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Best facial essences to hydrate and prepare skin for the next steps


hen you are first putting together a skincare regime, a cleanser and a toner will likely form the basis of your beginner’s routine – and yet toners have not always had the best reputation over the years.

For those with dry or dehydrated skin types, the formulas can feel tight, drying and a little harsh for sensitivities. So let us introduce you to the world of essences.

What is an essence?

Stephen De Heinrich, Omorovicza co-founder explains, “Essences are used to prepare and optimise skin for subsequent skincare steps. Usually of a watery consistency, essences contain potent ingredients designed to hydrate and protect skin, thereby allowing for optimal absorption of active ingredients in serums, and boosting the efficacy of your skincare routine overall.”

How does it differ to a toner?

While not directly a replacement for toners, they are designed to be applied after cleansing. De Heinrich stresses the differences, “A toner’s primary function is to rebalance the pH of skin, which is often altered by cleansing. Although an essence can also rebalance skin, its main function is to hydrate and optimise the absorption of ingredients used in subsequent skincare steps.”

When should you use an essence in your routine?

De Heinrich demystifies that “Essences are used after the cleansings steps in your regimen and before your serums, and can be used morning and evening.”

What are the benefits of an essence?

Essences provide an immediate moisture hit for the skin with a combination of antixodiant-infused and natural ingredients. “Active-packed essences contain many other benefits”, De Heinrich adds. “Such as the protection of the skin barrier, smoothing skin’s surface and plumping and firming the skin.”

What skin types should use an essence?

No matter your skin type, you can maximise the spritz, mist or pat of an essence. “Essences are suitable for all skin types but given they provide an extra layer of hydration, dry skin types may benefit more than others from adding an essence to their routine. As essences strengthen the skin barrier, they are also a recommended step for those with sensitive skin”, says De Heinrich.

What ingredients should you look for in an essence?

“Common ingredients include: moisturising agents such as humectants to lock in moisture; hyaluronic acid (or sodium hyaluronate) to hydrate, plump and firm skin; plant extracts to provide an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefit; and vitamins, minerals and lipids which help to strengthen the skin barrier.”

Shop the best facial essences below for an immediate hit of hydration and to prep the skin.

111SKIN Antioxidant Energising Essence


From Harley Street-born label 111SKIN comes this antioxidant-rich formula that has been created to act like a skincare primer. Much in the same way as your makeup primer, it encourages the next steps to sit better on the skin – and in this case, absorb more effectively to give you better bang for your buck of what follows.

It has a lightweight, almost water-like texture that removes excess sebum and will not create balling so that incorporating into your current routine is seamless. During warmer weather or if you’re suffering from irritation, it feels soothing on the skin and helps to calm redness with the brand’s signature NAC Y2 ingredient, placed alongside botanicals and calming aloe vera.

There’s also copper chlorophyll that gets to work evening out tone and texture as well as dark spots and discoloration.

Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence


Fermented black tea is at the heart of this formula that boasts benefits like pollution protection, counteracting premature skin ageing and offers a radiance boost. It is also renowned for its hydrating properties, especially when combined with hyaluronic acid as it is in this product. The essence is infused further with mandarin peel extract to give a more even tone.

The texture is extremely light and it has a lovely subtle scent that will have you looking forward to this step in your routine. Apply instead of or after toner to prep your skin for the day.

Omorovicza Queen Essence


Each product in the Omorovicza collection offers a luxury experience – and this essence is no different. It follows in the footsteps of the brand’s hugely popular, coveted and officially cult Queen of Hungary Mist in the sense that each usage feels like a sensory experience and it is packed with the brand’s patented Healting Concentrate to encourage cellular repair, boost collagen and fight against visible signs of ageing.

This product has an addictive rose aroma and creates a lovely smooth skin finish that makes the following steps work that bit harder. It contains hyaluronic acid and Snow Mushroom, hydrating ingredients that attracts and locks in moisture, as well as Tomato Stem Cells to protect against environmental free radical damage like pollution and UV rays.

