• Shea Simmons

What Is An Essence Anyway?

Readers! Hi! It's been a while, and I am so sorry, but today, I'm back (queue the hallelujah chorus), and we're heading back to the Hey Shea Shea skin care 101 series. So far, we've covered cleansing and toning, and now, we're moving on to a bit more of an advanced skin care step, but it's also one that I swear by: essences. What is an essence anyway? Let's dive into why you should think about including one in your routine.

Let's get straight to the source when it comes to essences: Korean Beauty. You may have noticed by now that much of my skin care routine is inspired by K-beauty. We've already chatted about the miracle that is double cleansing, so let's talk essences. According to SoKo Glam's Charlotte Cho, an essence is a, "concentrated formula that specifically targets wrinkles, fine lines, and dull and uneven skin tones. Korean essences typically contain an active ingredient that optimizes your skin's natural cell turnover rate (think skin regeneration) and with regular use you will notice that your skin is more smoother and brighter." Sounds pretty great, right?


Essences are meant to penetrate deep into the layers of the skin and provide extra hydration while better prepping the skin for your next steps. Basically, the analogy I cited from Cho in the Should I Be Using Toner piece applies here. Your skin is a dry sponge and without prepping it first, it won't absorb products as well. Plus, like a toner, an essence is an easy step to add into your routine.

An essence is applied after you've toned your skin, and like the step before, the products are typically more of a watery liquid, but they can get a bit more viscous. But don't worry about your skin getting weighed down by the product if you're oily. Thanks to their more watery texture, they won't overload oily skin. Just add a few drops to your palm, rub your hands together just slightly, then press the essence into your skin. Let dry and move on. Seriously, it's such an easy step to add that will make a huge different in your skin.

Peach & Lily/Instagram

What are some good essences out there if you want to test this step in your own routine?

Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

Right now, this snail mucin essence is my go-to, and yes, it is, in fact, made of 96% snail mucin. Before you freak out, snail mucin is a common ingredient in K-Beauty, and it's farmed in a way that's cruelty free, so no snails were harmed in the making of this essence. Why snail mucin, though? This unique ingredient is perfect for repairing the skin barrier (the part of your skin that help retain moisture). While it does have the exact texture you'd expect from a mucin based product, it's totally worth it.

Peach & Lily Wild Dew Treatment Essence

Another of my favorite essences is the Wild Dew from Peach & Lily. Now, first up, I LOVE Peach & Lily and its founder Alicia Yoon. The brand is a staple in my routine, and this essence is a repeat use for me. Not only is it deeply hydrating, but it helps to improve my skin's radiance, and I basically feel like a glowing goddess after I use it.

ELF Hydrating Water Essence

Y'all! Do not sleep on ELF. Over the past few years, this affordable brand has launched some serious bangers, and this Hydrating Water Essence is one of them. Is this essence only $10? Yes! Is it ultra-hydrating? Yes! Is it perfect for all skin types? Yes, it is! Basically, if you want a starter essence that won't break the bank, this is it.

Laneige Water Bank Essence

If you want plump, hydrated skin, this mineral water based essence is for you. With six different essential minerals, it's definitely different than other essences, but it's just as capable of helping to keep your skin feeling balanced and even.

Pixi by Petra Rose Caviar Essence

Rose is one of my favorite skin care ingredients, so of course, I have to recommend this Rose Caviar Essence from Pixi. Not only is the ingredient super hydrating, but it will help to even tone and restore radiance. Plus, hello, how CUTE is it?

If you've been thinking about adding an extra step in your skin care routine or want to up your game, an essence is the perfect place to start.

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