Korean Facial Essence: A Careful Look At What Skincare Essences Are, And Why They Are Important!

Korean Facial Essence: A Careful Look At What Skincare Essences Are, And Why They Are Important!

Korean Skincare has been the rave over the past few years. We’ve heard about the 10-steps and 7-steps Korean skincare routines that allow a beauty junkie (myself inclusive) to layer different beneficial skincare products on the face for an utmost skin condition. There is also the glass-skin goal!

By the way, if you are familiar with K-beauty, you are likely to have come across essences or have even heard about them. Essences are sometimes considered as serums. This is because, there are some of them that are not so different from serums in terms of their composition, texture, and what they are made to do.

But, when we take a careful look at what skincare essences are and looking back at their early introductory stages together with their importance, we would be able to see that essences and serums are two different things.


What Is A Facial Essence? And What Are Its Benefits To The Skin? 

A facial essence is a skincare product that is often formulated with probiotics and fermented ingredient/s. Depending on the brand, an essence could be made from lots of different ingredients or with just one.

Even when essence is formulated with only one ingredient, it would take on the ‘essence’ of that based ingredient as its definition implies— “A substance that contains in very strong form the special qualities of the thing from which it is taken. Merriam Webster”

In a skincare routine, an essence provides the skin with the first layer of hydration that prep the skin after cleansing and/or toning. It allows better absorption of the products, for example, a serum that would be applied after it.

Usually, light-weight and nutrient-rich, this skincare product does not only provide the skin with an extra boost of hydration but also allows for skin cells’ regeneration. Some of its many other properties include being formulated to help in tackling and elimination of some specific skin concerns like redness, caused by skin irritation and/or sensitivity.

Since some of its benefits are mentioned in the preceding paragraph, note that it is not just limited to those. In fact, an addition of a skincare essence to a routine could help to treat hyperpigmentation and skin discolorations, thereby giving an overall brightening effect to the whole face.

An end result is a more supple and youthful glow—an effect that is distinctly visible with every use (this has been proven from my own personal experience with it *winks*).

Often considered as ‘Miracle water’ for the skin due to its most common water-based components, water consistency, and skin benefits, there is no doubt that facial essence is a skincare darling for Koreans and Japanese. And in recent times, it is being loved just as much by the beauty lovers in the other part of the world that have found themselves enchanted with the Japanese and Korean beauty trends.


How Is An Essence Different From An Emulsion, A Serum, And A Toner?

How an essence Is Different From Emulsion, Serum and Toner


If you are still new to the Korean-wave skincare terminologies, you can feel overwhelmed with all these terms and products by not knowing the difference between them, their importance, and what they do. The following paragraphs should provide with a clear understanding of them.

An emulsion could be considered as another word for lotion. Just as its name implies— ‘emulsion’ meaning a mixture of liquids according to Merriam Webster—It is a more water-based and lighter moisturizer, which should be applied after a serum. It helps to seal in all the active ingredients contained in the serum.

Emulsions are more ideal to be used last (but before a sunscreen) without the need to layer another thicker facial cream for those with oily skin types. Whereas for those with very dry skin types, a thicker and richer moisturizer may be followed after it for an added moisture.

A serum I believe is what we are very familiar with of all these three (emulsion, essence, and serum). A gooier substance that is often packed with lots of antioxidants and active ingredients to help target specific skin concerns. Basically speaking, it is meant to be applied after an essence as they tend to be thicker and more concentrated than it.

But, due to the evolution of skin care products which as allowed serums to be watered down like essences, and them also becoming more like serums in terms of consistency and composition, the other of application may be interchanged.

Since the line of difference between a serum and an essence is becoming thinner and thinner with time, we have often seen serums being marketed as essences and vice-versa for ease of understanding in the international beauty market.

Toners are other skincare products that would most commonly be found in almost all beauty lovers’ products shelf after cleansers. They are a lot more light-weight than essences, and of course, their purposes are totally different as well.

Like I have mentioned in many earlier articles of mine, toners are made up with ingredients that help to further cleanse the skin before the application of other beneficial skin care products.


