Skin-softening facial essences are enjoying intense popularity – in Japan and Korea they’re an integral part of skincare as a preparation for serum, oil or cream. More or less unknown outside these countries until a few years ago, they’ve gained followers elsewhere with the global rise of Asian beauty trends.
Active, ingredient-rich essences tend to be multi-purpose and vary depending upon skin concerns, but all add a layer of moisture and are intended to prime skin in readiness for the rest of the skincare routine. They’re more viscous than toners yet don’t have the emollient feel of moisturisers. An essence should be used after cleansing, before serums or hydrators. Make-up artist Kenneth Soh says he always uses essence on his clients, who include Naomie Harris, Edith Bowman and Sophie Okonedo. “I layer essence to plump up skin without making it oily or product-heavy. The better the complexion prep, the less make-up I need to use because skin looks naturally flawless.”
Due to the fluid nature of essence, it’s tempting to apply it using cotton wool pads, as with a toner. However, a more beneficial method is to place a few drops into the palm of your hands and press over the skin with gentle, cupping pats.
Three of the most effective essences I’ve found are Huxley Brightening Essence Brightly Ever After (£38 for 30ml) for uneven tone, Decorté Priming Essence (£62 for 30ml) for calming redness and Shiseido Bio-Performance Super Refining Essence (£73 for 50ml) for reducing dullness on all skin types.
Jane Cunningham is a beauty journalist and blogger. An early adopter of beauty blogging, she has been posting on her website britishbeautyblogger.com for 10 years, providing (sometimes brutally) honest product reviews and beauty news. Cunningham collaborated with Marks & Spencer to produce a limited edition make-up range and is currently collaborating with Makeup Revolution on an eyeshadow palette. She also works with beauty brands as a creative consultant. @britbeautyblog.