I have a confession to make….I have an obsession with essences.
But when I decided that I wanted to gush over my favorite product in my skincare line-up, I realized that many people may not have ever heard of an essence. Or, if they had, they may not fully understand what an essence is!
There are so many buzzwords in skincare–especially k-beauty–which is why I decided to take some time and go in-depth about this cult-classic k-beauty item that I firmly believe you need to add to your skincare routine. Seriously, if you aren’t already using essences, you are definitely missing out! So if you are interested in learning more about essences, read on!
Disclosure: Please keep in mind that any of the links provided below are affiliate links which means that I am compensated if you do decide to make a purchase. Whether or not you do so is completely up to you!
What is an essence?
If you’re just beginning your journey into the world of k-beauty, you may have seen the word, “essence” tossed around a few times. It’s pretty easy to determine that they are both important and widely used; everyone raves about essences! But what exactly is an essence?
In a nutshell, an essence is the step in your skin care routine where you are giving your skin a little extra love and care after cleansing and toning. Once your skin is both cleansed and toned, oftentimes, you’re left feeling a little stripped. That is why one of the biggest purposes of an essence is to provide additional moisture to your skin. It is also why the people who benefit the most from essences are typically those with dry or sensitive skin types.
Though essences may seem like a relatively new product in the US, they have been around Asian skincare for a long time.
During college, I had a friend whose family owned a medical clinic that specialized in Chinese medicine. She told me that Chinese medicine was different from American medicine in that it focused more on strengthening the body to combat the ailment while American medicine focused on alleviating the symptoms.
In a way, that is what essences bring to the table! They work on a cellular level to combat any skin issues before they pop up on your face. This isn’t reactionary skincare, this is pre-emptive skincare!
Why should I use an essence?
Essences are a fantastic product to introduce to your skincare regimen if you are looking for a product to make your skin feel soft and comfy. As someone with dry, sensitive skin, many cleansers can leave my skin feeling tight and uncomfortable, but after introducing essences into my routine, my skin feels hydrated and happy!
In addition to the hydration aspect, different essences are marketed for different purposes, and–as such–have different ingredients. You can buy essences that specialize in hydrating your skin, specialize in anti-aging, or anything in between!
What’s great about the incredibly robust essence market is that there are so many different essences with so many different ingredients to choose from! When I was younger, I never really paid much attention to what was in my skincare products. I just bought them and crossed my fingers that they would give me flawless skin.
Now, I pay much more attention to what is in the products that I’m buying. That way, I know what ingredients work for my skin and which ones to avoid. I can also research better than ever before if I know what ingredients serve which skincare purposes.
For example, if you are looking for a blast of hydration, look for products with hyaluronic acid in it–a substance that is actually naturally produced by your body to lubricate your tissues.
Another ingredient that is not only highly moisturizing but also fights acne scars and irritation is snail mucin. I know….it sounds gross, but this is a holy grail ingredient in some essences. Plus, it’s not like you’ll smell like a snail after you use it.
One more ingredient that I’d like to highlight is mugwort (otherwise known by its more luxurious-sounding name: artemisia). Mugwort/artemisia is a great ingredient to look for if you need something that will soothe your skin and tackle breakouts. It is also filled with Vitamins A and C–great for skin regeneration and brightening.
Which essence should I buy?
That question can be tough to answer. Just like anything with skincare, the best essence for you may not be the best essence for me. However, I have tried MANY essences over the years and can confidently point you in the right direction in terms of which ones you can test first.
The great news is that essences do not need to be extremely pricey–some of my favorites are incredibly affordable! Moreover, Korean Beauty has come a long way in the past decade, and there are so many brands that I trust to come out with reliable products time and time again. To help you start out, I will highlight a few essences that I have tried and LOVED this year:
An oldie but a goodie. This essence is basically a k-beauty cult classic. Anyone who professes a love for Korean skincare has almost certainly tried this essence out.
And it’s a classic for a reason! Its primary active ingredient is lactic acid, so in addition to that basic added moisture an essence provides, this one will target age spots, hyper-pigmentation, and any other uneven complexion issues that you may be experiencing! This is an essence that will provide extra moisture to your skin while evening out your skin tone. It doesn’t have a scent, and my dry, sensitive skin loves this essence!
I’d say that if you are looking to try essences for the first time and want to make a safe purchase, this one is your best bet! I have gone through about ten bottles of this essence, and will probably continue to purchase it until the end of time.
I first started using this essence at the beginning of 2020, and let me tell you….I absolutely adore it! This essence was featured in my breakdown of my morning Korean skincare routine, and I am still using it!
I love this essence because it absorbs into my skin lightning-quick (because who has time to wait around for their essence to slowly seep into their skin? Not me!), and it has left my skin feeling supple and looking bright.
I remember getting on a Zoom call with some coworkers about a week after I started using this essence, and they told me that I was absolutely glowing! I was so happy, and I knew that I owed it all to this essence. So if you are looking for something that is going to make you shine like a goddess, definitely check this essence out!
Another essence from the MISSHA Time Revolution line! This essence is one that features that mugwort (or, Artemisia) ingredient that I touched on earlier. So if you are looking to take a more adventurous step into essences, definitely give this one a try! This is a new purchase for me this year, and it has proven to be an incredible addition to my skincare regimen! It’s honestly one of my favorite skincare discoveries of 2020!
The artemisia in this toner will work to hydrate and soothe your skin, so it is perfect for anyone who has dry, sensitive skin. It will definitely be perfect in the winter when everyone’s skin feels a bit drier and more irritated than usual! I actually noticed that my cheekbones have a glossy finish when I use this essence. It looks like I have applied a highlight, but it’s really just my skin! Who could ever ask for more?
Hooray for snail mucin! And hooray for cosrx!
I always love talking about this essence specifically because it has the words “snail mucin” in the name, and that really freaks people out. However, I can assure you that the only thing that is “freaky” about this essence is how well it works to hydrate and smooth out your skin. And also how affordable it is!
I really love Cosrx, so trying out this essence was a no-brainer for me. This essence is super hydrating and soothing while smoothing out the texture of your skin. I’ve also noticed my pores shrinking a bit on my nose which is just an added bonus! And even better, no snails are actually harmed in the making of this essence. Thank goodness!
Remember when you are applying your essence to pour it into your hands and pat it into your skin–no need for any cotton pads, and definitely do not rub it into your skin! And have fun watching your skin transform before your eyes!
What is your skincare holy grail? Are there any essences that you already use and absolutely swear by? Let me know!