Facial Essences: What They Are & The Best Ones To Try

Facial Essences: What They Are & The Best Ones To Try

Essences have been hugely popular in Asia for years, but here in the UK, they’re only recently getting the attention they deserve. Not only do these lightweight nourishing liquids deliver the first layer of moisture in your regime, they also make everything else you apply afterwards work harder. Here, we break down the key benefits, how to use them and four worth trying…

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Rule #1: Think Of Them Like A Primer

These unassuming essences have long been considered an integral step in Korean skincare routines. Experts claim that for your skincare to easily absorb, you need your complexion to already be primed with moisture, otherwise, everything just sits on the surface without sinking in – which is where essences come in. “These lightweight and hydrating liquids balance and prime the skin post-cleanse to ensure you get the most from your routine,” confirms skincare expert and celebrity facialist, Kate Kerr. “You can also get different types depending on your needs – from brightening (vitamin C) to firming (peptides) and redness-reducing (niacinamide).”

Rule #2: Replace Your Moisturiser With Them

Because some essences contain high levels of glycerine and hyaluronic acid, you may find you can skip your usual moisturiser. “Essences don’t have thick emollients like some creams, so you don’t run the risk of clogging your pores which inevitably leads to breakouts,” adds Kate. “However, those with particularly dry complexions may find they still need a little extra moisture on top – it comes down to preference and individual need.” 

Rule #3: Don’t Be Afraid 

“One of the reasons essences are so well-loved is because they’re gentle and suit all skin types,” says Kate. “Often confused with toners, they don’t contain alcohol, so they’re less irritating and far more easily tolerated. They dose the skin up with hydration and high levels of active ingredients, which penetrate the skin for speedy, visible effects.” Another benefit? They’re not tacky and incredibly lightweight, so they never interfere with other textures. 

Rule #4: Apply Them Correctly

Skincare experts recommend pressing your essence onto clean, dry skin using your fingers in a gentle tapping motion until the formula is absorbed. This is because traditional cotton pads soak up too much of the formula, so you don’t end up getting the majority of the product on your skin. If this sounds like too much of a process, look out for essences in spray form – these will help speed things up and deliver some instant moisture. Apply your essence post-cleanse, but before any serums or creams. 

Interested? Here are 4 worth trying:


Beauty of Joseon, Ginseng Essence Water | £15.50

Best For: Pigmentation 

Why We Love It: A global bestseller, this clever water uses ginseng, which is known for healing pigmentation. Like most on this list, a little goes a long way when pressed into the skin. Added niacinamide keeps excessive oil levels within the skin in check, too, meaning fewer breakouts and clearer-looking pores. A must-try for anyone with problematic skin, or anyone wanting smoother, more even tone. You’ll love the fresh, uplifting scent, too. Available at Skininsider.co.uk


Augustinus Bader, The Essence | £65

Best For: Brightening

Why We Love It: Like everything in the Augustinus Bader range, this is an investment. Known for its brightening benefits, think of it as an essence-meets-chemical exfoliant, working to gently sweep away dead skin cells for a smoother and more luminous complexion. The benefits go beyond this, however, thanks to strengthening vitamins A, B, C and E, as well as salicylic acid which swiftly combats congestion and gets rid of any dirt. Added hyaluronic acid means fine lines get plumped up, too. A great all-rounder.Available at LibertyLondon.com


Origins, Skin Essence Lotion | £24

Best For: Open Pores

Why We Love It: Considered the ‘OG’ of essences, this popular lotion is beloved for its ability to smooth and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores. It goes the distance, too, with only a couple of splashes needed with every use. Apply post-cleanse, tapping it onto the skin gently. You’ll find your complexion looks brighter and feels more refined, so serums and moisturisers sink in much more seamlessly. It’s a great base for make-up to adhere to as well. Available at Origins.co.uk

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