What are the best essences by skin concern? Take our “choose your own adventure” quiz to find out!
Essences are the very backbone to the Korean beauty routine. But with so many to choose from it can sometimes be difficult to find one that fits perfectly into your routine. So we’re breaking it down for you into the essences you should use based on your skin concern.
But first, what are essences?
Essences are essentially very thin, water or gel-like lotions. They prep the skin to absorb moisture and are generally thicker than toners, but thinner than serums. Unlike serums or boosters, essences can (and should) be used every night for optimal hydration. Essences are most helpful for those with dry, mature, or uneven skin.
Finding the perfect essence for acne can be difficult because essences really aren’t built to work for acne-prone or oily skin. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist at all. The COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is a great option if you’re prone to acne. This essence is packed with 96% snail secretion filtrate. Snail mucin is a great acne-fighting ingredient because it’s antimicrobial and has naturally occurring glycolic acid. It also boosts collagen production and replenishes moisture in the skin, helping to heal acne scars and prevent excess oil production. This essence is also fragrance-free and has a pH of 6.5.
The Missha MISA Geum Sul First Essence Booster is another great option for acne-prone skin. This essence has a light-gel consistency and is formulated with great Korean hanbang ingredients. Fermented ginseng water is used to strengthen the skin barrier and cherry blossom and primrose seed extract to brighten. It’s also infused with real gold flakes to boost radiance, making this the perfect luxurious essence for getting soft, even skin.
If your primary concern is anti-aging then you’re in luck because most essences will work great for anti-aging. In particular, the Benton Fermentation Essence is a great option because it’s packed with galactomyces ferment filtrate, an ingredient known for creating softer, more supple skin. It also has a ton of other fermented ingredients as well as ceramides and hyaluronic acid to amp up collagen production, leaving your skin feeling more hydrating and visibly more elastic.
The Neogen Code 9 Gold Black Caviar Essence & Gold Tox Tightening Pack Kit is another anti-aging essential essence. This essence comes in two steps. First pour the essence into the exfoliating pads until they’re fully submerged. Then use the threaded side and swipe in gentle circular motions to gently buff away dead skin cells. Flip the pad over and use the quilted side to sweep away any extra residue left on the skin. This essence formula is packed with niacinamide, collagen, and sodium hyaluronate to reduce the appearance of fine lines, brighten, hydrate, and plump up the skin for glowy, youthful skin.
The Missha Near Skin Simple Therapy Essence Lotion is a great 2-in-1 essence and lotion hybrid that gives sensitive or irritated skin the TLC it deserves. It’s primary ingredients are dill extract and camellia japonica oil, which soothe skin and lightly moisturize. This essence’s consistency is closer to that of a lotion, but it absorbs easily into the skin like an essence leaving you feeling hydrated and moisturized without feeling sticky.
The Botanic Farm Rice Ferment First Essence is another awesome essence for mature skin. This one is packed with fermented rice water, the ancient Korean secret to bright, glowing skin. This essence is super lightweight, seeping easily into the skin. It’s also formulated with lactic acid to gently exfoliate, peony extract to improve circulation, and licorice root to brighten and reduce redness. It immediately transforms dull skin, making it more radiant and supple.
If your primary concern is your pores, then look no further than the Missha Geum Sul First Essence Booster. This essence is great for acne and great for your pores! The real trick with getting your pores to appear smaller is making sure that your pores are clean and free of any gunk that might be clogging them.
One of the star ingredients in this essence is fermented red ginseng, which helps to improve circulation and increase skin resiliency, as well as brighten and even out skin tone, leaving your skin looking brighter and your pores feeling happy.
Dryness is another one that’s very easily combated by most essences. But some essences will definitely perform better than others at hydrating your dry skin. One of the great options is the Missha First Treatment Essence Mist. This is a more convenient version of the Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence. It’s packed with vitamins, amino acids, and minerals to refresh skin and boost hydration all throughout the day.
Another great option is the COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence. Formulated with 95% galactomyces ferment filtrate, this really packs the hydration punch. This star ingredient hydrates, evens out skin texture, and brightens all at the same time. Additionally, it has hyaluronic acid and panthenol to bring even more moisture to the skin, and niacinamide and adenosine for some extra brightening. With a super light consistency, this essence is perfect for daytime and nighttime use.
Hyaluronic Acid is a miracle ingredient in Korean beauty. That’s why the Hanskin Hyaluron Skin Essence was voted a Soko Glam Best of K-Beauty winner. Hyaluronic acid is an advanced form of sodium hyaluron that allows the skin to drink up moisture. This essence sinks into the skin easily to leave your skin looking and feeling plump, supple, and hydrated.
The Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence is a coveted cult K-beauty favorite. It’s super infused with 93% naturally fermented ingredients, including bifida ferment lysate and saccharomyces ferment filtrate to plump and revitalize skin with moisture. It also contains birch juice and rice extracts to naturally brighten and even out skin tone as well as other brighteners, antioxidants, and cell-communicating ingredients. It also has a pH of 5 to balance skin tone.
Pigmentation is super frustrating as a skin concern because real results to improve it don’t show up overnight. The Neogen Code 9 Lemon Green Caviar Essence & Tox Tightening Pack Kit is great for combating that extra pigmentation. It’s rich with vitamin C and gives your skin some gentle manual exfoliation at the same time. It’s also packed with niacinamide and lemon fruit extract to help lift pigmentation and combat fine lines and premature aging.
The Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence from COSRX is another great brightening essence. Galactomyces, niacinamide, and adenosine all work in conjunction to lift excess pigmentation like acne scars and hyperpigmentation. This essence is also a super hydrator with galactomyces, hyaluronic acid, and panthenol all working to leave your skin looking and feeling more plump and smooth.
The Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist is the queen bee essence of Korean skin care. A dupe for SK-II’s famed essence (at half the price), this holy grail product is well known to repair damaged skin and treat uneven skin tone in as little as just a few weeks. It’s packed with 90% fermented yeast extract from Himalayan purple barley to hydrate skin, smooth out skin texture, and even out skin tone quickly. It also contains niacinamide to leave skin feeling soft, smooth, and plump for longer. It also boosts skin elasticity. It’s no wonder it’s a such a cult favorite!
The Botanic Farm Rice Ferment Essence is going to be your new go-to for lifting scars and hyperpigmentation. Rice ferment filtrate is one of the best natural ingredients for smoothing away those uneven tones quickly and easily. It’s also great for getting glow back into lackluster skin and amping up the hydration. This one will also gently exfoliate with lactic acid and lift any redness with licorice.
Sensitive skin can be super frustrating to work with because you never know just what’s going to break you out. The E Nature Birch Juice Hydro Essence Skin is designed to give your skin just what it needs: a little extra TLC. This pH balancing essence is super light and formulated with healing ingredients like birch tree sap, chamomile, and plantain seed extracts to soothe and give life back to the skin. E Nature is completely free of animal ingredients and other ingredients that are common irritants like parabens, mineral oils, and artificial fragrances.
The Missha Near Skin Simple Therapy Essence Lotion is another one formulated for sensitive skin. This essence wraps your skin in a gentle hug of skin-soothing ingredients like dill extract and camellia japonica oil to amp up hydration, soothe, and balance. The Near Skin from Missha line is non-irritating and super gentle.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your skin concern is, and whether you’re a Korean beauty newbie or expert, there’s an essence out there for you. There’s a reason Korean women swear by essences, why they’re the backbone to the Korean beauty routine. They are the step that amps up the hydration for that super glowy, dewy, radiant skin to last a lifetime.