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What the heck is a skin essence and is it worth incorporating into your routine?

August 22nd 2018 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 0 comment


Already widely used in the Far East, this antioxidant-rich, anti-pollution treatment could be set for big things here too. From what it does to what to buy, here are the essentials

There are a lot of parallels between the infamous 10-step Korean skincare routine and many of the GTG team’s current regimens - oil cleansers and SPFs for example, can be spotted on many a member's bathroom shelf. There are some categories though that are yet to become daily staples of ours and become as popular here as they are in the Far East. One such example, is the use of a skin essence.

‘What the heck is a skin essence?’ we hear you ask. We asked ourselves the same question. Not a toner and not quite a serum, it’s a hybrid of the two that provides an extra layer of defence against the daily onslaught of environmental aggressors. “They are an effective means of staving off the negative effects of pollutants on the skin and the effects they have on the ageing process, as well as providing ingredients that act as antioxidants and supply much needed skin hydration,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Sandeep Cliff. “The concept of an essence is to be embraced - in offering the ‘stressed skin’ another opportunity to counteract the deleterious effects of pollutants along with effective cleansers and serums.”

If like us initially, you’re wondering what the difference between a facial essence and a hydrating toner is, you’re not alone. Think of an essence as a souped up version that contains higher amounts of actives that penetrate deep into the skin after you’ve cleansed. It can be classed more as a treatment than a traditional toner, facialist Abigail James tells us. “An essence is more likely to include other skin health benefits rather than just hydration,” she says. “In your skincare routine, it might be applied in this order (if you were using everything you could): cleanser, exfoliating toner or exfoliant product, essence, serum and then a moisturiser.” Many essences advise pressing the product into the skin to reap the full benefits.

If adding another step to your cleanse and tone routine doesn’t exactly sound appealing, an essence could potentially take the place of your hydrating toner thanks to its more sophisticated formula often found brimming with goodies such as probiotics, hyaluronic acid, PHAs, antioxidants and other skin barrier-boosting ingredients.

Although still niche, expect to see more taking up space on your chemist’s shelf thanks to a recent surge in launches and an increased demand for pollution-proofing skincare from consumers.

MORE GLOSS: Cleansing masks - could your skin benefit from these ‘anti-pollution’ face washes?

One such example is Exuviance’s new Probiotic Lysate Anti-Pollution Essence. “It helps to rebalance and strengthen skin, as well as hydrating it at the beginning of the regimen to enhance subsequent treatment steps,” says Dr Cliff. “Clinically proven ingredients in products that address your individual skin condition will give optimum results and help prevent further photo-damage.”

Due to their lightweight liquid textures and protective abilities, essences have refreshingly wide appeal. “All skin types could benefit from an essence however, they don't often sit in the ‘must have’ bracket when it comes to your routine as a whole,” says Abigail. In short, they’re a good way to amp up your defences and do leave skin softer and plumper in our experience however, they don’t rank as highly in the anti-pollution skincare pecking order as a cleanser, SPF and serum.

If you’re interested in adding one to your routine though, here are six that stand out from the crowd and make incorporating the extra step into your routine worth the time and money.

Exuviance Anti-Pollution Essence, £54


Containing 10 per cent probiotic lysate (from the bacteria found naturally in yoghurt) to calm skin and rebalance its microbiome, hydrating hyaluronic acid and 8 per cent polyhydroxy acids to gently exfoliate, this lightweight essence acts as a useful way to strengthen many a city dweller’s skin barrier.

Buy online

Origins Original Skin Essence Lotion with Dual Ferment Complex, £22


This pick provides fast-absorbing hydration to a range of different skin types thanks to a clarity and glow-boosting and stress-relieving combo of Canadian willowherb, Persian silk tree, molasses, essential oils and chestnut seed.

Buy online

B. Essence Lotion, £6.99


Great for skin and wallet, this purse-friendly option contains a calming cocktail of allantoin, naturally derived algae extract and hyaluronic acid to leave skin soothed and soft.

Buy online

Paula’s Choice Resist Brightening Essence, £40


Leaving skin more radiant, this skin plumping pick enriched with barrier strengthening niacinamide, hydrating sodium hyaluronate and anti-inflammatory licorice root extract seeks to leave skin brighter and bouncier.

Buy online

Caudalie Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence, £30


With a fast-absorbing water-like texture that smooths and soothes (thanks to the brand’s signature grape water and the use of glycolic acid), this refreshing essence preps skin for whatever you pop on top of it.

Buy online

Rituals The Ritual of Namasté Glow Essence, £24.50


“I love the fact that this product is all natural," Abigail James tells us. "The texture is amazing and it absorbs so well into the skin. It is a great summer hydrator in this warmer weather and will really help anyone experiencing dryer skin without adding extra oil to their skincare routine."

Buy online

Read more: A guide to using exfoliating acids in your skincare routine

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