One of the most essential steps of Asian Skincare is probably the use of booster essences, also known as First Treatment Essences (FTE) for some of you. Since First Treatment Essence is a product name of Missha, Koreans generally refer to this type of products as booster essences — a product that is designed to “boost” the absorption and efficacy of skincare products that follow suit. Although booster essences are traditionally formulated with yeast and or ferment type ingredients, they’ve recently released alternative booster essences that do not contain any of the regular ferment extracts. Now there are alternative booster essences to those who have allergic reactions or breakouts from yeast based booster essences. Both types of booster essences focus on hydrating your skin by increasing the water-moisture levels rather than oils, which supposedly helps carry in nutrients into your skin. If anything, it keep your skin better hydrated from its foundation!
I consider it a must-use product, and everyone should try adding this step to their skincare routine at least once.
Now to the interesting part! What type of booster essences are there?
Yeast & Fermented ingredient based boosters
1. SK2’s Facial Treatment Essence – The original booster essence that started it all. I’ve had dramatic results with this product, and it was the product that allowed me to realize that my adult acne was from dryness, contrary to popular belief that acne stems from oils and clogged pores. Ever since I’ve started using this product, I’ve never had acne problems again. Your skin feels hydrated like it has never felt before, there’s a lot of good things that come from using these types (booster essence) of products!
The downside of this product is its smell. Aside from the price, the smell was something that really made me think twice of re-purchasing this item despite the results I’ve had with it. I’ve moved on to other products ever since, and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever buy another bottle of this product due to its smell. If I ever do, it would purely be out of nostalgia.
2. Missha’s The First Treatment Essence – This product is probably one of the most famous K-beauty product outside of Korea. It’s famous in Korea as the first SK2 look-a-like product. It’s a great product, and it doesn’t smell foul as the SK2 did. More expensive than some, cheaper than others. I can honestly say I prefer this product over SK2. Although SK2 has shown me new worlds with it’s Facial Treatment Essence (Pitera), I think there are even better alternatives out on the market. One of them being this product!
3. SUM37’s Secret Essence – LG’s booster essence from its premium line SUM37. Packed with 11 different types of ferment extracts, and a looooong (believe me, it’s long) list of ingredients from eastern medicine such as licorice root extract, tumeric root extract, etc. Formulated in SUM37’s special organic facility that is made with dirt and clay while their ferment ingredients rest listening to soothing sounds within their clay walls — this product is pretty much everything an Asian beauty product can ask for. The formulation is extremely natural and gentle too. I’ve only tried this product from samples, and I can say that it’s quite hydrating. Although the product is state of the art, the only downside is that its price is closer to SK2 than it is to Missha.
4. Scinic’s First Treatment Essence – I’ve used numerous bottles of this product, and it’s an ever cheaper alternative compared to Missha. It is an extremely gentle formulation comparable to ones from Sidmool & COSRX. This product contains ingredients to help with skin brightening and anti-aging. Galactomyces ferment extract (the main ingredient in SK2’s Facial Treatment Essence) is the number 1 ingredient here. This product leaves your skin hydrated, and the moisture is well retained when you use creams at the end of your beauty ritual.
5. Secret Key’s Starting Treatment Essence – A product my friend loves. He’s probably used more than 10 bottles of this stuff. However I’m not too fond of their ingredients such as Dimethicone. I could have sworn that this product had ethanol, but seems like they’ve removed it from their formula.
6. OHUI’s The First Cell Source – O HUI is another one of LG’s high end brands. Although the high end cosmetics forums in Korea seem to love this product, it’s on the expensive side and thus I haven’t tried it yet. The product is fermented ingredient based, however it contains ingredients that I haven’t seen before in other booster type cosmetics such as cell culture medias, various polypeptides that seem to make up the bulk of this product. It also contains not one — but three different types of ferment extracts. Perhaps the price tag isn’t for nothing.
7. Nature Republic’s The First Essence – A brand famous for their aloe soothing gels also offer one of many booster essence alternatives. It is a gentle formula, minus it’s phenoxyethanol content. However the phenoxyethanol content is less than 1%, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
8. The Saem’s Essential First Essence – This product contains one ingredient — galactomyces ferment filtrate. This is the active ingredient in SK2’s Facial Treatment Essence, and without any alcohols and preservatives, it doesn’t get any simpler than this. It might be disappointing for those that are expecting a little more substance from their boosters, however.
9. Sidmool’s Saccharo Skin Science Sparkle Toner – The go-to cosmetics brand for gentle formulas for many Korean cosmetics gurus. Anything and everything from this brand is probably one of the most gentle products you can find on the market. They make all of their own products with their own R&D technologies without outsourcing.
10. COSRX’s Whitening Power Essence – Another booster that is formulated with all-safe ingredients that sends Sidmool a run for their money. Although I’m not entirely familiar with the product, the product contains 95% galactomyces (the active ingredient that makes SK2’s Facial Treatment Essence so good) and also whitening as well as anti-aging ingredients. At this price point with all its perks, I’m certainly enthused to try the product at some point!
11. 2Sol Cosmetic’s Black Tea Treatment Essence – I apologize for the poor picture quality, however this is a brand that takes zero consideration to their product packaging. It seems that they don’t particularly take good photos to upload to their websites either. 2Sol seems to carry several different types of booster essences — First Holistic Treatment, Galactomyces Power Ampoule, Galactomyces treatment Light, The Hyaluronic Acid Skin Booster, and their newest product is their Black Tea Treatment Essence. Most of 2Sol’s products have extremely gentle formulations, including this product. The only thing to look out for here is PPG-17.
12. Estee Lauder’s Micro Essence – Although not K-beauty or an Asian beauty product, when you find out that Estee Lauder has launched their version, it’s plain as day how popular booster type essences have become. Estee Lauder’s boosters are formulated primarily with Bifida, which is a fermented ingredient that is the major ingredient in their Estee Lauder Night Repairs. There are other ingredients such as Lactobacillus Ferment, which can commonly be found in other booster essences. Slightly different from the rest, however a ferment based booster essence nonetheless!