SK-II Review: A Review of The 10 Best SK-II Products - The Dermatology Review

SK-II Review: A Review of The 10 Best SK-II Products

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

05.10.21DISCLAIMER

SK-II is a Japanese brand of luxury skin care products that has an interesting beginning. Back in the 1970s, SK-II scientists began searching for natural ingredients that would “make beautiful skin a reality for every woman.” After researching numerous possibilities, the ideal ingredient still eluded them.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2021?

It was only by chance that SK-II scientists found themselves in a sake brewery in Japan where they noticed that while the elderly workers had wrinkled faces, they had extraordinarily soft and youthful-looking hands. This discovery inspired a thorough search that involved over 350 kinds of yeast.

Finally, the researchers found the unique yeast strain that held the secret to beautiful skin — Pitera. You’ll find Pitera in the brand’s most popular product, the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, as well as throughout the collection of SK-II skin care products. 

But is Pitera really THE ingredient to give you crystal clear skin? To answer this question, we’ll have to evaluate the research behind Pitera, as well as the supporting key ingredients in SK-II products. We’ll also share SK-II reviews so that you can get an idea of what customers really think of these products. 

What Are The Top 10 Best SK-II Products?

The SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is by far the brand’s most popular product, with one bottle sold every 2 seconds. But the SK-II collection also includes cleansers, toners, masks, serums, moisturizers, eye care, and more. Below is a breakdown of the top 10 best SK-II products. 

 

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence

  • A lightweight facial essence that is said to help you “achieve your best skin ever”, no matter your skin type or concern
  • Specifically, this SK-II essence is said to moisturize, soften and smoothen texture, reduce appearance of dark spots and fine lines due to dryness, enhance radiance, even skin tone, and more
  • Recommended for all skin types; ideal for those with signs of aging, dull complexion, dark spots, or rough texture
  • Contains more than 90% Pitera
  • Contains methylparaben as the preservative
  • Fragrance free

 

SK-II Facial Treatment Mask

  • A facial sheet mask infused with Pitera
  • Recommended to be used two times daily (morning and night)
  • Recommended for all skin types; ideal for those with signs of aging, dull complexion, dark spots, or rough texture
  • Contains methylparaben as the preservative
  • Fragrance free

 

SK-II SkinPower Cream

  • An anti-aging face cream that is said to melt into skin to intensely hydrate and lock in moisture, restoring skin’s bounciness and suppleness.
  • Replaces SK-II RNA Power Cream
  • Key ingredients include Pitera, glycerin, niacinamide, shea butter, synthetic emollients, and silicones
  • Contains three parabens as preservatives
  • Contains a synthetic fragrance blend

 

SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner

  • This SK-II toner is said to remove stubborn impurities and prepare it for the rest of your regimen
  • Key ingredients include Pitera, sodium hyaluronate, and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • Contains methylparaben as the preservative
  • Fragrance free

 

SK-II SkinPower Eye Cream

  • This SK-II eye cream is said to “supercharge” skin in the eye area, making eyes appear bigger and youthful
  • Key ingredients include glycerin, Pitera, niacinamide, synthetic emollients, and silicones
  • Contains three parabens as preservatives
  • Contains a synthetic fragrance blend

 

SK-II GenOptics Aura Essence Serum

  • This SK-II essence serum is said to absorb quickly to improve dullness and help reduce the appearance of dark spots caused by sun damage for even, glowing skin
  • Key ingredients include glycerin, Pitera, and niacinamide
  • The brand claims that Japanese plum extract is a key ingredient, but this is very last on the list of ingredients (meaning it is the lowest concentration ingredient in this serum)
  • Contains methylparaben as the preservative
  • Contains a synthetic fragrance blend

 

SK-II GenOptics Spot Essence Serum

  • This SK-II essence serum is said to reveal your skin’s clarity for bright, even skin while also helping to prevent the formation of dark spots caused by UV exposure
  • Key ingredients include Pitera, niacinamide, glycerin, synthetic emollients, and silicones
  • Contains methylparaben as the preservative
  • Fragrance free

 

