Did anyone else feel like beauty essences just appeared without explanation in the middle of the night? I've just been smiling and nodding whenever they're brought up, and when I got the Bodyshop essence above, I lovingly slathered it all over my arms. This is not what it's for. So I finally did a bit of internet trawling to get me up to speed and found out that essences are a South Korean skincare product, and as we all know, people are going nuts for South Korean skincare and the rumoured 10+step skincare routine. It seems that South Korean women have a reputation for taking meticulously good care of their skin. I've never been to South Korea (or North, obviously), but I've had a look at Korean women on the internet (not like that) and the rumours seem true, so I decided to get on board.
The beauty of an essence is its formulation - they are watery and slippery unlike serums and moisturisers. The benefit of this being that the high concentration of active ingredients that they contain can penetrate your skin with ease. It also means that they are so quickly absorbed that you can pile on serums and lotions to your heart's content afterwards. They deliver an ultralight, yet powerful, hydration boost, and as such have great anti-ageing benefits. You apply them after cleansing and toning, but before slopping on serum and moisturiser.
The most important thing I've gleaned is that application is the most important thing. Absolutely no rubbing allowed - you must pat and press the liquid into your face - starting at your chin and working your way up. You could use a cotton pad for this, but I've been applying it directly to my face to avoid any wastage. I've read that 100 face pats is the optimum. This seems insane but I'm going to give it a good bash. But be warned, if you come for a sleepover at mine - it's probably going to be boring.
My second big question was what's the difference between serums and essences? Well not much it seems - and with serums becoming increasingly lightweight and multitasking products like 'essence lotion' now on the market, it all gets a bit confusing. I've added two products to my routine that fall somewhere in this overlap - the Bodyshop Oils of Life Intensely Revitalising Essence Lotion and B. Refreshed Essence Lotion. Here's what the global skincare expert for The Body Shop said of their offering: "An essential first step in preparing skin. This bi-phase formula style has been used in Asia for years... Now my clients are able to replace their toner and use this lightweight lotion that will nourish and prepare their skin. After allowing up to a minute for the lotion to activate, skin is ready to receive the next step of moisturisation for maximum benefit."
I've been using the lotion in the evening, as it's got quite a strong smell and I am a delicate flower in the morning, but it's suitable for both. What they mean by bi-phase is that it delivers both the fresh feeling of water, and the nourishing effects of an oil. It's very clever stuff. The B. Refreshed Essence is a real bargain (currently on offer for £3.45) and is a dream to use in the morning - it's packed with hyaluronic acid and creates the loveliest, smoothest base for makeup. Each has slotted really easily into my routine and I'm ready to embrace a few extra steps in my skincare. I've recently discovered Soko Glam - a beauty blog that specialises in South Korean skincare and has a detailed regime guide on her website. Next stop - ampoules... Anyone?