We’ve just got our skincare down to a T and then another step comes along that we need to consider, or do we? Essences have been big news in the Far East for centuries, yet they’re only now getting airtime in the Western world. Contrary to what you probably think, essences are not just fancy toners. 

So, how do they differ? Todd Davidson, Director of Global Education for Eve Lom skincare explains, “toners and essences are similar in the fact that they are a watery texture, however, they differ in the benefits they provide.  Toner is best used after cleansing to remove any lingering residue from your skin, and to hydrate and prep the surface of the skin and balance your skin’s PH level. Essence follows this step, deeply hydrating and soothing the skin, accelerating natural cell turnover (particularly great for anti-ageing), and encouraging a smoother, healthier complexion as a result.  Essences act as a skin booster to increase the efficacy of the next product used in your skincare regimen.”

But where does an essence fit in? Simply, apply (best poured into hands and then gently pat on skin as opposed to wipe) after your toner and before your serum. It’s fast becoming the answer to a luminous, healthy glow, an unsung hero that it seems we all do actually need to include in our skincare routine. 

If you’re willing to set aside more time and money for even better skin, here’s 14 worth trying…

Tropic Juicy Greens Exfoliating Toning Essence, £18

Consider this a nutritious smoothie for your skin. Vitamin C and kiwi work in tandem to help firm and reduce the appearance of pigmentation, whilst niacinamide restores the skin’s surface and moisture barrier and antioxidants from matcha tea further strengthen the skin’s barrier. Basically, it’s an all-rounder for a revitalised, glowing complexion. And it comes in a spray bottle making application a breeze. 

Rituals The Ritual of Namasté Glow Essence, £24.90

If you spend your life trying to catch an effortless glow, then this is a great introduction to slot into your existing skincare. Part of the ‘Glow’ collection, this formula will make sure the products that follow go that extra mile while the calming scent will encourage you to slow down and take a minute for yourself! 

Tatcha The Essence, £95

This cult beauty junkie favourite is brimming with niacinamide to minimise pores, plus antioxidant Japanese green tea to toughen up the skin barrier. In addition, it contains yeast which naturally produces lactic acid to buff away dulling debris from the skin’s surface, working like an exfoliator. Think plumper, brighter skin and an enviable glow after just a single use.

Face Gym Skin Changer 2-in-1 Essence Toner, £38

Essentially an essence and toner hybrid, this is more hydrating than a regular acid-based toner and offers skin-transforming results after just 4 weeks. It’s a great choice for sensitive and gentle skin types and if you suffer with congested skin, blemishes, or dullness, the formula re-texturizes, rebalances, and resets your skin to bring it back to its optimal state without irritating the skin barrier. A brilliant all-rounder!

Augustinus Bader The Essence, £68

Like everything that Badar produces, you can be certain you’ll be impressed by the results. With a comprehensive ingredients list including exfoliating hydroxy acids, wasabi ferment and hyaluronic acid, powered by the signature and almost miraculous Bader Trigger Factor Complex (TFC), this essence will brighten, smooth, and give skin a beautiful glow. 

Eve Lom Time Retreat Radiance Essence, £75

Packed with nine hyper-active, anti-ageing ingredients (including retinol, so don’t use it at night!) and a pleasant earthy scent, this essence delivers. The watery texture is non-sticky, grease-free and leaves skin incredibly hydrated and smooth. Be warned: it’s a very heavy bottle, so not ideal for your travel bag.  

Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Moisture Essence, £105

If your skin lacks lustre and has a grey undertone, this is a gamechanger and will soon become your new BFF! This two-step treatment promises professional-level results that encourages cell renewal in just 14 days. It’s a dull-defeating dream team that can be used up to twice-weekly to reveal a brighter, glass-like complexion. 

Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence, £92

A great choice for city dwellers that work and live in built up areas with lots of pollution. The combination of Kombucha and black tea brighten and balance the skin, while the addition of mandarin peel helps to boost brightness. But it does come at a hefty price!

Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence, £68

This 100% organic formula acts as both a lightweight moisturiser and an ultra-gentle exfoliator in-one. The hyaluronic acid plumps skin leaving it noticeably hydrated and refreshed. If the beautiful (and fully recyclable) packaging wasn’t luxe enough the subtle floral scent smells gorgeously expensive. 

No1 De Chanel Revitalizing Essence Lotion, £77

Sustainability just got chic. Part of Chanel’s diffusion line this essence will not only look glam in your bathroom cabinet but give your skin an enviable glow with the addition of red camelia (the flower which is iconic with Chanel) and niacinamide. Don’t be fooled by the frosty-hued texture, it quickly turns into a water-like gel on contact with skin and absorbs almost instantly. A winner on all accounts! 

Kiehls Activating Treatment Essence, £39.50

This velvety liquid delivers anti-ageing and hydrating ingredients to the skin. Packed with Iris Florentina root extract, known for its deeply nourishing and anti-ageing benefits and lipo hydroxy acid (LHA) that activate the skin’s natural exfoliation process leaving skin luminous even with little shut eye.

Royal Fern Skin Perfecting Essence, £70

This exfoliator-toner hybrid seeps into skin with ease imparting its anti-inflammatory fern extracts and fruit acids into skin. The ingredients work together to deep clean and exfoliate pores, fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation, moisturise, and brighten your complexion. The list goes on…It’s fair to say, you’ll get your money’s worth! 

Sunday Riley Pink Drink, £42

We can’t help but be swayed by the funky name and colour of this essence. This peptide duo of Acetyl Tetrapeptide-9 and Acetyl Tetrapeptide-11 encourages firmness while chlorella, kelp, pink yeast filtrate and fermented honey boosts the skin’s natural microbiome. In short, it’s a nourishing cocktail that quenches and calms skin while looking pretty on your bathroom shelf. 

111SKIN Antioxidant Energising Essence, £70

If you tend to choose lightweight textures for your skincare, then you’ll love the watery feel of this essence. It sinks into skin fast and glides across the face leaving no stickiness or need to wait for your next skincare step. A cocktail of botanicals, calming aloe vera and antioxidant-rich seaweed give this essence it’s superpower that noticeably energises the skin. 

The products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however, The Handbook may make a small commission on some of the products purchased through affiliate links.


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