A Toner and an Essence Are Two Different Things

But both can help you achieve those new year skincare resolutions you set for yourself—oh wait, just me?

To keep things simple: A toner is used to cleanse, and an essence is used to treat. Each one is just a step in their respective processes, but both could have a major impact on your skin.

Toners are nothing new. But how they've been formulated has changed since days of yore. They're no longer the harsh, oil-stripping formulas our mothers and grandmothers used to combat acne-prone skin. Today's toner offerings are vast and varied. Because of their popularity, brands are expanding the scope of toners available. From moisturizing, to illuminating, to color-correcting—toners are one of many products feeding into the personalized skincare demand, and we're here for it.

Woman Applying Facial Essence to a Cotton Pad

In addition to balancing skin's pH levels and imparting one last layer of cleansing by removing any remaining impurities (including face wash and/or stubborn long-wear), a good toner has been known to work wonders with moisturizing and reducing pore visibility.

I'll admit that essences are more my speed (details on that below), but I have a special place in my heart and on my counter for Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner. It provides the moisture my combination skin needs right after washing, but it also makes me look forward to my nightly skincare routine. It has a subtle rose fragrance that's such a treat when you catch a whiff. Try it and you'll see.

Now here's my skincare BFF, a good essence. She's supportive but let's me really glow (read: not shine). As mentioned above, essences are considered the first step in a treatment regimen. They've had a boom in popularity thanks to the K-Beauty movement, in which they're absolutely integral. Essences are designed to hydrate and balance skin, prepping it to soak up all the good stuff to follow (i.e. serums, moisturizers, and oils).

I went to a beauty event recently where the use of essences was broken down by likening the face to a dry sponge. It's hard to soak up anything with a bone-dry sponge. Add a little moisture and suddenly your sopping up that spilled tea in one fell swoop. Applying an essence to the skin before the rest of your skincare regimen has a similar affect. It primes for soaking in every last drop—and maintaining that high moisture level.

Like toners, there's a wide array of essences to choose from, most of which can help with a host of skincare concerns. One that works remarkably well for my sensitive and at times severely dehydrated skin is Beautycounter Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence. It has a milky consistency that's right smack dab in the middle of the spectrum between a cleansing water and a serum. Press it into the skin gently with your fingertips after cleansing (and toning!). I'm also a new fan of Lancôme Hydra Zen Anti-Stress Moisturizing Beauty Essence. It has a gel consistency, which is a departure from what I'm used to with other essences, but it gives my skin a boost of energy that cures my morning dullness. I've also seen increased smoothness and moisture. Press it into the skin using the same technique described with Beautycounter Mineral Boost.

If you're looking to give your skincare regimen a leg-up, you might want to add a toner, essence, or both to your cart. Shop around until you find one that works for your skin and complexion—and don't be afraid to ask for samples. No need to commit sight unseen.

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