What are they? You’d be forgiven for thinking that essences were just fancier looking-and-sounding toners. However, there is more to this product type, which has its origins in Korea.
Whereas toners are packed with fairly astringent ingredients to give skin a final deep clean, slightly exfoliate and prep for moisturiser, essences contain nothing of the sort. They are far more gentle and tend to be filled with hyaluronic acid – the moisture maker for your skin – glycerin, and natural ingredients that sink deeper into the skin. But they are not cleansers either. They are designed to be used post-cleansing to rebalance the skin if it’s been stripped away of oils – but they’re most definitely not serums.
‘An essence has a lighter weight than a serum. They are designed to give an extra micro-light layer of moisture to the skin, but they’re not to be wiped off like a second cleanser,’ says facialist Su-Man. ‘Philosophically, the word “essence” suggests a single focus with no interference from anything else,’ she adds, ‘which is very much part of an Asian attitude to life... that’s the best way to think of them.’ Who are they best for? In truth, anyone and any skin type can use an essence, it just depends if you have time for it in your morning and evening ablutions. Korean women use them as part of their 10-step – yes, 10-step – skincare regime. However, this is for good reason as they tend to have a much thinner skin barrier than other ethnicities and are therefore more prone to dehydrated skin.
Essences are a great way of getting moisture in without over-loading the skin and this is not only down to their watery texture but the application method. ‘The best way to apply an essence is to pat it into the skin, starting from the chin and working up,’ says Dr Nadine Pernodet, Estée Lauder’s executive director of skin biology, global research and development. Applied post cleansing,
‘Philosophically, the word “ESSENCE” suggests a single focus with no INTERFERENCE from anything else, which is very much part of an Asian attitude to life... that’s the best way to THINK of them’
post-toning (if you do that) and pre-serum and pre-moisturiser, it all comes down to time and effort.
THREE TO TRY
La Mer Genaissance The Serum Essence, Dh2,370 With that price tag you’d expect something special with this, and you get it. It contains La Mer’s Crystal Miracle Broth – a slow-crafted, pure concentration of marine algae unique to the brand – which accelerates the skin’s natural renewal process and also helps refine pores. NYDG Skincare Luminizing Essence, Dh350 Created by a group of New York dermatologists, this contains probiotics that help calm the skin and reduce redness. Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence, Dh390 Love the idea of an essence but don’t have time to pat it on between other products? Look for this cult beauty spray instead. It is made to be used in the same slot as a regular essence but can also be used throughout the day to give the skin a boost of hyaluronic acid.