Often confused with toners and serums, essences are one of the most misunderstood steps in J-Beauty. Though we tend to think of them as “optional,” essences are truly a cornerstone in any J-Beauty skincare routine, to the point that they’re even more popular than moisturizers in Japan! After all, they’re called essence-tial for a reason! Let’s take a closer look at what makes these Japanese essences so special.
What is a J-Beauty essence?
An essence is a watery product loaded with vitamins and minerals. The main purpose is to nourish, soften and restore moisture to the skin. Unlike toners, they are never astringent nor a last-minute attempt to wipe off lingering dirt and makeup from the skin surface. And unlike serums, which tend to be gooey and target specific skin concerns, these Japanese essences are incredibly lightweight and help to revitalize the skin to its natural hydrated, soft state. In J-Beauty, essences aren’t considered an optional step to fix a problem, but essential to guarantee results from the rest of your routine. Essences have a low molecular weight, so the skin drinks them up immediately upon application, giving you that luminous glow. It’s pretty much baby skin in a bottle.
What are the benefits of essences for your skin?
Essences flood the skin with hydration instantly. They allow any products that you layer on afterwards, such as serums and treatments, to sink deeper into the skin and deliver their best results, rather than getting stuck on top of the skin (where they can’t do their best work). The real magic happens below the surface of the skin, where elastin, collagen, and other skin saviors are secreted for skin regeneration. Essences also help to restore a healthy pH balance to the skin, which can only happen at this step due to an essence’s watery consistency. This fortifies the skin before moving on to denser products. So an essence is pretty vital if you want the rest of your skincare routine to pay off! A few drops of essence can make the difference of night and day.
How should you use an essence in your skincare routine?
To apply an essence, take a generous amount onto a cotton pad and gently pat it onto cleansed skin in bottom-up strokes. The reason for this is that the entrance to your pores actually faces downwards, so you want to make sure your essence makes it through the door! You can also gently press your face with your hands. This helps the product to fully sink in. You’ll want to apply your essence right after cleansing but before moving on to denser skincare products in your routine (emulsion, serum, moisturizers, etc.). Not only will this allow your essence to absorb completely but it will enhance the absorption of any product you layer on top of it.
Who should use an essence?
At this point, we’re wondering who wouldn’t want to use an essence? An essence isn’t like any other product – its job is to make sure you get the most out of your skincare efforts, regardless of skin type. Plus, it provides a luminous canvas for rest of your products to work on, for a your-skin-but-better effect. That said, there are a variety of J-Beauty essences out there, each formulated with special ingredients that target hydration, brightening, anti-aging, and other skin concerns, so you’ll want to choose one that best matches up with your skin goals.
Where should you begin?
If you’re new to essences and healthy hydration is your goal, you’ll want to try something like the KITAO Matcha + Chia Essence Lotion. This one’s a powerhouse of superfood extracts matcha, chia seeds, quinoa, and acai that help keep your skin soft and youthful. If your skin is on the mature side and you’re looking for something more intensive, we recommend starting with a high-quality yet gentle product such as the La Vie Précieuse MOIST A.P.G. Lotion. Though it can be used on any skin type, anti-aging heroes proteoglycan, glycyrrhizinate, and apple-derived ceramide make it an obvious choice for mature and especially dry skin types.
Already got your essence, and wondering about your next step? You’re ahead of the game. Check out our post on emulsions here.