Skincare Review and Verdict: The Birth of an Essence?

Most Koreans here are very diligent in their skincare; so diligent, in fact, that the routine is something that is implemented early in age, way before we Westerners even think of trying to take any kind of care of our skin (as far as anti-aging goes). The multi-step routine has lit fires of intrigue around the beauty world at large, and the actual number of steps can vary: Sokoglam has a 10-step beauty kit, but the routine actually varies anywhere between 8 and 17 steps total. Even though the products can vary, here’s a basic example:

  1. Oil-based cleanser
  2. Water-based cleanser
  3. Refreshing Lotion (a.k.a. Toner)
  4. Essence
  5. Serum
  6. Mask
  7. Eye Cream
  8. Moisturizer
  9. Sun Care
  10. Mist

Before Seoul Fashion Week, I did no more than 4 at a time: 2 at night, and maybe 4 during the day. I just hated the idea of my face being caked with product upon product upon product. Does that make me a bad expat in Korea? A bad skincare person? Don’t answer that.

But before I went to Japan, I realized I needed to change up my toners, as well as get something that will actually take make-up off my face. I don’t wear make-up often: it’s just for those special occasions where I do. I’d been reading about Kose Sekkisei’s Refreshing Lotion, so I thought that it would be the perfect toner to test. I also picked up the Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi cleansing oil (both at the dutyfree store at the airport, thank  you very much).

I stumbled upon the idea of using an essence pretty much by accident: I accompanied my friend Inge to Innisfree during Seoul Fashion Week and she all but sweet-talked me into getting the Jeju Lava Seawater essence. “It’s new, it’s anti-aging, and you can review it,” she hinted (wink-wink-nudge-nudge action and everything. I swear). So I bought it. What could it hurt?

So, an official skincare routine was born.

I divided my routine into two: one for daytime…


And one for nighttime…

Since I bought the Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil more specifically for makeup removal, I treated it like an extra rather than a specific part of my routine. Masks, too, since I don’t really like using them. My Skin Brightening Exfoliator is part of the routine, but I only use it twice a week.

Every morning I started with my Elemis Tri-Enzyme Cleanser, then I would use a cotton pad to wipe the Refreshing Lotion onto my face. As a toner it had a cooling effect on my skin, which in turn felt very invigorating and woke me up a little. I don’t know if the inclusion of lipid-based ingredients (such as vitamin E acetate and wheat germ oil) had an real effect, but whatever. My face already felt great after just that. I got the 200ml bottle (as I didn’t want to pay extra for a bigger bottle if I ended up not liking it), and now I wish I had gotten the bigger bottle…however, even if you use a generous amount of the lotion, this bottle will last for a good while; even after a month, I’ve barely made a dent in it.Next came the essence. The first ingredient listed is, of course, seawater, which at any other time would give me pause considering that my skin + salty seawater normally don’t mix too well; however it also has squaline (for moisture retention) and glycerin (which gets touted sometimes as a skin-repairing agent), so I figured it wouldn’t be so bad. I squeezed one pump of the essence into my hands and patted it onto my face, which gave it a matte look. It dried just a little sticky (like…seawater), but that was rectified after I applied my eye cream and nourishing oil (which I reviewed a little while ago). This routine left my face feeling soft, moisturized and plump all day (the plumpness is probably due to me gaining weight but I won’t go into that).

At night, I left out the essence and just used the toner and the Kiehl’s Midnight duo (the concentrate and eye cream). It was the right kind of glistening yet light coverage to keep my skin nice while I slept.

Verdict: Did I see a difference in how my face looked after a month (a.k.a. do I look younger)? Honestly, I can’t really tell. However, I loved how young my face felt, which says a lot in my book. It has grown into a regular routine for me, which is someone I need after so many years of random bouts of intense skincare. You still won’t catch me using a dozen products, but seven isn’t too bad.

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