Is an essence the missing step in your skincare routine?

We’re normally all for quick and easy skincare, but now that we’ve all currently got a bit more time on our hands, perhaps now’s the time to test out an extended pampering routine.

Essences are a standard part of Korean skincare routines (which sometimes stretch to 10 or 12 steps!), and we’re now starting to see more and more of them here in the UK.

It's this practice of layering up lots of light layers that helps to create the enviable 'glass skin' effect that K-beauty is famous for.

Water-like in texture, they are typically more lightweight and less concentrated than a serum, but more powerful than a toner, and are designed to be spritzed or pressed into the skin after cleansing but before applying serum and moisturiser.

They’re excellent at delivering moisture and active ingredients deep into the skin, without leaving any residue or greasy feeling.

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The OK! beauty team put these new ones to the test…

The glow getter

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Micro Capsule Skin Replenishing Essence, £45 – buy it here

This promises serum-like skincare benefits thanks to micro-encapsulation technology which delivers a combination of nourishing tsubaki oil, orchid stem cells for radiance and red algae to boost skin’s own ceramide production.

Our tester says: "I’ve never been convinced a toner does anything for my dry skin but this essence does feel like it’s actually benefiting me. It’s light textured, yet not weedy and watery like a toner, and I felt it immediately made my skin glowier and smoother. It seems nicely compatible with my favourite day cream (think moisture tag team), and only takes seconds to do, so it’s not a faff to get a much-needed radiance boost."

The skin softener

YSL Pure Shots Hydra Bounce Lotion Essence, £31.50 – buy it here

In tests, 75 per cent of people noted their skin looked softer and fresher after using this from the first use. It has orange blossom extract as well as vitamins E and B, which work to plump skin.

Our tester says: "I applied this as advised as my first step in the morning after cleansing, and I noticed immediately my skin felt soft and not as dry as usual. The texture is a mix between an oil and a milky water and I only needed a small amount to get an even layer on my skin."

The line reducer

Pixi Collagen Tonic, from £10 – buy it here

Made with collagen and peptides, it helps to smooth fine lines and skin texture. It also has coconut water for delivering a good dose of hydration.

Our tester says: "This looked just like water to me so I was sceptical that it was going to do anything. It took a couple of weeks before I started to notice a difference in my skin. I hadn’t changed anything else in my routine so when the lines around my lips looked smoother, I knew it was this."

The inflammation hero

BioEffect EGF Essence, £79 – buy it here

This has EGF (epidermal growth factor) – an ingredient that helps heal and repair the skin – making it perfect for those with damaged barriers, like eczema sufferers. Splash on skin twice a day for best results.

Our tester says: "It’s very expensive but I’ve bought a lot of products that don’t work, and this does. I have quite inflammatory skin on my face and it often gets red – and this really eased that. I found it tricky to splash over my skin without wasting the liquid so I preferred to use a cotton pad."

The barrier booster

Curél Moisture Facial Lotion Enrich, £17.50 – buy it here

Designed for dry and sensitive skin, this calms, rehydrates and helps strengthen the skin barrier so it can retain moisture better. Use 3-4 pumps after cleansing.

Our tester says: "I always thought that essences were an unnecessary stage in a skincare routine – until I tried this. It feels like water yet gives long lasting hydration like a serum (to the extent that I could even skip my usual hyaluronic acid), and the bottle lasts for ages. I wouldn’t be without this product now."

The texture changer

COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, £24 – buy it here

It’s infused with 96 per cent snail secretion filtrate, an ingredient commonly used in Korea that is said to be anti-ageing and can improve skin tone and texture.

Our tester says: "I’ll admit, I was a little put off by the word snail, but I tried it anyway. Luckily it had no real smell, and though the liquid felt a bit sticky on my skin, it absorbed quickly. After a few days I noticed a scar on my cheek disappearing and my skin texture was better. Love it!"

The hydration enhancer

Revolution Skincare Hyaluronic Essence Spray, £5.99 – buy it here

Made to complement your existing skincare regime when applied twice daily, the main ingredient in this lightweight spritz is hyaluronic acid, which should hydrate skin and make it look more plump.

Our tester says: "I’ve been using this morning and night for a good few weeks now and it feels really lovely and fresh when I spritz it on my face. My skin does feel more bouncy after I use this, but I haven’t spotted huge changes other than that. It makes my make-up sit nicely, though."

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