I have a confession. I didn’t know much about SK-II.
About all I did know was that Cate Blanchett was one of their spokesmen and well… if there’s one current celeb female whose skin you wouldn’t mind having, porcelain princess Cate has to be pretty high on the list!
To clear up my ignorance, I was sent a few of SK-II’s bestsellers by the fabulous Bastian (see the full post here), including their most famous product – SK-II Facial Treatment Essence.
The essence has been dubbed ‘miracle water’ by some, with Asian celebs (and their milky white complexions) clamouring to call it their ‘best friend’ or even ‘lover’! Not much to live up to then! I’m not ready to dump the boyfriend just yet (especially after he bought me that Bobbi Brown palette, hehehe) but I have to admit, I was mightily impressed.
The story of SK-II started at a sake brewery in Japan, where scientists noticed that elderly workers, despite their wrinkled face, had beautiful soft hands as a result of being in constant contact with the sake fermentation process. Eventually, scientists isolated the miracle ingredient responsible for holding back the years – Pitera, a naturally-occurring liquid from the fermentation process. It contains a blend of vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids that help enable the skin’s natural rejuvenation process by regenerating its outer layer (who else is picturing a Doctor Who style regeneration round about now?!). All of SK-II’s skincare products contain Pitera but the Facial Treatment Essence contains the most, with a whopping 90% of the liquid made up of the stuff.
An interesting story and brilliant brand mythology yet who cares about some wrinkled crones with pretty hands unless the stuff actually works, right?! Had those scientists just knocked back a few too many sakes down the factory or was there something to this Pitera lark?!
The essence is a transparent, slightly hay-tinged liquid with a similar consistency and place in your routine as toner. However, whilst toners have tended to either break me out or uncomfortably tighten me up, the Facial Essence has none of these effects. It’s as gentle as a kiss from a butterfly, so gentle you can even use it over sensitive areas, like your eyes and lips. It absorbs quickly without a trace and leaves no residue.
But the most noteworthy thing about SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence is the smell. It’s a strong sour scent, somewhere between rice wine vinegar and (for me) Thai fish gravy! Not usually the sort of smell you’d associate with skincare for sure! It’s not exactly unpleasant, more surprising, but you quickly get used to it. I guess it’s all that Pitera… so whilst those elderly workers might have had lovely hands, I’m not sure they would have smelt so hot after all those years down the factory!
All the instructions for the Facial Treatment Essence were in Japanese but application is simple. Splash a few drops of the essence onto some cotton wool morning and evening, pat all over the face and you’re done! There is even a handy diagram to illustrate:
I was slightly dubious about seeing tangible effects from the essence, as despite all the ‘miracle water’ worshipping, mention of what it actually did seemed rather vague. But after a few weeks, the evidence was clear. There’s a reason the formula for this hasn’t changed in 30 years – it works. Wonders.
My skin is softer. My skin is brighter. My skin is clearer. I have fewer breakouts and when I do get the occasional blemish, it’s seems to clear up quicker and without as much aggravation. My complexion is more even and less prone to blotchiness and redness. Dry patches (by my nose, lips and one particularly troublesome area near my eye that richer eye creams made worse and normal moisturisers aren’t supposed to be applied there) are now nourished and non-flaky. Similarly, oilier areas seem more controlled too. My skin feels supple and hydrated, neither too greasy nor too dry, throughout the entire day and night. The Facial Treatment Essence claims to balance the skin’s pH and sebum secretion and my skin really does now feel perfectly-balanced.
How do I know all this? After about a month and a half of using the essence, I stopped. And basically, the opposite of all the above started happening!
I’m not a huge fan of having to use cotton wool so frequently in my beauty routine as I find it quite wasteful but having experimented with trying to splash it directly onto my hands and dab it on (which wasted a lot of product both in spillage and it absorbing into your fingers), this is the best way. It probably also contributes to the cleaning process, meaning my skin really does look crystal-clear and radiant. The only things I can think of that the essence doesn’t help with are pore size, blackheads or providing really intense rich moisturising.
The downside – the cost (allegedly due to the difficulties and expenses of churning out all that Pitera, with only limited quantities produced). Used twice a day, even sparingly, I think you’d be lucky to get much more than six months out of the 215ml bottle.
I love that it’s suitable for all skin types, for all ages and can be used all over the face. The effects are subtle but noticeable, giving you a youthful natural glow. In short, it’s a wonderful addition to any beauty routine.
One bottle of SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is sold every 28 seconds, with over 20 million bottles sold to date. Well, it’s now 20 million and one. Chalk me up with the statistics – I’m converted! Miracle water all the way!
SK-II Miracle Water… oops, I mean Facial Treatment Essence, $980 for 215ml; see all SK-II locations in Hong Kong here