woman in robe using Eminence Organics Birch Water Purifying Essence

What Is An Essence? The Skin Care Step You Didn’t Know You Needed

If you’re a skin care aficionado, facial essences are probably already on your radar. A K-beauty staple, these lightweight elixirs are the backbone of every multi-step skin care routine - and for good reason. They’re a game-changer for any and every complexion. Read on to learn about the skin care step you didn’t know you needed.

What Is An Essence & What Does It Do?

As Eminence Organics International Trainer Brian Goodwin says, “The easiest way to think of an essence is as a primer that helps all of your other leave-on treatments work better.” Essences are often described as a cross between a toner and serum. These fast-absorbing liquids are slightly more viscous than a toner and contain a high concentration of actives like a serum. 

The easiest way to think of an essence is as a primer that helps all of your other leave-on treatments work better.

In a skin care routine, essences help maximize hydration and improve absorption of subsequent skin care products. Plus, they’re chock-full of beneficial ingredients that plump the skin and protect it against the drying effects of environmental stressors. Here is a closer look at the benefits of facial essences for the skin.

Add Hydration & Moisture

The key to a healthy complexion is a strong skin barrier. When the skin’s moisture barrier is protected and functioning optimally, it works to keep in beneficial hydration and keep out harmful environmental irritants that cause dryness and premature aging. Essences support healthy barrier function by replenishing the skin’s moisture levels and providing long-lasting hydration. 

K-beauty expert Alicia Yoon likens the skin to a sponge. When wet, it becomes more absorbent; when dry, it becomes cracked and brittle. She says: “When your skin is well-hydrated, it is healthier, stronger and functions better. Essences help your sponge-like skin fill up with necessary moisture for better skin health.” 

Plump Skin

With age, the skin begins to lose volume and fullness. As stores of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid decline (by up to 50 per cent by age 40), once-plump skin can appear to deflate and sag. When the skin is hydrated and moisturized, it is stronger, more supple and - as Alicia says - has “happier, bouncier cells.” Essences contain humectants and emollients that draw in water, replenish moisture and in turn, give skin a plump and youthful appearance.

Protect Skin

Essences also contain antioxidant-rich ingredients that fight free radicals and protect skin from the harmful effects of the environment. Exposure to pollution, blue light and UV rays can cause damage to skin cells that presents as dryness, inflammation and the visible signs of aging. Ingredients with a high concentration of antioxidants can stave off damage by neutralizing free radicals and minimizing their negative effects. 

Prep Skin

By enhancing skin health and hydration, essences prime the skin to better absorb subsequent skin care products. When your skin is hydrated, it can more easily soak up the active ingredients in your serums, oils and concentrates. As The Zoe Report describes, “The water basically chauffeurs substances like glycerin and hyaluronic acid (humectants) or shea butter and squalane oil (emollients) down to the inner layer of the dermis. Then it evaporates, leaving the good stuff behind to do its job.” 

Watch this video to learn more about the benefits of using a facial essence:

Does A Facial Essence Replace Toner?

You may wonder if an essence can simply replace your favorite toner. Really, it is a separate step and your skin will benefit from both a toner and essence in your routine. Toning provides a base layer of hydration that refreshes and balances your skin, while applying an essence delivers additional moisture and preps your complexion for the skin care steps that follow. A facial essence typically feels more robust than a toner and contains active ingredients that protect the skin and minimize the visible signs of aging.

Do I Still Need A Serum?

So, if an essence is more viscous and contains a higher concentration of actives than a toner, can it replace a serum? Again, the answer is: not quite. An essence acts as a delivery mechanism for even more concentrated serums, oils and concentrates. With its lightweight texture, an essence can deeply penetrate the skin and deliver beneficial ingredients where they are needed most. Additionally, serums, oils and concentrates are typically developed to target specific concerns and conditions and therefore deserve their own special place in a skin care routine.

toner vs essence vs serum infographic

When & How To Use An Essence

Now that you know that an essence is an additional step in your skin care routine, where does it fit? In general, we advise applying your skin care products in order of weight, starting with the lightest (your toner) and ending with the richest (your serum, oil or concentrate). Essences fit directly in the middle: They should be applied after toner and before your facial serums, moisturizer and SPF. 

Here is how to apply one properly:

  1. Use after cleansing and toning your skin.
  2. Shake a few drops of essence into your palm.
  3. Warm the product between your hands. 
  4. Gently press the essence into your skin (this minimizes friction and aids absorption).
  5. Follow with the remaining steps in your skin care routine

how to apply an essence infographic

Birch Water Purifying Essence

You can easily add an essence to your Eminence Organics skin care routine with the introduction of our Birch Water Purifying Essence. This lightweight essence contains purifying birch water, botanical collagen, snow mushroom and reishi mushroom to restore moisture levels, increase elasticity and improve barrier function. Skin is left replenished, rejuvenated and prepped to absorb the benefits of skin care treatments that follow.

Eminence Organics Birch Water Purifying Essence

Ready to add a facial essence to your skin care routine? Experience the new Birch Water Purifying Essence at an Eminence Organics Spa Partner near you. 

This article was originally written by Alisha Whitley in September 2019.