This Essence Saved My Sensitive Winter Skin

I rarely have trouble deciding what I want for dinner, but I face skin care-related conundrums on the regular. The seasoned acne sufferer in me knows to approach any new product slowly and with great caution. My impulsive side, on the other hand, thrives on the possibilities of risk and reward — and is much more interested in trying everything under the sun to see if it sticks. It’s like I’m Eve, and potent retinoids and professional-strength, at-home peels are the forbidden fruit.

Unlike Eve, I ultimately control my impulses in the end, and resign myself to combing through ingredients lists and Googling potential irritants before I can even think about putting something on my face. This necessary attention to detail means I’ve missed out on some of the buzziest products on the market because they had one stupid sulfate or paraben, but it also means that I know good shit when I see it. From the very first glance at the label, I knew that Tatcha’s The Essence Plumping Skin Softener was good just that.

The clear, lightweight fluid honors the traditional Japanese practice of using an essence to lay the foundation for skincare. It started with the geisha, and now it’s here, bottled up and ready to be splashed on your face, too. With a formula that’s 98.7 percent pure fermented, anti-aging superfoods — that’s the proprietary Hadasei-3, a powerful trifecta of green tea, rice, and algae — there’s no filler to be found, just straight-up skin magic. The natural fermentation process produces lactic acid to smooth and resurface, so the essence softens skin as it hydrates and sets the stage for serums and moisturizers to come.

Now that the ingredients list is out of the way, let’s talk about what really matters: the fact that this bare-bones formula, which features virtually nothing but amino acids, a dash of water, and the holy grail that is Hadasei-3, has caused my dry (yet also oily), breakout-happy, beyond-touchy skin to become soft, clear, plumped, and soothed. It’s curtailed my winter flakiness, reduced breakouts, faded scars, and even imparted a glow of overall health, which is rare for someone with a Vitamin D deficiency and a biological aversion to leaving the house when it’s cold.

Really, the only thing this essence hasn’t done to soften the seasonal cold-weather blow is fix me a hot toddy. No wonder Japanese women have been keeping the good shit a proper beauty secret for generations.
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