Toners and essences are sort of like the brassieres of skincare. Good ones provide much-needed support for the rest of your skincare routine, and bad ones can weigh down your skin, making the subsequent steps feel all bunchy and out of place. I've been on the lookout for a good hydrating essence to use in my routine, and I think I finally may have found it—A-True's Real Black Tea True Active Essence. Sad, shapeless routine no more!
By selecting the finest tea leaves only, F.T.G.F.O.P (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) is harvested within Castleton Tea Garden, placed in Darjeeling, India, at altitudes of 1,500m. This unique environment is home to the F.T.G.F.O.P variety of teas. Such rare selections were once so valued they would be compared to gold. Today, they are harvested for the enjoyment of our customers. We present the precious value of the top grade black tea which holds the first golden buds of spring.
Naturally double fermented True Active Essence fills in every layer of the dermis and epidermis to improve the natural vital power, restoring the skin’s original rhythm. Anti-oxidant properties found within black tea help eliminate the free radicals of skin and prepare it for the daily routine of life by improving absorption.
Can you say Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe three times fast? Fitipgdlorpek! Anyway... tongue twisters aside, A-True is a Korean skincare brand that specializes in skincare made with tea extracts. A cuppa for yo' thirsty face. (Check out my review of A-True's CC cushion for more tasty facial goodness!) And the Castleton Tea Estate is a real place that's known for Fitipgdlorpek! teas. The More You Know. Oh, and A-True is against animal testing.
Now, some of you may be wondering where exactly an "essence" fits into one's skincare routine. The answer sort of depends on the type and consistency of the essence, but more often than not it's sort of like a cross between a hydrating toner and a nutrient-rich serum. They tend to be a bit thinner and more watery than your typical serum, but not quite as thin as a toner. Likewise they tend to be packed with more skin beneficial ingredients than toner, but not with as great a concentration as a serum or ampoule. (Notable exceptions are "first essences" like Missha's First Treatment Essence or SK-II, which are very watery/more akin to toner, and therefore probably best used before thicker, more slippery essences.)
Confused yet? The bottom line is that essences are designed to be used near the beginning of your moisturizing routine because they add beneficial ingredients, but because they tend to be light, they also prep the skin for the next steps in your routine (e.g. creams). Therefore most people probably use an essence in-between toner and a concentrated serum, but it wouldn't be totally inappropriate to use one instead of a toner or serum. Personally I've been using the A-True Real Black Tea True Active Essence in lieu of any serum during my daytime routine, and before a more concentrated moisturizing ampoule at night.
Saccharomyces/Xylinum/Black Tea Ferment(146,340mg)*, Butylene Glycol, Saccharide Isomerate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycereth-26, Niacinamide, Diethoxyethyl Succinate, Dipropylene Glycol, Trehalose, Panthenol, Glycerin, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Fruit Extract, Maltodextrin, Propanediol, Capryric/capric triglyceride, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Sodium Polystyrene Sulfonate, Sorghum Bicolor Stalk Juice, Adenosine, Tromethamine, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Water, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance (*Compagnie Coloniale Black Tea Fermentation) [COSDNA]
As you can see the star ingredient of this product is Saccharomyces (a type of yeast, basically) in the form of fermented tea extract. Fermented products such as these supposedly have a wide range of skincare benefits—everything from wrinkle reduction to increasing brightness to soothing the skin. Here's my completely anecdotal take on the subject: I've been using Missha's First Treatment Essence (which contains Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate) for a while, and it seems to greatly reduce redness and increase skin softness for me. So I'm fully aboard the yeast train.
But the fun doesn't stop there! A-True Real Black Tea True Active Essence with a whole bunch of moisturizing ingredients and antioxidants.
A-True Real Black Tea True Active Essence is available in a 180ml/6.08oz bottle. If you're in the United States you can get it with quick domestic shipping from NYC-based e-tailer Cupidrop for $44—even better, Cupidrop orders over $50 ship free within the US. (International shipping is available too with rates depending on the weight of your order, should you be so inclined.)
The essence is housed in a sleek and sturdy plastic bottle. Simple, but pleasant to look at. Under the lid there's a shakey hole for dispensing the product:
I generally prefer pumps on my skincare bottles, but since this stuff has kind of a thin and slippery texture it pours out of the hole easily. I can live with that.
The essence itself is a bit runny but much thicker than water (or your typical toner, for that matter). I find that it absorbs into my skin pretty quickly (but not immediately).
As for application: One could easily shake out some essence onto a cotton pad and apply it that way, but personally I prefer to pour it straight into my hand and lightly pat or rub the product onto my face. I feel like I "lose" less of it that way, if that makes sense. And I don't want to lose a single drop of it, because I totally love this stuff. There are four major reasons why:
- I've been using it for about a month now, and I swear my skin feels a little bit softer than before I started. (Imagine me creepily stroking my own cheek with satisfaction.)
- This essence gives my skin a nice little moisture boost without feeling as heavy as a traditional serum. I'm really glad I discovered it during the summer, AKA the months where I want my face to feel hydrated but as light and non-greasy as possible.
- It's versatile and plays nice with other products. Like I said before, you could use it before serum, instead of a serum etc.
- It smells amazing.
How to describe the scent... it smells very much like sweet tea to me, if the sweet tea had been steeped with a bit of fruit and a giant of pile of flowers. Delicious and refreshing. That said the fragrance isn't subtle, so if you're very sensitive to perfume this might not be the right product for you.
Overall, I'm a big fan of the A-True Real Black Tea True Active Essence. It's not dirt cheap, but a little goes a long way (I still have at least 2/3 of my bottle left even after using it for a month) and it's delightful to use. There are probably other products out there that provide similar benefits (moisture and softness) at a lower price point, but the scent and texture make it such a pleasure to use that I think it's worth the splurge. I would certainly consider buying another bottle once this one runs out.
What do you think of A-True Real Black Tea True Active Essence? Do you use essences or serums in your skincare routine?
Disclosure: The product featured in this post was provided to me by Cupidrop for review purposes, however any opinions expressed above are honest and my own. I did not receive any other form of compensation. For more information, check out my full disclosure policy.