If you do a search for face essences on the internet (or if you simply start scrolling through your favorite beauty retailer), the narrative starts to get a little murky regarding what they are, what they do, and how they’re different than other popular skincare products like toners, cleansers, mists, and serums. While essences are a Korean-born category of skincare, almost every brand, Korean or not, has launched its own iteration. The marketing isn’t always clear, and it’s hard to know if you’re investing in a true essence or simply a look-alike product a brand has created in order to jump on the trend bandwagon. So I turned to Cho and Yoon to help set the record straight on what exactly essences are and how they’re different from other popular skincare categories.
“In Korea, essences are considered the most important step in a skincare routine,” Cho tells me right off the bat. “It’s a Korean-born skincare category that is traditionally applied between the toner and serum step, and they’re typically formulated to deeply hydrate and brighten your complexion.” She notes they can have additional benefits like lessening the severity of wrinkles, fine lines, and dullness.
While some face essences might run a bit thicker with a more viscous consistency, they’re typically on the thinner side and have a water-like texture. They can help rebalance the pH of your skin post-cleanse, but their primary job is to drench the skin with lots of nourishing hydration, unlike toners (which tone the skin) and serums (which work to remedy specific skin concerns).