Korean beauty is a big player in the skincare game. Their 10 step facial regimens are sweeping the nation along with fads like sheet masks, gradient lips and now: essence. Actually, essence is so important in the Korean beauty regimen that it’s become its own skincare category. Further, you can now find these new must-haves in all the big luxury beauty brands too. But what IS essence?

The easiest way to define them is by process of elimination. Here’s what they’re not: Toner. Cleanser. Serum. They deliver a higher dosage of active ingredients to your skin than cleanser or toner. They’re filled with extracts such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which immediately hydrate and comfort skin. They restore your skin’s natural pH balance. To top it off, essence also has insanely effective anti-aging properties that combine with hydrating and luxurious qualities to help skin stay moisturized and young.

6 Facial Essences Worth Trying | Michelle Phan

Then what are facial mists for?
Though some facial mists serve as setting sprays to keep makeup in place, most exist to cool and refresh. Rather than a touch up tool, essences are meant to be integrated into your daily routine. You can apply it before makeup is applied or after it’s removed, by patting or pressing the product onto skin with clean hands. Now that you know what it is and how it works, here are some to get you started:

For Oily Skin – Essences are generally loved by those with dry complexions, or for those who tend to over cleanse. But if you have oily skin, a product like SK-II’s limited edition facial essence may help. It’s loaded with pitera, aka “Miracle Water” and the key to enhancing the skin’s renewal process, nourishing vitamins, amino acids, and minerals to promote healthy skin cell renewal cycle. Plus, it’s formulated without synthetic fragrances or GMOs? Now you just have to decide if it’s worth the splurge.

For Sun Damage – The coveted Mela Defense Essence is a brightening essence that corrects dark spots and hyperpigmentation, and discoloration from acne. It contains sakura and white flower to brighten and revitalize skin for a healthier, more even skin tone and it’s ideal for all skin types.

For Anti-Aging – Kiehls’ Iris Extract Activating Essence Treatment is said to deeply nourish, renew and replenish skin, providing moisture for up to 24 hours after application. With the iris florentina flower as a key ingredient, your skin’s ability to retain moisture will quickly improve. This is a long term must, as the benefits get better over time.

To De-Stress – We all know that our mental states can affect our visage – and stress is no exception. Lancome formulated their anti-stress essence to relax skin. It provides intense hydration for a smooth and more refreshed complexion. Couple it with yoga or a massage and you’ll be ready to take on the world again.

Double Duty – Like I said, essences aren’t just another serum or facial spray. But MAC’s version does blur the line a bit. Their Marine-Bright formula is concentrated, but lightweight and the Super Duo-Charged Water and vitamin C will brighten skin and capture it in a veil of moisture. The addition of a serum combines with the essence to powerfully condition and plump skin for a smoother look and feel.

The Essential – Last but not least, the best-selling Mineral Treatment Essence from Cremorlab features their proprietary T.E.N. thermal water to hydrate, brighten and smooth skin and its texture. It’s essence is paraben-free, artificial color-free, fragrance-free, and denatured alcohol-free, making it suitable for all skin types. This is a great well rounded version for those just getting started in the world of essence.

Have you tried one of these products? Review below!


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