• Top 19 Best Japanese Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules in 2021 - Tried and True! (shu uemura, Chifure, and More) 1
  • Top 19 Best Japanese Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules in 2021 - Tried and True! (shu uemura, Chifure, and More) 2
  • Top 19 Best Japanese Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules in 2021 - Tried and True! (shu uemura, Chifure, and More) 3
  • Top 19 Best Japanese Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules in 2021 - Tried and True! (shu uemura, Chifure, and More) 4
  • Top 19 Best Japanese Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules in 2021 - Tried and True! (shu uemura, Chifure, and More) 5

Top 19 Best Japanese Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules in 2021 - Tried and True! (shu uemura, Chifure, and More)

Winters can get really dry, especially with offices running their heaters, full blast, at high temperatures. In times like these, you need a little extra moisture, especially because one of the secrets to keeping your skin young is to keep it hydrated. 

But it can be difficult to tell which formulas will work for you and which won't, so to save you some guesswork, we ordered the 19 most popular moisturizing serums from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited a skincare specialist and had her compare the following:

  1. Hydration
  2. Application

※Serums, essences, and ampoules are basically the same product, just with different concentration levels of active ingredients.

Experts featured in this article

Aiko Kawakami
  • Last updated: 06-08-2021
  • 5,316 views
Table of Contents

Top 19 Best Japanese Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules

Now to introduce the 19 best Japanese moisturizing serums, essences, and ampoules available online. They were ranked by how well they did on our tests and given an overall grade ranging from 1.0 to 5.0.


※Japanese prices for some of the products are given; they’ve merely been converted into USD for easy viewing.

1
Japaneseちふれ 美容液 ノンアルコールタイプ
Hydration5.0
Application3.0
Overall score5.0
2
Japanese米肌 肌潤改善エッセンス
Hydration5.0
Application3.0
Overall score5.0
3
Japaneseアルビオンエクラフチュールd
Hydration4.0
Application4.0
Overall score3.0
4
Japaneseシュウウエムラ TSUYA エッセンスVG
Hydration3.0
Application5.0
Overall score4.0
5

AyuraRhythm Concentrate

$105.81

Japaneseアユーラ リズムコンセントレート
Hydration2.0
Application5.0
Overall score3.0
6
JapaneseSUQQU ライトソリューション エッセンス
Hydration3.0
Application3.0
Overall score3.0
7
JapanesePOLA B.A セラム レブアップ
Hydration4.0
Application2.0
Overall score3.0
8

shiroKOMBU Skin Serum

$77.15

Japaneseshiro がごめ昆布美容液
Hydration4.0
Application2.0
Overall score3.0
9
Rice Force Deep Moisture Essence 1

Rice ForceDeep Moisture Essence

$90.93

Japaneseライスフォース ディープシリーズ ディープモイスチュアエッセンス
Hydration2.0
Application4.0
Overall score3.0
10

KikumasamuneNihonshu no Biyoueki – Sake Essence

$24.99

Japanese菊正宗 日本酒の美容液
Hydration4.0
Application1.0
Overall score3.0
11
Japaneseアクセーヌ AD コントロール エッセンス
Hydration3.0
Application3.0
Overall score3.0
12
ETVOS Moisturizing Serum 1

ETVOSMoisturizing Serum

$50.59

Japaneseエトヴォス モイスチャライジングセラム
Hydration3.0
Application3.0
Overall score3.0
13
Curél Intensive Moisture Care Wrinkle Moisture Essence 1

CurélIntensive Moisture Care Wrinkle Moisture Essence

$22.57

Japaneseキュレル 潤浸保湿美容液
Hydration2.0
Application3.0
Overall score2.0
14
Japaneseリッツ モイスト 美容 エッセンス
Hydration2.0
Application3.0
Overall score2.0

