Yes, we know differentiating skin care products can be quite a hair-pulling experience, and we often end up asking ourselves ‘what does what again?’

Differentiating Skin Care Products

Credit: Guan Min

With the increasing amount and ranges of beauty products, each proclaiming to solve a specific skin problem and suitable for different skin types, choosing the right skin care product can become a huge hassle.

What’s more, now your product comes in different textures and forms! Take moisturizer for example. Most of us know it’s important to use a moisturizer to keep our skin hydrated, but how many of us know what’s the difference between an emulsion, a lotion or a cream/gel-based moisturizer.

To make it as easily digestible as possible, we’ve created a simple guide to teach you the difference between the commonly mixed up skin care products…

1. Sunblock vs. Sunscreen  

A sunblock usually has a thicker consistency that is able to stay longer on the skin. It contains physical blocks like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. When you apply sunblock, the rays are deflected before it penetrates your skin.

Sunscreen, on the other hand, absorbs the UV rays to prevent your skin from taking them in. It contains chemicals like avobenzone, oxybenzone etc, which can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions if you have sensitive skin.

Rule of thumb: Choose a sunblock or sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection!  Use a sunblock instead of sunscreen if you have sensitive skin.

2. Serum vs. Essence

Serums are basically a lighter form of essence. You might have noticed that they are usually more pricey than your regular moisturizer. This is because they contain a high concentration of ingredients, designed to target specific skin problems, and also help in the absorption of your moisturizer. Essence, on the other hand, contains essential ingredients that feed your skin nutrients. Essentially, serums are usually lighter and more concentrated than essences.

3. Emulsion vs. Lotion

Emulsions and lotions are lighter forms of creams, so they’re generally more suitable for people with sensitive skin.

The difference between emulsions and lotions is simple – lotion is thicker than emulsion. So if you have ultra thin and sensitive skin, it is best that you use an emulsion, which is less likely to irritate your skin or clog your pores.

4. Cream vs. Gel Based Moisturizer

Gel- vs. cream-based moisturizers: What's the difference?

Credit: Ian Dooley

Gel-based moisturizers tend to be the thinnest and easiest to penetrate quickly into your skin. As a gel-based moisturizer is not as rich as a cream-based moisturizer, it is less likely to clog your pores. Cream-based moisturizers, being the richest of all, is most suitable for dry or ultra dry skin.

For our Singaporean readers:

Based on our experience, Singapore’s climate causes you to have oily skin that appears dry on the surface. This means that a cream based moisturizer is likely to be too rich for your skin. Avoid cream-based moisturizers, as it is likely to clog your pores!


UPDATED 27 MAR 2019:

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Summer comes with a lot of perks, but at the same time, it brings a whole new set of challenges to deal with. Among the most common summer complaints when it comes to skin care there is excessive oiliness which tends to emerge at the worst possible times. Being prepared and minimizing damage are the best ways to deal with this problem. Here are a few ways to maintain the illusion of perfect skin without relying solely on blotting papers:


Try Acne-Fighting Cleansers

Even if the days when you were battling acne are officially gone, if you’re having regular shine issues, using a salicylic acid based cleanser can be a good idea. Don’t go beyond 2% concentration though, as it might have opposite effects.


Don’t Skimp On Facials 

Even if you don’t necessarily feel like spending big bucks on spa visits, keeping the ritual of applying suitable homemade facials on a weekly basis should be an important concern. Find our some of the DIY home-made mask for different skin types here.


Eat Right

It’s not only the products you put on your skin that influence the degree of oiliness you experience. Spicy foods along with alcoholic beverages such as cocktails dilate blood vessels causing your skin to sweat more. Limit your consumption of these and instead fill up on a variety of fruits and veggies with high water content and save a few calories in the process.


Try Mineral Based Sunblock 

It might seem unintuitive but it appears that sunblock can actually help control shine and excessive oil production. Micronized Zinc or Titanium Dioxide are the two helpful ingredients for this purpose. Denatured alcohol is another helpful ingredient which can keep the skin oil free. Of course, be sure not to overdo makeup in the summer for best results.

Most of us know the importance of using  sunscreen to protect our skin from ultraviolet rays(UV rays). However, there is often the misconception about sunscreen and sunblock. Although they might be similar in offering protection against the sun, they actually differ in their mechanism of action.


Just like what the name has suggested, sunblock works by physically blocking out the sun’s UV rays.  Hence, sunblock serves as a physical blockers of the sun’s UV rays. The two important active ingredients found in sunblock are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.

For Titanium Dioxide, it offers protection for UVB and short UVA rays while Zinc Oxide blocks out both UVA and UVB rays. Generally, in comparison to sunscreen, sunblock is better tolerated by most skin types as the active ingredients used in sunscreen might cause irritation to the skin. However, one major disadvantage of sunblock is that it tends to leave a whitish tint behind when applied to the skin.


On the other hand, sunscreen works by chemically absorbing the UV rays at the skin’s top layer and converting them into energy before they penetrate further into the skin. Some common chemical UV filters include Aminobenzoic acid derivatives, Benzophenones,  Cinnamates and Salicylates. Find out more here. In addition, sunscreen is able to offer coverage for the full spectrum of UVA rays and UVB rays

Sometimes, chemical ingredients are combined with that of physical blockers to obtain better coverage against UVA and UVB radiation.

With all these information, you are now able to decide whether sunblock or sunscreen is best suited for your skin!