Of the Essence

The long underwear of my winter skin routine. By Jamie Rosen.

Do you really need to do anything special for winter skin? I ask myself this question every year, and despite having written countless stories about adjusting your skincare for the upcoming season, I come back to the climate you’re in—not just outdoors, but indoors. The heat from our homes is often unregulated (at least, mine is, thanks to a 100-year-old New York City building with radiators that have two modes: on or off), and can dry out and dehydrate skin, making it susceptible to a compromised skin barrier, which shows up in the form of irritation, redness, and easily chapped skin. 

One day, I dream of having humidifiers built into the walls, but until then, I’m relying on an essence to give my skin that extra layer of support and hydration. The concept of an essence as a skin care step came from Korea, where essences are typically applied after cleansers to give a first layer of comfort and light exfoliation to skin, thanks to botanical waters and gentle acids. Essences are so light in texture that they feel like a counterintuitive step in the moisture Olympics. But I’ve found that they really soothe my skin and give it an extra layer of protection, allowing me to easily adapt my routine in the colder months. These are the four I have in rotation; each one with different active ingredients but a commonality in texture and treatment.

Royal Fern Active Phytoactive Skin Perfecting Essence

You can apply essences after cleansing and continue with your skincare or let them soak in for a few minutes. I love to do the latter with the Royal Fern formula while I’m getting dressed, brushing my teeth, etc. and really let it absorb before moving on to a serum or moisturizer.

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Augustinus Bader The Essence

A purifying, toning and exfoliating formula, thanks to phytic acid from grains of rice and wasabi extract that works as an antioxidant to protect skin from environmental damage.

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Nuori Vital Unifier

This can be used on a cotton pad like a toner, or pressed onto the face, which is typically how essences are applied. It can also be used as a mist to refresh your skin throughout the day.

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Vintner’s Daughter Active Treatment Essence

A two-week fermentation process enhances the properties of this power-packed liquid, which includes plants that have developed beneficial probiotics and increase nutrient absorption so that the finished formula hydrates, brightens and revitalizes complexions.

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