Tatcha The Essence


For dry and dehydrated skin types, Tatcha’s The Essence is on hand. The brand takes inspiration from the ancient skincare rituals of Japanese geishas and packs each product with bioactive ingredients.

Brimming with plumping properties, this essence contains a potent powerhouse of amino acids to support the skin’s natural retention of water and cell turnover as well as Hadasei-3 – a proprietary complex of fermented rice, algae and green tea with nutrients aplenty.

It is free from any nasties like parabens, sulphates and is non-irritating so can be used by those with sensitive skin. This product provides a luxury experience from the bottle itself to the contents that leaves your complexion silky soft.

Sunday Riley Pink Drink Firming Resurfacing Essence

Sunday Riley

When science and botanicals combine, you are left with a supercharged skincare must-have like this essence from Sunday Riley. It is specifically designed to help those with stressed skin and offer a balancing effect. While it is soothing and calming, don’t for one minute underestimate its powers.

Double the peptide goodness, it offers firming, while probiotics – chlorella, kelp, pink yeast filtrate and fermented honey, antioxidant-rich green tea, ceramides and vitamin-rich apricot and cucumber extracts work in tandem to nourish. It is best for all skin types but especially combination, and dry, while it helps to minimise the appearance of pores. Smooth, clear and radiant skin – what more can you ask for?

Shani Darden Skin Care Sake Toning Essence

Shani Darden

You may not know the name Shani Darden but you’ll have heard of most of the names on her client roster. The facialist counts Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen among her celebrity fan base, but is giving you the chance to mimic the salon experience with her eponymous at-home range.

The Toning Essence is enriched with sake water that may surprise you to learn is rich in antioxidants and so has a brightening effect. There’s also sebocytine to regulate sebum with the added bonus of mattifying too – making it ideal for normal to oily skin tones. It removes impurities, leaves you with an even, smooth skin texture and reduces the appearance of pores. It smells and feels fresh too.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Moisture Essence Supersize


After incorporating this essence into your routine, you will notice your complexion will feel smoother and more hydrated. For parched skin, it offers immediate quenching with marine actives that are brimming with mineral goodness. Hyaluronic acid, padina pavonica, and sea spring water work in synergy to layer up on the moisturising benefits and go against the traditional tight feel that toners can often provide.

This is a supersized version (200ml) because you’re going to want to bulk buy.

Alpha-H Generation Glow Daily Resurfacing Essence with 5% AHA Complex


Alpha-H takes a different approach to formulation when it comes to this essence. It has incorporated exfoliation into the product but in a gentle way so you can still use on sensitive skin. This buffs away dead skin cells in order to smooth out the complexion – and allow optimal absorption of the products to follow. It does this though a combination of AHAs with lactic acid at the forefront. This is combined with bio-fermented Australian botanicals so that you are still getting the hydrating properties of the product type and encouraging a brighter finish at the same time.



BIOEFFECT was founded by three Icelandic scientists who discovered a plant-based replica of Epidermal Growth Factor (that’s the EGF in the product name) – an ingredient known to reverse and repair age-causing damage. The products are carbon-neutral and created in a geothermal greenhouse in a lava field, harnessing the power of the nutrient-rich volcanic landscape.

This essence is skincare prep for better effectiveness of the moisturisers and serums that follow. It is formulated with Icelandic water for ultra-hydrating and quick-absobring properties with no sticky or tacky residue. The soothing formula retains the moisture so should be in your arsenal whether you have to contend with drying air con or central heating on a regular basis.

Clarins Multi-Active Treatment Essence


Treat your skin to the replenishing formula of Clarins’ Multi-Active Treatment Essence. The product packs botanical ingredients as well as hydrating hyaluronic acid into the line-up for long-lasting moisture well through the day. It is a lightweight fluid in texture that absorbs deep into the epidermis with a revitalising effect. It also works to counteract signs of ageing.

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