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What Is a Facial Essence & When Do I Use It?


PORELESS Exfoliating Essence

A skincare routine can be as straightforward as washing your face in the evening and applying sunscreen in the morning. But going a few steps further can make a big difference. For example, adding an essence to your skin care routine gives you another opportunity to deliver hydration to your skin for a nourished, healthy-looking, glowing complexion.

Essences, which are sometimes confused with serums or toners, are considered an essential step in many people’s skincare routines, and today we’re teaching you everything you need to know about this liquid-y product. From what a facial essence is to when and how it should be applied to how to get the most out of your essence, you’ll about to become a full-blown expert on the topic.

What Is a Facial Essence?

Essences have a very low molecular weight, have a thin, watery consistency and are almost always referred to as a “soluble emulsion.” This all translates into a skincare product that’s easy for your skin to absorb which, in turn, allows the product to work as efficiently as possible.

In the same way that creams and toners and face washes are formulated and packaged differently from brand to brand, essence face products also vary. “I recommend looking for an essence with ingredients like antioxidants, which help combat the pollutants of our daily lives and slay free radicals,” says Tiffany Bioski, an aesthetician at SkinReMEDI in Atlanta, GA.

For example, our PORELESS Exfoliating Facial Essence contains a blend of superfruits — including bilberry, noni fruit, orange and lemon extracts — which are not only rich in antioxidants, but also act as a naturally derived fruit acid micropeel, helping to gently exfoliate skin to help reduce visible pores and brighten your complexion.  

Bioski adds, “Hyaluronic Acid is one of the most common ingredients found in essences. This ingredient can absorb water up to 1000 times its own volume and create impactful hydration.”

Facial essence texture

What is the Difference Between Essence, Serum and Toner?

Essence vs. Serum: When compared to a serum, essences are lower in molecular weight and thinner in consistency — they’re quite watery. In comparison, serums are slightly heavier than essences and much more viscous. To help you visualize the difference, you’d be able to collect a pump full of serum in your hand without it running through the cracks of your fingers, whereas an essence would easily trickle through.

Essence vs. Toner: Essences and toners are much more similar. Bioski says, “Think of an essence as a sister to toners, especially in terms of product design. Though not mirror images of one another, both products contribute to balancing pH and they each act as a conduit for all products applied after them.”

You may even find that some brands use the terms toner and essence interchangeably, but they aren’t quite the same. A toner’s primary function is to rebalance the skin’s pH levels while an essence does that in addition to hydrating, exfoliating or brightening (or all the above).

Why Essences Are an Important Part of Your Skincare Routine

One benefit of using a facial essence is to help balance the pH levels of your skin. This is important because it helps keep your skin hydrated without being overly oily. PORELESS Exfoliating Essence works to help reduce excess oil, decongest pores, smooth skin, and brighten your complexion. It also helps to keep your skin hydrated.

We know what you’re probably thinking: Why not use a serum or a toner or a moisturizer that does the above and lose a step? Well, essences also help prepare your skin for additional products, including the serums and moisturizers that you may apply next.

“We know through scientific study that product absorption is exponentially superior when applied onto wet skin,” says Bioski. “In that sense, think of essences as conduits for all other skincare products — everything you put on after applying an essence will be able to root deeply into your skin.” Imagine placing a dry sponge under a flowing faucet. Much of the water will bounce off and not be absorbed. However, if the sponge has been slightly dampened, it will absorb more water. In a similar way, if your skin has been prepped and nourished with a lightweight essence, then it’s more receptive to whatever else you apply next. The additional exfoliating properties of the PORELESS Essence can help the skin to absorb additional products more efficiently.

“Only using moisturizers to hydrate is the equivalent of drinking milk after running three miles in 80-degree weather. It won’t be nearly as effective as drinking water,” says Bioski. “Always make room for [an essence] in your skincare routine, as this is how hydration is delivered to your skin. Moisturizer is then the occlusion that holds in hydration.”

Woman applying facial essence

How to Use an Essence — and When to Apply It

As a general rule, after washing your face you should apply your skincare products in order of liquidity/thinness. In that sense, you’d apply your toner first (if you use one) and then follow up with your essence. From there, you can apply your serum, then oil/moisturizer.

“Since essence’s main purpose is hydration, it is also an ideal ‘anytime’ product to use throughout the day. It can be applied over makeup to perk up and rehydrate skin after a long day at work or after running errands,” notes Bioski. “It is especially amazing to use when you’re flying, since plane air is notoriously drying. Essences for your face make perfect travel companions to keep you glowing on the go.”

As for how to apply an a skin essence product, it depends on the product itself. The traditional technique is to apply the product to a cotton ball or round, then swipe it across your entire face and décolleté.

If you have very sensitive skin, cotton may feel abrasive; if that’s the case, place a small amount of essence in the palm of your hand and then press it into your skin. Finally, some products are also formulated as a mist — or you can decant your essence into a spray bottle if you prefer — which makes it easy to spritz directly onto your face.

“To really get the most out of your essence, it’s important to focus on keeping skin clean before application. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of a daytime regime as well. You should never leave the house without applying sunscreen, as incidental sun exposure is the biggest culprit of inflammation within the skin,” says Bioski. “Our skin is our largest organ but the last to receive any nutrients from the inside out, so be sure to exfoliate gently, hydrate dramatically, and wear sunscreen like your skin depends on it … it does!”