Why it’s worth adding an essence to your skin care routine

From what it is to who should use one

Beauty Crew Editor / May 25 2017

The Koreans have always been at the forefront of beauty innovation (cushion compacts, anyone?), and one of the biggest skin care trends to come from them in recent years is the essence, a water-like formulation that’s added to your regular skin care routine.

But what exactly is an essence? Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice, puts it like this: “Essences vary from country to country and brand to brand, but generally speaking they have thin, lightweight, fluid textures – often like a milky toner – that supply skin with antioxidants, soothing agents, and a variety of repairing and anti-aging ingredients.” 

Sounds great, right? But we’re guessing you have a few more questions about essences (like maybe if you really even need one), so we spoke to some beauty industry experts to get the lowdown on this new category in skin care.

How is an essence different to a toner?

While at a glance an essence may look like a toner, the two are actually quite different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

What’s the benefit of using an essence?

An essence helps add another layer of hydration to your skin, and “When your skin is hydrated, conditioned and in a state of optimum health, it’s better able to support the direct benefits of your serum and moisturiser. By activating your skin’s ability to retain moisture, essences create the perfect environment for the rest of your skin care ritual to work effectively,” says Danielle Williams, education specialist for Jurlique.

Is an essence suitable for certain skin types?

The good news is that an essence can work for all skin types, but it’s particularly beneficial for dry or dehydrated skin, thanks to its nourishing and hydrating abilities, and Williams is quick to note that we are all susceptible to this. “There are many factors that can cause skin to become dehydrated – from the natural ageing process, to outdoor exposure, to harsh products and not drinking enough water or too much coffee,” she says.

Begoun points out that those with oily skin might be particularly drawn to essences, as they’ll “find the lightweight texture of an essence a nice balance for skin

Skin of all ages is prone to dehydration due to exposure from environmental aggressors such as air conditioning, temperature and humidity extremes, as well as air pollution.
Danielle Williams
Education Specialist

When and how do I use an essence?

In a simple cleanse, tone, serum, moisturise routine, you’d apply your essence after toning and before your serum and moisturiser. If your regimen is a bit more complicated, a good rule to follow is to always apply before you serum or moisturiser so you can reap the maximum benefits of the ingredients in them.

As for how, it couldn’t be easier. Simply pour a few drops into the palms of your hands and gently press the essence into the skin on your face, neck and décolletage.

What essences are available in Australia?

Thankfully the Korean trend has hit our shores big time and as time passes more and more essences become available but a few of our favourites include:

Chantecaille Blanc Gardenia Brightening Essence: Formulated with potent botanical actives to brighten skin, the formulation will help target pigmentation, age spots and discolouration while hydrating skin.

Nutrimetics Ultra Care+ Platinum Skin Regenerating Toning Essence: Lines and wrinkles an issue for you? This lightweight essence helps firm and improve skin density while stimulating skin regeneration for a more radiant, younger-looking complexion. 

Estée Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion: This targeted treatment deeply penetrates skin to deliver concentrated ingredients to leave skin incredibly nourished and energised. The result? Smoother, more supple skin in just a few weeks.

Chantecaille Blanc Gardenia Brightening Essence

Nutrimetics Skin Regenerating Toning Essence

Estée Lauder Micro Essence

Jurlique Activating Water Essence: “The water-like texture of Jurlique’s Activating Water Essence allows it to penetrate through surface layers, prepared by Jurlique Toning Mists, to provide continuous hydration. Skin is hydrated, maximising the performance of treatment products and allowing you to receive the full benefits on your skin,” says Williams.

Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Antioxidant Infusion Essence: While this essence helps boost skin’s natural hydration levels on application and throughout the day, a commination of powerful antioxidants will also help protect your skin from environmental aggressors, which can help slow the signs of ageing.  

SK-II Mid-Night Miracle Essence: Featuring SK-II’s hero ingredient Pitera™ and fine particles that can be quickly absorbed, this essence offers skin intense hydration and refreshes skin as you sleep.

Jurlique Activating Water Essence

Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Essence

SK-II Mid-Night Miracle Essence

Main image photography: Edward Urrutia

Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.