11 Best Korean Essences: Your Easy Buying Guide (2019)

best korean essence

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Are you impressed with, curious about, or outright confused by the Korean beauty routine? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. While lots of attention to great skincare makes total sense, some of the products in this particular protocol are a mystery, and we’re here today to talk about one of them.

Call it much ado about something – and that something is Korean essence. It’s supposed to be one of the key ingredients to attaining gorgeous skin, and a lauded element of the ten step K beauty regimen. In fact, many beauty experts rate using essence and toner as the two most important steps to great skin, right after cleansing. So what exactly is this stuff? It’s essentially a jumpstarter to encourage cell turnover, and acts as your first layer of moisture. That has to be good.

If you’re curious, and you want to play around with the K beauty regimen, this great writeup in Cosmopolitan breaks it down in super easy to understand steps. Be prepared, you’ll likely need to open your wallet, because you’ll be introduced to a host of products you might not have handy in your bathroom vanity, essence being one of them.

To find the best Korean essence, you’ll want to consider your skin texture, type and any skin issues before choosing one that’s right for you. You’ll find essences with collagen, snail mucin (aka. slime,) bee venom, royal jelly, and all kinds of other ingredients, natural and not, that prep your skin for the remaining steps of this beauty routine. And honestly, if you want to skip a few steps, I can’t blame you. Just make sure essence isn’t one of them.

moisturizing korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Hexapeptide formula
  • Skin brightening
  • Reduces redness
Price: $25.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Korean Essence gift set Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Fermented yeast formula
  • Comes in a set
  • Plumps and smooths
Price: $99.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
cucumber and marine mineral essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Antioxidant formula
  • Very refreshing
  • Hydrating
Price: $19.49 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
snail mucin korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Snail mucin firms and tightens
  • Comes with free headband
  • Helps heal scars
Price: $35.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
snail mucin korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Brightens skin
  • Soothes irritation
  • Heals skin
Price: $16.20 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
hydrating korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Hydrating formula
  • Soothes rashiness
  • Helps tame breakouts
Price: $17.98 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
collagen korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Collagen formula
  • Very hydrating
  • Instant absorption
Price: $17.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
royal jelly and honey korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Filled with bee goodness
  • Naturally anti-inflammatory
  • Helps to fight eczema
Price: $28.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
organic korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Organic formula
  • Nicely hydrating
  • Naturally anti-inflammatory
Price: $40.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
fermented yeast korean essence Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Addresses many skin issues
  • Fermented yeast formula
  • Lightening and brightening
Price: $20.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
korean essence plus serum Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Two-in-one treatment
  • Fights free radicals
  • Improves skin tone
Price: $51.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. MISSHA Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive

    Pros:
    • Leaves skin looking bright and plump
    • Formulated with skin loving ingredients
    • A little goes a really long way
    • Helps to decrease redness and skin irritations
    Cons:
    • Kind of spendy
    • Leaves skin feeling slightly sticky
    • Smell is a little off
    • Not effective for every user

    Arguably one of the more popular, or at least well-recognized Korean essences, MISSHA’s Time Revolution essence intensive is formulated to provide deep hydration, while warding off fine lines and wrinkles. This liquid essence is very liquid, so it’s easy to spray on and pat into your skin for maximum absorption.

    This essence has been created to help repair your skin and ward off fine lines and wrinkles. It contains 80 percent fermented yeast extract, which has been touted a power hitter when it comes to keeping your skin younger and healthier for longer. It’s very high in vitamin B, one of the super foods for your skin, that helps with lots of difficult conditions from dryness to acne, but it also has wicked anti-aging benefits as well.

    This extract is also rich in essential minerals and amino acids that help keep your skin looking young and feeling refreshed. It also contains hexapeptide 9, a collagen booster that’s known for its ability to help reduce acne scarring. With a list of botanicals, hyaluronic acid and lactic acid, it’s got lots of the anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients some of the more expensive essences simply don’t have.

    As the first layer of moisture, it’s intended for use prior to your favorite serum and moisturizer. Simply splash a bit into your hands, and pat it into your skin. This essence gets a nod from us for its great reviews, and it’s also Amazon’s Choice as the best Korean essence based upon customer satisfaction. Right now it’s a killer deal at almost half off, so if you’re hoping to try essence for the first time, check it out while it’s on sale.

    If you’re looking for more moisture than anything else, MISSHA Time Revolution The First Intensive Moist Treatment Essence is also a deal at 43 percent off.

