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Essence vs. Toner vs. Serum - What's The Difference


A lot of us who grew interested in skincare, probably firstly understood what a toner is. Yes, a product used to restore skin's pH balance after cleansing and also removes the dirt that the cleanser missed. Most skincare experts though believe that the cleansers available in the market today are gentle and more efficient and hence a toner is not necessary for the routine. This doesn't mean you need to scrape your cleanser, if it's what works for you then, of course, use it.

Toners are one of the most badly reputed products in a skincare routine. This is because they were believed to overdry the skin and were filled with alcohol. The ones available in the market today are more on the gentle end. There are different types of toners available, a few of them being, hydrating toners, oil-controlling toners and brightening toners and you may select any based on your skin requirement. Generally, a toner is involved in a brand's skincare line. You might have observed when a salesperson tries to sell you the brand's other products right when you buy one. This is marketing but a lot of times brands do create products in a way that they work in sync with each other.


Do not mistake Toner and Essence for being the same thing. People confuse them because essence looks like a toner and is applied in a much similar way after cleansing but there's a difference. Essences are much similar to serums except for the difference that serums carry more ingredients. Serums are much more concentrated with active ingredients and on the other hand, essence contains one or more active ingredients and these are not as concentrated either.

Regeneration is the process where skin renews itself by shedding the top layer of dead skin and letting fresh new skin emerge. An essence's job is to help your skin during regeneration and to prepare it for further steps in the skincare routine. The slowing down of your regeneration process causes the dead skin to accumulate and eventually making the skin look dull and blocking out the glow. Generally, the skin's regeneration process tends to slow down during winters.

Coming to consistency, an essence usually has a watery texture but some can be thicker. Don't be surprised as some brands can call their product an essence when it's actually a toner. You may find out by reading the product description to know what it does. Also, read how to use it though generally an essence is applied with hands by gently patting into the skin.


As mentioned earlier, Essence and Serum are more alike. The biggest difference between the two is that serums are capable of holding more active ingredients than essences can. It's not necessary to include both in your routine but of course, you can if you wish to. Serums too have different types but the most preferred ones are those that help with brightening and reinducing glow. Today, serums come in a wide range of variety, each of them solving a different problem. Some skincare concerns that serums solve are anti-aging, acne, skin dehydration, brightening, hyperpigmentation, etc.

Cleansing Water:

Cleansing water or micellar water is not toner or essence or a serum. It is made up of tiny balls of cleansing oil floating in soft water called micelles. Cleansing water is something that is used to remove makeup and also cleanse the skin without water. This can be a good product if you quickly need to cleanse your face without going through the entire routine.


Toner and Essence are two different things with very few similarities. Essence is more like a serum but isn't actually a serum. Serums are packed with more concentrated ingredients whereas essence contains one or two that too unconcentrated. Using essence and serum together is totally up to you but that's more effective for people with dry skin.

It's not really necessary to have everything in your skincare routine. Not having a toner or an essence is also fine. Brands may promote their product when you buy one, but should totally be your decision to know what your skin needs more.

Skincare must start only after you understand your skin type and the concerns that you need to find products for. Understand that your skin's needs and concerns may change over time. You need to update your routine when it does. Always remember to do a patch test before buying a product so it doesn't turn out to be harmful.

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