So, here’s the deal with essences: they’re really just…watery serums. If it was thicker, it would be a serum. Unless it doesn’t! The nice thing about essences over serums is that your skin slurps them up super quickly, so layering them (SHOULD YOU WISH TO) is a real snap.
Should you be layering them? Wait, what do they actually DO, anyway?
Well, the ones I’m pointing you towards are here to hydrate without bulk, and prep the skin for the rest of what you want to do MUCH LIKE TONER. That’s in general, but individual essences are all doing their own thing, sometimes beautifully.
The layering question refers to the 7-skin method, which is a serious bidness. It’s done with essences OR toner, and, as you may have guessed, it’s patting toner/essence on, letting it dry, then repeating…seven times. The same toner, or different.
(It’s not worth it, don’t waste your time.)
What the 7-skin method HAS done for me is allow me to cheerfully toss an extra essence into my routine when I get my hands on one, without fearing I will turn into a very hydrated pumpkin. It’s really pared back my serum usage, because of how light they feel and how rapidly they absorb. Now if I have two or three serums, I feel like my face is weighted down, while essences never feel that way. They are also hydrating enough that I no longer bother with a day cream, at least in the summer!
Now, let’s talk about my favourites (at every price point.)
Whal Myung Skin Elixir: I already forced you to listen to how great this stuff is during my All-Time Favs series, but I feel it best to reiterate it: it’s the shit. Google it. I get the one with the nozzle, and if I want to look good on an average day, my routine is now: cleanse, tone with Beauty Water, spritz the Whal Myung all over my face, let it dry without even touching my face, and then either do the primer-makeup thing or just ride it out with the Whal Myung. So, for me, since it’s replaced serum and day cream, it’s a bargain. I use it at night as an extra essence, but it’s so good for day I like to prioritize that. At nights, you can slop lots of stuff on and it’ll gradually soak in, but this is SO perfect for under makeup or solo. Whenever I touch my face during the day WHICH I SHOULDN’T it feels hydrated and plump. And I stick it in my purse to spritz on mid-afternoon (spritzes are mostly nonsense but this one is great, over makeup or without.)
MISSHA Time Revolution Essence Intensive Moist: This one never leaves my repertoire, and it’s an improvement on the earlier formulation (you want the one which screams MOIST on the front), having ramped way the heck up on fermented yeast. It’s fantastic stuff, and also has niacinamide, which is good good stuff. It’s also a dupe for SK II (which we’ll discuss in my upcoming dupes installment.)
COSRX Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence: This is the thickest essence in my quiver, and the cheapest (COSRX is a fantastic price-point for high-quality K-beauty products in general.) Because it’s the thickest (basically a serum at this point) you’ll want to apply it last (products should go on from watery-ist to thickest, with oils being The Most Thicc You Can Get.) It’s a bit sticky, which is not for everyone, AND some people react badly to it (if you don’t, you love it, if you do, you don’t!) so PROMISE ME that you will ACTUALLY test it on your forearm for two days before slathering your face with it. But it’s a great way to get my best friend, snail, into your routine.
MISSHA Near Skin Simple Therapy Essence Lotion: This is a great deal, super hydrating, and GREAT for sensitive/reactive skin. Great choice.
Tatcha "The Essence" Pumping Skin Softener: UGH, fuck you, Tatcha. Their stuff is so expensive and prob overpriced but also it works and feels gorgeous, I have never been disappointed by a Tatcha product. Victoria Tsai is a witch. A witch who says that The Essence is the best thing in the entire product line and she uses it every day. It DOES plump up your skin. It makes everything better. I hate it.
Primera Miracle Seed Essence: I started using this because Karissa Chen told me it was the best essence in the world, and Karissa is very beautiful and DEEPLY INFORMED on the subject. It is filled with lotus seed, which, IDK, but it works great. It comes with this HUGE stack of big incredibly soft cotton pads, which I am looking into purchasing solo bc they feel so much better than the usual cotton rounds.
I have to say, I was annoyed to discover that K-beauty had invented a whole new product between toning and moisturizing, but it really has changed and slimmed my entire routine, and I am very grateful for it.
Love you, essences!