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Though these two skincare products may seem similar to the untrained eye, they are very different things. Essences and serums often share a similar consistency and similar packaging, but they are far from being the same thing. Since a good skincare routine needs to cover all the bases, we have the answer to our overarching question ready for you. Yes, you do need both a serum and an essence in your skincare routine. Take a few minutes and stick around with us while we define these two different products, explain what they do, and clarify why you should have both in your skincare routine, starting immediately.

What is a Serum?

face serum is a liquid product of a thin viscosity – usually with a gel-like consistency – that contains a high concentration of active ingredients. A serum is not a moisturizer, primer, or SPF, so you’ll still need to use all of these products too. Serums deliver these high concentrations of active molecules to the skin for faster results than other products. Your serum will be applied after cleansing, toning, and an essence. The serum is sealed in by the moisturizer and SPF that follow it. Serums are often more targeted than essences, so you’ll need to choose your essence based on the specific skin concerns you’re faced with. Think of serums as secret weapons aimed at helping minimize the visible signs of aging, acne, or even dark spots.

What is an Essence?

An essence is always a water-based product, which contains high concentrations of active ingredients – though not as high a concentration or complex a combination as those contained in serums. These ingredients will vary depending on the essence and the company that produces them, but usually, they will be actives that help with hydration and overall skin health. 

Though many people may not have come across too many essences in their skincare journeys, they have been with us for a long time. Skincare essences were introduced to the market in 1897 by a Japanese skincare brand as hydrating agents. Western skincare companies pioneered essences, now used worldwide as an unmissable step in a skincare routine. 

Face essence helps with cell turnover on the skin’s surface and encourages a smoother complexion. Essence should be applied to your skin after cleansing and toning. Using an essence before serum readies the skin better to absorb these slightly thicker and thicker products. The low molecular weight of an essence makes it the perfect tool for getting high volumes of much-needed nutrients past the skin barrier and into the skin where they can be most effective.

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How To Apply Essences and Serums

Both products can be applied similarly. Drip a few drops of the product into clean hands and spread it evenly across both palms. Press your palms all over your face and neck, avoiding your eye area (unless the product is designated specifically for use around the eye area) until the product is evenly distributed and has sunk into your skin. Allow each product layer to soak in and dry for a few minutes before applying the next one. Since both products are relatively thin, using an applicator or tool to apply them to your face other than your hands is not advisable. The essence and serum will be sucked up by tools (except for a gua sha or jade roller), and you will lose a large amount of product before it even hits your skin.

Better Together

Essences and serums are the best friends of the skincare world. Having one without the other might be alright, but when the two are used in conjunction, they deliver the most effective dose of skincare possible. The essence will come in first to hydrate and protect from external factors on a lower level. Once that has soaked in, the serum will follow the essence’s steps and deal with your specific skin concerns like brightening or anti-aging. Working in tandem, these two products ready your skin for the moisturizer, which locks both in place and allows them to work to their best effect. Both essences and serums are usually suited for most skin types. Take care when choosing a serum, as the higher concentration of active ingredients in specific serums may not be appropriate for all sensitive skin. These products are more than just the latest trend: they’re here to stay.

Serum and essence go hand in hand. A multi-step skincare routine that includes both of these products and an excellent cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF will keep your skin in its best possible condition, come what may. Though you may need to adjust specific components of a multi-step skincare routine to fit different circumstances (changing weather, aging, progressing skin concerns), a good essence and companion serum will ensure you’re hydrated and cared for. 

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