Reviewed: e.l.f.'s Hydrating Water Essence Replenishes Skin in a Pinch

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e.l.f. Cosmetics Coconut Water & Algae Hydrating Water Essence

e.l.f. Hydrating Water Essence

Nicole Kliest

What We Like
  • Light, easy-to-apply formula

  • Nourishes with coconut water, algae, coffee, and hyaluronic acid

  • Fragrance is subtle

  • Accessible price point

What We Don't Like
  • Not Byrdie Clean

  • Slightly sticky finish

e.l.f.'s Hydrating Water Essence is only $10, but it effectively revitalized my skin and created a moisturized base for makeup. Note that the product is currently out of stock online, but it's certainly a worthwhile purchase whenever you can get your hands on it.


e.l.f. Cosmetics Coconut Water & Algae Hydrating Water Essence

e.l.f. Hydrating Water Essence

Nicole Kliest

We put the e.l.f. Hydrating Water Essence (currently out of stock) to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Please keep reading for our full product review.

Confession: I have never incorporated a toner or essence into my adult skincare routine. Not ever. Aside from a brief stint in high school with Clinique’s three-step system (the most popular skincare line amongst my friends), I haven’t touched the stuff since. My reasoning? My skin is neither oily nor dry, and I didn’t see an urgent need to add it to the rotation. So, when I was assigned a review on e.l.f.’s Hydrating Water Essence, I felt a tad sheepish — I don’t have a relationship with essences! But, on the other hand, I was excited to try something with a blank slate, a non-jaded perspective. So, if you’re like me and haven’t dipped your toes in the essence pool, continue ahead for why you must change that immediately.

e.l.f. Cosmetics Hydrating Water Essence

Best for: Any skin type, especially dry.

Uses: Moisturize

Potential allergens: Not likely

Active ingredients: Coffee extract, algae extract, coconut water.

Byrdie Clean? No; contains PEGs.

Price: $10

About the brand: e.l.f. Cosmetics is a California-based beauty brand that was founded in 2004. They are an affordably-priced clean beauty brand that’s cruelty-free.

About My Skin: Normal to Combination and Sensitive

Like I mentioned, I don’t have oily or dry skin; it usually hovers in the normal combination zone. That said, it’s susceptible and is known to have a rogue breakout, rash, or something sordid in between.

The Feel: Slippery and Not Greasy

e.l.f. Hydrating Water Essence Texture

Nicole Kliest

e.l.f.'s Hydrating Water Essence is watery and thin but slightly bouncy (meaning, it stuck to my skin once applied). In contrast to toners and astringents, which are often applied with cotton balls, essences can be patted directly on the skin with your fingertips. The first time I tried the essence, I used too much, and it caused the product to ball up once my face was dry. My advice would be to pour a few drops in your palm and pat onto your face modestly, starting from the center out (morning and night).

The Ingredients: Refreshing and Nourishing

This water-based lotion is packed with fan-favorite ingredients like hyaluronic acid, coconut water, and coffee and algae extracts. If you’re not already familiar with the differences between toners and essences, toners are typically used to remove residue left over after cleaning, fight against pollutants, and refresh the skin. As for essences, you can expect this product to smooth the skin, accelerate skin cell turnover, and enhance the effects of the products you apply afterward. Regarding the order of application, begin by cleansing your skin, pat on the essence, and then applying the remainder of your routine as you normally would, lightest to heaviest.

The Scent: Subtle and Calming

I can’t put my finger on the exact scent, but it reminds me of the ocean, which is pleasant! There’s a slight tropical-meets-salty note, but it’s not overwhelming in the slightest.

The Results

e.l.f. Hydrating Water Essence Results on Nicole Kliest

Nicole Kliest/Design by Cristina Cianci

I’m not going to act like this product changed my life, but it 100% made my skin look visibly moisturized, and I like thinking about it helping my other skincare staples absorb more effectively. Also, since it’s void of any icky ingredients and falls into the clean beauty category, I see virtually no reason not to add it to my daily routine. If you have dry skin, I could not recommend this product more, and if you’re like me and have combination skin, I also think it’s worth your time.

The Value: Truly Great

This essence is clean, effective, and $10—there’s not much else to say.

Similar Products: You've Got Options

Essences originated in Korea, and there are a ton on the market. Below are a couple of options that fellow skincare fanatics have recommended me. It’s also worth mentioning I tested out two of e.l.f.’s mists, and they delivered similar replenishing results (the Soothing Aloe and Hydrating Coconut Mists were perfect for an afternoon refresher).

Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Essence: There has not been one product from Tata Harper that I have tried that has not made my skin jump for joy. The brand’s essence ($215) is intended to target dark spots and remedy a dull complexion. Say no more.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Essence: I’ve been using Caudalie products for years and years now—the brand jives well with my skin. Their take on the essence ($54) is powered by glycolic acid to remove dead skin and grape water to hydrate.

Final Verdict

Regardless of your skin type, a little splash of clean beauty hydration is something we could all use, especially with all the mask-wearing these days. Add to cart!


  • Product Name Coconut Water & Algae Hydrating Water Essence
  • Product Brand e.l.f. Cosmetics
  • Price $10.00
  • Weight 5 oz.
  • Full Ingredient List Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Dipropylene Glycol, Trehalose, Niacinamide, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan) Extract, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Extract, Cyclodextrin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium PCA, Urea, Polyquatemium-51, Triacetin, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Water, Coceth-7, PPG-1-PEG-9 Lauryl Glycol Ether, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Xanthum Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance (Parfum).

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