Can An Essence Replace A Serum Or A Toner In A Skincare Routine?

Yes! Depending on your preferences, and/or the components of the essence. For example, if you prefer to skip the toning step or just want to stay away from toners, you could substitute them with essences—in this case, you would want to go for the light-weight ones, not the ones that are more like serums.

Also, in the case whereby the essence you are going for is similar to serum in terms of what it does and its ingredients list, you would be saving a lot by skipping serum all together. Always remember that the word “essence” is sometimes a marketing word for “serum”!


My Final Take On It…

In conclusion, I love essences. I decided to add one to my skincare routine for testing and to experiment with it, and I am fascinated with it. I appreciate it for the utmost hydration it gives my skin–a normal skin type that is usually dry and dehydrated during harsh weather conditions.

My favorite is the “I’m From Mugwort Essence,” one ingredient and light-weight composition essence. One of the reasons it is my favorite is I could decide to either use or not a serum after it. For added skincare benefit, a serum is essential thereafter. But, if simplicity is the day’s theme, I go without it.



What do you think? Would you consider trying out a skincare essence or is it already a staple skin care product of yours?

How would you like to use it, as a serum or toner substitute, or for an added skin care benefit? Write down your comments below.

Here is to a more lovely and glorious you… Tohin


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  1. Thank you for sharing this helpful information. I didn’t know how is an essence different from an emulsion, a serum, and a toner. You have an excellent explanation for different emulsion, serum, and toner. I will experiment it for sure. Thank you again.

    1. My pleasure dear Tina! You would not regret experimenting with it for sure.


  2. Interesting article. My first experience with korean cosmetics is very fresh – I have bought a BB creme with SPF50 lately and I have to say, it is better than any other foundation I’ve had so far.
    I use serum just after I cleanse my skin and before applying moisturizer. How do I apply essence? In the same order as serum? I have oily T-zone and also first wrinkles starting to be visible around eyes. Would you recommend it to use around eye area?

    1. I agree with you, Eva. Once you find the right Korean cosmetic product for you, they are usually ‘bomb,’ and you wouldn’t ask for more!
      Please check this recent article of mine for some helpful steps you could follow while applying essences.

      To your question, “YES,” essences are mostly safe to use around the eye area.

      Hope you are satisfied with the answers to your questions!

      Much love… Tohin

  3. Thank you for this Article Tohin. I have never heard of Korean Essence before, but maybe the reason is that I have been into skin care a lot. As a guy I’m not bothered and always say that I don’t have time for it. My girlfriend always says to me, look after my skin more and thanks to your article I think I will start doing it. Now I know how beneficial it can bee to look after our skin more I really liked all the benefits you told us. I really liked that you explained the differences between Emulsio, serum, toner and essence. Thank you so much for this article.

    1. It is my greatest pleasure to always deliver to you my beloved audiences very helpful and useful articles, while also providing you with products that have proven to work.

      You are so very kind with your words. It gave me some sort of satisfaction and made me realize the purpose of the article has been meant.

      With lots of sincerity and much love!

  4. I have very uneven skin tone for years. As a result, I have to use concealers and so much foundation on my face. Of course, I get tired of this sometimes. I only heard about Korean Skincare on tv. and it was just a mention not a promotional ad. I have never used a facial essence, so I am wondering: Can this help to even out my skin?

    1. I understand your struggle with uneven skin tone, Carol.
      Trust me, we all have one thing or the other that’s challenging to deal with. Mine I would say is my acne scars and blemishes. Thank goodness my acne has been on leave for a while now.

      Back to your question, the mugwort essence main purpose is for soothing and calming skin irritations in addition to hydrating the skin, which it does pretty well.

      Even though I did notice an improvement in my skin tone–by it becoming brighter–I can’t say much about its ability to even out the skin as I do not have one, and could not experience that effect myself.

      Fortunately, it is also recommended for uneven skin tone on the website, and I would agree with. The reason is, it met and exceeded my expectations with the other things it claimed to do.

      Anyways, cheers to a more youthful and astounding healthy skin!!…

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