If you ever bought an expensive beauty product, such as a serum or a face mask that did nothing to your skin, the products may not be the problem. You may be missing one very important skincare step — applying face essences.
Korean essences help the skin properly absorb skincare products subsequently applied. If you haven’t found the right one yet, here is a list to help you pick the best Korean essence for your skin.
10 Best Korean Essences for Oily, Dry, Acne-Prone, and Combination Skin
CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
The COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is a popular choice among many users. It’s also regarded as the best Korean essence for all skin types. It is especially useful to for sensitive skin types because of its simple ingredients that calm irritation.
What’s Inside: Snail Mucin, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate
If you’re not familiar with Snail Mucin yet, it’s one of those weird but common ingredients used for skincare in Korea and is surprisingly beneficial.
Snail Mucin has both exfoliating and healing properties that increase cell turnover and renew skin cells efficiently. It is also very hydrating, which is good for those who have dry or oily skin types. For the latter skin type, it provides enough moisture to control sebum excretion as well.
This also contains Panthenol and Sodium Hyaluronate, which are both Humectants. They function by locking in moisture and keeping the skin properly hydrated all day long.
Things to Note
This powerful skin essence is effective mostly because it is made up of 96 percent Snail Mucin.
One disadvantage is that Snail Mucin takes longer to be absorbed by the skin. This is due to its slimy and sticky texture. You’ll have to wait a bit longer before you can continue with your routine when using this essence.
Snail Mucin is slimy and the absorption process takes time. You’ll have to wait a bit longer before you can continue with your routine using this Korean essence.
- Works well with sensitive skin types
- Hydrates deeply, leaving you with a dewy complexion
- Calms irritated skin
- Takes time to dry
- Oily consistency, which may not sit well with some users
Skinfood Royal Honey Propolis Enrich Essence
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
This skin essence could easily have been manufactured straight from a beehive because of its main ingredients. The components are known for their antibacterial properties which prevents acne.
What’s Inside: Black Bee Propolis Extract, Royal Jelly Extract, Fermented Black Honey Extract
If this is the first time you’re hearing about Propolis, then you’re about a couple of thousand years late. This ingredient has been hyped since ancient times. Older civilizations loved it for its antiseptic properties.
This Korean essence from Skinfood is composed of 63 percent Propolis, a fairly high concentration.
Royal jelly, on the other hand, helps to protect the skin. According to a 2012 study, royal jelly increases collagen production, which makes it helpful in keeping a youthful complexion.
In addition, this is also rich in fermented ingredients. It has 10 percent fermented black honey extract, which is a powerful antibacterial ingredient with antioxidant properties. It also has Lactobacillus Ferment which moisturizes and soothes the skin.
Fermented ingredients in general are great for your skin because they increase the effectiveness of products by making them absorb faster.
With its antibacterial, soothing, and moisturizing properties, we recommend this as the best Korean essence for those with acne-prone skin!
Things to Note
This is a very effective Korean essence, and many users have testified to its benefits. However, your skin can also become dependent on it over time. In case you stop using it, you can break out or your past skin problems may resurface.
In terms of packaging, it’s also not travel-friendly. This Korean essence comes in a glass container, which can easily break when jammed in a backpack or stuffed in a bag.
- Antibacterial properties prevent breakouts
- Strengthens the skin’s barrier
- Can cause adverse reactions when use is discontinued
- Packaging is not good for traveling
Hanskin Hyaluron Skin Essence
Best for Dry Skin
You just know a product is good for dry skin when the name itself suggests the presence of Hyaluronic Acid. But this Korean essence is even better because it contains Sodium Hyaluronate, a version of Hyaluronic acid with smaller molecules for deeper pore penetration.
What’s Inside: Sodium Hyaluronate, Linseed Extract, Hydrolyzed Collagen
Glass skin is the signature of Korean beauty. To achieve this look, the skin has to absorb moisture and retain it.
This product is good news for those who want the glass skin effect because it focuses on moisture. It comes in a slightly thicker consistency compared to water but is definitely not gel-like. Because of this, it is easily absorbed by the skin.
The collagen content along with the promised moisture helps improve the appearance of fine lines. It also helps with skin elasticity, so this is also one of the best Korean essence options to consider when you’re trying to prevent the signs of premature aging.
The essence is a good option for all skin types, but targets mainly those with dry skin.
Things to Note
This Korean essence comes in a 300mL bottle with a stopper to ensure you won’t accidentally dispense too much product. However, since it is very heavy, it is not travel-friendly.
You would not be able to easily perform your Korean skin care routine with this while you’re on vacation because of its weight. It’s hard to pack and travel around with.
In addition, while the product absorbs easily on the skin, it may not sit well during humid weather. In these cases, it is recommended to use the essence only at night especially if you don’t have a dry skin type.
