The best facial essences you can buy

  • Essence is a key part of the famed K-beauty skin-care regimen.
  • It hydrates the skin and amps up the performance of the other products in your routine.
  • The Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence uses fermented yeast extract to soften and prep the skin for follow-up treatments like serum and moisturizer.

My skin-care routine is already about a million steps long, so I need to be able to understand exactly how a product fits into the line-up in order to get excited about using it. That said, I can tell you that facial essence is definitely worth the extra effort. If you've ever seen me in real life and wondered why I look pleasantly damp but not sweaty, even in the winter, the answer is essence.

Originating as part of the traditional Korean skin-care routine, facial essences have become a sensation Stateside with the growing influx of K-beauty brands at Western retailers. Ever picked up a bottle of watery liquid at Sephora and wondered how, exactly, it would benefit your skin? You're definitely not alone.

According to The Klog, essence is in a skin-care class - shelf? - all its own. It's not toner, though the textures can be similar. Toner is more for resetting the skin's pH after cleansing, as The Klog writer Ben Neily explains, while essence is meant to moisturize and get the skin ready to absorb the products you apply afterward. "Good essences are filled with ingredients that hydrate, nourish, and brighten the skin," Neily writes.

I apply them as directed - after toner but before any serum, moisturizer, oil, or spot treatment. The order goes like this: cleanse, tone, apply essence. Though most essences are very fluid, I use my hands to massage them into my skin to get the most out of the formula. Then I pat the excess onto my arms, neck, and hands to make sure I'm not wasting a drop.

Here are the best facial essences you can buy in 2019:

Keep scrolling to check out our top picks.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Find all the best offers at our Coupons page.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.

{{}}

View As: One Page Slides

The best facial essence overall

The best facial essence overall
The Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence is an expert favorite that hydrates and brightens the skin thanks to powerhouse ingredients like fermented yeast.

Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence is the recommendation that pops up most frequently on lists of the best essences and K-beauty products. Shoppers and beauty experts agree that this stuff is the real deal.

This essence contains conditioning fermented yeast extract, which, according to Allure, "plumps the skin, smooths texture, and reduces hyperpigmentation," plus hydrating hyaluronic acid and redness-reducing niacinamide. Customers on Amazon rate Missha's Time Revolution First Treatment Essence highly, giving the product an overall 3.9 out of 5 stars, based on 500+ reviews.

"The biggest thing this product does for me is that it helps my skin stay hydrated without becoming oily [...] I never understood why my moisturizers would always leave a film behind and why my skin becomes so dehydrated. After I put this essence on, it pretty much locks in the toner and allows the good stuff in my moisturizer stay soaked into my skin," writes one shopper.

It's also been recommended by Allure, Byrdie, Bustle, The Klog, Fashionista, The Strategist, and StyleCraze.

Pros: Hydrating, soothing, minimal scent, large bottle, little goes a long way

Cons: None

Buy Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence on Amazon for $27.79

The best luxury facial essence

The best luxury facial essence
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is like an instant facial — just one splash of the stuff will leave your skin looking plump, dewy, and hydrated.

I'm sorry to tell you this, but the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is actually worth the hype. I don't say that lightly, considering it costs $179. Most of my skincare faves are much, much cheaper. But, hey, when it's good, it's good.

The product description says the product has been "essentially unchanged for more than 35 years" and lists a slew of accolades. The hero ingredient, as with most items in the SK-II range, is Pitera, "a bio-ingredient rich in vitamins, organic acids, minerals, and amino acids" that the brand claims will help smooth uneven texture and encourage cell regeneration.

SK-II is very gentle and refreshing to use, and over time, should help your skin look brighter and glowier, feel smoother, and appear less wrinkled. It has a 4.1-star rating on Sephora based on 773 reviews and has been featured by Byrdie and Marie Claire. Shoppers with acne especially approve of the breakout-reducing effects.

"It gave my skin a youthful, supple texture and it's evened out my previously combination skin. It has also helped my adult acne. This is why I love this product — it addresses all my issues from aging to acne to texture — which is why it's so worth the purchase," writes one fan.

