This extra step in your skincare routine is key for a healthier complexion.
Facial essences, or lotions, have been an essential skincare step to Japanese and Korean women for decades. But it wasn’t until in the past few years that Western skincare brands started introducing such essences.
If you are still unsure about what a facial essence does, we’ve got you covered. While traditional toners are designed to balance skin’s pH, most of them tend to also have some cleansing benefits as a back-up to eliminate any traces of makeup and grime left behind. However, essences do not have cleansing properties. They focus on restoring skin’s pH and moisture levels, as well as resetting skin by infusing it with a host of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and amino acids to amplify the effects of serums and moisturisers applied thereafter.
Here, 10 of the best facial essences that beauty editors repeatedly swear by for healthier skin:
La Prairie Skin Caviar Essence-In-Lotion ($405 for 150ml)
If you haven’t heard, La Prairie’s Skin Caviar skincare range is packed with nutrients extracted from sturgeon caviar, which are essential for cellular regeneration. Rich in peptides, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, these products improve skin resilience for smoother, firmer skin.
And to prep for optimal absorption of all this goodness, La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Essence-In-Lotion is made with distilled Caviar Water that restores skin’s moisture and lipid levels. This means that products applied after are absorbed better for maximum benefits. All you have to do is dispense a coin-sized amount of this slightly viscous gel-like lotion onto your palms and pat into your skin. Instantly, skin is refreshed, revitalised and ready to receive treatment products like serums and moisturisers.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence ($269 for 230ml)
Unchanged for over three decades, this multi-award-winning facial essence provides skin with over 50 micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and organic acids to restore skin’s natural functions like cellular turnover and regeneration. Just saturate a cotton pad and apply onto skin after cleansing for softer and smoother skin that glows.
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX ($115 for 60ml)
As the Korean beauty brand’s best-selling item for almost 20 years, this booster serum harnesses the benefits of prized Korean herbs to balance, energise and hydrate skin so a dull complexion gives way to a healthy, glowing one. Thanks to a painstaking 18-hour extraction method, the JAUM Balancing Complex is obtained and is the key compound that provides your skin with a global anti-ageing action. Dispense two to three pumps of serum onto your palms before smoothing onto skin as the first skincare step to boost its absorption of other products applied after.
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Micronized Centella Essence Water ($29.90 for 130ml)
A trusted herb that has been used to heal wounds since centuries ago, this essence water contains Centella Asiatica extract, infusing skin with its miraculous skin-repairing benefits. In addition, the formula contains micronised droplets, which ensure that it penetrates deep into skin layers without any stickiness or greasiness to regenerate skin from the inside out.
La Mer The Treatment Lotion ($220 for 150ml)
At the heart of this skin-softening lotion is the brand’s signature Miracle Broth, a nutrient-rich ingredient extracted from sea kelp via a natural fermentation process to lock in moisture and accelerate cellular regeneration. When combined with a marine algae-derived ferment and hyaluronic acid fragments, it penetrates deep into all skin layers to restore cell metabolism for healthier cellular functions. Skin instantly feels balanced and plump as its moisture levels are optimised.
Hera Cell Essence ($80 for 150ml)
At one glance, you’ll know that this skin essence means serious business because an entire list of components that are essential for optimal cellular function is clearly labelled on the bottle itself. This clearly signals to consumers that it contains everything your skin needs to be healthy, including amino acids, sugars, peptides, lips, ions, hyaluronic acid and NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factors). To apply, saturate the two-sided cotton pads that the essence comes with and sweep all over skin using the softer side. Once or twice a week, opt for the bumpy side for additional exfoliating benefits for smoother, more radiant skin.
Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Premium Hydrating Lotion ($24.90 for 170ml)
For those whose skin needs a little extra help in retaining moisture, this is your best bet. Formulated with hyaluronic acid of five different molecular weights, this deeply hydrating lotion replenishes, stores and locks in hydration instantly for softer and smoother skin. Plus, it is pH-balanced to minimise irritation and keeps skin supple all day long.
Biotherm Life Plankton Clear Essence ($78 for 125ml)
Concentrated with Biotherm’s signature Life Plankton, which normalises skin renewal for smoother, younger-looking skin, this lightweight essence preps skin so it becomes more receptive to skincare products applied after. Thanks to a blend of gentle micro-exfoliating agents, it sweeps away dead skin cells, refreshes skin and replenishes moisture for a more refined skin texture.
Su:m37 Secret Essence ($108 for 80ml)
Natural fermentation processes are the pillars of this Korean skincare brand. As its name suggests, natural ingredients found in the brand’s skincare products are left to ferment under highly regulated conditions, specifically at 37 degrees Celsius to retain their optimum efficacy. And everything takes place in the brand’s Natural Fermentation Research Institute, which is situated in Korea’s Gangwon province, where it enjoys pollution-free air and water to ensure the purity of the ingredients undergoing fermentation. The result? Nutrient-rich extracts that energise the complexion at a cellular level for healthier, more beautiful skin.
Vichy Aqualia Thermal Spa Oil-In-Water ($52 for 100ml)
With a structural component that mimics skin’s hydrolipidic film, it is readily absorbed into the skin to help rebuild and strengthen skin against environmental assaults. Thanks to its Oil-In-Water format, fresh actives are preserved in micro-capsules and gradually released. Moreover, the water phase infuses skin with Vichy thermal water, glycerine and hyaluronic acid to soothe and hydrate the skin, while the oil phase provides skin with squalene and vitamin E for a well-nourished complexion.