- Contains highly hydrating ingredients better than standard Hyaluronic acid
- Lasts long
- Has a stopper to ensure the essence is dispensed drop by drop
- Not travel-friendly
- Too heavy to wear on very humid days
Tosowoong Green Tea Essence
Best for Oily Skin
Those with oily skin types can benefit from the moisturizing and brightening effects of this Tosowoong essence. It carries a good amount of fermented ingredients which boost absorption into the skin.
What’s Inside: Green Tea Extract, Niacinamide, Bifida Ferment Lysate
This Korean essence is rich in green tea extract, which provides antioxidants for the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it great for those with acne-prone skin.
This green tea essence is also rich in Niacinamide, well-known for its brightening properties. So if you want a more even skin tone, this is a good essence for you.
Another thing we love about this Korean essence is its whitening properties. Having whiter complexion is a treasured characteristic of K-beauty, so it’s not a surprise that Tosowoong added this benefit in their essence.
Things to Note
I’m not a fan of the container. You can’t easily tell how much of the product is left because it is opaque.
It is also not as aesthetically pleasing, which is one quality most people love about Korean brands. It’s much more fun to do your Korean skin care routine when the products come in cute packages.
- Green tea leaf extract: Moisturizes oily skin to maintain proper levels of hydration
- Evens out skin tone
- Has whitening and brightening effects
- Opaque bottle makes it harder to see how much product is left
- Has hints of a plastic smell
Benton Fermentation Essence
Hydrating the skin is an important step of skincare. Failure to do so can lead to breakouts, uneven skin tone, and dryness. This is true for all skin types.
That dewy complexion characteristic of K-beauty requires well-hydrated skin. This Benton essence can help you achieve that.
What’s Inside: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Ceramide
When you look at the ingredient list, you’ll know this Korean essence is great for hydrating the skin. The contents help keep the skin moisturized for longer periods. Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate is a popular hydrating substance.
And because it has no added fragrance, its ingredients work well even for sensitive skin types.
The Aloe Vera content helps soothe the skin and treat inflammation as well. Betaine is also present in this product, and it helps strengthen the skin barrier to retain moisture.
Things to Note
While this Korean essence does not have added fragrance, its natural smell is not that pleasant. Expect a chlorine-like odor.
- Rich in hydrating agents like aloe vera and betaine
- No added fragrance
- The natural smell is not that pleasant
SECRET KEY Starting Treatment Essence
This Secret Key essence works wonders in brightening up the skin as well as keeping it hydrated and elastic.
What’s Inside: Galactomyces Ferment, Western Rose Water, Niacinamide
SKII popularized the use of Galactomyces Ferment in Korean skincare, and this ingredient has since then been used by other brands because of how effective it is in brightening the skin.
Aside from its brightening effects, this Korean essence is also rich in Ceramide and Hyaluronic acid, which makes the skin plumper and more moisturized.
Things to Note
We love the packaging of the SECRET KEY Starting Treatment Essence because it looks luxurious. However, because of its weight, you can’t carry it around easily.
- Brightens the skin and removes hyperpigmentation
- Aids in hydration and moisturization
- Makes the skin plumper and more elastic
- Not travel-friendly
MISSHA Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive
K-beauty standards dictate that aging is not an excuse to have sagging and wrinkled skin. This is why Missha came up with an essence whose ingredients take care of the effects of premature aging.
The Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence locks in moisture to get plumper skin while also evening out the skin tone. It also reduces the appearance of dark spots.
What’s Inside: Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Bifida Ferment Lysate
With the presence of fermented ingredients in this Korean essence, you can be sure to expect a brighter and more radiant complexion. Fermented ingredients in general are good for aging skin.
All skin types can benefit from the Missha Time Revolution, even sensitive skin. If you’re still in your twenties, this is a good product to go for to protect the skin early on.
Things to Note
While we love this product overall, we wish it would come in a lighter bottle to carry around while traveling.
- Brightens the skin
- Reduces the appearance of dark spots and wrinkles
- Not travel-friendly
MISSHA First Treatment Essence Mist
If you’re lazy, you’ll love the fact that this Korean essence comes in a spray bottle.It makes it so much easier to dispense.
This is both an anti-aging and whitening product, and one of its most abundant ingredients is fermented yeast extract, which sustains the balance of the skin’s moisture levels.
What’s Inside: Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Water
Just like the Tosowoong Green Tea Essence, this product is designed to whiten the skin. This is since a fair complexion is a common ideal characteristic of Korean beauty.
It has a soothing effect that you can immediately feel upon application. It also makes the skin softer thanks to the presence of the flower water.
Things to Note
Missha has reformulated this particular Korean essence, so if you’ve used the old version, you may notice the difference of this new one. It’s still as good, but a lot of users prefer the old version.
With regards to the spray, while it adds convenience, we are not a fan of the fact that it squirts out the product in a straight line instead of an even circle.
- Comes in spray bottle for easier application
- Reduces wrinkle appearance
- Whitens and softens the skin
- The spray does not dispense the product evenly
Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence
Our pores have very important functions for skin health. However, while we know they’re important, we don’t necessarily like seeing them.
This Cermorlab essence helps reduce the appearance of pores to give you a smoother, more even complexion.
