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Another day, another skincare step we just don't understand. *Face palm.*

By Susan Brickell
December 07, 2018

Does it constantly feel like there's a new skincare hype we're being told we need for perfect skin? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll do just about anything for clear, glow-y, wrinkle-free skin. Anti-aging serums? I've got them. Jade rollers? Why not. Pricey gold foil masks? Here's my credit card. 

But I always drew the line on popular Korean multi-step routines (think: 12-step daily beauty rituals), because I barely have time for my fairly basic routine of cleansing, toning, moisturizing, and slapping on a serum before running out the door in the morning. While long, multi-step routines may not be totally necessary (or fit in with your lifestyle or skin type), there is one crucial product that Korean beauty pros never skip. Enter: essences. 

We know what you're thinking: What the hell is an essence? Well understood and used in Asian cultures, essences are highly concentrated, water-based formulas that are used to hydrate skin and allow for maximum absorption of ingredients and products that follow, explains Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (FAAD).

"Essences themselves may even have beneficial ingredients that calm skin, exfoliate, or simply add anti-aging vitamins and peptides," says Dr. Nazarian. They tend to contain high doses of hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which help to intensely nourish skin. You can find them with vitamin C, exfoliating AHA acids, and even caviar, Dr. Nazarian adds. How fancy!

Lighter than oil but not as thin as water, an essence preps and primes skin by gently opening the skin barrier to the subsequently applied products. They're smoothed over clean skin and before any serums, creams, or lotions. Applying an essence early in your skincare routine enhances the performance and penetration of other products, most importantly, your anti-aging serums.

The best way to reap the powerful benefits of an essence is to rub a few drops into the palms of your hand, then gently dab or pat onto your face. That's it! 

Trust us, this is the game-changing skincare step you're definitely missing out on. Below, we asked dermatologists to share a few of their favorites.

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