Korean Essence_collage

What is Essence & Why You Should Add It to Your Skincare Routine?

Essence, often mistaken as a toner, is still the biggest mystery in skincare in the world. But if you ask any woman in Seoul, they will likely tell you that it is an essential step in their skincare regimen. In fact, it was mentioned in the interview last month with Alice of W2Beauty about her 6-Step Korean Skincare Routine.

Essence is similar to what we commonly refer to as serum or ampoule. In some cases, they’re the same, but usually, a serum has a higher concentration of beneficial ingredients, while an ampoule is generally used to describe a serum-like product with an even denser concentration of beneficial ingredients. But I bet that explanation made you more confused. How come a product often mistaken as a toner can be similar to a serum or ampoule who have thicker consistencies? Now, you don’t need to wonder anymore. I unlock the mystery of the essence! Know why it should be included in your skin care routine and learn when and how you should apply.

What is Essence?

Essence is a concentrated formula that specifically targets wrinkles, fine lines, and dull and uneven skin tones. Korean essences typically contain an active ingredient that optimizes your skin’s natural cell turnover rate (think skin regeneration).

It is often mistaken as a toner because essences have a variety of consistencies. There is liquid to gel type consistencies which is preferable for the face. And for spot essence treatments (very concentrated formula) a tackier/ thicker feel is preferable since it needs to concentrate on a particular area.

essence variety of consistencies

Essence’s variety of consistencies: Liquid, gel and a little bit mix of both on ampoules

Why is essence the essential step in your skincare regimen?

You’ll see more results from essence than any other product because it treats skin on a cellular level. With regular use you will notice that your skin is smoother and brighter. It can’t turn back time, but it will definitely revitalize your skin so that with continued use – you can look more youthful.

What is the difference between essences and serums/ampoules?

Essence have been also referred to as serums, ampoules and even boosters. But like I mentioned above, they are similar, it only depends on the concentration of the formula aka “the benifecial ingredient”. Although, ampoules are super concentrated versions so they tend to be more expensive than essence.

When do you apply essence?

Korean women would never forget essence in their skincare routine, whether it is morning or night. After cleaning your skin, apply toner (to deep clean and prep your skin for the essence) and then apply the essence.

How do you apply essence?

Apply the essence by dispensing the product onto your hand (or a cotton pad, but preferably just your hand) and evenly apply all over your face and neck. I don’t recommend applying it with a cotton because watery consistency means a lot of wastage. Instead of having it soak through cotton pads, transfer the essence into a spritz bottle and spray directly onto your face.

Tip: Korean women are all about tapping when applying anything on their face. Why? According to Charlotte Cho of Soko Glam, “rubbing your face like you’re windex-ing a window is not the recommended technique. They recommend tapping because it enhances absorption.” FYI – it sounds like this, “TOK TOK TOK.” Try it!

What is the bestselling essence in the market?

Missha's Time Revolution Essence

For day time, Missha’s Time Revolution Essence ($39) is the most popular essence in all stores I visited. It is the perfect dupe of the $100 SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. The main ingredient is yeast, which helps restore vital balance by promoting the skin’s natural 28-day surface renewal process.

Innisfree Eco-Science Spot Treatment Essence

For spot treatments, Innisfree Eco-Science Spot Treatment Essence ($42) is quite popular. It has a strong antioxidant that stimulates skin metabolism for fine lines and wrinkles around your eyes and mouths.

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule

For night time, Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule ($49) is also popular. It is another dupe of the famous $92 Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair. They share the key ingredient, Bifida ferment lysate, a probiotic that is said to act as a DNA repairing agent.

Hera Cell Essence Cell-Bio Fluid Sync
Hera Cell Essence Cell-Bio Fluid Sync

Runner ups: Hera Cell Essence Cell-Bio Fluid Sync ($59), Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence ($16), and OST Pure Vitamin C20 Serum ($15)

*Photo Sources: Soko Glam and Skin & Tonics