Beauty & Wellbeing

ESSE: Rewilding the skin

By Sarah Todd


By Sarah Todd

20 May 2021

South African professional spa brand, founded in 2002 by biochemist Trevor Steyn, adopts a science-based ‘skin wellness’ approach that focuses on the use of probiotics to deliver optimal skin health.

Certified organic, cruelty-free and vegan, the bio-clinical challenger brand supports fair trade and operates a carbon and plastic neutral business policy.

“I’m a chemist, so I may have a different view on our natural skin oils, but when you look at them carefully, you realise how amazing they really are.”

Trevor Steyn

Founder, Esse

We asked Steyn to explain how Esse products can form an integral part of a long-term skin health programme to ‘rewild the skin’ and heal a comprehensive range of concerns.

Tell us what makes Esse unique?

We were among the first skincare lines to drive real research into the skin microbiome, and we achieved excellent anti-ageing results from the live probiotic products we developed.

Esse is one of the few brands that take a long-term view on skin health. The industry is driven by instant results, but this approach is seldom best over time. We cater for intelligent clients who want to age gracefully through the use of science-driven skincare that also has minimal impact on the environment.

For many spa guests, skin health is now a high priority. How does Esse support them?

Over the last year, we have seen many professional brands moving more into the retail space or online sales. However, we are looking for ways to move in the opposite direction. I think the professional skincare sector has a great future and we’re working on new offerings that are exclusive to therapists and can’t be sold online.

Covid-19 has caused a change in the way that people think. There is a greater focus on long-term health now that the consequences of being unhealthy have become more obvious. There is also more attention being paid to the environmental impact of our choices.

Treatment focus

The Esse Experience and The Ultimate Esse Experience

Available at partner spas, clinics and salons worldwide, two new professional Esse Experience facial treatments provide innovative skin ‘rewilding’ for clients.
Featuring advanced pre- and probiotics as well as technologies for in-clinic microbiome intervention, each facial contains ingredients that deeply hydrate, soothe and renew the skin while reducing inflammation and slowing down the ageing process.



Ampoule and Exclusion Mask

This new mask features what is believed to be the world’s first live probiotic product to be used in-treatment. Containing a high dose of three species of live Lactobacillus bacteria, the Probiotic Ampoule is designed for use following a facial massage and is freshly mixed by the therapist to allow time for the bacteria to activate.


Delivering billions of live microbes upon application, the live probiotic treatment is followed by the application of the setting Exclusion Mask, which regulates the immune response and lowers both inflammation and sensitivity.

What do Esse products offer to those who use them?

People buy our products because they expect anti-ageing results that are at least as good as our competitors. Our job is to give them these results in a way that is also sustainable for their skin. We are seeking clients who will stay with us for life because of the results they see.

How does Esse bring added value to the spa experience?

Over the years, we’ve built a series of protocols that take the skin microbiome into greater consideration. The most recent is the Esse Experience.

In the introduction to this facial, the client can see the live probiotic bacteria being added to their skin as well as to a mask that will be applied. This helps to get the message across that the skin is an ecosystem and we are bringing back microbes that nature would normally have given us. It really is unique among professional treatments.

You’ve described sebum as ‘the elixir of youth’. What exactly do you mean by this?

I’m a chemist, so I may have a different view on our natural skin oils, but when you look at them carefully, you realise how amazing they really are.

The best analogy I can think of is that trying to copy human sebum is a lot like attempting to copy human breast milk. From a chemistry point of view, it is impossible to give a child better nutrition than its mother can provide naturally. It is the same for the skin.

Human skin oils are really strange in comparison to those of other animals and we should minimise disruption of this incredibly valuable resource. To give you one example, our sebum contains large amounts of Sapienic Acid. Humans are the only mammals that can produce this, which is why it was named after our species, ‘Homo sapiens’.

What is Esse’s position when it comes to sustainability?

When Esse was created we wanted to provide an alternative to ‘business as usual.’ Whenever that phrase is used, I just hear everything being justified in terms of profit. Making money is placed ahead of the environment and the long-term health of the client. Product cost is driven down to a minimum and the money is spent on advertising to increase sales.

I don’t think this is necessary. We have been able to remain certified-organic and carbon neutral. We also recently became plastic-neutral, so for every kilogramme of plastic that we use, we recover and recycle a kilogramme from the ocean.

What’s next for your brand?

Over the last few years, Esse has invested heavily in training for skincare professionals. We will be launching a five-day skin microbiome course to educate therapists in the science of the microbial ecosystem on the skin, as well as detailing probiotic treatments for different conditions.

We’ve also been working hard on new product lines that will be available exclusively to therapists and the first one will be launched in September this year. Above all, we will keep learning from nature and continue doing the best research that we are able

Be inspired...

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