  2. 2. SK-II Pitera Essence Set

    Pros:
    • Leaves skin soft and smooth
    • Three products that work together in one set
    • High level of fermented yeast promotes cell renewal
    • Good for even sensitive skin
    Cons:
    • A bite to the wallet
    • Set may duplicate some products already in your beauty arsenal
    • One mask is not enough
    • May cause skin irritation

    Interestingly, you’ll find lots of similarities between our first pick and this essence from SK-II, which is actually Japanese. While the bonus here is that you get a nifty skin care set that includes a treatment mask and treatment lotion, in addition to the bottle of essence, both our first pick and this are based on a similar idea – fermented yeast.

    This one is formulated with PITERA™, which is, per the SK-II website, a bio-ingredient derived from yeast fermentation that resembles your skin’s natural moisturizing factors. PITERA™ contains over 50 micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and organic acids to condition skin’s natural functions. As the story goes, this distinct strain of yeast was used by a brewer, whose hands looked way younger than his years, apparently because they were constantly exposed this yeast.

    There’s a lot to be said in favor of fermented beauty products, and even dermatologists are getting on board. This three-step treatment set is a a great way to kickstart your skin toward a firmer, younger and more clear look. Some studies have indicated that fermented yeast is also helpful at decreasing the production of melanin, meaning you’re less apt to suffer from dark spots and hyperpigmentation, with use.

    If you’re looking for smoother texture and more supple, clear skin, this treatment pack is a deal. The treatment mask features the same basic ingredients as the essence, but it’s meant to leave on the skin for up to 15 minutes for the deepest absorption.

    The facial treatment clear lotion is actually toner, which you use prior to the application of your essence. It contains several alpha-hydroxy acids to deeply clean pores and slough off dead cells before applying other products.

    Want to know about why fermented yeast is beneficial in caring for your skin? Check out this article from the klog.

  3. 3. Seoul Ceuticals Marine Mineral Plump & Glow Essence

    Pros:
    • Really nice naturally derived ingredients
    • Feels super refreshing on the skin
    • Can be used as a light moisturizer
    • Refreshing cucumber scent
    Cons:
    • Not as effective at removing dark spots
    • Packaging says essence on the front, but toner on the back
    • Some packaging problems reported
    • Too lightweight for some users

    For those of you looking for a pure blast of refreshment for your skin, this Korean essence by Seoul Ceuticals features cooling cucumber, green tea, aloe, marine minerals, and tamarind seed oil to give your skin a boost that feels so heavenly.

    When you spritz on this essence and allow it to dry, your skin will feel super hydrated thanks to the tamarind seed extract that actually has moisturizing power similar to hyaluronic acid. Add to that the moisture from cucumber extract, which helps tighten pores and is actually more hydrating than plain water, and your skin will feel plump and refreshed.

    This essence features 98 percent naturally drived ingredients, so you can feel good about using it on your face. Comfrey helps to soothe inflammation, and green tea helps to rejuvenate your skin. This essence is perfect for both men and women, with a light, refreshing scent. Many users find it to be moisturizing enough to skip their face cream in the warmer months.

    It’s so cooling, in fact, that it’s a perfect midday skin spritzer that will give your face needed moisture without redoing your makeup. We also think you’ll love the price, as it’s one of the most affordable on our list. For those with super dry skin, Seoul Ceuticals Snail Repair Cream gets rave reviews for its serious anti-aging benefits.

  4. 4. Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence

    Pros:
    • High snail mucin content
    • Very hydrating
    • Skin brightening and lightening
    • Bee venom helps to minimize scars
    Cons:
    • May cause breakouts or rash
    • It has an odd scent
    • You need to use quite a bit to get maximum effect
    • Not moisturizing enough for some

    Anyone who has truly delved into Korean beauty know how wildly popular snail slime, excuse me, snail mucin is. What sounds kind of gross is actually a hydrating wonder with all kinds of naturally beneficial effects. Filled with glycoproteins, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid, this stuff is really a miracle worker for more beautiful skin.

    This Korean essence from Benton skincare uses a high concentration of snail filtrate, in combination with bee venom, to hydrate, brighten and leave your skin repaired and revitalized. Bee venom has long been lauded in beauty for its ability to reduce scarring and hyperpigmentation.

    This two-pack of essence comes with an added treat, because you get a cute kitten headband to keep your hair out of your face while you’re in the midst of your K beauty routine, and it’s hard not to love that. Plus the price is more reasonable as always when you buy in quantity.

    Good for both sensitive and troubled skin, this essence also contains skin soothing aloe, brightening willow bark extract and other botanicals, along niacinimide. These offer some skin lightening properties, if you’re specifically looking for those.

