This Popular Eastern Beauty Product Can Make Your Other Products More Effective

The Best Health team tests out a Korean beauty staple.

Ping-ponging from the bone-chilling outdoors to the cozy hug of indoor heating and back again can leave your skin dry and crying out for help during Canadian winters. (Speaking of which, here’s how to achieve healthy winter skin.) While an extra step to your skincare routine may sound like a hard sell, it could be the SOS you need.

Meet essence, a product that is deeply rooted in Asian beauty culture and has gained a solid fan base from women around the world. “An essence is a watery yet slightly texturized formula that penetrates deep down into the skin and is loaded with active ingredients,” says Mathilde Thomas, founder of the French-based clean beauty line Caudalie. “It’s like a pre-serum.” (Are you using serum the right way?) The role of an essence is to lay the groundwork for the peak performance of what follows. “In Asia, women love layering textures,” says Thomas, who has a track record of creating skincare hits. “After a thorough double cleanse, they will layer products from thinnest to thickest.”

In 2015, Thomas moved to Hong Kong to expand her company and was inspired to develop her own version. The goal? Efficacy. Thomas succeeded: Clinical tests show that skin-brightening results double when an essence is used before the brand’s Vinoperfect Radiance Serum. Translate that potential to winter-weary skin in need of all the help it can get and you change the game. And that’s exactly what the Best Health team discovered when they put a range of essences to the test.

“I was dubious about adding another step to my routine, but that hesitation went out the window with the first use,” says editor-in-chief Beth Thompson. “I loved the texture, the way it melted into my skin and how receptive it made other products. Plus, a hydration buffer in the midst of winter is always welcome.” “My face felt smoother and looked glowy,” says managing editor Courtney Reilly-Larke. Meanwhile, assistant digital editor Alyssa Ball was impressed with the timely results. “After just a week’s use, I noticed a major change in my complexion: a subtle healthy plumpness that didn’t exist before,” she says. (Check out what everyone gets wrong about winter skincare.)

The right essence for you will include ingredients that support your skin’s needs. Look for glycolic or fruit acids to gently exfoliate congested pores or a rough texture to brighten skin. Seek out hyaluronic acid to increase hydration and anti-oxidants (such as green tea leaf extract) to strengthen mature skin. In addition to transforming your skin, there’s a soothing element that might win you over. “I am in my mid-50s and have hypothyroidism, so my skin is always dull and dry,” says art director Jackie Shipley. “This was a much-needed step in my routine. Not only did I enjoy the process of pressing it into my skin but it also felt luxurious and made it easier to apply face cream.” In essence, you might love it, too, because it simply feels good.

Shop our picks:

facial essences

Vinoperfect Concentrated brightening Essence, $56, caudalie.com

facial essences

Eau Cellulaire Water Essence, $39, esthederm.ca

facial essences

Skin Revitalizing Essence, $59, monatglobal.com

Next, check out some SOS hair treatments to try this winter.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada

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