Essence lotions have been in Asian skincare for as long as I can remember. Back when Western skincare brands were heavy on the alcohol-rich astringent-type toners, Asian skincare was all about that enriched essence water. Long story short, an essence lotion (or essence water) is basically a supercharged, nutrient-dense watery serum. There are a ton of them on the market, but the most famous one is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. In recent years, a lot of Western brands have also started to release more of these essence lotions, or global brands have started to bring their previously Asia-exclusive essence lotion products to Western countries. What makes these different from an acidic toner (such as Pixi Glow Tonic), is that in general essence lotions tend to be more on the hydrating side, and you also are encouraged to apply this by patting it into your skin with your palms rather than using a cotton pad.
In terms of how to fit this into your usual skincare routine, generally you want to use the lightest/most watery products first in your routine. I use my essence lotion after cleansing and after my exfoliating toner (such as the Pixi Glow Tonic), or to replace my exfoliating toner. Then I apply my serums and moisturizers, and sunscreen during the day. You can use essence lotions during the day and at night, and I love it for both.
Tatcha The Essence (C$114 for 150mL) was probably one of the launches by the brand that I was the most excited about. It contains 98.7% of Tatcha’s proprietary blend of Japanese superfluid made with green tea, rice, and algae. It is marketed as a skin plumping skin softener, which is a very Japanese skincare concept. I’m not sure if it was the hype or how much I was looking forward to this, I was actually just okay about it. It is completely scent-free, which I appreciate in the morning when my senses are just waking up, and it does do a pretty decent job at hydrating and softening my skin, in preparation of the next steps. That being said, for something to be called an essence, I expected a bit more than just basic hydration. I didn’t notice that it did anything to help smooth fine lines or firm my skin over time. It’s decent, but didn’t blow my socks off.
The La Prairie Skin Caviar Essence-in-Lotion ($330 for 150mL) contains primarily Caviar Water, which is active water infused with Caviar extracts. This is the thickest of all the essences here,it felt more like a light serum than a water essence. It used this on a trip to Toronto on a cold spell and I was very happy to say that it kept my skin feeling very hydrated, plump, and smooth. My skin was also smoother and more radiant after a few weeks of using this. That being said, it has a super strong scent that is very fragrant. I generally love La Prairie’s scents but this one seemed too potent and was a bit bothersome after a while. It does work, so if you are able to stomach the strong scent (and the price), then I would recommend this.
Newly released last year from Omorovicza is the Omoressence (C$150 for 100mL), a product developed in collaboration with a Hungarian Nobel-prize winning lab. This product contains primarily Hungarian Thermal Water, which will help to balance, hydrate, and prepare the skin for other products. It also helps to guard against environmental stress throughout the day. I love the way it smells, very fresh and energizing. I also love that it’s very nicely hydrating and helps to smooth my lines. It leaves my skin feeling moist, which is what I want after using an essence, and then other products cling onto it for better absorption. I’m a little bit disappointed that the bottle is a bit smaller than I was hoping – it comes in only a 100mL size, compared to other essence lotions which tend to come in bigger sizes.
An oldie but serious goodie is the Kose Sekkisei Lotion (C$57 for 200mL) and the Sekkisei Enriched Lotion (C$77 for 200mL). These were one of the first essence lotions that I was ever exposed to, so I’m very happy that they are now available in Canada through Shoppers Drug Mart. These lotions were designed by the Japanese to create luminous, smooth skin. I use this as a toner at night because its not the most hydrating of essences. It contains quite a bit of alcohol, which may not be great for sensitive skin folks. It does a fantastic job at keeping my skin clear, even-toned, and also improving brightness.
I’ve also previously reviewed the Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Essence, Pixi Glow Tonic, as well as some essences in spray form.
Do you use essence lotions in your routine? Which ones are your favourites?
Product received as PR samples for review consideration; all opinions are my own.