An essential step in many Asian beauty routines, essences have also gained popularity in the U.S for their toning, priming, hydrating, and sometimes exfoliating abilities — all packed into one super lightweight, fast-absorbing formula. Because of their concentrated levels of hydration, oily skin types might be hesitant to reach for an essence, but that shouldn't be the case. There's a difference between lacking water and oil, after all, which is why oily skin types can still be dehydrated. The best essences for oily skin still include hydrating ingredients, plus added actives that specifically target oil production, enlarged pores, breakouts, and other concerns typical to oily skin.
What ingredients to look for in an essence:
Key ingredients oily skin types should look for in their essences are AHAs and BHAs that exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells and pore-clogging dirt and oil. Glycolic, lactic, and citric acids are all common AHAs, while salicylic acid and its natural counterpart, willow bark, are common BHAs used to treat oily and acne-prone skin. Witch hazel is another great ingredient that has both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, making it ideal for oily and acne-prone skin types, while niacinamide can help even out skin tone by fading scars and hyperpigmentation.
And don't be afraid of all those moisturizing ingredients you see in essences. Again, oily skin still needs hydration (otherwise, your pores will start producing even more oil to compensate), and essences use gentle ingredients to keep skin smooth and soft. To hydrate skin without leaving it greasy, look for hyaluronic acid and glycerin, in particular.
When to apply an essence:
Because essences basically work as a primer and toner to help the rest of your skin care products work more effectively, you'll want to apply your essence on freshly cleansed skin. Pouring several drops onto the palm of your hand and gently pressing or tapping the essence over your face and neck is the K-beauty way, but you can also use a cotton pad. Then, follow up with your serum and moisturizer.
Ahead, you'll find five of the best essences for oily skin, whether acne and enlarged pores are your primary concern or you're trying to balance your combination dry and oily skin.