scorecardThis lightweight K-beauty "essence" hydrates my skin like a thick moisturizer - but without clogging pores
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This lightweight K-beauty "essence" hydrates my skin like a thick moisturizer - but without clogging pores

This lightweight K-beauty "essence" hydrates my skin like a thick moisturizer - but without clogging pores
LifeThelife5 min read

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Soko Glam

Many of my last 365 days have been spent testing skincare. Over the course of the last year, I've been working through both the hyped-up and nondescript skin care products that surface on the internet to figure out which ones really are great - and which ones you're really not missing out on. Successes, for instance, included the cult-favorite $11 Aztec Clay Mask and $28 Maelove vitamin C serum.

That search also included trying the 10-Step Korean skincare routine - a meticulous cleansing and moisturizing routine that orbits around K-Beauty products to balance the skin. In actuality, 10 steps are less dramatic than they sound. (Eye cream, makeup remover, and sun protection like sunscreen are already three of the steps, and they're not exactly unusual). One of the products sent to me was Neogen's Real Ferment Micro Essence ($38), and it's one of the best I found in 2018.

What's an essence? it's a lightweight liquid packed with a concentrated blend of hydrating, anti-wrinkle, complexion-enhancing ingredients. In a traditional 10-Step Korean skincare routine, it's supposed to be applied after a toner removes residue from cleansers and preps the skin for better absorption of the products to come. It's a popular skin care category in Korea, and sometimes called the "heart" of a K-beauty routine.

In real life, it basically feels and acts like a soft water. After cleansing and toning, you sprinkle the essence into the palms of your hands (or onto a cotton pad) and pat it onto your skin until it's fully absorbed. Since it's a lightweight liquid, absorption happens very quickly.

This product is great for a few important reasons, but they all come back to intense, lightweight hydration. The essence doesn't clog my pores like a rich wintertime moisturizer or thick overnight lotion, but it hydrates nearly as well. It tightens my skin and seems to temporarily fill fine lines. And it sinks in completely and without residue, which is often my main complaint with oils and serums. If my skin is really dry, I follow the essence with Maelove's $28 The One Cream - a non-pore-clogging lotion.

Using the essence with a complementary toner was also one of the first times I've ever noticed an undeniable "glow" from a product - not shininess, but a sort of Kiera-Knightley-holding-a-candle-in-a-Victorian-drama, lit-from-within kind of healthy glow. Like a Glossier ad. It was noteworthy enough to drive me to the product page in search of an explanation. According to Soko Glam and their K-Beauty blog "The Klog," Neogen's Real Ferment Micro Essence is known for delivering on a trend called "honey skin" - "the next level glow after healthy skin" which is typically achieved through a routine with a lot of humectant and toning ingredients for maximum glow. It doesn't make pores enlarged or clogged like an oily shine, but instead results in a glow that is evenly presented across your entire face. Yep, sounds about right.

honey skin

Soko Glam

This is what "honey skin" should look like: dewy and nearly pore-less.

When you take a look at the product list, the intense hydration and noticeable brightening and plumping make sense. The aptly named Real Ferment Micro Essence has more than 93% naturally fermented ingredients, including bifida ferment lysate and 28% saccharomyces ferment filtrate, to deliver instant moisture and increase elasticity. Fermentation naturally produces amino acids, vitamins, and other antioxidants that are great for the skin. It also has a smaller molecular structure, meaning it's easier for the skin to absorb. On top of that, 17% birch juice adds hydration and 9% rice extracts make skin look like it's illuminated from within. The combination of natural brighteners, antioxidants, and cell-communicating ingredients make for what is essentially a smart power juice for your skin.

It's also blessedly free of fragrances - one main reservation I have with many otherwise solid K-beauty products.

The Real Ferment Micro Essence is $38, which isn't expensive for a skincare product but may raise eyebrows under the name "essence" - which may sound a lot like "inessential" to the uninitiated. But, the bottle is five ounces, and a little can go a long way, so one purchase should last you for months.

It seems I'm not the only person singing the Real Ferment Micro Essence's praises. Soko Glam later named it one of the 10 Best Products of 2018, and on site, the product has 600 reviews and a 4.5 rating overall (out of 5). The combination I use - the Acwell Licorice Toner and Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence - is the same one Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam, also swears by for achieving "honey skin." Acwell Licorice Toner was also named one of the best 10 products of 2018.

All in all, if you're looking for intense hydration from something as non-pore-clogging as a water, Neogen's new fan-favorite Real Ferment Micro Essence is worth checking out, and one you might not know about if you're not deeply entrenched in the skin care industry. It brightens, plumps, and deeply moisturizes with fast, no-residue absorption. And, for me, using it with a toner did result in the sort of honey-skin glow that looks like you're wearing highlighter without bothering to put any on. If that's worth $38 to you for a few months of the benefits, I'd wager you're going to like this.

Buy Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence, available on Soko Glam, $38

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