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In Essence... What's An Essence? Whatever You Want it to Be!

I am posting this as a perfect example of why women are so utterly confused and drawn in to the hype. Lisa Eldridge is a respected make-up artist, and I do enjoy her application advice. But scientist she is not. Could you all -- other posters here too -- take a look at this post and give a word about whether there is anything to this essence stuff? I think not, but I'd be interested in your take away as you wade through.

My favorite line from the post -- "So in essence... an essence can be whatever you want it to be!"


  • In Asia serums usually are called essence or beauty liquid. Some lotions (lotion, in countries like Japan, is a liquid that is used after the cleansing process to hydrate and soft the skin´s barrier function, it´s similar to a toner, but it´s not to clean the skin). Some lotions there are called essence because they suppose offer the effect of a serum (essence).

  • My favorite line from the article...

    "...essences are formulated to be more fluid versions of serums (think the same water-like slip of a toner), with less active ingredients. Designed to be used in the middle of a typical Asian routine (i.e. post-cleanser/toner and pre-serum/moisturiser), they're often mainly made up of moisturising ingredients as their primary job is to oomph your skin hydration levels to prepare it for whatever you apply next - the idea being that the extra layer of moisture will boost the efficacy of subsequent skincare (serum, oil, moisturiser etc.)."

    "Essences" are just a made up marketing term that can be used to describe a wide variety of product types. I'm not aware of any science that would indicate that adding an extra step like this would provide any benefit at all. 

    For what it's worth, here's something I wrote about essences for Allure late last year:

    These are all VERY different products that claim to provide different benefits based on different active ingredients. It looks like the only things these have in common is the fact that they all use the word “essence” and that some of them refer to themselves as “watery lotions.” 

    Since there’s no unifying characteristic across these products you can’t really group them together and say how “essences” are different than other products. Everyone has their own definition - let’s look at examples.  

    In some cases “essence” seems to refer to specific ingredients for example, the Tata Harper and Lauder products. 

    In other cases essence refers to the form of the product itself for example the Fresh and Belif products. 

    In those cases It’s like they’re saying “essence” is a new product form — like “essence” is an alternative to a “lotion” or “serum.”  But that’s not what essence means.

    Technically speaking essence is a fragrance term which refers to capturing the core scent of a flower. So you’ll see fragrance oils described as essences. 

    The term is loosely used to describe any sort of extract. For example a toner that contained a vegetable extract let's say cucumber, could be described as having "cucumber essence.” I believe that in food technology, essence is used to described concentrated extracts. That’s not always the case in cosmetics.  


    My guess is that next evolution of the word...they’re using essence to imply a lightness or airiness to give you a sense that the product won’t be heavy on the skin. Unfortunately, the ingredients in these products can be delivered just as well from a cream or a lotion. Maybe their pitch is fewer ingredients, simplify it down to it’s “core essence?” I don’t know. 

    The bottom line is that these may all be perfectly fine products but there’s no unifying technology that makes these “essences." It’s really just part of their marketing presentation.  
  • Speaking in essence/serum, the company which put a cosmetic with a serum texture for the first time in the world was the japanese Kosé Corp.:

    Their second serum, in 1979, was called Esprique Moisture Essence. So, after 1979, almost all serums in Japan started to be called essences, since the Esprique Moisture Essence made a huge success in that time.

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