Compare the Best Moisturizing Serums, Essences, and Ampoules

Image
1
Chifure Essence Alcohol-Free 1

Chifure

2
MAIHADA Hadajun Essence 1

MAIHADA

3
ALBION eclafutur d 1

ALBION

4
shu uemura TSUYA skin essence VG 1

shu uemura

5
Ayura Rhythm Concentrate 1

Ayura

6
SUQQU Light Solution Essence 1

SUQQU

7
POLA B.A Serum REVUP 1

POLA

8
shiro KOMBU Skin Serum 1

shiro

9
Rice Force Deep Moisture Essence 1

Rice Force

10
Kikumasamune Nihonshu no Biyoueki – Sake Essence 1

Kikumasamune

11
Acseine Skincontrol Essence AD 1

Acseine

12
ETVOS Moisturizing Serum 1

ETVOS

13
Curél Intensive Moisture Care Wrinkle Moisture Essence 1

Curél

14
LITS Moist Essence 1

LITS

Name

Essence Alcohol-Free

Hadajun Essence

eclafutur d

TSUYA skin essence VG

Rhythm Concentrate

Light Solution Essence

B.A Serum REVUP

KOMBU Skin Serum

Deep Moisture Essence

Nihonshu no Biyoueki – Sake Essence

Skincontrol Essence AD

Moisturizing Serum

Intensive Moisture Care Wrinkle Moisture Essence

Moist Essence

Features

A Drugstore Cosmetic That's Super Hydrating

Rice Extract Hydrates and Leaves You With Dewy Skin

A Light Serum That Absorbs Quickly into Skin

Left Skin Plush and Plump and Has a Soothing Floral Scent

On the Thicker Side, but Spreads Easily

Hydration was Simply Average

A Unique, Sleek Package That Spreads Easily onto Skin

Quite a Sticky Serum, but Leaves Skin Plump

Great if You’re Looking for a Lighter Serum

Smells Exactly like Sake and Excels at Hydration

The Simple Ingredients List Puts Those With Sensitive Skin at Ease

Has an Irresistible Herbal Scent and Goes on Light

It's Easy to Use, but Just the Slightest Bit Tacky

Has a Thick, Lush Texture That Won't Drip

Price$6.61$77.91$137.07$74.95$105.81$137.27$126.10$77.15$90.93$24.99$65.58$50.59$22.57$30.41
Japaneseちふれ 美容液 ノンアルコールタイプ米肌 肌潤改善エッセンスアルビオンエクラフチュールdシュウウエムラ TSUYA エッセンスVGアユーラ リズムコンセントレートSUQQU ライトソリューション エッセンスPOLA B.A セラム レブアップshiro がごめ昆布美容液ライスフォース ディープシリーズ ディープモイスチュアエッセンス菊正宗 日本酒の美容液アクセーヌ AD コントロール エッセンスエトヴォス モイスチャライジングセラムキュレル 潤浸保湿美容液リッツ モイスト 美容 エッセンス
Hydration5.05.04.03.02.03.04.04.02.04.03.03.02.02.0
Application3.03.04.05.05.03.02.02.04.01.03.03.03.03.0
Overall score5.05.03.04.03.03.03.03.03.03.03.03.02.02.0
Link

Products That Didn't Make The Cut

And why they didn't quite make it.

Simply Not Hydrating

Simply Not Hydrating

DECORTÉ Moisture Liposome's formula was just thick enough, leaving skin a little tacky. However, if you expect this serum to be as hydrating as it is expensive ($88.66), you might find yourself disappointed.

Another serum we found lacking in moisture was ONE BY KOSE's Hydration Boosting Serum. We were especially disappointed since it contained all sorts of promising ingredients. But it had a light and smooth texture that didn’t leave skin tacky, so you might like it if you prefer thinner serums.

Problems With the Packaging

Problems With the Packaging

Biso-Jin Jewelry Jelly was the only moisturizing gel serum we tested. It came in a jar with a second lid underneath the main cap with a spatula resting on top that we found annoying to use. The earthy scent wasn't for everyone, and it also wasn't hydrating.

Tune Makers Ceramide 200 Essence had much of the same issues. Despite containing ceramides, it wasn't hydrating and it wouldn't come out of the bottle easily. It was light and silky, though. 


Last, but not least, was Tune Makers Fullerene Essence. The ingredients were simple and didn’t leave skin tacky at all, but it just wasn’t hydrating. The bottle was also small, and we thought restocking it could get expensive in the long run. Not to mention that it took some effort trying to get product to come out of the small hole on top.

Introducing the Expert Who Lent Us Her Knowledge

This time around, we borrowed the expertise of a skincare specialist, who’s a well-known face both in magazines and on the web.
Introducing the Expert Who Lent Us Her Knowledge
Aiko Kawakami
Skincare Specialist

She's a skincare specialist who has over 20,000 consultations under her belt. She approaches skin with a combination of scientific evidence and experience, using her knowledge of dermatology and cosmetic ingredients to help women become even more beautiful, down to their fingertips.

She's the representative of the board of directors over at ANSEM (Association of Nail & Skin Experts Maestro) and an instructor at the JCLA (Japan Cosmetic Licensing Association). She's also made numerous media appearances.

How We Tested the Serums, Essences, and Ampoules

We gathered 19 most popular Japanese serums, essences, and ampoules from Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme and tested them for hydration and application.

