Whether you’ve committed to the highly hyped 10-step Korean skincare routine or not, there are certain hacks worth stealing from the world of K-Beauty – and we’re not just talking sheet masks. Because what’s likely missing from your bathroom shelf is a product that’s considered a veritable staple in SoKo skincare: essences.
Not quite a serum (but not a toner either), essences are bursting with beautifying ingredients to load skin with goodness while enhancing the effectiveness of what you apply right after. Savoir Flair spoke to two skincare experts to get the complete low-down on these wonder waters – and here’s what we learned.
What Exactly Is an Essence?
“Essences are an essential step of Korean skincare and at the heart of the double-hydration process,” explains Rebekka Young, skincare expert at Korean brand Erborian. “They act as hydration boosters and prepare skin tissues to receive heavier formulations, as well as delivering targeted active ingredients.” With a thin, water-like texture, an essence may look like a toner or makeup remover, but its primary purpose is hydration, so it’s great if you have dry skin and could benefit from an extra hit of moisture.
“An essence also works on your skin as a primer, preparing the skin to receive the beneficial ingredients from your chosen moisturizer or serum,” says Kat Burki, Founder and CEO of Kat Burki Skincare. “Put simply, an essence will provide targeted, high-impact results and create a more permeable surface for your moisturizer to be absorbed.”
How Should I Use an Essence?
Because it acts like a primer, an essence should come after cleansing and before your moisturizer or serum – and you only need a small amount. “Pour the lotion into your hands and apply to the entire face and neck, avoiding the eye area,” says Young. “Lightly press your skin with your hands, then pat your face until it’s absorbed. Quickly follow with the rest of your hydration routine.”
Alternatively, you can use a cotton pad. As Burki recommends: “Simply apply to the skin with a soaked cotton pad, buffing it onto the face until fully absorbed.”
Now Shop Our Picks of the Best Essences
111Skin ‘Antioxidant Energising Essence’
The Energizing Essence
If your skin is in need of a perfecting pick-me-up, look no further than this energizing essence from 111Skin. Doing just as its name suggests, it loads skin with revitalizing ingredients and antioxidants to restore its natural pH levels, lock in moisture, and fight off free radicals, leaving skin wide awake and glowing in a flash.
111Skin ‘Antioxidant Energising Essence’
Caudalie 'Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence'
The Brightening Essence
A brightening boost in a bottle, this is SoKo-skincare-meets-French-innovation at its finest. Enriched with Caudalie’s signature hydrating grape water, it also contains glycolic acid to gently remove dead skin cells, and white peony extracts to revitalize. Healthy glow, here we come.
Caudalie ‘Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence’
Kat Burki 'Advanced Anti-Aging Goji Essence'
The Anti-Aging Essence
Proving that natural skincare products can be just as effective as their synthetic counterparts, this cutting-edge essence combines science with nature to enhance elasticity, ward off wrinkles, and boost cell renewal. Formulated with lactic acid, goji-berry extracts, and peptides, it leaves skin visibly smoother and plumper with its youthful glow restored.
Kat Burki ‘Advanced Anti-Aging Goji Essence’
By Terry 'Detoxilyn City Essence'
The Protecting Essence
The next best thing to an actual skin shield, this protecting powerhouse keeps harmful nasties and pollution at bay while loading skin with nourishing ingredients. Rich in antioxidants that fight against free radicals, it also detoxifies, moisturizes, and energizes the skin thanks to alpine rose cell and acanthus extracts.
By Terry ‘Detoxilyn City Essence’
Aurelia 'Calming Botanical Essence'
The Calming Essence
If you thought probiotics were solely reserved for your morning yogurt, think again – they’re also the secret to superstar skin. How? By slowing down the aging process and protecting and restoring skin from within – and that’s just what this calming essence does. It also soothes stressed skin with a calming cocktail of crystal and botanical extracts that does everything from reducing redness to alleviating inflammation and eliminating irritation.
Aurelia Probiotic Skincare ‘Calming Botanical Essence’
Tata Harper 'Hydrating Floral Essence'
The Hydrating Essence
Packed full of natural hyaluronic acid – which holds 1,000 times its weight in water – this entirely natural moisturizing must-have is the next best thing to upping your daily water intake. There’s also beetroot extract, jasmine, pink clay, and witch hazel to improve tone and elasticity, detoxify, stimulate circulation, and minimize pores. It’s no wonder Gwyneth Paltrow’s a fan…
Tata Harper ‘Hydrating Floral Essence’