Skip to content

A Deep Dive into Essences with Fashionista

Cheryl Wischhover is one of our favorite editors – her articles are always so well researched and spot on – and her recent article “Korean Skincare: The Differences between Serums, Essences & Ampoules” knocks it out of the park. (We were honored to be consulted for the article as well!)

One of the most confusing keywords that is trending in beauty now are essences. In a nutshell – essences ARE serums.  It’s generally thought of as more lightweight because the terminology was created in Korea and the texture of many Korean & Asian treatments tend to be more watery  – but at the end of the day, both essences and serums are treatments that you will benefit from layering on before your moisturizer. Do you need to use both? Our take is that one or the other is fine….but layering an essence and a serum could help if you choose products that can work synergistically together.

Now where it gets confusing is essence toners, also known as essence lotions, first essences or treatment toners or treatment essences (try saying that sentence 3 times…).

Essence toners are not serums.

These are liquid treatments that are basically revved up toners and should be used on skin after cleansing and before your essence or serum.  Examples include SKII Facial Treatment Essence, Clinique’s Even Better Essence Lotion or Whamisa’s Deep Rich Essence Toner.

Any questions, comments or feedback about essences? Let us know at love [dot] glowrecipe [dot] com.

Get your glow on,
The Glow Recipe Team

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.


  • The Glow Recipe Team Mar 3, 2015 12:58 am

    Hi Cindy - Great question! An essence toner is similar to a toner but laden with more hydrating and anti-aging ingredients. Thus it often has a more emollient texture than normal astringent toners. Korean and Japanese toners - also called softeners or lotions - are often already very hydrating, so it can definitely be hard to tell the difference. A general cheat sheet (though there are always exclusions) is below: 'Normal' toners = removing residue (part deux of cleansing in a way) + balancing Korean & Japanese toners = Balancing, hydrating & softening Essence toners = Anti-aging, hydrating, brightening & boosts overall regimen (toner plus) Hope this helps!

  • Cindy Mar 1, 2015 10:59 pm

    I regularly use a toner and serum before my moisturizer and SPF...but now I'm wondering what makes an essence toner different than normal Korean or Japanese toners? The concentrations are so confusing ploy perhaps? lol!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.