Essence lotions, what are they, how to fit them in your routine, and some recent discoveries from Tatcha, La Prairie, Sekkisei and Omorovicza

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.

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Morning and evening skincare routine, featuring Tatcha, Bioderma, Reversa, Sekkisei, Eve Lom and Acure

Morning skin care routine featuring Tatcha The Essence

I haven’t done one of these skincare routine updates in a while, but lately I’ve been really happy with the state of my skin, so I wanted to share all of the amazing products that I’ve been using. For a while last year, I’ve been experimenting with new skincare products, and including switching up my routine pretty much every night depending on what I was feeling like using. I was way over complicating it, and even though I had fun mixing and matching products, I didn’t feel like I was maximizing any of the products’ potential to really make a difference on my skin. One of the changes I made towards the end of last year was to simplify my routine, and go back to basics. This also helped me declutter my bathroom counter because there weren’t a million things floating around (which the boyfriend is also thankful for)!

My routine is pretty simple, I use a cleanser, pre-serum, toner / essence, serum, eye cream, then moisturizer.

For my morning routine, I try to focus on adding hydration. I have very dehydrated skin so adding water is the most important step for me. In order, I use these products:

  • THREE Balancing Cleansing Milk – I purchased this in Japan in the fall of 2016 and I finally got around to using this. Cleansing milks are tricky for me because I find that a lot of them don’t fully emulsify and leave a weird film on my skin. This one is simply amazing. It has a beautifully whipped milky texture that’s lightweight but feels so soothing on the skin. I use this on dry skin with dry hands, massage it in for 30 seconds, and then emulsify and wash off with warm water. I am left with incredibly soft, silky, and very balanced skin. It’s never drying, and is perfect if you have dehydrated, dry, sensitive skin. THREE is a Japanese brand that uses primarily natural and organic ingredients, this Balancing Cleansing Milk contains 94% natural ingredients. I honestly haven’t been able to find an equivalent product like this in the western market, which is another reason why I love this so much.
  • Freeplus Deep Pre Moist Essence – Another product I purchased in Japan is this pre-serum. I apply this directly to cleansed skin, before toner / essence and everything else. It has a super lightweight watery gel texture that absorbs quickly. My skin is immediately plumped up ready for other products. This is also a fantastic product for sensitive skin types because it is fragrance free and very gentle on the skin. A similar product in the western market would be Vichy Mineral 89.
  • TATCHA The Essence* – I will be doing a feature on essence waters soon, but just as a quick sneak peek of my thoughts, I’ve been using this off and on since it first came out, and I’m honestly torn about how I feel about it. It does hydrate my skin but that’s pretty much it. It’s a great basic skincare item, but I don’t know if it’s worth the high price.
  • Bioderm Hydrabio Moisturizing Concentrate* – I initially discovered this product and did a full review of it in 2013. This is one of my go-to hydrating serums, it really helps to seal in the hydration and prevent my skin from feeling tight all day. One thing I noticed when using this product this time around was that it feels a little bit silicone-y. It does have dimethicone in it, but lower in the ingredients list. That being said, I still rely on this a lot in the winter time.
  • Reversa Anti-Wrinkle Cream* – Another oldie but goodie, I did a full review of this back in 2015 and my stance has basically stayed the same. This is a super easy way to incorporate glycolic acid in your routine, especially if you use other active ingredients at night. It’s a super easy 2-in-1 glycolic treatment with sunscreen, and is super moisturizing at the same time. I still love it, and still absolutely recommend it.

Night time skin care routine featuring Eve Lom Time Retreat Face Treatment

Like I mentioned earlier, my routine at night is basically the same as my daytime routine but just with the product switched up a bit:

  • Pre-cleanse with a cleansing oil – I’m currently using Jill Stuart Cleansing Oil, which I purchased from Japan. Any cleansing oil / balm / water will do to remove makeup, and I haven’t really noticed anything too amazing with the Jill Stuart one. I almost always (like 99.5% of the time) double cleanse, every night. The only time I don’t double cleanse are the nights when I am just lazy and forget to do it, but even if I have just sunscreen on, I will double cleanse. The trick to prevent stripping is to use gentler cleansers, instead of harsher foaming cleansers which strip your skin. Other cleansing oils that I use that you can find in Canada are by Shu Uemura, Palmer’s Skin Therapy Cleansing Oil, and L’Occitane.
  • Nursery Yuzu Cleansing Gel – I purchased this cleansing gel in Japan and it smells SO GOOD. It’s technically a makeup removing gel, and I have used this to remove light makeup in the past, but I prefer to use it as a second cleanse. It doesn’t foam up, and is just a gentle gel cleanser. It gently cleans my skin without stripping, and it leaves it feeling super soft and fresh. I am addicted to the scent, and I will likely be repurchasing this when I return to Japan later this spring. A similar jelly cleanser in the western market is the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, although that one isn’t really a makeup remover, it has the same gentle texture and good cleansing properties.
  • Freeplus Deep Pre Moist Essence – As described above.
  • Kose Sekkisei Lotion Excellent Enriched* – I first used this product in 2008 when I was still in university. It is a cult favourite in Japan and has been around for decades, with good reason. I will be doing a feature on this product as well in my essence lotions article, but the gist is that I love it and will repurchase in the future.
  • Eve Lom Time Retreat Face Treatment – Truly one of my favourite skincare discoveries of all time, this retinol serum is what I attribute most of my skin improvements to. For a product with retinol, it is incredibly gentle and very moisturizing, as it includes shea butter as a top ingredient. It smells so good, like lavender, which helps to soothe my spirits at night just before bed. Best of all, it has done a fantastic job at smoothing my fine lines. I tend to wrinkle my brows and forehead a lot, so I have a lot of fine lines there which this has pretty much eradicated. My pores are also more refined, and my skin texture overall is smoother and brighter. I will definitely be repurchasing this. It comes in a great size as well – 50mL – which is 2/3 more than other serums. I picked mine up from Murale.
  • Acure Night Cream* – This is a great basic night cream for those who are interested in trying out more natural skincare products without the high price tag. The packaging is very simple and to the point, but the product is really good. It goes on emollient, but then absorbs and dries down without any sticky residue. I love using this in the winter, as it protects my skin throughout the night. They’ve actually repackaged this and renamed it the Brilliantly Brightening Night Cream, but the product is still the same.

I hope this gave you some inspiration to try some new products!

Products provided by PR are denoted by *, everything else was purchased by me. All opinions are my own.