SK-II RNA Power Essence 

  • This SK-II essence serum is said to renew your skin’s youthful softness and refine texture for a pore-less, bouncy texture
  • Key ingredients include glycerin, Pitera, niacinamide, squalane, synthetic emollients, and silicones
  • Contains methylparaben as the preservative
  • Contains a synthetic fragrance blend

 

SK-II SkinPower Airy Milky Lotion

  • This SK-II moisturizer is said to boost skin’s bounciness and suppleness for a youthful, healthy look
  • Recommended for warmer climates or oily skin type
  • Key ingredients include glycerin, Pitera, niacinamide, squalane, synthetic emollients, and silicones
  • Contains three parabens as preservatives
  • Contains a synthetic fragrance blend

 

SK-II LXP Ultimate Revival Cream

  • This SK-II moisturizer is said to provide rich hydration for firm, radiant skin
  • Key ingredients include glycerin, Pitera, niacinamide, jojoba oil, synthetic emollients, and silicones
  • Contains two parabens as preservatives
  • Contains a synthetic fragrance blend

Which SK-II Essence is Best?

SK-II formulates quite a few different essences, but it’s clear that the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is best based on the SK-II reviews for this product. Also, we believe the simple formula with 90% Pitera and no added fragrance is better than the other essences.

The only drawback is that the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence contains methylparaben as a preservative. We’ll discuss the potential problems with this ingredient in the next section.

What Are The Key Ingredients in SK-II Products?

You already know that Pitera is the key ingredient in SK-II products. But is Pitera really the key to “crystal clear skin”? Our first thought was: if Pitera truly is a “miracle” ingredient that does everything that brand says it can do, then why would they even bother formulating other products? Why not just sell the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, since apparently this product can “do it all”?

Keeping that in mind, let’s talk more about what Pitera even is. Also known as galactomyces ferment filtrate, Pitera is a yeast extract derived from a strictly controlled natural fermentation process. It is a clear liquid that contains over 50 micronutrients, and is an excellent source of peptides, proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, and organic acids.

All of these nutrients contribute to replenishing the skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF). According to an article by Practical Dermatology,the NMF is composed principally of free amino acids, and various derivatives of these amino acids such as PCA, urocanic acid, and inorganic salts, sugars, as well as lactic acid and urea. All of these substances work together to keep the skin’s surface intact, supple, and hydrated.

However, the NMF can become depleted as we age, and also from routine exposure to sensitizing ingredients like drying cleansing agents and denatured alcohol. The result is visibly dry, tight-feeling, flaky skin. Therefore, using ingredients that replenish the components of the NMF — such as Pitera in the SK-II products — can help to maintain skin hydration. The result is skin that appears more smooth, hydrated, and firm. 

Furthermore, some research suggests that Pitera can reduce the appearance of dark spots. For example, an in vitro study (a study in a test tube, not on humans) published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that Pitera can reduce the appearance of skin pigmentation by reducing melanin content in melanocytes. 

Pitera also functions to soothe the skin with its anti-irritant properties. Fermented ingredients reduce the risk of skin irritation by neutralizing toxic substances, such as heavy metals and pesticides that may be present in trace amounts. By neutralizing toxins, PITERA makes the SK-II products safer, more effective, and better tolerated for sensitive skin types.

The final way that Pitera benefits the skin is by facilitating the absorption of other skin care ingredients. The benefits of fermented ingredients like Pitera in skin care are similar to the benefits provided by fermented foods and digestive enzyme supplements, which aid in the absorption and digestion of the nutrients you consume. In skin care products, microorganisms like bacteria or yeast release enzymes that break down other ingredients into smaller molecules. Active ingredients in skin care products are often too large to penetrate deeply into the skin, so by breaking them down into smaller molecules, PITERA facilitates the absorption of these ingredients. Better absorption leads to better results.

Another key ingredient that you’ll find in almost all SK-II products is niacinamide. Niacinamide is the amide form of vitamin B3 (niacin) that provides many benefits to the skin. For instance, a publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling. 

While the SK-II products do contain beneficial ingredients like Pitera and niacinamide, they also contain potentially harmful ingredients like parabens and synthetic fragrances. 

Nearly all SK-II products contain one or more paraben. Parabens are preservatives used to extend the shelf life of a product by preventing microbial contamination. The use of parabens in cosmetics and skin care products is controversial because there is conflicting research on the potential health consequences of long term exposure to parabens. 

