My complexion has a new best friend, and it might be exactly what your beauty routine is missing, too. Essence, a hydrating, super-lightweight serum popular in Korean skincare routines, has totally transformed my skin—and I’m never looking back.
For the past year or so, my skincare routine has been loosely inspired by Korean beauty advice, but there were a few steps I was skipping. The famous Korean skincare routine involves nine different steps in addition to essence, including two kinds of cleanser, toner, sheet masks, eye cream, and SPF. While I’m all about giving my skin TLC, I was a little skeptical about essence in particular; I didn’t really understand what it did, and I wasn’t sure it would be worth the extra time or money.
Enter Hungarian Water Essence ($42; sephora.com) from the Korean skincare brand belif. I spontaneously purchased a bottle and foolishly let it sit, unopened, in my cabinet for months. When I finally gave it a try, I couldn’t believe I had let this magical product go unused for so long.
I had always assumed essence was basically just fancy water, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The lightweight formula appears to be a cross between serum and toner, but it truly deserves a category of its own. In Korean skincare routines, essence helps add a boost of hydration and prime your face so the products you layer on afterwards work better. The theory is that skin prepped with essence can better absorb heavier formulas such as serum and moisturizer.
A few days after I started using belif Hungarian Water Essence, my skin had noticeably improved. I suddenly had a glow! What’s more, it seemed like the other skincare products in my medicine cabinet were better delivering on their promises. I’ve long used Fresh Black Tea Age Delay Firming Serum ($75; sephora.com), especially on my forehead, where I have some deep lines. It always gave my skin a hydration boost, but once I started prepping with essence, I noticed that my forehead lines began to dramatically fade, as if I had taken a magic eraser to them.
I use this product every night, and now wake up with the fresh, dewy, soft skin I’d always wanted, but could never quite achieve. My love affair with essence also convinced me to take the plunge into the full K-beauty routine. I find that this routine is one of the most relaxing parts of my day, and helps me de-stress and unwind as much as it benefits my skin. Give essence a try—you just might become a convert, too.