Pros: Gentle, long-lasting, treats variety of skin issues

Cons: Expensive

Buy SK-II Facial Treatment Essence at Sephora for $179

The best snail facial essence

The best snail facial essence
The Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence uses snail mucin to repair and fortify your complexion.

You wouldn't rub a snail on your face (probably), but you should consider picking up a bottle of Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. As the name suggests, this essence contains 96% snail mucin, "known to aid in skin repair, hydration, brightness, and tone," per the product description.

According to Allure, "It also aids in repairing existing damage, like from acne scars to sun damage." Despite the main ingredient coming from, well, snails, using this is not a gross or unpleasant experience. The essence is a bit thicker and less watery than others I've tried and comes with a nice pump for minimal spillage.

This is one of the most universally beloved essences on the market, garnering recs from Allure, Fashionista, The Strategist, StyleCraze, Health, and The Klog. It has an overall 4.6 rating on Ulta, based on 130 reviews.

"I have very sensitive dehydrated dry skin that acts up with almost everything, even natural products. My t zone gets red and burns but I don't have rosacea, my barrier is just damaged from the years of sun. I've noticed the significant improvement in my t zone when using this before my moisturizer. If I go without it I get the rash again. Love this stuff," writes one Ulta shopper.

Pros: Soothing, hydrating, pump dispenser, relatively affordable

Cons: Caused some reviewers to breakout

Buy the Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence at Ulta for $21

The best rose facial essence

The best rose facial essence
The Pixi by Petra Rose Caviar Essence contains flower oils for an ultra-hydrating, not-too-shiny base.

I absolutely adore coating myself in layers of moisture right before bedtime, so the Pixi by Petra Rose Caviar Essence is perfect for me. It's a lightweight gel texture with tiny balls of flower oil suspended in the formula. They break apart as you rub them in, leaving behind a plump, healthy, hydrated finish.

This is a fantastic option for delicate skin because the rose and oils are super soothing. It comes in a squeeze tube and has a thicker texture, so it's easy to dispense just the right amount of product. The only downside is that the bottle is on the smaller side. I used it up much faster than I typically do with essence.

The product is paraben-free and cruelty-free. It has over a 4-star rating on Target, based on 17 reviews, a 4.6 rating on Influenster based on 53 reviews.

"Don't let the fact that there is, in fact, oil in this formula fool you: It's not the least bit greasy," writes Fashionista beauty editor Stephanie Saltzman. Popular YouTuber Jackie Aina is also a big fan.

Pros: Hydrating, gentle, contains moisturizing oils

Cons: Small bottle size

Buy the Pixi by Petra Rose Caviar Essence at Target for $24

The best facial essence for dry skin

The best facial essence for dry skin
The Laneige Water Bank Essence is packed with nutrients that keep skin extra moisturized and smooth.

If you have dry skin, you can use an essence to beef up the baseline hydration of your skin before you even get to moisturizer. The Laneige Water Bank Essence is a great option (and my mom's personal favorite).

Packed with the brand's signature hydro ionized mineral water, it contains zinc, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, and sodium. The formula nourishes and hydrates the skin, acting as the perfect prep for moisturizer.

"I have combo sensitive skin, am 44 years old and am lucky to have good skin anyway and few wrinkles, but the ones that I do have around my eyes are almost invisible once this Essence is on. I love how the products smell and I am very sensitive to scents," writes one Sephora shopper.

Overall, the product has a 4.7 rating on Sephora based on 180 reviews. My mom says she likes it because the formula "absorbs quickly" and leaves her "skin feeling silky and hydrated" and Total Beauty calls it "uber-hydrating." It reminds me of a thinner version of the brand's cult classic Water Sleeping Mask.

Pros: Hydrating, packed with nutrients, fast-absorbing

Cons: Expensive

Buy the Laneige Water Bank Essence at Sephora for $36
Subscribe to whatsappSubscribe to whatsapp
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.