Here's What ‘Essence’ Really Means in Korean Skin Care

what is essence in korean beauty skincare hero

If you’re paying attention to the world of beauty, we’re almost positive you’ve heard of the 10-step Korean skincare routine. Some of the steps are total no-brainers (we’re all using a cleanser, right?). But some seem a bit more complicated. Like “essence.” What the hell is essence? (Yeah, we once had to look it up, too.) Scroll down to get schooled in what’s widely known among Koreans as the most important skincare step.

So, is essence like a ghost or a vibe or something?
First things first, it's a physical product. Essences, aka the foundation of the Korean skincare routine, are substances that actually feel a lot like water. But depending on which product you’re using, they can vary in texture and consistency. There are even powders that liquify on the skin (somehow?). And they pack a big punch of benefits. Essences are concentrated formulas that can specifically target wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven skin tones. If you’re thinking these sound a lot like serums, we wouldn’t blame you. The important difference to keep in mind is that essences are always thinner and less concentrated than serums.

What exactly do they do for my skin?
The main function of an essence is to hydrate the skin. And hydrated skin is healthier, stronger skin. But here's the real key to understanding them: Our skin is more absorbent when wet, and when you use essence to hydrate the skin, then every product you put on afterwards goes in deeper and is more effective. So that $80 serum you’re addicted to can now go twice the distance.

How do I use an essence?
Because using an essence makes all your other products work even harder, you’ll want to use it right after cleansing and toning. Apply onto a cotton pad or your hand and - handy tip - tap the product all over your face and neck.

Which essence should I use for my skin?
Any essence will do it’s main job - hydration. But there are tons of formulations that address a number of different skin problems or issues. If you’ve got oily skin, the more watery the texture, the better! There are also formulations that can help those battling hyperpigmentation. If you’ve got super dry skin, feel free to try a thicker essence. Got a skin problem? Trust us, there’s an essence for that.

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Mariah Adcox

Freelance PureWow Editor

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