Skincare 101: What exactly is an essence and is it worth the extra step?

When it comes to skincare, there’s one place we all look to: Korean beauty.

Their porcelain skin, dewy glow and baby-like complexion has managed to convert us all into believers; keeping us glued to our bathrooms for an extra 30minutes each day as we navigate through the infamous Korean 10+step skincare regimen.

But if we were to dissect this routine, there’s one step that often seems to be overlooked and perhaps even misunderstood by most of us: essence.

So what in the world is an essence?

In the spirit of curiosity (and also because those extra 30minutes in your beauty regimen become more precious than gold when you become a mother), I decided to research this curious little step that’s meant to come right after your toner but before your serum.

And here’s where it gets blurry: a serum and an essence are pretty much the same thing.


You heard right.

According to Charlotte Cho, a K-beauty expert, an essence is “lightweight but packed with concentrated hydrating ingredients, aiding skin repair and cell turnover that will promote smoother, brighter skin with regular use.”

If we’re being honest here, that sounds a lot like how the rest of the world describes what a serum is.

Sure, using an essence is a great way to balance, treat and hydrate the skin but with a serum present, is this step really necessary or a marketing gimmick?

I’m not entirely sure an essence is the defining moment in your beauty regimen, especially if you already have a great serum in your skincare arsenal, but if you are an ardent Korean beauty fan who also happens to have dry skin then why not?

After all, a little extra hydration never hurt anybody!

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