Essences: A Skincare FYI

Essence. Traditionally, that word is meant to describe the spirit or intrinsic nature of something. An essential quality, if you will. Now that Korean skincare has hit the U.S., “essence” has taken on a different meaning.

An essence in the skincare realm, is actually a product. It’s a highly watery substance that you put on your face with your fingers (not an easy task) after you cleanse and tone, but before you apply serum.

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Still confused? So is most of America.

The emergence of essences is meant to add yet another step to our skincare routine, of which most people follow ZERO steps. Even if you don’t plan to use it, it’s good to know what this product is so you’re not intimidated or confused when out shopping.


First, cleanse your skin, removing all your makeup (I highly recommend double cleansing).

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Second, swipe a non-alcohol-based toner and/or micellular water all over your face, to remove remaining traces of oil and makeup.

Third, carefully pour some essence onto your hands and gently pat all over your face (careful not to get into your eyes).

Fourth, apply serum and continue with the rest of your skincare routine. Whatever it may be…

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Essences are primarily meant to help hydrate your skin. They aren’t cleansing, and they aren’t currently meant to curb oil or exfoliate. This does not mean, however, that people with oily/combination skin can’t use it. In fact, essences can often have light hydrators that can add non-greasy moisture to help oily skin types stay hydrated and stop overproducing oil. If you have dry skin, essences add an extra layer of hydrators that can penetrate more deeply into skin to tackle dehydration on a deeper level.


Essences might be blowing up, but they can still be slightly harder to find compared to an eye cream or face wash. Here are some examples for you to check out.


Facial Treatment Essence

Probably the most famous (and most expensive) one of all. First popular in Japan, not Korea, this guy pioneered the essence category for the mainstream. It’s made with a fermented ingredient called pitera, originating from the process used to make sake. Fermented ingredients are lauded for their antioxidant properties, which help prevent and repair damage from free radicals that come from pollution and sun damage.

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Available here


Eudermine Softening Lotion

Here’s why beauty brands can be so damn confusing. This product is an essence, but it’s called a “softening lotion”. Just like how serums can also be called “concentrates” or “treatments”, essences are also subject to fancy nicknames by brands that want to distinguish themselves. Different name, but same purpose. This essence is one of the OGs of facial essences and known for its gorgeous, red bottle.

9991000000003Photo courtesy of Shiseido

Available here


Mineral Treatment Essence

This one isn’t a major brand name, but it has been written about in beauty blogs abound such as Into the Gloss, Byrdie, and Vogue.

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Photo courtesy of Peach and Lilly
Available here


Hungarian Water Essence (+more)

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Available here

This is a relatively new brand to Sephora, and its products have been featured heavily on Sephora’s website. Their first products advertised were face creams that provide hydration without pore-clogging oil, and now they offer several different types of essences. Only three are available on Sephora, but their website offers more versions, such as one for skin brightening.

Now that you have the lowdown on facial essences, you can be an informed consumer that knows how to navigate the skincare aisle. Look at you with all that knowledge!

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