  5. 5. Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

    Pros:
    • Great for even sensitive skin
    • Leaves skin smooth and supple
    • Helps calm acne and minimize scars
    • Super hydration that lasts all day
    Cons:
    • It’s slimey going on
    • Takes time to dry
    • Can cause rash and skin irritation
    • Some questions about product authenticity

    With 96 percent snail secretion filtrate, this essence has the highest snail mucin content we’ve reviewed. It’s exceptionally popular for its hydrating power, and for how gentle the formula is. It’s a bit on the slimey side, so you might be offput, but give it a chance, because it’s fab for delivering a brighter, more smooth and even complexion.

    Whereas our last snail mucin essence was geared more toward oily and combination skin, this Korean beauty staple is perfect for sensitive skin, probably because of its purity and minimal ingredients. Don’t let that fool you though. Lots of users swear by it because of how much it calmed their acne and clear their skin.

    The replenishing formula leaves your skin feeling super refreshed, and while it takes a few minutes to dry, it’s well worth the wait. This gentle formula helps to heal and minimize acne scars, and fights dry flaky skin, leaving your face feeling supple and smooth. Because a little goes an awfully long way, even though you might think the bottle is small (we did too), it will last and last.

    If you’re looking specifically for a skin whitening essence, COSRX has a formula for that too. And be sure to check out our guide to the best snail creams to add to your beauty regimen.

  6. 6. Mizon Water Volume Ex First Essence

    Pros:
    • Works well on sensitive skin
    • Locks in moisture well
    • Soothes irritation and rashes
    • Leaves skin feeling fresh and cool
    Cons:
    • Contains alcohol, which can be drying
    • May cause skin irritation
    • Feels a lot like just water
    • Can tingle and burn a bit

    This ultra-hydrating essence is formulated with snow algae extract that calms and hydrates your skin even during cold weather. Research has shown that this unique ingredient boosts cellular activity, reactivates longevity genes and produces a restorative effect on stressed skin.

    Hydrasalinol helps to prevent drying and reinforces your natural skin barrier, while ceramide in this essence creates a barrier that helps to lock in moisture. Moringa extract is naturally antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, so it soothes irritated skin and helps breakouts and rashiness heal more quickly.

    This moisture-boosting essence is the perfect way to prep your skin to better absorb the rest of your skincare products, or wear it alone as a light moisturizer if you have combination or oily skin. If you need a serious skin boost, the Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule is a popular choice.

  7. 7. Etude House Moistfull Collagen Essence

    Pros:
    • Lightweight gel formula absorbs instantly
    • Doesn’t leave skin feeling sticky
    • Very good for dry skin types
    • A little goes a long way
    Cons:
    • Fragrance is too strong for some
    • Not as moisturizing as some others
    • Small bottle for the price

    Everyone knows collagen is the building block for younger looking, smooth skin. So if you’re looking for an extra boost of this fountain of youth, this Korean essence is for you. The lightweight, gel formula, patted on your sweet cheeks and the rest of your face, will almost instantly absorb, feeding your skin some much needed moisture and that all important collagen.

    Baobab oil provides deep hydration and leaves your skin feeling super silky and moist. It literally locks in moisture so your skin stays hydrated throughout the day. The instant absorption means you won’t feel any stickiness, which is a bit of an issue with some other essences.

    Especially great for those with dry skin, this essence provides light hydration when you don’t need, or want to use a heavier moisturizer. ETUDE HOUSE also makes a pore tightening essence that works well for those with aging skin and enlarged pores.

  8. 8. SKIN FOOD Royal Honey Propolis Enrich Essence

    Pros:
    • Top rated by Korean beauty bloggers
    • Very good for those with acne, eczema and psoriasis
    • Naturally anti-inflammatory and antibiotic ingredients
    • Safe for sensitive skin
    Cons:
    • Pretty expensive
    • Can feel sticky while drying
    • Glass bottle can break
    • Some packing problems reported

    When you’re choosing an essence from the crazy number of products there are on the market, who better to believe than Korean beauty bloggers? The buzz about this essence us undeniable. Rated the number one pick on their Korean language website, this essence relies on the impressive creations of hardworking bees to deliver both hydration and comfort.

    With a host of bee goodness, this essence is especially helpful for troubled skin. Bee propolis extract helps to balance, heal and soothe irritated skin, while helping to accelerate cell growth. It’s known to be especially helpful for decongesting clogged pores.

