What’s The Difference Between A Toner & An Essence?

For even the most knowledgeable skincare enthusiast, toners and essences still cause some confusion. These treatment liquids offer unique benefits, but many people still have no idea what they do — or, for that matter what they even are.

Whereas cleansers, exfoliators, and moisturizers all have their own benefits, the advantages of toners and essences aren’t always immediately apparent. But overlooking these two products could be doing your complexion a serious disservice.

To help understand why you should consider adding them into your skincare rotation, below we answer your questions on what is a toner and what is an essence, plus what they do, how they do it, and how they can enhance your regimen and your skin. Keep reading for the full breakdown.

What Is A Toner?

One of the most misunderstood skincare products around, toners have been given a bad rap in the past. This is mostly due to the too-harsh formulas of decades past that were marketed to those with oily, acne-prone skin. But, toners have come a long way from those days of stinging and irritation. Nowadays, alcohol-free formulas help deliver their benefits without drying out skin or leaving skin feeling uncomfortable.

The main purpose of a toner is to function as a type of skin prep for the steps and products that follow. While they may be more prevalent in routines for those with oily skin, they can work for almost all types, depending on the product formula and ingredients.

Kiehl’s has always known the importance of a toner in a complete skincare regimen — our Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner has been an iconic product since its introduction in the 1960s. Today we’ve built a complete toner line-up of eight unique options for an array of skin types and concerns.

These eight toners do everything from gently cleansing skin’s surface of dirt and debris, to minimize the appearance of pores, mattify oil, refresh, hydrate, soothe, rebalance skin’s moisture levels, soften, and replenish skin’s moisture barrier. They are formulated with ingredients like Cucumber, Calendula, Squalane, Amazonian White Clay, and Allantoin.

Toners are meant to be used on freshly cleansed skin prior to serums, SPF, or moisturizers. Formulas with dirt and oil-dissolving properties can be used to replace cleansers. To use, soak a cotton ball with toner, then swipe it across the face, avoiding the eye area.

What Is An Essence?

While they may look similar, essences tend to be more targeted to specific skin concerns and have more concentrated active ingredients. You’ll generally see essences incorporated into routines for dry or aging skin.

Most commonly, they serve as an integral step in priming the skin to best receive hydration and treatment from the serums and moisturizers that follow. They can also help deliver actives, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to the skin’s surface.

Our Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence is a liquid concentrate that absorbs rapidly to deliver hydrating and anti-aging ingredients to the skin’s surface layer. It helps visibly improve the appearance of fine lines, dullness, and rough texture over time. The formula, which has Iris Florentina Extract as its star ingredient, aids in reactivating skin’s youthful look for radiant, smoother skin.

An essence is applied after your toning step, or you can forego the toner and apply it directly after cleansing. Apply a few drops into the palms of your hands and then press the liquid into the skin until it absorbs. Follow with any serums, concentrates, SPF, and moisturizer of your choice.

No matter which you choose, toners and essences can help to enhance the efficacy of your other skincare products, ensuring your skin will be ready to receive all of the benefits your routine has to offer.

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