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If you ever bought an expensive beauty product, such as a serum or a face mask but did nothing to your skin, the products may not be the problem. You may be missing one very important skincare step — applying an essence.
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.
9 Best Korean Essences To Achieve That Healthy Glow
The CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is a popular choice and regarded as the best Korean essence for all skin types. It is especially useful, however, to those with sensitive skin because of its simple ingredients that calm irritated skin.
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 Nucin has both exfoliating and healing properties, so it renews skin cells efficiently. It is also very hydrating, which helps with those who have dry or oily skin. For the latter skin type, it provides enough moisture to control sebum excretion.
This also contains Panthenol and sodium Hyaluronate, which are both Humectants. They function by locking in moisture, keeping it properly hydrated all day long.
Things to Note
This powerful product is effective mostly because it is made up of 96 percent Snail Mucin. This has a disadvantage, however.
Snail Mucin is essentially slimey and the absorption process takes time. So you’ll have to wait a bit longer before you can continue with your routine using this essence.
- Works well with sensitive skin
- 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
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
This essence could easily have been manufactured straight from a beehive because of its main ingredients. The components are known for their anti-bacterial properties, which is a characteristic that aids to prevent 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 thousand years late. This ingredient has been a hype since ancient times. Older civilizations used this 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 anti-bacterial ingredient with antioxidant properties. It also has Lactobacillus Ferment, which helps moisturize and soothe skin.
Fermented ingredients in general are great for your skin because they increase the effectiveness of products by making them absorb faster.
Things to Note
This is a very effective product, and many users have testified to its benefits. However, your skin can become dependent and once 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. The essence comes in a glass container, which can easily break when jammed in a backpack.
- Has anti-bacterial properties that help prevent breakouts
- Strengthens the skin’s barrier
- Can cause adverse reactions when use is discontinued
- Packaging is not good for traveling
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 essence is better because one of its ingredients is 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 a great Korean essence 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
The essence comes in a 300mL bottle with a stopper to ensure you would not 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 in vacation because of its weight.
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 hyaluronate, a powerfully hydrating ingredient that has smaller molecules compared to hyaluronic acid
- Lasts long
- Bottle contains a stopper that ensures the essence is dispensed drop by drop
- Not travel-friendly
- May be too heavy to wear on very humid days
Best for Oily Skin
Those with oily skin can benefit from the moisturizing and brightening effects of this Tosowoong essence. It carries a good amount of fermented ingredients, which help boost easy 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 the much-needed 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 I love about this Korean essence is its whitening properties. Having whiter complexion is a treasured characteristic of Korean 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.
- Provides enough moisture to aid oily skin in maintaining the proper levels of hydration
- Evens out skin tone
- Has whitening and brightening effect
- Comes in an opaque bottle, making it harder to see how much product is left
- Has hints of plastic smell
Hydrating the skin is an important step, and 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 Korean beauty requires well-hydrated skin. This Benton essence can help you achieve that.
What’s Inside: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Ceramide, Sodium Hyaluronate
When you look at the ingredients list, you’ll know this product is great for hydrating the skin. The contents help in keeping the skin moisturized for longer periods.
And because it has no added fragrance, its ingredients work well even for sensitive skin.
The Aloe Vera content helps soothe the skin and treat inflammation. Betaine is also present in this product, and it helps strengthen the skin barrier to retain moisture.
Things to Note
While this essence does not have added fragrance, its natural smell is not that pleasant. Expect a chlorine-like odor.
- Rich in hydrating agents
- No added fragrance
- The natural smell is not that pleasant
This Secret Key essence works wonders in brightening up the skin as well as keeping it hydrated and eslastic.
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 making the skin brighter.
Aside from its brightening effects, this essence is also rich in Ceramide and Hyaluronic acid, which makes the skin plumper and more moisturized.
Things to Note
I love the packaging of this product 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, making the skin plumper and more elastic
- Not travel-friendly
Korean skin care is all about keeping skin look younger for as long as possible. Korean beauty standards dictate that aging is not an excuse to have sagging and wrinkly skin.
This is why Missha came up with an essence whose ingredients take care of the effects of premature aging. This essence locks in moisture to get a plumper skin while also evening out the skin tone and reducing the appearance of dark spots.
What’s Inside: Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Bifida Ferment Lysate
With the presence of fermented ingredients in this essence, you can be sure to expect a brighter and more radiant complexion. Fermented ingredients in general is 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 I love this product overall, I do 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
If you’re a lazy gal like me, you’ll love the fact that this essence comes in a spray bottle. 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, since a fair complexion is common characteristic of Korean beauty.
It has a soothing effect 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 product, 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, I am 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
Our pores have very important functions for skin health. However, while we love 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.
You’ll immediately feel the calming effect of this product during the first use. It feels a little cold, 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. If you have a highly sensitive skin, you may want to steer clear of this essence.
- Refines pores while keeping the skin hydrated
- Easily absorbed by the skin
- Has an unpleasant smell
- Can have adverse effects for overly sensitive skin
What is an Essence and Why Shouldn’t You Skip It?
An essence is a watery beauty product that helps the skin absorb other products more effectively.
If you look at the 10-step Korean skincare routine, the essence comes after toner application. It precedes all other steps that nourish the skin. This is 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.
An essence helps improve appearance for all skin types. Just because you have oily or acne-prone skin does not mean you cannot benefit from the moisturizing power of Korean essences.
Essence vs. Toner
In a world that gives high regard to Korean 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 products differ, especially when they seem to have the same function.
When it comes to looks and consistency, 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.
In other words, essences and toners both prep the skin for the nourishment that comes after. Toners are designed to bring the pH back to normal levels after cleansing. Essences, on the other hand, help condition the skin to take in the nutrients and vitamins that you apply afterwards. Essences also aid in hydration.
Essence vs. Serum
The essence and serum are items in your Korean skin care routine that are not hard to tell apart in terms of their appearance and consistency.
Essences are water-like while serums are usually oil-like. The latter would be commonly found in tiny bottles with droppers.
However, people often confuse the function of these two products. To make it clear, just remember a serum is more concentrated and contains a concentrated amount of active ingredients in order to combat specific skin problems.
The molecules of serums are smaller, so they penetrate deeper. Essences, as already mentioned, help condition the skin for a more efficient absorption of other products, serums included.
How to Apply Essences
When applying 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 its formulation.
Why Choose a Korean Essence?
Korean 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.
Beauty products in Korea are designed not only to satisfy consumerism. They are made to deliver the best results while keeping in mind the Korean culture and beauty standards. They are also designed to cater to all skin types as much as possible.
People are often amazed by the Koreans’ crazy beauty routines and the various products a lot of us have not even heard of. Even children who have not yet reached their teens already know how important skincare is.
This is why beauty products from Korea—whether it be essence, serum, or facial foam—are highly regarded in the industry.
Essences are called the heart of the Korean beauty regime. This is because without it, you would not get your money’s worth of other skin care you use in your night or morning routine.
I personally love the CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence because it calms the skin and provides a deep hydration you can’t get with other essences. I have 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, I love how the MISSHA Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive works hard to provide a youthful complexion.