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I can't believe it took me so long to do this! But, today we're talking Korean (and ok, a couple of Korean-American) essences and toners. Whilst most of these products aren't strictly necessary for a skincare routine, I personally enjoy them and my skin loves layers of hydration. Korean formulas tend to give me the best combination of ingredients, and that's why I love them! I personally tend to use either an essence (usually heavier than a toner and containing fermented ingredients) or a toner, but you can absolutely use them together and you can also layer multiple essences if you so wish. I just personally tend to go for one of these types of products in a routine, splashed on with my hands. Let's get into my whistle-stop tour of the products I recommend...
Let's go in order of appearance so we don't confuse things! Kicking off this post we have my beloved Then I Met You the Giving Essence | £48 | full review. This is one of those fantastic all-rounder formulas that's gentle, hydrating and a little bit active. It gives the skin a glow-boost, an injection of hydration and a hit of antioxidants, which protect the skin against environmental damage. There are lots of fermented ingredients in here as well as a niacinamide at a gentle concentration and licorice extract, which will actually help with uneven skin tone over time. If you're looking for a hydrating product that packs a punch whilst being gentle so you can use it daily and that's going to be compatible with the rest of your skincare: check this out. It's an understated product that will incrementally make your skin happier, healthier, more radiant and more hydrated. A more recent discovery has been the Sioris My First Essener | £24 (get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY (affiliate)). This product proudly markets itself as a toner / first essence hybrid, which actually makes it quite easy to know where to put this in your routine. This is lighter than most essences and non-sticky but still has more body than a typical Western toner. As with pretty much all the products in this post: my preference is to splash this on with my hands. It's formulated with green tea, which is a skin-calming antioxidant, mugwort for its anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing benefits, hydrating rosewater and humectants in the form of glycerin and three types of hyaluronic acid to draw water into the skin. It provides hydration that lasts and gives the skin a lovely, healthy glow. I also find it very calming if I'm experiencing redness or even breaking out in that more angry, inflammatory way. Next, let's talk about the Dr Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Essence | £27 (get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY (affiliate)). This is a really interesting dual-phase formula so you give it a good shake before use and as you pour some into your hands, it comes out like a light milk. This is definitely one of the most moisturising products I have to discuss today so it's great if you have dry skin like me, or honestly: if you're oily, especially during the summer months, you could easily use this and then your sunscreen for a low-maintenance morning routine. This would also be a great 7 skins option if you want to try that method because you can layer this on without it getting messy. What I like about this product that's a little different to others we're discussing - there are some great fatty, moisturising and skin barrier supporting ingredients in the mix too like ceramides and Vitamin E. This is alongside fermented ingredients that also help the skin barrier by supporting the skin's microbiome. You have sunflower seed oil to moisturise, humectants to pull water in and lots of antioxidants in here. Overall, this is a perfectly-balanced, deeply-moisturising take on the essence. Let's talk about some exfoliating options. I'm sure that if you're at all familiar with K-beauty, you'll know that it's really all about hydration and the gentlest possible actives that still work. The most super-charged product I have here is from a Korean-American brand, so it's a little punchier but does also embody a lot of the Korean approach to skincare. The Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner* | £31 | full review. This combines PHAs (a gentle chemical exfoliant with a large molecular size) with BHAs (chemical exfoliants that are oil-soluble so can get right into the pores) to create a formula that will bring the surface softness but also help with breakouts and scarring (helped along by licorice extract). What makes it unique is that it combines this with ingredients like cactus, aloe, watermelon and hyaluronic acid to provide a really hydrating base to balance things out. It has a heavier texture and makes the skin look hydrated and juicy. If you want to dial things back a bit in terms of the exfoliation, another Korean-American brand has you covered: I also love the Then I Met You Birch Milk Refining Toner* | £31 | full review. This is a very, very light milky-water formula so you can use a cotton pad with this is you so wish. Again, it's a really well-balanced toner that's so gentle I think you could use this once a day if that's something you want to do. It's formulated with a base of hydrating birch milk and a skin-friendly dash of lactic and glycolic acids for those skin-brightening benefits, and some PHA. They're teamed with hyaluronic acid and moisturising ingredients like shea and squalane to make it a really well-rounded