The Winter Skin Care Step You’re Skipping—But Shouldn’t!

Do you know about essences? Here's why you'll want to start using one ASAP.


Essences are the newest skin care import from Asia, where a flawless complexion is serious business. Right now, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Great, another product that promises to change my skin,” and wondering if it will actually deliver. While we can’t make any promises about your skin specifically, we do know that essences may have a critical role to play in your skin care regimen, especially in winter when dry air and frigid temps wreak havoc on your skin.

But what are they? Essences, like many great skin care innovations, became a staple in Korean multi-step skin care regimens. Think of an essence as a cross between a toner and a serum, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “They are highly concentrated with active ingredients like a serum, but they have a liquid consistency like a toner,” Dr. Zeichner says. “The advantage is that they can be layered underneath other products without weighing the skin down.”

If you have dry or dull skin, or wrinkles and fine lines you want to soften, an essence might just be your fix. Essences are particularly beneficial when used in addition to your regular skin care regimen, as they can help better target specific skin care issues. “Most of the essences on the market contain ingredients that help brighten overall complexion, soothe inflamed skin, and address skin aging,” Dr. Zeichner says, but beauty brands like Tatcha, SK-II, and Belif, have nuanced goals for their essence. For example, Tatcha’s The Essence purports to tackle anti-aging, smoothing and resurfacing issues, and add plumping hydration to the skin. Belif’s Hungarian Water Essence contains more anti-aging and anti-blemish properties. Just be ready to shell out a pretty penny, as these essences cost between $42 and $99. And no, you’re never too young or old to start taking care of your skin. Here are the correct ages to begin 10 vital skincare practices.

Essences are applied directly onto the skin using your fingers; no cotton pads or balls required. Because of its watery consistency, essences should be pressed into the skin right before you apply your serum, but after your toner (or instead of both if you’re not already using them). Ideally your skin care regimen would go something like this: cleanser, toner, essence, serum, eye cream, and then moisturizer and sunscreen. Moisturizing is a must when it comes to proper skin care, so if you’re searching for a new moisturizer, consider trying one of these all-natural products that you probably already have in your house.

So even though this extra step might seem like a pain, it’s worth it, as essences have a ton of beneficial ingredients great for your skin, like combinations of calming botanical oils, vitamins and minerals, and hydrators like hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated, plump, and glowing, even in winter. Plus, if Korean women can follow a 10- or 12-step skincare regimen, you can probably add one more product to yours.

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