7 Jun 2017

Review: Kiehl's Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence

I think it is no secret that I am on a quest to try out all treatment essence I'm interested in. I also did a comparison review of 16 different treatment essences previously, which includes a short review on this Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence from Kiehl's. Today, I want to bring you guys to a closer look at this Iris Essence from Kiehl's, and how it differs from many other essences I have tried.

Kiehl's is an American brand, and they don't catch up on many Asian brands. Many things that are popular already in Asia may not reach the Western beauty community hence they don't see the need of coming out with something entirely new for their consumers. As such, you only see them coming out with a cleansing oil recently, and their essence in 2015.

After trying out many Asian essence, I am now quite interested in trying out some of these essences that are made in countries outside Asia. I want to see how it differs in term of consistency, formulation and efficacy, if compared to many Asian essences I have tried, which is why I bought and tried this Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence out myself.

The Iris Essence comes in an opaque plastic bottle. It is purple, which symbolizes the flower it is made of - the purple Iris. Many people will mistake this as a toner but if you look at the packaging, you'll notice that it is completely different from other toners from Kiehl's. 

Kiehl's claims that this essence can help you to achieve a youthful, radiant and smooth complexion with its blend of Iris Florentina Root Extract, lipo hydroxyl acid and sodium hyaluronate. Iris flower root extract, according to Kiehl's, is known for its nourishing and anti-aging benefits whereas LHA can activate the skin's natural exfoliation process. Sodium hyaluronate, on the other hand, is known for being a non-irritating hydrating ingredient. All ingredients add up is expected to plump up your skin, fill all your dry lines and wrinkles and soften your skin texture over time.

The essence comes in a tall bottle with a narrow opening on top for easier product dispensing.

The essence is a clear and runny but slightly viscous liquid that will leave the skin soft and moist. You are advised to use this as the first step of your skincare routine, although some Kiehl's consultant might suggest that you use this after your regular toner. I think if you have oily skin and large pores, then a toner will be good to prep and balance your skin. However, if you have dry skin then this viscous liquid is sufficient to do all the hydrating, balancing and prepping job.


Aqua, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Dipropylene Glycol, Alcohol Denat., Methyl Gluceth-10, Phenoxyethanol, Ppg-6-Decyltetradeceth-30, Chlorphenesin, Fragrance, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Iris Florentina Root Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Adenosine, Limonene


Main ingredients are iris flower root extract, LHA, and sodium hyaluronate. Nothing more, and nothing less. Alcohol is used as a solvent here so you must patch test if you are sensitive to alcohol but personally I am doing fine with alcohol. I think it is fair to say that most of the ingredients used here are safe, non-irritating and non-comedogenic.

Iris flower root extract is a novel ingredient. It is essentially a skin revitalizing, anti-aging and elasticity-improving ingredient when used in skincare. It is naturally rich in natural isoflavones and can stimulate greater cellular activities to repair skin damages and fight off free radicals. Its isoflvaones content also makes it a decent moisturizing ingredient to mitigate dryness and flaking. This component also allows it to enhance the elasticity of the skin and decrease wrinkles via positive modulation of collagen synthesis equilibrium. As such, it can further lighten freckles and strengthen the moisture barrier of the skin. (Further reading)

LHA, or BHA is commonly used to gently exfoliate the skin. It can hydrate, reduce dryness and restore suppleness to the skin. Although the pH of this essence might not make this an effective acid treatment, it can still work to stimulate greater cellular activities, to rejuvenate and reduce hyperpigmentation and damages on the skin. It is gentler than AHA and is not photosensitive so is suitable for all skin types. It is also a great anti-inflammatory and anti-bacteria agent.

Sodium hyaluronate is so common that I think everyone should know what it does already by now. It is a very gentle and effective hydrator which can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water.

In short, this formula as a whole tells me that this is indeed a non-frill skin soothing, repairing, rejuvenating, and moisturizing essence with all the basics you need for a watery essence.


Having used it for more than 3 months, I must say that Kiehl's has nailed it once more time. This essence, despite the fact that it is not made of fermented ingredient, is pretty good at what it is doing. It can soften, plump, and revitalize my skin in a way that my skin appears radiant and hydrated. There is an improvement to my overall skin health, which I believe is attributable to this essence. I enjoy using it on a cotton as lotion mask the most as doing so will make my skin baby soft the next few days.

I won't say that it has reduced the appearance of my wrinkles and fine lines, or that it has lightened my freckles and sun spots. But, it has done a decent job moisturizing, soothing and revitalizing my skin in a way that it appears really plump and radiant. I like how my skin feels in general after adding this into my routine.


This is not like the usual treatment essence I have used. It is not housed in a transparent bottle, nor is it made of fermented ingredients. And its scent is also much more floral and pleasant, unlike most treatment essence which mostly smells rather yeasty. So, it is not really a treatment essence, more like a radiant-adding and moisturizing essence. It is still a first essence, but definitely nothing like SK-II or Missha.

I don't think it can repair my skin or make my skin significant renewed or better. It can mostly brighten up and moisturize my skin, but nothing more than that. I won't say that it is obsolete of course. If you are looking for something that can quench your skin's thirst, or brighten it in a natural way, then this is great for you. But if you are looking for a product that will revitalize, repair, and regenerate your skin, then this may not meet your expectation.

I am not sure if I will repurchase because apparently it is not one of those treatment essences that I am looking for, but if I were to need a moisturizing watery essence toner, then this is definitely a good one to consider.

Extended Reading:

Since 1851: A Brand Overview and Reviews of 24 Kiehl's Products

packaging: ★★★★
scent: ★★★★
texture: ★★★★
ingredients: ★★★☆
performance - moisturizing: ★★★★★
performance - anti-aging: ★★★
performance - revitalizing/brightening: ★★★★☆
general impression: ★★★★

You can get this from: Kiehl's Malaysia
[Disclaimer] This is NOT a sponsored review. Product is purchased with my own money. All copy right of contents and images in this article is strictly mine.
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