What is this mystery elixir? What does it do? We break down the benefits of this often
overlooked beauty product.
“Essences facilitate the absorption of the products that follow because they contain ingredients that moisturize and soften the skin.”
In simple terms, essences are primers for the skin. Popularized as part of the Korean 10-step skin-care routine, they are lightweight, often watery fluids that prepare the face for the products that follow, sinking in deep and creating an environment that can better absorb the active ingredients of your skin products. What’s more, they contain high concentrations of those active ingredients—such as vitamins and AHAs—found in toners, serums and moisturizers, so are sometimes looked at as a kind of allin-one treatment.
Essences are plugged as a crucial step in your beauty routine, to be applied after cleansing and toning (which balances out the skin’s pH levels) and before serum (which targets specific issues) and moisturizer. It’s meant to work as a layer, explains Nolwenn Gonthier, national education manager at Lancôme Canada. “Think of your skin like a sponge—it’s more difficult to rehydrate when it's hard and dry than when it’s already soft and damp. Essences facilitate the absorption of the products that follow because they contain ingredients that moisturize and soften the skin.” Look for formulations that are specific to your concerns, whether you want to brighten, firm, exfoliate or soothe your skin. “As a treatment in its own right, choose essences based on the results you want to see,” says Gonthier. Sensitive skin, for example, will benefit from a soothing essence, while oily skin will welcome a hydrating version that works while controlling sebum production. For best results, Gonthier recommends applying essence twice daily, as part of your morning and evening routines; dispense it right into your palm rather than on a cotton pad, which will absorb the liquid. Press the essence onto your face and neck. You can even tap lightly with your fingertips to promote absorption.
TATCHA The Essence
Japanese brand Tatcha’s prized essence is infused with a Hadasei-3 complex made from three fermented superfoods (rice, seaweed and green tea) that promote the production of amino acids, as well as hyaluronic acids—such as lactic acid—that hydrate, plump and smooth the skin while removing dead cells.
TATCHA The Essence, $138, sephora.ca.
LANCÔME Clarifique Dual Facial Essence
This two-phase lotion contains 97 percent clear essence with beech bud extract, vitamin Cg, and glycolic and salicylic acids, which amount to smoother skin and tightened pores. The formulation is completed with three percent high lipid essence, which helps to strengthen the skin barrier and retain moisture.
LANCÔME Clarifique Dual Facial Essence, $115, lancome.ca.
FRESH Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence,
Kombucha, hyaluronic acid and mandarin peel extract work in this essence to moisturize, smooth and brighten the skin. The ingredients also offer protection from pollution, free radicals and blue light.
FRESH Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence, $94, sephora.ca.
AMOREPACIFIC Vintage Single Extract Essence
The secret of this six-ingredient antiaging formula is fermented green tea leaves picked by hand on South Korea’s Jeju Island. They’re particularly rich in catechin, a powerful antioxidant that fights the signs of aging while boosting elasticity.
AMOREPACIFIC Vintage Single Extract Essence, $230, sephora.ca.
YSL BEAUTY Pure Shots Hydra Bounce Essence-in-Lotion
The velvety texture of this essence is thanks to water and oil microdroplets that deliver the perfect amount of vitamins E and B3 to the face, along with orange blossom extract sourced from YSL Beauty’s sustainable Ourika Gardens in Morocco. The mix hydrates and soothes the skin, while acting as a shield against external pollutants.
YSL BEAUTY Pure Shots Hydra Bounce Essence-in-Lotion, $70, yslbeauty.ca.
BEAUTYCOUNTER Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
The proprietary Retinatural Complex of this product merges the benefits of bakuchiol (a plant-derived ingredient that delivers similar results to retinol, minus potential side effects) with antioxidant Swiss Alpine rose. This treatment also contains nutrient- and mineral-rich seawater, as well as fermented sugars for hydrated, soothed and healthy-looking skin.
BEAUTYCOUNTER Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence, $84, beautycounter.com.