Day Creams and Night Creams…. Is there a need for both? And what about Lotions and Emulsions?!

Day Creams and Night Creams…. Is there a need for both? And what about Lotions and Emulsions?!

Keina Yuan 
K-Beauty Editor

In the world of Korean skincare, the ideologies and the way they use products is actually quite different from the Western world; especially with creams. In Western cultures, there is a massive difference between day and night creams. Day creams often contain SPF while night creams are rich in active ingredients like Vitamin C and Retinol. 

This is a slight controversial topic, but in Korea, ALL creams can be used during the day and night. It is entirely up to personal preference. In fact, lotions and emulsions are more often considered day creams for their lightweight texture. 

I’m not saying K-Beauty brands DON’T use any active ingredients in their creams though. There are still a few brands like TIA’M and IOPE who have recently come out with a Vitamin C cream and a Retinol Concentrate (respectively). 

However, the majority of Korean Skincare brands tend to not include more active ingredients in creams. Instead, they have a much wider range of serums, essences and ampoules which you would be able to use in conjunction with the cream or lotion. 

To understand this, let’s take a quick look at the ‘basic’ Korean skincare products that a brand will usually make per line:

- Cleansers
Toner (often also called Skin)
- Essences
- Serums (and maybe an Ampoule)
- Lotions
- Eye Creams
- Creams

The idea behind producing a full product line is so that customers can easily purchase all the products they need without having to look around searching for different things to mix and match. Obviously, not every brand and product line will include all of the skincare products listed above, but it’s just a general idea for you. 

Now we all know that a basic day routine goes like; cleanse, tone, maybe a serum or essence, day cream then SPF. Below is a simple representation of a day routine by ‘Korean’ skincare brands. Can you spot the difference?

That’s right! There’s a lotion instead of a cream. Lotions, also known as Emulsions, are just a lightweight cream. In other words, a day cream! Just like a general “day cream” they are light in texture and are designed so you can apply SPF and makeup afterwards without having to worry about the patchiness or your makeup sliding around.  

Creams in general are for locking in all the goodness and hydration that you layered on with the rest of your skincare that you just applied, and can range from extremely thick occlusive textures, to extremely lightweight, almost waterlike gel-types.

These gel-type creams are also ideal for day wear! They are water-based EXTREMELY light-weight hydrators which absorb extremely quickly. They are able to hydrate the deeper layers of the skin and don’t leave any sticky residue on the surface of the skin either. 

This is when it might get a little tricky. I’m sure by now you all understand the ‘tailoring your products to your skin type’ thing, right? Well the same goes for when you’re choosing whether or not to use a lotion/emulsion, gel cream or regular cream. (Because lightweight creams exist as well!)

Creams have more occlusive properties than lotions. This means they are able to ‘lock in’ hydration, nutrients and goodness from your essences, serums and lotions by leaving a fine film on the surface of your skin which acts as a sort of barrier. This makes them a lot nicer for night-time use. Plus, at night, we don’t really need to wear sun cream or makeup, so we don’t need to worry about the thickness or weight of the cream as much!

At night, a lotion will just provide some extra hydration and moisture to the deeper layers of the skin under your cream.

But can we still use creams during the day?

Of course you can! Once again, it is entirely up to personal preference; whether you choose to apply a thicker cream during the day, or a lighter cream or lotion at night, as long as you are adhering to your own skin’s needs there is no fuss.

Some common names on the market are:

A water-based, lightweight cream. Also often called an emulsion. 

Emulsion is just another name for a lotion. It is a lightweight, non-sticky, water-based product which helps to seal in your products and deliver some extra hydration. 

Just another name for a cream. However, these guys tend to be slightly lighter than a cream. (Still thicker than gels, lotions and emulsions though)

Often called ‘gel creams’, ‘gel type creams’ and ‘soothing gels’ are extremely lightweight water-based hydrators. Perfect for oilier, combination skin types!

Often on the thicker side, delivers hydration and moisture to the skin while acting as a protective film to lock in your skincare.

And in some very rare cases, “ointment” is used as well. This term is generally used when a cream is for a specific purpose, like a spot treatment cream, blemish cream, cream for flaky skin etc

I personally prefer to still use a cream in my morning routine. I have reasonably dry skin and a wear makeup on a daily basis. So, all I had to do was to find a cream which was thick enough to nourish my skin but doesn’t sit on the surface of my skin for too long and absorbs faster. And yes, I still use lotions; both day and night depending on how my skin feels. 

To get a better idea of which lotion or cream is suitable for your skin, check out the links below!

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