Review: Esse Cocoa Exfoliator and Toner Plus

Last week I got to take in a fascinating talk on microbes by eco-crazy chemist Trevor Steyn, the founder of certified organic and vegan-friendly skincare brand Esse.

Since hitting SA shelves in 2002, Esse’s gone global and can now be found in Europe, Japan and the states. But you’re not going to find the brand in China. While Trevor and co could make serious cash by entering the dragon, the country still insists on testing on animals (Boo! Hiss!) and the founder would sooner die than see his items contribute to any kind of suffering. One thing that came through loud and clear was that, ethics-wise, Esse is a seriously straight arrow.

Esse skin care
Esse skin care

Anyway, getting back to the microbes – Trevor reckons that learning more about them and how they relate to our skin might be the future of skin care. For those who don’t know, microbes are teeny tiny organisms that includes ‘good’ bacteria that live within our cells. Having a good mix of them is key to a healthy body and healthy skin. And here’s a fascinating fact for you… when you’re a fetus, you’re a blank slate without any microbes. But, when you’re born vaginally, your mother’s birth canal kind of ‘smears’ you with a healthy mix of microbes. Babies born via C-section, however, don’t benefit from this microbe bath and end up with less of them as well as less variety which sees them more prone to health drama like asthma and eczema!

To get more microbes in your life, Trevor suggests you get up close and personal with nature which is naturally full of microbes (‘gardening is good’), eat lots of microbe-rich fermented food like sauerkraut and avoid antibiotics at all costs. He referred to a test that showed that an antibiotic can wipe out your microbe mix like an atom bomb and, even after four years, you’re not likely to get your levels back to what they were pre-antibiotic. You should also probably toss your soap. Most aren’t pH-balanced and this messes with your microbes.

With all this in mind, Esse skin products have been formulated in a careful way that ensures they’re pH-balanced to perfection and make use of mild preservative systems that help to keep your skin’s complex ‘microbial system’ in check. After all, a ‘good microbe’-rich skin is a happy one with a good barrier function and less prone to premature ageing.

Now let’s talk actual product! I was given a couple to try and was most impressed the Cocoa Exfoliator (R219,99).

Esse Cocoa Exfoliator
Esse Cocoa Exfoliator

Thanks to cocoa powder and rose geranium oil it smells exactly like chocolate mixed with Zoo biscuits (errrmiigoddd!) and is nice and ‘dense’ with enough exfoliating sugar granules to actually make a visible difference if used on damp (as opposed to wet skin). A total beauty cupboard keeper and spoilicious enough to make a seriously awesome gift for your tricky-to-buy-for vegan friend.

Another winner is the spritz-on Toner Plus (R370).

Esse Toner Plus
Esse Toner Plus

It’s main ingredient is super soothing aloe vera leaf extract and it’s totally free of alcohol so big points there. It’s also formulated with an array of antioxidant-rich natural extracts as well as inulin (a prebiotic that nourishes ‘good bacteria’ which are called probiotics) and lactobacillus. The latter is a probiotic, a good bacteria/microbe that’s been shown to improve your skin’s barrier function while helping to reduce inflammation. Again, this also has a lovely scent – a soft floral-orange-vanilla – as there’s a bit of calming neroli oil in the mix.

Keen to try Esse products yourself? You’ll find them in most Wellness Warehouse stores as well as selected stockists and salons. To see a full list, visit their local website over here.

Love, love


4 thoughts on “Review: Esse Cocoa Exfoliator and Toner Plus

  1. Hi Leigh – I love the crazy eco-chemist bit;)… just a small heads up, the Toner Plus retails for R370 (the regular toner is R185).

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