Out of the 10 steps that a Korean skin care routine has, essences are probably what confuses beginners the most—and with good reason. For one, the watery texture of essences feel too similar to a traditional toner. And instead of just ridding our skin of excess dirt, it promises as much skin care benefits as a serum. So what is it, really?
"Essence is the heart of the Korean skin care routine," Soko Glam's Charlotte Cho tells Into the Gloss. It's typically used as a pre-skin care step that balances the skin after cleansing so it's prepared for the succeeding steps in your routine. They address specific skin issues like serums do, some of which could be hydration, sensitivity, brightening, and anti-aging. However, essences are less potent. Also, unlike toners, essences should be applied not with a cotton pad, but with our hands in gentle patting motions. This gives the product direct contact with our skin and lets it drink up the concentrated ingredients better.
Given all that info above, we're guessing you're right about ready to jump into this K-beauty essential on your own. Here's a quick shopping guide to get you started:
Essences are great at reducing the chances of moisture loss. If you have dry skin, they'll do wonders for maintaining a supple complexion.
IMAGE Algenist, Origins
Algenist Hydrating Essence Toner, Rustan's Shangri-la; Origins Original Skin Essence Lotion with Dual Ferment Complex, P1600, SM Makati
For oily skin, go for alcohol-free essences that won't dry your skin out and make it even oilier. Instead, pat on ones that balance your stressed skin while giving it a punch of moisture.
IMAGE Shiseideo, Estée Lauder
Shiseido Pureness Balancing Softener, TriNoma; Estée Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion, P3220, SM Aura
Fermented ingredients like yeast are typically found in most serums, and it's definitely one ingredient you need to look for when it's fine lines and wrinkles you're dodging. Combine it with some essential oils and niacinamide, and we promise your skin will thank you 20 years later.
IMAGE LOccitane, LOreal
L'Occitane Immortelle Divine Lotion, P3000, Estancia Mall; L’Oreal Revitalift Laser X3 Power Water, P499, Watsons
Sensitive skin should stay far, far away from most toners because of the insane amounts of alcohol. For effective soothing, use a rich watery essence instead.
IMAGE 23.5N, The Body Shop
23.5N Rice Soothing Active Essence, P1850, Beauty Bar; The Body Shop Vitamin E Aqua Boost Essence Lotion, P1095, SM Megamall
Boost your acne scar and dark spot routine with an essence with brightening benefits. Watch out for ones with vitamin B3 and fermented yeast ingredients for best results!
IMAGE Olay, Clinique
Olay White Radiance Cellucent Essence Water Hydrating Toner, P1399, Watsons; Clinique Even Better Essence Lotion, P2500, SM Megamall