Review – Esse Probiotic Serum

Jill and I have been amazed at the incredible, local skincare ranges that are available, many of which are earth, human and animal friendly. Not only are these products non-toxic and not tested on animals, they also don’t travel halfway around the world to get to us (while emitting fumes). It feels good to support local business and with this kind of quality, there is really no need to buy mainstream.

We previously reviewed SKOON. a skincare range from the Western Cape and today we have a look at Esse which is produced in KZN. Being a KZN girl myself, I was immediately intrigued when a friend told me about this skincare range, made near my home-town, that introduced probiotics into its formula.


Esse was founded in 2002 by the surfing, yoga practicing organic chemist Trevor Steyn, a man with a passion for the chemistry of Africa’s plants. All Esse products are certified organic, vegan and cruelty free. They also support fair trade and are a carbon neutral company. Everything about Esse screams “good guys” and I’d love to visit the farm some time and see how the processes take place.



In 2009, Esse began its move into probiotic skincare. We all know that certain foods like yoghurt and other fermented foods contain gut-beneficial probiotics, but skincare with probiotics is something new.

It was recently proven that skin is an ecology, with more than 10 microbes for every human cell. These microbes are essential to the optimal functioning of skin. Probiotics are microbes that are good for you and a prebiotic is “food” that helps the microbes grow. Probiotics can shift the skin’s ecology to favour a “diverse and harmonious ecosystem” that is healthy enough to resist attacks from pathogens that cause disease and reduce the impacts of ageing on the skin.

In other words, when used in skincare treatments, probiotics are believed to reduce inflammation and offer antibacterial effects. Probiotics are also shown to create a barrier on skin, helping to block dirt and bacteria from entering pores.

There are apparently varying levels of probiotic skincare, some of the Esse products being the maximum level four which means that the probiotics in their formula are alive. Lower level probiotics which are also in Esse products can still be beneficial to your skin but they do not grow.

The level four, Esse Probiotic Serum (reviewed below) contains one billion live probiotics per millilitre. The product is preservative and pathogen-free so that the microbes remain capable of growth for two years from production.



The beautifully packaged 30ml bottle costs R1250. It claims to be the world’s first live probiotic serum. The website says that independent testing has proven that this product increases skin firmness by 16% in 28 days with positive results being shown in 100% of test subjects.

Because of its lack of perfumes and other baddies, the smell of the serum is quite “earthy” with a hint of nuttiness. The smell does not linger for long but it did take a bit of getting used to. The serum is for all skin types but I found the rich formula particularly beneficial to my drier skin type.

After a few weeks of using it twice a day my skin looks even and feels healthy. I often get irritations this time of year because of my spring allergies and have, for now, avoided the irritations, possibly as a result of the balance that the probiotic serum creates on my skin. The thought of live microbes on my skin is a little strange but if it works, I’m in!

I love the clean, white packaging (which is also earth-friendly) with pump-action dispenser, but am a little concerned that the beautiful glass bottle will break if I drop it in the bathroom. Presumably the packaging is glass for eco-reasons and for preservation of the live probiotics.

I’m enjoying the product and also purchased the Esse Eye Contour Cream and the Esse Defence Moisturiser.  I recommend the serum especially for sensitive, aging skin. 

Esse Plus Probiotic Serum, 30ml, R1250 BUY

See other skincare recommendations and more Esse products in our curated store, here


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