thicker consistency compared to essences and have a more potent concentration of ingredients. This makes it good for targeting more major skin issues such as hyperpigmentation, acne, wrinkles and dull skin losing elasticity. However, different beauty companies are increasingly blurring the lines between essence and serum (some serums can be as watery as an essence and some essences are thicker like a serum).
  • Ampoule – these are generally more potent than both essences and serums so you get it in smaller quantities. They are typically housed in small glass bottles with droppers which better preserves the active ingredients, and allows more control over how much you dispense.

This treatment step is the most personalised part of the skincare routine as the products you choose should be adapted to fit your skin needs. Its not unusual to have an essence, serum and an ampoule in the same routine, or even multiple products from each category. I personally use anywhere from 2-5 essences and serums at any one time, depending on what my current skin issues are. My main focus is generally anti-ageing and preventative so I will always have at least a couple anti-ageing treatment product in my routine regardless.

Note: The Korean skincare routine revolves around layering and this is most prominent when you use different essences, serums and ampoules. As a general rule, layer from thinnest to thickest even if that means a serum comes before an essence. You want the more thin and lightweight products to be able to penetrate the skin easier before you build up to thicker consistencies. If for example, you have 3 essences that are all about the same texture and consistency, then the layering order is less important, however I would first apply the one which targets the skin problem you’re most concerned about.

Also make sure to gently pat and tap your skincare in without harshly and forcefully massaging it, as this tugging and pulling of your skin can cause the elasticity and collagen in the skin to break down. And don’t forget to give each product sufficient time to sink in before moving onto the next layer.

Product recommendation: Leejiham Tea Tree Essence, Nature Republic Ginseng Royal Silk Essence, Laneige Water Bank Essence_EX, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum, Neulii Snail Bee Anti-Wrinkle Serum, Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule


Many people neglect this step of their skincare routine and think their regular moisturiser is all  they need, but there are a couple reasons why a separate eye cream can be useful to incorporate after your essence, serum and ampoule step.

The area around our eyes has the most delicate and sensitive skin and thus has different moisturising needs to the rest of our face. The skin here tends to be thinner and drier but if the rest of your face is combo-oily and you’re using a gel-based cream, it may not be sufficient moisture for your eyes which could lead to premature fine lines. Conversely, if your regular moisturiser is too rich, you can experience milia seeds under the eyes.

Also, like with essences, which you use to target different skin concerns, using a dedicated eye cream allows you to target specific problems that occur just around the eyes, and which your regular moisturiser is not equipped to deal with. For example, targeting dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, firming the thinner skin around the eye etc. Eye cream formulations may also be more gentle and less irritating for sensitive eyes compared to regular creams.

The ingredients list is key in an eye cream and can make the difference between an effective quality eye cream and a poor one. A good eye cream will have more active ingredients to target problems around the eye area compared to a standard moisturiser (which is designed primarily for hydration). For example, niacinamide, vitamin C, licorice extract and arbutin are proven skin-brightening ingredients and effective against dark circles.

Note: Make sure you tap and pat your eye cream in with your fourth finger to avoid pulling and tugging on this delicate area of skin.

Product recommendation: Innisfree Whitening Pore Eye Cream, Belif Peat Miracle Revital Eye Cream, Missha Geumsul Vitalizing Eye Cream, Cosrx Honey Ceramide Eye Cream

**Next: Part 4: Moisturiser & Sleeping Mask**


  1. February 2, 2017 / 5:40 am

    That’s a smart idea to sandwich the essence/serum step under a mask! Also I didn’t know ampoules were more potent as well! Looking forward to the rest of the series 🙂

    • Wan
      February 5, 2017 / 8:49 pm

      Thanks for reading. 🙂
      Yeah I personally find it more effective to use a mask after the essence/serum step. But then I also apply some after the mask too. So its a double sandwich haha.

      • Anonymous
        October 5, 2017 / 4:23 pm

        I am still confuse, which comes first ampule or sheet mask?

        • Wan
          October 6, 2017 / 2:57 pm

          It all depends on your preference really. If it’s a very liquidy ampoule then it can come either before or after the mask. But if your sheet mask is quite creamy rather than watery/essence based, then I would suggest to apply the ampoule first for better absorption.

  2. June 1, 2020 / 6:01 am

    Pretty cool post. I stumbled upon your post and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog post. After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  3. June 15, 2024 / 7:09 am

    Face sheet masks are a skincare essential, providing hydration and nourishment in a convenient form. These masks are soaked in serums rich in vitamins and minerals, offering an easy way to achieve glowing skin. Ideal for all skin types, face sheet masks help rejuvenate, brighten, and moisturize the skin, making them a must-have in any beauty routine. Try incorporating a face sheet mask into your weekly regimen for radiant results!

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