The essential skin care step replacing toners

And why you need to add it to your routine

marie claire Contributor / May 25 2017

Remember toners? The forgotten step
 of the skin care routine is making a comeback in the form of essences

For many 30-somethings
a three-step routine was your first introduction to adult skin care and, for years, the system was religiously followed: cleanse, tone, moisturise. Repeat. But somewhere along the way toner (which used alcohol to exfoliate and stripped the skin of its natural oils) fell out of favour. So three became two. Fast-forward 20 years and the middle child is back with new formulations and new benefits, and is now more commonly referred to as an essence. Here’s everything you need to know to fall back in love with the new toners.

Toner 2.0

“Modern toners prepare the skin for deeper penetration of serums and moisturisers,” says Sydney-based facialist Jocelyn Petroni. Now, the stigma-free second step is all about essences, waters and mists.

Essences are not a new phenomenon. The now iconic SK-II Facial Treatment Essence was brought to the market in 1980 – and for a long time was an Asian beauty secret. The water-like consistency was confusing to those who believed thick creams and tingly serums were
the signs of efficacy.

The evolution of its popularity is one that Petroni attributes to the popularity of serums. “Serums evolved into the most important step in your skin care routine,” she explains. “Then the surge of serums saw the reinvention of toners and essences, which are essentially light, textured serums.”

Which is precisely what makes essences different to original toners. They aren’t there for a “squeaky-clean” (read: stripped) feel. Think of them as next-level toners containing active ingredients designed to target and penetrate deep into the skin’s layers. Most are designed for brightening, clarity and cell renewal, and will also help other products work more effectively.

Why you should be using an essence

These days having a well-looked after face can be time-consuming, but essences have earned their place as an essential because they allow all your other skin care products to perform better. “Essences allow for additional ingredient absorption and better penetration of your moisturiser,” says Petroni. “As they tend to be water-based solutions, they quickly and easily penetrate the skin, delivering the active ingredients to their target site.” Adding the essence to your routine will have results.

Where it fits into your skin care routine

After cleansing, apply the essence with your fingers (cotton pads will soak up too much product) and use a patting motion all over. Follow with a serum, moisturiser, eye cream and SPF. And that, in essence, is all you need.

Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Pore Minimising Toner

Shisedo White Lucent Luminizing Infuser Lotion

Bioderma Soothing Moisturising Toning Lotion

Clinique Clarifying Lotion 1

Dior One Essential Mist-Lotion Detoxifying Mist Purity Booster

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Youth Restoring Essence

Want to know what the most popular products are? Here's Google's most searched skin care products.

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Main image credit: Getty

Product photography by Edward Urrutia

Sarah Tarca is a former neat handwriting champion whose skills involve applying lipstick without a mirror and artfully disguising 8-month regrowth. For the last 15 years she’s worked for the likes of Cosmopolitan, Girlfriend and Marie Claire as features writer, editor and beauty director, before leaving Oz for a professional vagabond life (“digital nomad”) in permanent euro summer. A beauty, travel and wellness obsessive, she currently writes for a bunch of digital and print titles both in Australia and abroad, and sometimes even posts on her blog (that is, when she’s not posting extremely belated travel pics on her instagram @tarca).