    Up next in this face friendly formula is royal jelly extract, an anti-inflammatory that’s a powerful ally to help fight tough skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis. It’s backed up by honey extract, and this sweet ingredient is naturally antibiotic, antibacterial and super effective at holding in moisture.

    The dropper makes it easy to dispense just enough, and while it feels a bit sticky after drying, once absorbed it makes a terrific base for foundation or tinted moisturizer.

    Want to know more about Royal Jelly? Stylecraze lays out the benefits and side effects in this article.

  9. 9. Best Organic Essence: Whamisa Organic Flowers Deep Rich Essence

    Pros:
    • Luxurious packaging and spa like scent
    • 97.5 percent organic ingredients
    • Leaves skin feeling refreshed and moisturized
    • Toner and essence combo is convenient to use
    Cons:
    • Pretty darned spendy
    • Breakable glass bottle
    • May cause some skin tingling
    • Some packing and shipping issues reported

    If you’re a little busy, this product is the perfect blend of essence and toner. While it says it’s a toner, it’s much more like a true essence. This formula contains 97.5 percent organic ingredients, including fermented dandelion, chrysanthemum extract and other botanicals.

    Deliciously spa scented, it has a slightly more viscous rather than watery texture. That could be due to the aloe leaf juice, which gives it a very soothing feeling on your skin. The refreshing scent comes from essential oils of sandalwood and bergamot.

    To pump up the hydration, this essence features organic argan and avocado oil, along with oat kernal extract, which provides both moisture, and has skin soothing anti-inflammatory benefits. This cruelty free formula is EWG certified, and doesn’t contain fillers or harmful fragrances, dyes, parabens, sulphates, petrochemicals, silicone, or EDTA.

    Another thing we love is that this company sends you a few fun samples to try, in addition to your bottle of essence. Their organic flowers line also includes eye essence, sheet masks, cleanser, lotions and more. All the products in this collection are quite highly rated. We give this one a thumbs up as our favorite organic Korean essence.

  10. 10. SECRET KEY Starting Treatment Essence

    Pros:
    • Very affordable compared to many
    • Anti-aging wrinkle fighting formula
    • Lightens and brightens skin
    • Helps to control excess sebum
    Cons:
    • Very watery formula
    • Odd scent is off-putting to some
    • Not as effective as similar but more expensive brands

    This seven-in-one beauty treatment is formulated to address most major skin issues, and it does so at a very affordable price. At just $20, it moisturizes and nourishes, improves skin tone and clarity, soothes irritation and minimizes breakouts and lightens and brightens skin. Formulated with fermented yeast, this essence is a first step to be used prior to moisturizers and other steps of the Korean beauty regimen.

    Filtered three times, you can be assured of its purity and power to fight wrinkles. As an anti-aging essence, it is perfect for those with more mature skin, but also works great for those with oily skin as it helps to control excess sebum production. Secret Key also makes a starting treatment eye cream with similar components to fight fine lines and wrinkles specifically around the eye area.

    For very weak or super sensitive skin, we’d recommend trying Secret Key Rose Edition Starting Treatment Essence.

  11. 11. Saranghae Deep Radiance Essence + Serum

    Pros:
    • Lightening and brightening formula improves overall skin tone
    • Supports collagen production and improves elasticity
    • Essence and serum in one simple step
    • Balances moisture and oil production
    Cons:
    • Seriously spendy
    • Can be somewhat drying
    • Anti-aging results aren't very evident

    If you’re entrenched (or want to be) in the multi-step Korean beauty regimen, you might find some relief in combining two steps with one product. This two-in-one essence and primer tackles all sorts of skin issues, balancing moisture and oil production, while fighting off flakey dry skin. 

    Infused with antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins, this essence and serum give a one-two punch to dull and lifeless skin. Formulated with Sang Hwang mushroom, it helps to neutralize free radicals responsible for premature aging. It helps to heal and regenerate damaged skin cells. Betaine from sugar cane helps to deeply moisturize your skin, while naturally anti-inflammatory tea tree oil holds the promise of clearer and more beautiful skin.

    When it comes to Korean beauty products, most promise to lighten and brighten your skin, and this one is no exception. But it also helps with skin’s elasticity and overall resilience, making it a good choice for lazier types like us. 

    If you’re up for making a major investment in the Korean skin care routine, the Saranghae five step bundle is a great way to get many of the essential products including the essence + serum, essence masks, foam cleanser, eye treatment cream and skin regeneration cream. If nearly $220 is too rich for your blood, get a three step bundle for less, but it doesn’t include the essence + serum.

See Also:

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