What’s Inside: Rosa Centifolia Flower Water, Betaine, Saccharomyces Ferment
This product boasts of its fermented thermal water content, the key ingredient in the brand’s thermal water therapy nourishment. This innovation helps hydrate the skin while keeping the pores refined and unnoticeable.
You’ll immediately feel the calming effect of this product during the first use. It’ll feel a little, which is a good thing since lower temperatures help close the pores.
Things to Note
There are users who have complained about developing tiny bumps while using this product. This is rare, however. To be safe, if you have highly sensitive skin, you may want to steer clear of this Korean essence.
- Nourishing formula
- Calming ingredients
- Smoothening properties
- Evens out complexion
- Not suitable for those with highly sensitive skin
Mizon Water Volume Ex First Essence
This product has a hydrating formula. The ingredients are a combination of moisturizing ingredients that help retain water within the skin.
It’s the perfect face product that will prepare your skin for the rest of your beauty routine.
What’s Inside: Snow Algae extract, Hydrosalinol, Ceramides, Moringa
It contains Snow Algae extract which is a great soothing ingredient. It can calm irritation while still delivering moisture into your pores.
This Korean essence also contains a perfect mixture of Hydrosalinol and Ceramides. These ingredients work together to seal in the hydration that the skin received from the Snow Algae.
This also has Moringa which is another great ingredient used for soothing skin irritation and allergies.
Things to Note
Though this does have hydrating properties, they’re not really enough to moisturize the skin completely. Most users recommend that you still pair this with a serum to stay moisturized
The formula is thinner than most Korean essences already are so you shouldn’t forget moisturizer to lock in more hydration.
- Soothes irritation and allergies
- Can’t completely hydrate the skin on its own
- Thinner consistency compared to other Korean essences
What is an Essence and Why Shouldn’t You Skip It?
An essence is a watery beauty product that helps the skin absorb other skincare products more effectively.
If you look at the 10-step Korean skincare routine, the Korean essence comes after toner application. It precedes all other steps that nourish the skin because it prepares the skin for the subsequent steps.
Without it, you won’t be reaping the full benefits of your expensive serums and ampoules.
Skin essence improves ALL skin types. Just because you have oily or acne-prone skin does NOT mean you can’t benefit from the moisturizing power of Korean essences.
Korean Essence vs. Toner
In a world that gives high regard to skin care, more terms are introduced every year to describe what are essential to Korean beauty.
As the terms become increasingly more confusing, it’s not uncommon for people to stop and wonder how these skincare products differ.
When it comes to looks and consistency, Korean essences and toners don’t really have that much difference. However, while toners function primarily to provide your skin with a balanced pH, an essence makes the skin more absorbent to other beauty products you might use after it.
Toners are designed to bring the pH back to normal levels after cleansing. Korean essences condition the skin to take in the nutrients and vitamins that you apply after.
Korean Essence vs. Serum
Essence and serum are items in your Korean skincare routine that are not hard to tell apart in terms of their appearance and consistency.
Korean essences are water-like, while serums are usually oil-like and thicker. The latter would be commonly found in tiny bottles with droppers.
However, people often confuse the function of these two skincare products. To make it clear, just remember a serum is more concentrated with active ingredients to combat specific skin problems.
The molecules of serums are smaller, so they penetrate deeper. Korean essences condition the skin for absorption of other products, serums included.
How to Apply Korean Essences
When applying Korean essences, remember to ditch the cotton pads. Use your CLEAN HANDS instead.
Pour the right amount of product on your palm and gently rub your hands together. The heat generated in this step helps the skin absorb it better.
Next, gently pat the essence on your face. For neck application, massage the product upwards to help prevent sagging skin.
Wait for the product to absorb fully. The time of absorption depends on the consistency as well as the formulation of the product.
After, apply your preferred serum or ampoule and enjoy the results afterwards.
Why Choose a Korean Essence?
K-beauty products have a reputation for their use of only the best ingredients nature and science have to offer. This is because when it comes to skin care, Korea sets a high standard.
People are often amazed by Koreans’ crazy beauty routines and the various products a lot of us have not even heard of yet. Even children who have not yet reached their teens already know how important skincare is!
Using Korean essence is an essential step in the Korean skincare routine to help absorb all the nutrients and benefits from other skincare products.
Korean essences are called the heart of the Korean beauty regimen. This is because without them, you would not get your money’s worth out of all the other Korean skin care products you use in your routine.
We personally believe the CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is the best Korean essence because it calms the skin and provides deep hydration you can’t get from other essences. We’ve witnessed the healing powers of snail mucin, and it is a wonderful ingredient to look for in any beauty product.
And because no one is a fan of sagging skin, we love how the MISSHA Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive works hard to provide a youthful complexion.
Now, it’s up to you to decide which face essence will be best for your skin type. We hope that our list and recommendations helped!
August 18, 2021 – Updated product descriptions, improved article formatting, reviewed and updated overall content
July 14, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links