Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion Review

Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion review

A toner by any other name is still a toner. Case in point, Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion is called a lotion, but when you look at the formula, it ticks all the toner boxes. Why can’t brands just keep it simple? *sighs* This matters to me because I usually don’t use toners. Most of the time, they’re either loaded with alcohol or little more than water. This one is the exception. It’s way more hydrating and soothing than your average Western toner, but is that enough to justify the $130 price tag? Let’s find out:

What’s In Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion?


Probiotics are all the rage now, but to give Estée Lauder some credit, they were one of the first brands to add them to their products This toner has its own share of good bacteria, too. Bifida Ferment Lysate, to be exact. It’s a multitasker that:

You’ve guessed it, it’s especially beneficial for sensitive and easily irritated skin. Whether your skin gets irritated easily or is always a little red, these good bacteria can help you soothe the inflammation and keep your skin healthy and rosy.

Related: The Truth About Probiotics In Skincare: Do They Really Work?


Sodium hyaluronate its a form of hyaluronic acid that attracts and binds to the skin up to 1000 times its weight in water. Plus, it works well both in high and low humidity conditions. When skin has that much moisture, it plumps up. This alone is enough to make your fine lines look smaller – temporarily. Hydration also makes skin soft and gives the complexion a dewy glow (think Korean skin).

Related: Why You Need Hyaluronic Acid In Your Skincare Routine, No Matter Your Skin Type

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You’ll find it as Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 on the label. But it’s best known as “Botox in a jar.” This peptide works by relaxing facial muscles so they can’t move. No movement = no wrinkles (no wrinkles caused by repeated facial movements, anyway. You’ll still get wrinkles from sun exposure).

Sounds too good to be true? It sort of is. A 2002 study (the only one I could find) shows that an “oil/water (O/W) emulsion containing 10% of the hexapeptide on healthy women volunteers reduced wrinkle depth up to 30% upon 30 days treatment”.

But… not for everyone. Argireline doesn’t diffuse through the skin well. If your skin is thick, chances are it won’t do anything for you. Only older women with thinner skin will see small results here.

P.S. This toner has way less than 10% Argireline. Even if your skin is thin, don’t expect much from it.

Related: Is Argireline An Effective Alternative To Botox?

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Water\Aqua\Eau: The main ingredient, it mostly acts as a solvent to dissolve other ingredients.
  • Peg-75: It’s a humectant that draws moisture from the water into your skin, helping to keep it hydrated. Plus, it acts as a solvent to dissolve other ingredients and improve the texture of the formula.
  • Propanediol: It has moisturising properties and helps active ingredients penetrate skin deeper, so that they work better and faster.
  • Butylene Glycol: A humectant with hydrating properties. It also helps active ingredients better penetrate skin and enhance results.
  • Betaine: A gentle humectant that increases moisture in the skin, helping it to stay hydrated for longer.
  • Pentylene Glycol: It’s a solvent that aids penetration of active ingredients for better results. Plus, it increases skin hydration and makes the complexion softer and suppler.
  • Lactobacillus Ferment: A probiotic patented by Estée Lauder, it has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the root cause of many skin diseases, including acne and rosacea. By reducing inflammation, this probiotic could help with these skin conditions, too. It just doesn’t have many studies to back up these results yet, hence why I’ve given it a yellow rating.
  • Acetyl Glucosamine: An amino acid sugar that helps skin make more hyaluronic acid, a moisture magnet on steroids (see above). Plus, it soothes inflammation.
  • Trehalose: A sugar with water-binding properties. It increases moisture levels and makes skin softer and smoother – for longer.
  • Caffeine: An antioxidant that helps fight the free radicals that give you wrinkles. Brands say it also helps reduce fluid retention under the eyes and, as such, be a cure for dark spots and puffiness. But it really doesn’t work that well for that.
  • Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile): It has soothing properties that calm down redness and irritation. Unless you’re allergic to it. Then, don’t use it.
  • Caprylyl Glycol: A humectant that attracts water from the air to your skin, helping to keep it hydrated for longer.
  • Carbomer: It’s used to create gel-like textures and improve the consistency of a product so it feels better when you apply it.
  • Ppg-5-Ceteth-20: It’s an emollient that makes skin softer. It also has emulsifying properties, preventing the watery and oily parts of a product from separating.
  • Citric Acid: It’s used to adjust the pH of skincare products.
  • Potassium Sorbate: A preservative that prevents fungi, mold, and germs from growing in your skincare products.
  • Sodium Citrate: It helps to adjust the pH of skincare products.
  • Tromethamine: It helps to adjust the pH of skincare products, so that it’s skin-friendly.
  • Disodium Edta: It’s a chelating agent, preventing the trace minerals found in water to attach to the active ingredients and spoil them.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that prevents bacteria and germs from growing in your skincare products, thus keeping them effective and safe for longer.


This toner is just slightly thicker than water, but still liquidy. You’ll need a cotton pad with this. It’s too runny to just be applied without.


It’s fragrance-free. Kudos to Estée Lauder for this. Fragrance makes a toner smell delightful – but it can irritate sensitive skin. My skin isn’t sensitive, but still, I’ll take a non-fragranced product every day of the week other a scented one. My philosophy is simple: if it doesn’t do anything to help skin, it doesn’t belong in the product. But I totally get it if you’re disappointed by the lack of scent.

