If you're interested in skincare and want to make some positive, gentle improvements to your complexion using beautiful investment products, then please do read on. If you're not, I'll see you back here in a few months when your skin explodes with stress rashes and the wedding is a fortnight away. Off you go then *waves*. Lovely.
Right, for those who are still here: an Essence is a watery liquid that you apply after cleansing, as the first step to your skincare routine. (It's not a toner - those are mostly alcohol-based waters that strip off the last remnants of cleansers, and don't provide many skincare benefits. My advice? Cleanse twice and don't waste your money on a toner).
A variety of ingredients are suspended in this watery solution (it's more like a really, really thin gel to be honest), for instance: anti-oxidants to counteract ageing environmental damage, moisturising components that prevents skin cells from drying out, gentle acids that rebalance the skin's pH (after you've cleansed with alkaline tap water), stimulants to boost collagen production and microscopic oil molecules that comfort the skin. The general idea is that this is an extra way to feed your skin before you apply the stickier, thicker products that carry large-molecule benefits - such as your serum and day cream.
Originally they hail from Asia, where careful routines using up to 10 products are totally the norm, with Essences an integral part of a strict ritual. Everything is applied in thin layers and massaged-in meticulously, almost religiously, leading to a healthy, fresh and toned complexion that needs barely any makeup coverage. Because if you have dewy, pumped-with-moisture radiant skin, there's no need to trowel on loads of foundation and concealer.
So does everyone really need one? Not necessarily. If you have oily skin, ignore my comment above and get a good quality toner that contains a mild acid to rebalance pH (try Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion, or Pixi Glow Tonic), because the additional active ingredients in an Essence might exacerbate serum production. Everyone else: go for it. I have a friend with very sensitive skin to whom I gave Estee Lauder's Essence to trial for me - she loves how comfortable and fresh her skin feels, and she says it's the perfect product to apply straight after cleansing to avoid that pulled, tight feeling. Once it's sunk in she's straight into her skincare routine of serum and day cream. And, interestingly, her skin is far less sensitive these days.
To apply, splash a little into your palm and close hands together; pat it all over then press it into your skin. Morning and evening. Sounds bonkers. It's actually a lovely process and it looks totes profesh.
One slight glitch to this new trend: it's megabucks. The best are listed below, and you can see they're not cheap. But should you be really struggling with your skin and wishing it looked more clear, more youthful, less grey and more wedding-ready, why on earth would you not want to try and improve that? Your big day should be the epitome of self-love: let's do the same for our skin.
Kiehl's Iris Extract Treatment Essence, £36; Tom Ford Intensive Infusion Treatment Essence, £82 (pictured); Chanel Hydra Beauty Essence Mist, £44; Estee Lauder Micro Essence, £80