According to the EWG, parabens can act like the hormone estrogen in the body and disrupt the normal function of hormone systems affecting male and female reproductive system functioning, reproductive development, fertility, and birth outcomes. Parabens are easily absorbed into the skin, which means that continuously using products that contain parabens could lead to elevated estrogen levels.

Lastly, the synthetic fragrance blend used in most SK-II products is concerning because the brand can use a proprietary blend of chemicals to create the fragrance, and they do not have to disclose which chemicals they use on the label. They are allowed to list this blend as “Fragrance (Parfum)” on the ingredient list.

A 2018 study by Women’s Voices for the Earth discovered that in over 3,000 chemicals reportedly used for fragrances, 1,242 were chemicals of concern – and that included at least 7 possible carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agents. Fragrance ingredients also have the potential to cause skin irritation and sensitivity.  

Where to Buy SK-II Products?

SK-II products are sold on the brand’s website, as well as many third party online retailers, such as Sephora, Costco, Macy’s, Dermstore, and more. 

What is The SK-II Return Policy?

The SK-II return policy states, “We offer a 30-day return policy for products purchased at SK-II.com. If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it within 30 days of receiving your order.”

Is SK-II Cruelty Free?

SK-II is not cruelty free. SK-II is owned by Procter & Gamble, a company that tests on animals. SK-II also sells its products in stores in mainland China where animal testing is required by law. 

SK-II Reviews

SK-II reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive. The product with the most reviews is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which has earned an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars after more than 2,400 customer reviews. 

Many of the 5-star reviews for this SK-II essence sound very similar: customers love the results and comment on the high price tag, but most say that it is worth it.

For example, one SK-II review says, “I love this essence. I would say this is the best essence that I have ever had. I can see my skin brighter, firmer, and my pores look tighter. Though the price is very pricey for a toner, it is known for “Miracle Water” for a reason! Highly recommended!”

Then, there are quite a few 1-star reviews for the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence from customers who do not think it’s worth the price, and many were disappointed that they didn’t see any results after using this product. 

For example, one SK-II review says, “I don’t think it’s worth the price. It left me feeling a little more greasy than I would like. I expect a lot more from SK-II. I also didn’t notice much difference after using it for some time. I would rather spend my money on a better serum or retinol.”

And other customers experienced breakouts after using this SK-II essence. For example, one reviewer shares, “Broke me out in large painful spots on my cheeks, where I usually don’t get spots. Was really hoping it would help with texture, as I had heard some really great things on social media. not worth the price unfortunately – especially if you are prone to breakouts or have sensitive skin.”

Our Verdict

Overall, we don’t recommend SK-II for several reasons, and we honestly don’t believe the possible benefits of Pitera outweigh the list of problems with these products. 

Pros

  • There is some research that supports the benefits of Pitera
  • Many positive SK-II reviews

Cons

  • Products contain parabens
  • Products contain synthetic fragrances
  • High price point (SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is $99 for 2.5 fl oz, SK-II LXP Ultimate Revival Cream is $385 for 1.6 oz)
  • SK-II is not cruelty free

What Are Some Alternatives to SK-II Products?

Since we don’t recommend the SK-II products, we’d like to give you a few alternatives to consider. If you’re looking for skin care products to address the signs of aging, one brand we recommend is Formulyst. Formulyst maximizes the use of powerful ingredients and minimizes the use of superficial ones, resulting in clinically advanced skin care solutions that help promote healthy, more youthful-looking skin.

For hydrated and dewy looking skin, try Formulyst Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer. Hyaluronic acid helps keep skin plumped, hydrated, and dewy looking. This oil free formula is packed with multiple types of hyaluronic acid and it works as a moisture magnet by drawing water to the skin.

Another brand that balances the power of plants with cutting edge science is Carrot & Stick. Not only is Carrot & Stick good for your skin, it is also good for the environment as the formulas skip harmful chemicals commonly found in skin care products.