Test ① Hydration

Test ① Hydration
The first thing we looked at was hydration.
We applied a pearl-sized drop of each serum on our arm. We then used a moisture analyzer and compared the state of our skin before application to its state eight hours after application.

Glycerin and BG are a Hydrating Super Combo

Glycerin and BG are a Hydrating Super Combo
If it has glycerin, it’s probably hydrating. We also found that serums that combined glycerin with BG tended to be the most hydrating of all. They also tended to be dense.
Something else hydrating serums had in common? They contained ingredients derived from sugar. Trehalose is one of the most famous examples, and the formulas that featured it were usually satisfactory.
Aiko Kawakami
Skincare Specialist
Aiko Kawakami
If you want something that's hydrating, then I recommend formulas that contain both BG and glycerin. Sugars like trehalose and sugar squalane are great at attracting water, so they're usually effective as well.

Test ② Application

Test ② Application
Next, we looked at how each serum applied.
We gathered staff from several departments and had them tell us their impressions of the texture and scent of the formula and the convenience of the packaging.

We Liked Toned Down, Classy Smells and Droppers

We Liked Toned Down, Classy Smells and Droppers
We felt droppers were the most convenient to use. It was easiest to measure out how much product we wanted to use and it helped that they made us feel like we were using an expensive serum. We also liked denser serums, since the hydration they packed into our skin was immediately noticeable.
As for fragrance, we liked to keep it classy–think subtle floral scents. You want to use serums daily, so as long as you aren’t sensitive to fragrances, it’s nice to wrap yourself in a gentle scent at the end of the day and pretend you’re at a spa.

How to Choose a Japanese Moisturizing Serum, Essence, or Ampoule – Buying Guide

Here, we’d like to introduce two things you should look out for when choosing a moisturizing serum.

Pick a Product That's Actually Moisturizing

Although finding something moisturizing may seem like an obvious conclusion, in this section, we'll teach you how to choose a product that actually works. 

Read the Ingredients List and Look for Hydrating Combos

Read the Ingredients List and Look for Hydrating Combos

Japanese cosmetics need to have all the ingredients listed by law, so you can read the packaging and have a rough idea of what the formula’s going to be like. 


However, if the serum’s been labeled as what translates roughly into an over-the-counter drug, then the maker is under no obligation to provide a full list of ingredients–so it gets hard to make assumptions simply from reading labels.

Read the Ingredients List and Look for Hydrating Combos
In the cosmetics industry, the most popular hydrating ingredient is glycerin. Then there’s BG, DPG, and trehalose. If you see any of these near the top of the ingredients list, then you can expect the serum to be moisturizing–at least to a certain extent.
As we already explained, it’s hard to judge from just the packaging. So, at the very least, we made sure to test all of the products we purchased for hydration; take those results into consideration as well.

Formulas That Include Alcohol and Ethanol Feel Light and Airy

Formulas That Include Alcohol and Ethanol Feel Light and Airy
Alcohol and ethanol are volatile; therefore, serums that include them will feel less sticky and dense on the skin.
This might seem a bit confusing, since, after all, alcohol is rumored to shrivel up skin. But just because a product contains alcohol doesn’t mean that it’s drying. That actually depends on the condition your skin is in, as well as your physical constitution.
However, you would do well to avoid alcohol if you have sensitive skin or are allergic to it.
Aiko Kawakami
Skincare Specialist
Aiko Kawakami
There are ingredients people feel are irritating, either because of some change in their health or because they've spent too long reading false claims about skincare. However, the truth of the matter is that out of the 14,000 plus cosmetic ingredients on the market now, there's not a single one that's universally irritating.

Make It One That's Easy to Apply

Make It One That's Easy to Apply

Hydrating serums come in all kinds of textures–some you may like and some you may feel iffy about. You can find gel serums, slick liquid serums, or dense cream-like serums.

It isn’t as if one kind of texture is better than another. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it all comes down to personal preference. Look for a serum that’s easy to apply–and has a texture and scent that appeals to you.

If You Need More Moisture, Check Out These Articles as Well

If You Need More Moisture, Check Out These Articles as Well

If you have dry skin and want to properly care for it, you’ll need good toners and lotions as well. We also tested all the products in these articles, so you should find them helpful.

Summary

We consulted a skincare specialist, purchased the 19 most popular moisturizing serums, essences, and ampoules, and tested them all.

Remember which serums are most hydrating, which are dense, and which are more lightweight. That way, you can find one that will not only keep your skin soft and lush throughout winter, but fresh and dewy in the summer.

Author: Yukina Matsuda/Translation: Jasmine Li


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