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Facial Essences Are the Luxury Skin Primers You Didn’t Know You Needed
Credit: Getty Images

We all know the basic steps of a skincare routine: cleanse, tone, add a serum (optional), and moisturize. If it's an a.m. routine, you know to use an SPF, too. However, there's one type of product that often gets overseen, but can really take your skincare game to the next level: essence.

Essences have been around for ages, but rose to viral popularity with K-beauty, but despite it being a common skincare product, there still seems to be a bit of confusion surrounding it. To understand what an essence is and how to benefit from one, we tapped two skincare experts to answer all of our questions.

What Is a Facial Essence?

In short, a essence is a toner-serum hybrid, and it's the perfect addition to both simple and elaborate routines. Skincare minimalists can use them as an in-between product that replaces their toner and serum. Those with more elaborate routines can use an essence after toning and before applying serum.

"It's an [ingredient] amplifier that'll carry serums deeper into the skin," says celebrity facialist Candace Marino. As such, she explains essences help active ingredients better penetrate the skin, therefore, helping users maximize the benefits of their skincare products.

How Does an Essence Differ From a Toner?

While an essence can substitute a toner, it's not the same type of product. "Toner is typically an additional cleansing step that helps remove excess debris that the cleanser did not remove," explains cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat, Ron Robinson. "Essences are typically a skincare step that is used after cleansing and toning to prepare the skin for the serum or treatment step to follow." 

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What Are the Skin Benefits of Using an Essence?

We already know that essences act as an ingredient amplifier and that they help the skin better absorb products, but the additional benefits you get from an essence will be dependent on the formula and its hero ingredients.

Fresh's Kombucha Essence, for example, has several benefits. "It has kombucha, which is like a multivitamin for the skin and is antioxidant rich, so it fights off free radicals that your skin absorbs and that break down our collagen and create pigment," says Marino. "It also has hyaluronic acid, which is a super hydrator that binds and attracts water to the skin to keep it moisturized and balanced."

What's the Best Way to Use an Essence?

Marino suggests applying it directly to the skin with your hands and gently patting it in.

Ok, But Do You Need an Essence?

No, but you also didn't need to shop another Reformation sale, and yet here we are. Will your skincare products work without an essence? Yes, but they'll work so much better if you add one into your routine. "The skin is going to be bouncier, it's going to be more lively, and you're going to have more of a glow," says Marino. And if you want to slim down your routine, remember that an essence can act as a toner and a serum — a perfect 2-in-1 product.