Move over, serum. There’s a new skin-sation sweeping Philippine shores, and it’s goes by the ambiguous name of essence. Yeah, we know it sounds like a ‘90s R&B group and shampoo brand at once, but lucky for your skin, it’s neither. Essence is nothing new in Korea or even Japan, where SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence was launched in the ‘80s—and considering the average woman’s skincare regimen goes up to a dozen steps. But since it’s a relatively new concept to most Filipinas, we’ll keep this primer simple!
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WHAT IT IS

Essence is a potent fluid hydrator that’s concentrated with vitamins, minerals, and humectants (these are like magnets for moisture). Traditionally, it comes in a water-based formula. Although new gel and cream consistencies are starting to pop up, the liquid versions are still the most popular.

WHAT IT DOES

In Korea and Japan, essence is considered the strict first step in proper hydration. Basically, it prepares your freshly washed and toned skin at a cellular level, placing it in the most optimal state to absorb oil-based serums, creamy moisturizers, and sun protection (mind that order). With regular use, essence brings you brighter, dewier skin, less obvious pores, and close-to-ideal moisture levels.

HOW TO USE IT

This watery wonder is designed for application immediately after you wash your face, or following toner, if you use it. Tap (yes, tap) the product into your skin until it’s fully absorbed. Do this quickly yet gently—as in: tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap—to avoid product wastage. Now, don’t let this scare you off, but we heard the Japanese sometimes tap up to a hundred times (thus, the immaculate complexions).

WHY YOU NEED IT

Aside from drenching the skin in moisture and amping up radiance—good reasons enough, TBH!—this secret weapon also helps correct dark spots, smooth out lines, and increase cell regeneration. In short, it kind of, sort of, turns back time. Below, five of our favorite cult essences!
1. Laneige’s Water Bank Essence, P2,145 – Laneige’s beloved fast-absorbing fluid hydrator
2. Elizabeth Arden’s Visible Whitening Melanin Control Day Essence, P5,335 – Brightens dark spots and dull skin with diamond powder infusion
3. Aloe Derma’s Soothing & Repairing Essence, on sale at P630 – Hydrates deeply with organic aloe vera juice, which also soothes redness, peeling, and itching
4. Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Essence, P1,029 – Quenches parched skin with hyaluronic acid and olive extract
5. Missha’s Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence, on sale at P2,295 – Missha’s ultimate bestseller, infused with miracle-working yeast