Hydrating serums battle! East vs. West! Serums vs. Essences! Pt. 1 - twindly beauty blog
The best hydrating serums and essences. Three part series dealing with Western serums and Asian essences, differences, costs and properties with one winner!
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best hydrating serums and essences

Hydrating serums battle! East vs. West! Serums vs. Essences! Pt. 1

We’re veering quickly into that time of the year that wreaks havoc on sensitive skin. Outside you’ll have chilling winds, while inside you’ll have the driest air possible, thanks to the heater blasting with full force – what’s a girl to do? (Apart from swaddling her face in sheet masks on a regular basis.) Hydrating serums to the rescue! But wait, there’re also hydrating essences that all those smooth-skinned K-Beauty stars rely on… Maybe those are the way to go?! We tested three hydrating essences and three serums. See who’ll emerge the winner!

The difference between serums and essences


Allow me to quote myself here, from the recent post about Five must-have Asian beauty products: Essences are usually used for a boost of hydration, brightening or firming. The most ubiquitous, though, are the ones that give your skin a moisturising boost, before you apply your serum.

Another type would be the ones in the vein of the super-expensive SK-II essence with some kind of fermented extracts (often yeast) that are supposed to be anti-aging/brightening, called First Treatment Essence (FTE) (or First Essence) after Missha’s ground-breaking product with the same name. They’re usually thin and watery in texture. Use essences directly after cleansing and layer your other skincare products over it. (If you’re curious about FTEs and the secret of fermented skincare ingredients, Fiddy writes about it here.)


Serums, of course, come in all kinds of textures, with all kinds of properties, and while there’re recently (I’ll just mention The Ordinary here) a lot of products with one active ingredient, there’re even more that lob all kinds of ingredients together and hope they’ll have an effect. They go under your moisturizer, and are the swiss army knife in the skincare world. For the sake of this post, we’ll concentrate on serums, though, that are supposed to hydrate your skin.

best hydrating serums

The contestants in this round: Vichy, Bioderma and REN!

The best hydrating serums and essences

We’ll deal with a variety of serums in this part of the series. In the next part, I’ll write about the Asian ones, particularly about cosrx, Hada Labo, and Clinique (yes, really! Clinique). In the last post of the series, we’ll deal with an in-depth comparison of all six products, namely texture, formula, performance, and prices.

The West(ern) serums

All of the following are good, hydrating products with a pleasant formula and good ingredients. It depends on your personal taste which one might work better for you than the others, but we’ll deal with that on Friday in the last installment.


REN Keep young and beautiful serum review

The most annoying name of a product, ever – REN’s Keep Young and Beautiful serum.

Let’s start with the annoyingly named Keep Young and Beautiful Instant Firming Beauty Shot by REN. They lob all kinds of marketing terms into the name – “Firming!” “Anti-Aging!” and don’t get me even started on the concept that only young can be beautiful. In the end, this is a hydrating serum with a heavy dose of Sodium Hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid that can store water molecules many times its own weight), and some rose oil. I wrote about it before (and I still don’t like it), and my reasoning still stands:

Decent, but overpriced hydrating serum with too much fragrance for sensitive skin. A lot of people like it, so you might too.


Bioderma Hydrabio Serum worth it

My go-to hydrating serum for many years: Bioderma’s Hydrabio Serum

Bioderma Hydrabio Serum was my go-to serum for a very long time. The company calls it “Moisturising Concentrate for very dehydrated sensitive skin”. It’s a bit different than the REN product above and Vichy below, because it uses Sodium Polyacrylate, an ingredient also called ‘waterlock’. Meaning this one locks moisture in your skin and thus works best if you layer it with something hvery hydrating. The serum relies on sugar alcohols to do the hydrating heavy lifting, adds a dash of Niacinamide (always a good thing, because it’s calming, anti-inflammatory, helps with impurities, hydrating…) and a silicone, Dimethicone.

That’ll lock in the hydration and also makes the texture nice and smooth, and your skin as well. This will also make it suitable as a makeup base.


Vichy Mineral 89 serum worth it

I had a generous sample of Vichy’s Mineral 89 serum that lasted me several days.

Vichy Minéral 89 Fortifying and Plumping Daily Booster relies heavily on its UST of thermal water. If you’re a fan and believer, you’re in luck: This one has 89% of thermal water with 15 different minerals (well, my tap water in Germany has more) that are supposed to be good for your skin. It also has hyaluronic acid and glycerine. And that’s it. Ok, they call it a booster… but, well. (I find that for a booster, it’s not watery enough. But technically you could mix that into your other skincare products.)

It doesn’t contain any nasties (alcohol, fragrance, parabenes, silicone) and is massively overpriced, but nice, I guess?!



Stay tuned for the Asian contenders (part 2) and the grand finale (part 3) in which we’ll compare all six products regarding to performance, formulation and price. Who’ll be the winner in the battle of the best hydrating serums and essences?! Be sure to come back on Wednesday!


Beauty junkie with about 20 years of beauty experience under her belt. Editor, writer and twindly’s PR heroine. Has an unbelievably large nail polish stash and a passion for skincare. Gets a kick out of pretty powders.

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