Why Essences Are The New Beauty Essence-tial

Watery essences are winning fans, but what is behind this skincare trend out of Asia?


Kiehl’s Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence. Picture / Supplied.

Essences are the latest skincare step women everywhere are being exhorted to pick up on. Already popular in Asia, they are gaining ground in other markets, but we went to source for an insight into their appeal. Korean dermatologist Dr Gee Young Bae explains their appeal. He is a consultant to Kiehl’s the latest brand to add an essence to its range.

How popular are treatment essences in Asia? Do virtually all women use one?
Women of all ages use treatment essence products. My patients in Asia often apply cosmetic waters as a mist or serum. These formulas are not necessarily crucial for all age groups, yet they are widely appreciated for their ability to improve skin’s texture and hydration, resulting in better absorption and a synergistic effect with following steps in a skincare routine. 

Is there cultural background that explains the popularity of treatment essences/"watery care" products in Asia?
In Korea many women seek illuminated, clear and youthful looking skin. To achieve this they apply skin care products in several steps, generally starting from a light-weight product to one with rich texture. As their first skincare step, Korean women often select a treatment essence that prepares the skin by creating a healthier foundation, allowing for better absorption of the next formula.

To meet this need, many cosmetic brands have recently launched treatment essence products with watery textures, resulting in their popularity. The rise of “K-beauty” is also contributing to the popularity of treatment essences. Thanks to Korean celebrities of K-drama and K-pop, beauty products that are popular in Korea, have also become recognisable and in demand throughout Asia and globally.

Is a treatment essence the ideal way to boost skin hydration, as opposed to using a richer cream?
The watery texture of treatment essences instantly hydrates the skin and smoothes skin’s texture. Compared with a richer texture, they deliver moisture faster and have a higher skin boosting effect by increasing the absorption of subsequent treatments. Due to their light-weight textures, it can be challenging for cosmetic waters to hydrate skin for many hours, but Kiehl’s features improved hydrating benefits for skin.

The essence should be used as the first step in any anti-aging routine as it quickly and deeply penetrates to renew, renourish and replenish the skin. It improves barrier function to lock-in skin moisture, resulting in more hydrated, smooth and healthy looking skin.

Can you offer 3-4 specific tips on how women should use treatment essences?
I recommend applying essence after cleansing. Place several drops of the formula on the palm of your hand and then apply it gently on cheeks, forehead and chin until absorbed. Then add following products like an eye cream, a serum and a moisturiser. Apply those products by hand or a cotton pad depending on their viscosity.

There are a number of other ways to apply formulas from this category depending on personal preference and skincare needs:
1. From neck to collarbone care: Put several drops of the essence on the palm of your hand and apply and press gently it on neck and collarbone like doing massage until absorbed. Repeat this process 2 or 3 times until you can feel your skin feels refreshed and hydrated.
2. Apply as a portable mist: When essences are very light, like fresh like water, you can use them as a mist. You put the essence into the container with spray and then replenish your skin with additional moisture whenever you want.
3. Concentrated moisturising care: Soak a sheet mask in a water essence and put it on your face for 10 minutes.

• Kiehl’s Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence, $60 for 200ml, is new on New Zealand shelves. Available from Britomart store and Smith & Caughey. Other brands with essences include La Mer, SK-II, Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown, specific essence-style serums from Clarins and Darphin.

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