formula. Rounding off our tour of exfoliants, I also have give a shout out to the By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water | £20.50 (get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY (affiliate)) | full review. This is 5% mandelic acid, which is nice and gentle - this AHA is great for its antibacterial benefits and ability to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation. This is a really light water formula that can be splashed directly on the skin (avoiding the eye area) or you can use a cotton pad with this. It also contains beta glucan, which is soothing and hydrating, calming cica and panthenol to moisturise and strengthen the skin. Plus castor oil is very softening and moisturising and the licorice extract is going to bolster the brightening benefits of the mandelic. Overall it's a super-gentle formula with lots of hydrating and calming benefits that's suitable for slightly more regular use than the average Western exfoliating toner, or could be a great option for sensitive skin (especially if it's acne-prone). The Beigic Treatment Lotion* | £38 (get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY (affiliate)) | is great for something with actives but that's not exfoliating. The reason being, you're getting lots of antioxidants from ingredients like caffeine in here, there are lots of moisturising oils in the mix and hydrating ingredients lik glycerin and panthenol, but you're also getting niacinamide and peptides. As this is a Korean product, it's not a super-high concentration of niacinamide, but this ingredient is still very effective at a lower intensity than you see in a lot of Western formulas. It helps regulate oil production in the skin, it can boost up your skin's production of ceramides (that fundamental component of your skin barrier) and also inhibit the transfer of hyperpigmentation through your skin, so you don't end up with blemish scars that are bigger than the original spot. Overall, it's a great ingredient and I think this sort of 'little and often' approach with it is perfect. Peptides are a great plumping and hydrating class of ingredient that should have some well-ageing benefits, possibly even boosting up collagen production in the skin. This is a great all-rounder for something that's still very gentle and hydrating, but is a touch more 'active'. The only mist I have for this post is the Sioris Time is Running Out Mist* | £17 (get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY (affiliate)). I love this dual-phase mist - you just give it a shake to mix together the plant oils and plant waters before spritzing your skin with it. The exact ingredients actually depend on the season, so definitely click through to the Tonic 15 to see which version you're buying. But in either version you're getting fruit water, moisturising macadamia and jojoba oil, glycerin and beta glucan for hydration, allantoin to soothe the skin and Vitamin E. This is soooo moisturising and hydrating in a way that lasts; my dry skin loves this stuff. Next, let's discuss the Dr Ceuracle Pro-Balance Biotics Toner* | £30. This looks to be out of stock at the moment with Tonic 15 who sent this over to me to try, but you can keep an eye out for it or order from South Korea directly. This is the truest toner out of any of the products we've discussed in this post, so if you're a little oiler or just prefer a less-weighty toner to use with a cotton pad, this is the one for you. You're getting those fermented ingredients, you're getting a range of probiotic sources, there are ceramides in here and also soothing cica. It's not sticky and it definitely feels hydrating and calming on the skin, it's just a more water-light texture to use.
A cult classic with very good reason is the Laneige Cream Skin | £26.50. It's a true milk that's super-versatile; for my dry winter skin, I use it as a toner step, but it could also operate as a toner and serum or even a one-step in the morning followed by your sunscreen. It's a simple formula that just works and is so layerable and just enjoyable to use - like a nice little hug for your face! We have a prebiotic, moisturising meadowfoam seed oil, glycerin and Vitamin E. It really softens and deeply moisturises my skin and I love it.
A similar milky product that's a lot lighter and more watery is the I'm From Rice Toner | £26 (get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY (affiliate)) | full review. This is one of the few formulas out there that I broadly recommend for pretty much any skin type throughout the year. It's simple with bark and rice extracts that can both moisturise the skin and support its lipid barrier as well as providing very gentle anti-breakout benefits, especially when formulated alongside the niacinamide in this formula. It's a great all-rounder for everyday use.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Essence | £23.99. Snail mucin is a very common ingredient in Korean skincare for it's incredible hydrating benefits and this formula is probably the most popular here in the West. It formulates this filtrate with hyaluronic acid, panthenol and allantoin. This comes out as a light gel so I personally use it after cleansing then go straight in with my moisturiser, as it is kind of a serum and essence in one. This is so hydrating and conditioning and plumping for my skin. If I'm ever looking dry, dull or lacklustre: this is the antidote!
Have you tried any of these Korean toners or essences? What are your favourites?
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