More and more beauty bloggers and publications are talking about facial essences. Even if you’re a well-versed skintellectual, “facial essences” may feel unfamiliar to you since it’s such a new trend in the skincare world.
Let’s discuss the differences and similarities between essences and serums and break down when to use them to get your lushest, glowiest skin.
What Is an Essence?
Facial essence originates from the Korean beauty industry. While it has traits in common with products you already may be accustomed to using, it’s actually its own distinct product and step in your routine.
An essence is a water-based product containing botanicals designed to help hydrate, prime, and nourish your complexion. It can get a little confusing when you’re used to using serums because an essence comes after cleansing and toning, and that’s traditionally where you’d apply your serum.
However, your essence should come before your serum and other skincare products because it can act as a primer, making your skin better able to absorb all the many benefits your serums and moisturizers may provide. You also want to layer products from lightest to heaviest, which is why essence comes before serum.
Essences use ingredients like water, hydrating Hyaluronic Acid, and vitamin or lipid-rich extracts, often from plants, which can offer a wide range of antioxidant benefits. These are all crucial nutrients when balancing your complexion and supporting your skin barrier.
Our Renew Nutrient Mist features nutrient-rich Green and White Tea, nourishing Algae Extract, and detoxifying Kombucha for optimal hydration and antioxidant benefits.
While essences are great at increasing the efficacy and absorption of your other skincare products, they’re not to be confused with toner because your toner is also its own distinct step.
While essences are meant to infuse your skin with nutrients, toners are primarily designed to clear your face of dirt and impurities.
Our Clear Nutrient Toner is the perfect post-cleanse way to prepare your skin for your facial essence and everything that comes after. Plus, it is chock-full of nutrients – which means it can even take the place of an essence.
While many conventional toners strip your skin of necessary bacteria and oils, our Clear Nutrient Toner takes a unique approach to cleansing breakout-prone skin and does the opposite! It’s formulated with a cocktail of nutrient-dense oils, giving your skin everything it needs to thrive.
From breakout-fighting Black Willow Bark Extract to microbiome-balancing Organic Kombucha and Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, every ingredient in this hypoallergenic formula is perfect for providing essential hydration, soothing irritated skin, and prepping your skin for your essence.
What Is a Serum?
If you have an established skincare routine, you probably already use a serum! Serums are typically formulated with a high concentration of active ingredients. This high concentration of an active ingredient can help the product work more efficiently.
For instance, some of the active ingredients you might find in a serum, like Lactic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid, could also be included in the formulation of your moisturizer. But a serum will likely have much more of that given active ingredient, which means it can deliver more significant results much faster — which is why you want it in your skincare routine!
Our Chebula Active Serum can dramatically change how your skin looks with the breakthrough antioxidant Chebula.
Chebula is a cascading antioxidant, which means that once it’s done fighting a free radical, it reacts by taking on a new form that can fight the next free radical… and the next one after that, and the next one after that.
It’s so effective that it’s clinically proven to outperform two leading anti-aging serums in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.*
So What Exactly Is the Difference Between Essence and Serum?
This can be a little confusing! Not only do serums and essences often look similar in terms of packaging, but the usual guidance will often tell you to use both right after cleansing and toning.
But while both of these products can contain similar ingredients and should be applied at similar points in your routine, they have different roles to fulfill.
Your serum is more likely to be thicker and more viscous — this means it works a little harder than your essence when it comes to penetrating the layers of your skin. A serum is also generally employed to target specific complexion concerns.
For instance, our Clear Repair Nightly Treatment is formulated not just to target signs of aging but also help balance your skin and support an even, blemish-free skin tone. With a potent blend of Niacinamide, Black Willow Bark Extract, and Hyaluronic Acid to help deliver hydration, fight visible signs of aging, and address breakout-related concerns, it’s the all-in-one solution you and your breakout-prone skin need to truly glow.
And unlike other blemish-fighting products, Clear Repair Nightly Treatment doesn’t disrupt your skin barrier with harsh, synthetic ingredients. Instead, it helps to support it, which is just what your skin needs to get back on track after a breakout. It also keeps your skin balanced and hydrated so you experience fewer blemishes in the future.
While an essence can support proper hydration, offer nutrients to help fight blemishes, and keep your skin barrier strong, that essence is not going to target your breakouts the way a designated serum would.
When Should You Use an Essence and a Serum?
If you have to choose between an essence and a serum, a serum is probably the more potent product to add to your routine.
That said, if your skin is particularly sensitive and you’ve struggled with active ingredients or products with potent concentrations in the past, an essence might be a great way to boost the nutrients and hydration your skin receives without irritating it. So if your skin doesn’t seem to play well with serums, in that case, an essence might be a good alternative.
But luckily, you don’t need to choose between them! In fact, using both an essence and a serum has been shown in studies to support overall skin hydration, firmness, and elasticity, while reducing water loss throughout the day.
So if you think your skincare routine could do with a little optimizing and you’re looking to dial up your glow a couple of notches, adding an essence to your routine can help.
In order to use these products in your routine, you’ll want to start with a gentle yet effective cleanser like our Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm.
With makeup-melting Yucca Extract and gentle, plant-based ingredients like Turmeric and Ginger Root Oil to help soothe your skin, Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm will give your skin the gentle exfoliation it needs with Azelaic Acid and Lactic Acid – without side effects.
It uses Oat and Argan Oils to help restore moisture to help your skin glow and Mango and Avocado Butters to help lock in moisture so that your skin feels pillow-soft.
Unlike other cleansers with harsh surfactants and toxic chemicals that can strip your skin of necessary moisture and increase the likelihood of side effects, our Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm removes even the toughest waterproof mascara without siphoning any moisture from your skin.
Then, use our Clear Nutrient Toner to help prepare your skin to best absorb your other products and get rid of any last impurity that may be lingering in your pores.
After your toner, it’s time for your essence!
Your serum, because it’s generally going to be thicker, will come after your essence. Your essence can also help prime your skin to be as receptive as possible to the potent active ingredients you’re hopefully delivering to it with your serum.
Finish your routine with a moisturizing face oil or cream moisturizer.
Our Renew Pure Radiance Oil with Algae Extract and Chia Seed Oil is a moisturizing face oil containing 14 easily-absorbable Seed Oils alongside Ceramides and Fatty Acids to nourish and support your skin barrier.
Passion Fruit Oil and Papaya Seed Oil work to deliver a youthful-looking glow while Algae Extract and Astaxanthin nourish the skin with Fatty Acids and maintain a plump appearance.
For your cream moisturizer, consider our Chebula Extreme Cream. Chebula Extreme Cream is an anti-aging cream moisturizer that 100% of subjects agreed made their skin look and feel smoother, softer, more glowy and deeply. That’s because we use Chebula, one of the most potent cascading antioxidants that single-handedly fights five signs of aging.
Our formula also features an exclusive Hydra-Cocktail of protein rejuvenators, humectants (like Hyaluronic Acid), emollients, and breathable occlusives that helps lock moisture in and maintain the skin barrier.
And the best part? We use zero pore-clogging waxes, which is a top ingredient in practically every other moisturizer on the face of the planet.
Choosing the right products for your skin can be a challenge! And when new products start getting recommended left and right, you may wonder if it’s time to change your usual lineup.
While a traditional serum is chock full of vitamins and provides a targeted skincare treatment, essences are broader and generally not as concentrated.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you! Either way, make sure to check back into our blog for our tips on how to get your most gorgeous glow possible.
*Clinical Data Disclaimer: Based on a 6-week single-blind comparative clinical study of 30 women aged 35-65 with twice-daily use.