Everything You Need to Know About Essence (And Which Ones Are Best For You)

Skin Secrets

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The murky lines dividing beauty products continue to cause confusion, especially for anyone who only dabbles in skincare regimens, rather than the full-blown routine addicts that some (cough *me* cough) become after seeing positive results. If you’re confused about serums, toners, and essences, don’t fret!

Toners are used right after cleansing; if you’re using harsh cleansers toner will help you balance skin P.H.

Essence comes next, and before serum, but here’s the basic rule; the thicker the product, the later you apply it in your routine. Watery products go before heavy ones, so if you’ve got a runny serum and a goopy essence, swap them around, and they’ll be better absorbed. You’ll waste less product, and see better results, because hydrated skin processes all your lotions and potions much more effectively.

What You Should Know

  • Allure Best of Beauty- 2018
  • Available as 2.3oz mini or in certain Sephora Sample Packs
  • Starring fermented Green Tea

This heavy-duty antioxidant gets pores tight and clean, with tons of hydration to plump out fine lines and wrinkles, while nourishing dry skin, so the rest of your routine can get to work. Reviews are mixed as to how long this essence will last, and heavy users are especially likely to find the price discouraging, but it’s such a lightweight liquid you can apply it with a small spritzer, so you won’t waste any drops on hands, cotton swabs, or other applicators.

Review Highlights

“My makeup goes on flawlessly but quite frankly, my skin looks so healthy foundation is not even necessary. I just bought my second bottle. I’m thoroughly impressed (and I seldom say this about any product). “

What You Should Know

  • Free of synthetic dyes, fragrances, and alcohols
  • Great for combination skin
  • With Rosemary and Lavender

Whether you call it a serum or an essence, this is a moisturizing bomb that will ramp up your regime. Korean brand Belif features products that are free of synthetic dyes and fragrances, so even allergy-prone users can find a product that meets their skincare needs, without causing redness or inflammation from allergen exposures. Based on apothecary treatments, this antioxidant-rich essence features Rosemary and Lavender, to calm combination skin and hydrate, for maximum effectiveness when combined with the rest of your routine.

Review Highlights

“This product is awesome. I use it every night after using my Clarisonic and it’s super hydrating. I should have ordered multiple bottles!”

What You Should Know

  • 95% of Sephora Reviewers would recommend
  • Lighter than cream, thicker than some serums
  • Part of the Water Bank multi-step line

While it’s suitable for all skin types, it’s dry skin sufferers that will have the most to rave about with Laneige’s Water Bank line of products. If you’re in search of a light-weight option that boosts the effectiveness of those heavier creams and lotions, this mineral rich essence is the way to go.

Review Highlights

“It leaves thirsty skin feeling hydrated and ready to go. I used this in combination with the water bank hydrating creme and my skin has never felt better.”

What You Should Know

  • Available in a 2.5oz Mini
  • Best for treating wrinkles and dark spots
  • With 90% Pitera Essence

The SK-II line is formulated around a single key ingredient: Pitera essence. This mineral-rich fermented liquid boasts celebrity acclaim, with radiant reviewers, like actress Cate Blanchett, claiming her stunning skin is due in part to a religious dedication to the SK-II products. This essence has the highest concentration of Pitera in their entire line, so it’s a fantastic way to try out the luxury line without splurging on the whole product set.

Review Highlights

“It feels as though my skin is drinking it in. My skin is hydrated and radiant and best of all, my forehead lines are significantly reduced. Worth every penny.”

What You Should Know

  • Dermatologist tested
  • Meets the Clean at Sephora standards
  • Great for dry skin

Tatcha’s entire line focuses on green tea, rice, and algae, to help you get skin that glows with health and happiness. With such rave reviews and devoted users, it’s easy to see why so many people love the entire Tatcha line; they claim that using this essence only adds seven seconds onto your skincare routine, but the results far outweigh the investment.

Review Highlights

“I rarely leave product reviews as normally I’m not blown away by a purchase but Tatcha’s essence is one of the best products I’ve ever bought.”

What You Should Know

  • Brightens skin
  • Boosts elasticity
  • Amps up any multi-step regimen

After their treatment toner and before the all-in-one cream, this Snail Mucin essence is the perfect compliment to Cosrx’s multi-step line for glowing, rejuvenated skin. Unlike other moisture-intensive lines, it’s not necessary to relegate these products to nighttime use, because they absorb quickly and don’t lay heavily on the skin. Perfect for day or night, they’re effective for makeup users, and absolutely stunning for a bare-faced day.

Review Highlights

“I’ve used this for a few days now and can already notice a difference in my skin. Instead of feeling dry, my skin feels more supple and bouncy. It’s a bit slimy of a feeling when applied after toner, but that slickness goes away quickly and absorbs well into the skin.”

What You Should Know

  • Good for all skin types
  • Improves skin moisture and tone
  • Without parabens, pthalates, or sulfates

Pomegranate, avocado, and peach are just a few of the natural ingredients included in Saturday Skin’s peptide rich formula. It helps boost elasticity and collagen production, while minimizing the evidence of sun damage, making it an essential step in preventing the signs of aging.

Review Highlights

“I stopped wearing makeup recently and have started using this essence. My skin has never been better! My pesky forehead acne is clear and so are my cheeks.”

What You Should Know

  • Smoothes texture
  • Great for oily or combination skin in particular
  • Includes cotton applicators

There’s a debate with essences, whether you should apply by hand ala the K-Beauty tradition, use cotton applicators as you do with toner, or go a third route with spray applicators. Primera is the rare product that includes a set of cotton applicators, so their intended application method is pretty easy to sus out.

Review Highlights

“I would highly recommend this to someone who has sensitive skin, with dark spot or dullness – this is definitely going to be added into my skincare routine!”

What You Should Know

  • Affordable single-pack masks
  • Available with a range of botanical scents
  • Mamonde has over 20 years in skincare

A lot of what’s under sheet masks could rightfully be called essence, not serums, but we digress; this blend of botanicals delivers a powerful punch to dryness and irritation, with rose and eucalyptus combining to gently moisturize without overwhelming skin. It’s the perfect thing for fighting the redness often associated with harsher elements, either outdoors or from retinol moisturizers.

Review Highlights

“I am really loving Mamonde masks. I got a few while they were on sale, but I definitely will repurchase some for full price again. I have extremely sensitive, eczema prone skin and this just gave my face a nice cooling sensation. “

What You Should Know

  • Aloe, Apple, Green Tea; like juicing for your skin
  • Use as part of a multi-step line to quench dry skin
  • Prepares skin cells to accept serums and moisturizers

Get in on this brightness boosting essence before everyone else learns about it and it sells out! It has everything dry, dreary skin needs, with aloe as the first ingredient is guaranteed to be just the nourishing step your routine has been missing. Malic acid and CoQ10 are just a few of the active ingredients pulling their weight, giving visible proof over time that your skin is being hydrated and well cared-for.

Review Highlights

“Seriously the best. I have acne-prone oily skin and this has helped balance my oil and I haven’t been breaking out as much! I have been using at night before moisturizer for about a month now. The spots forming on my face are visibly smaller in the morning.”


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