Beauty, Korean Beauty, Skin Tips

Toner vs. Essence

So I’m sure you guys have seen me using many toners and essences in my skincare routine after I slept with my makeup on and while traveling. I’ve gotten so many questions asking what the difference between the two are, from you and even some of the girls on the CINCteam! So, using the best of my skincare knowledge and a little bit of research, I wanted to give you guys the breakdown of what the actual difference is!

To put it as simply as possible: a toner is used to balance your skin’s PH level and get rid of any other impurities left on your skin after cleansing. An essence is most commonly used in Korean Skincare as a way to best prepare your skin for the rest of your routine

Just like any other skincare product, there are dozens of variations on the market as well as some that work for certain skin types as opposed to the others!

To break it down even further…

A Toner…

… is mostly used in Western skincare, a toner (like this one or this one) is great for hydrating and smoothing. Beyond replenishing moisture, it really helps to get rid of any other impurities left behind on your skin from cleansing. Once upon a time, cleansers were a lot harsher than they are now, so a toner was heavily relied on for restoring your skin’s PH balance!

An Essence…

… is considered one of, if not the most, important part of a Korean skincare routine. An essence is what all Korean women swear by to hydrate their face after they cleanse and apply their toner to help their other products absorb into their skin better. (I love this one, this one, and this one!)

The main goal of an essence is to hydrate the skin. Not to mention, they’re packed full of vitamins and antioxidants and are most comparable to a serum. They help your skin cell turnover (great for anti-aging) and there are different types of essences depending on your skincare needs.

Essence is best used when added to your hand and then patted into your skin.

 Do you guys use a toner or an essence? Maybe both? Let me know in the comments below!sigxo_chriselle


  • […] follow it with a toner (have you guys read my post about toner vs. essence yet?) to fully prep your skin. If you use an essence over toner- that works for this step as […]

  • Pim Jayanetra says:

    This is very good article.
    I’ve been using Japanese essence for 6 years before applying serum and it helps a lot on serum and moisturizer absorption!!

    Love reading your beauty knowledge.

  • I love toners, but have never tried an essence! I usually use the Mario Badescu rosewater facial spritz as my morning toner, and Pixi Glow Tonic as my night time toner (although not every night – some nights I use the rosewater facial spritz instead).

  • karla says:

    I don’t use any of those. But I really need to start using it.
    When it is recommended to use these. In the morning or at night. Hope to hear from you guys.

    Besos, Karla

  • yoldine says:

    I’m definitely more of a toner girl. And I was so happy to see you include a picture of the PIXI Glow Tonic toner. I live and swear by that product, it’s soooo good! I mainly use the to-go version where you get 60 presoaked little pads in a small jar. I’ve never used an essence, and admit to previously being confused by the exact benefits they bring to your skin and skincare routine. I think unless I’m feeling extravagant and want to splurge, I won’t really be incorporating into my routine.

  • Chloe says:

    I’ve actually never heard of essence before, but I definitely want to give it a try!

    Chloe x

  • Tamanya says:

    I use both. Toner then essence x

  • Jenny Yang says:

    I always wondered about the difference so this post was so helpful! Need to try out your recs because your skin is amazing!
    xx jen

  • Carolina says:

    Hi! Great Post!
    I have acne-tendency skin and sometimes oily, but is also very sensitive, so with the hard products I use daily it’s be a little difficult por me to balance pH levels, is there any kind of essence for oily skins that doesn’t make them ‘oilier’ ??

    • Tamanya says:

      Most essences benefit oilier skins. They are designed to deliver moisture, not oil. Check the inci list, but very few will contain oil. Hope that helps x

    • Tamanya says:

      Most essences benefit oilier skins. They are designed to deliver hydration, not oil. Check the inci list, but very few will contain oil. Hope that helps x

  • Jae says:

    Love putting on essence during dry months! I also love patting it in multiple times so that the moisture is really locked on my skin.

  • Joti says:

    I’ve always used a toner but now after learning about using an essence, I am definitely going to look into one for my skin routine!

    Xx. Joti

  • K says:

    Lovely no I don’t use any

  • love this sort of content! I learn so much!

    chevrons & éclairs

  • miki says:

    REALLY REALLYREALLY useful post, I didn’t know the difference before!
    Miki x

  • Elizabeth says:

    I’ve always just used a toner, but recently, my mom’s persuaded me to start incorporating an essence in to my skincare routine, and I’m loving it! 🙂 <3 Thank you so much for these great recommendations! I really want to try that Laneige one!

    XO, Elizabeth

  • Sheri says:

    I’ve been using Tatcha essence along with some of their other products combined with True Botanical products and it’s made a huge difference in my skin!

  • Vivian says:

    I use both! Exactly for the reasons you’ve described!

    Vivian | LIVE IN LOVE
    IG | @viviyunn_


  • Fatou says:

    Thank you for this explanation! I love toners

  • JoAnne says:

    Yes, I use both. I use Thayers Rose toner and Secret Key Essence. I’m also trying out Belifs essence and toner. There are a few more I want to try like the famous SK-11. One day but for now, I love Thayers and Secret Key.

  • Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the simple breakdown! I can totally see why Korean beauty love using essence(s). Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • evanny says:

    I use both!
    From where I’m from (Singapore), most of us follow the toner-essence-serum-moisturiser routine. 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    I want them all! Amazing post as always! 😀

  • Tabitha says:

    Great post! I never knew essence was a thing until now. I’m on the hunt for a good toner currently, but I wonder if essence or any other Korean skin care affects the skin differently since most of the K products were made for Korean skin and not other ethnicities or races?


  • Kathrin says:

    Oh, I didn’t know what the difference was either. It sounds like an essence would be great to try!

    Kathrin | Polar Bear Style

  • Natali says:

    Pixi glow tonic is everything!! 🙂

  • Carmen La says:

    i use both! 🙂

  • Mireia says:

    Absolutely love it!

    Mireia from TGL

  • I use a toner, but have yet to try using an essence.

    Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

  • Maria says:

    I use the Pyungkang Yul essence toner… and never thought too much of that name until this post which separates essences and toners!

    • Christie says:

      Gothamista has great YouTube vids that also discuss essences and toners and she talks about this one. Sounds as though you may already know of her, but if you don’t you should check her out!

  • […] I’ve gotten so many questions about the difference between the two, from you all and even some of the girls on the CINCteam! So using the best of my skincare knowledge and a little bit of research, I wanted to give you guys the breakdown! from The Chriselle Factor […]

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