How To Use It

Morning and evening, right after cleansing. Estee Lauder says you can apply it in two ways:

  • With a cotton pad: Gently pat saturated cotton pad all over face.
  • With your hands: Pour a few drops of the essence in hand, rub hands together, and massage them all over your face. I don’t recommend it as the texture is quite runny. But if you don’t have cotton pads at hand, you may give it a go.

Either way, with a liquidy texture like this, you’re gonna waste some product.


Mine is a sample, obviously. I do love to try small sizes before investing my hard-earned cash when something is this expensive. The full size comes in a white bottle with a gold cap. It’s beautiful, but makes it easy to pour out too much product. It’s also not travel-friendly.

P.S. Mine is a deluxe sample size that was part of a holiday gift set. The full size is bigger, don’t worry.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion is so watery, it sinks into my skin immediately without leaving a greasy residue on top. It’s definitely hydrating. The extra burst of moisture makes my skin softer, smoother, and comfortable. If you have dehydrated skin that needs all the help it can get in this department, this’ll be a welcome addition to your routine.

But, it didn’t make my skin glow. Or did anything else for that matter… The problem with watery lotions like this is they can contain only a tiny amount of hydrating and soothing goodies. Even when they give you results, they’re minimal. This isn’t a bad product at all. But you do get more bang for your buck when you use a serum with the same actives.

Related: Why Serums Are The Workhorses Of Skincare

Estee Lauder micro essence activating treatment lotion

How Does Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion To Other Estée Lauder Toners?

Estée Lauder has its fair share of toners. Let’s see how they compare, so you can pick the right one for your skin type and needs:

  • Estée Lauder NutritiousRadiant Essence Treatment Lotion ($42.00): My fave toner of the bunch, it has niacinamide, an active that does everything. It hydrates, soothes, and brighten skin while helping treating acne, too. Plus antioxidants to fight premature aging. Available at Estée Lauder and Ulta.
  • Estée Lauder Micro EssenceTreatment Lotion Fresh with Sakura Ferment ($75.00): It has a very similar formula, with added rice extract. There’s no particular reason to choose it over the Micro EssenceTreatment Lotion Fresh with Bio-Ferment. They do the same thing, really. Available at Boots, Estee Lauder, Look Fantastic, Net-A-Porter, Nordstrom, and Sephora.
  • Estée Lauder Perfectly CleanMulti-Action Hydrating Toning Lotion/Refiner ($30.00): A lightweight toner with antioxidants to hydrate skin and fight wrinkles. It says it can balance oil production, but there’s nothing in here that can do that. Available at Boots, Estée Lauder, Nordstrom, and Sephora.
  • Estée Lauder Soft Clean InfusionHydrating Essence Lotion with Amino Acid + Waterlily ($42.00): This is a more hydrating formula, but it doesn’t have anti-inflammatory properties. It’s better suitable for dry skin. Available at Brown Thomas, Estee Lauder, and Ulta.

What I Like About Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion

  • Fast-absorbing texture
  • Slightly hydrating, makes skin softer and smoother
  • It has soothing properties for sensitive skin

What I DON’T Like About Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion

  • Texture is runny
  • Product releases too much product, wasting a little with every application
  • It adds an extra layer of hydration, but not as much as a hydrating serum

Who Should Use This?

This toner is suitable for all skin types (including sensitive), but I especially recommend it for dehydrated skin. Said that, most people don’t need this. You can get the same results with cheaper products (think hyaluronic acid serums).

Related: The Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums

Does Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion Live Up To Its Claims?

This essence-in-lotion helps strengthen the skin’s foundation to reveal its youthful, angelic glow. What does foundation mean? And nope, it doesn’t make skin glow.
Penetrates rapidly to help renew and rebalance the look of skin. It penetrates rapidly, but the rest is just marketing nonsense that means nothing.
Activates multiple natural pro-youth abilities to replenish the look of skin by replacing lost moisture. It replaces (some) lost moisture, but it can’t activate anything.

Price & Availability

$65.00/£70.00 at Boots, Estée Lauder, Look Fantastic, Nordstrom, and Sephora

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

I personally won’t be repurchasing it. As a toner, it does provide an extra layer of hydration, so if that’s what you’re looking for, great. But I’d rather use a Hyaluronic Acid serum. It gives me the same results at a fraction of the cost.


Dupes & Alternatives

  • Missha Time Revolution The First Essence 5X ($54.00): This essence/toner uses probiotics and niacinamide, a multi-tasker that hydrates, soothes, brightens, and even helps treat acne. Available at Soko Glam, Stylevana and Yes Style.
  • Neogen Dermalogy Real Ferment Micro Essence ($38.00): This lightweight toner uses probiotics, amino acids, and green tea to deeply hydrate skin and soothe irritations. Available at Beauty Bay, iHerb, Soko Glam, Stylevana, and Yes Style.

Water\Aqua\Eau, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Peg-75, Propanediol, Butylene Glycol, Betaine, Pentylene Glycol, Lactobacillus Ferment, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Acetyl Glucosamine, Trehalose, Caffeine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile), Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Ppg-5-Ceteth-20, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Citrate, Tromethamine, Disodium Edta, Phenoxyethanol

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