References:
J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Feb; 3(2): 22–41
Practical Dermatology “Understanding the Role of Natural Moisturizing Factor in Skin Hydration” Joseph Fowler, MD, FAAD
July 2012

3JAAD. 2014 May; 70(5):
EWG “What Are Parabens, And Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?” April 2019
Women’s Voices for the Earth “Unpacking The Fragrance Industry” 2018

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Carrot & Stick

Carrot & Stick takes a tough love approach to skincare. What does this mean? It perfectly balances the power of plants with innovative science, offering the best of both worlds.Read More
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Formulyst

The philosophy of Formulyst is long-term and effective skincare, rather than covering up any imperfections. The comprehensive line of products tackles everything from wrinkles to dark spots and dry skin. While some brands rely on unnecessary fillers and scents, Formulyst focuses on ingredients that help create results, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.Read More
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SK-II Facial Treatment Essence Review

SK-II is a Japanese brand of luxury skin care products that has an interesting beginning. Back in the 1970s, SK-II scientists began searching for natural ingredients that would “make beautiful skin a reality for every woman.” After researching numerous possibilities, the ideal ingredient still eluded them. It was only by...
INGREDIENTS

Sk II Genoptics Aura Essence Review

SK II Genoptics Aura Essence is a lightweight brightening serum that is said to absorb quickly to improve dullness and help reduce dark spots caused by sun damage for even, glowing skin. The key ingredient in this serum is GenOptics Aura Complex, a skin brightening complex containing PITERA, Demelano P3C, and prunus extract. PITERA, also known as galactomyces ferment filtrate, is SK II’s signature ingredient. It is a yeast extract derived from a strictly controlled natural fermentation process, resulting in a clear liquid that contains over 50 micronutrients. It is an excellent source of peptides, proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, and organic acids. The combination of these nutrients is said to provide powerful anti-aging and hydrating properties.

SK II Genoptics Aura Essence also contains a high concentration of niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that plays a vital role in cellular metabolism. Niacinamide also has the ability to repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling. Lastly, SK II Genoptics Aura Essence features ume extract, a Japanese plum extract with antioxidant and anti-glycation properties. It also helps prevent the appearance of dullness.

INGREDIENTS

Sk II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Review

SK II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner is a hydrating toner that is said to help remove stubborn impurities to reveal your skin’s true radiance and prepare it for the rest of your regimen. This toner contains SK II’s signature ingredient PITERA, also known as galactomyces ferment filtrate, which is a yeast extract derived from a strictly controlled natural fermentation process. PITERA is a clear liquid that contains over 50 micronutrients and is an excellent source of peptides, proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, and organic acids. The combination of these nutrients is said to provide powerful anti-aging and hydrating properties.

SK II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner also contains two alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs): lactic acid and malic acid. AHAs exfoliate the skin by targeting corneocytes (dead skin cells that make up the top layers of skin) in a process called corneocyte desquamation. By enhancing their breakdown and increasing the separation of skin cells, the rate of cell turnover is increased, leading to smoother, brighter skin. Lastly, SK II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion Toner includes sodium hyaluronate, the salt form of hyaluronic acid. Sodium hyaluronate is an exceptional ingredient for adding hydration to the skin. It draws in moisture from the environment and can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Sodium hyaluronate may also help to plump the skin and temporarily reduce signs of aging.

INGREDIENTS

SK II Essential Power Rich Cream Review

SK II has become famous around the globe for their cult favorite product, the First Treatment Essence. But what you may not know about the brand is that they actually have an entire line devoted to the active ingredient behind this incredibly popular best seller, including products like the SK II Essential Power Rich Cream. Like the First Treatment Essence, this product contains Pitera, the iconic, active blend behind the brand, features a combination of essential nutrients which help to encourage healthy skin processes. This ingredient also helps to rejuvenate the skin and eliminate signs of stress, dullness and even fine lines and wrinkles. In addition to the active ingredients within this formula, the Essential Power Rich Cream also includes a blend of humectants, emollients and occlusives which work together to hydrate and nourish dry, dehydrated skin while also reinforcing the skin’s natural moisture barrier.

INGREDIENTS

SK II Overnight Miracle Mask Review

If you’re looking for a super quick skin pick me up, you may want to look out for the SK II Overnight Miracle Mask. These little pods may look unassuming, but the pack quite a punch. This formula contains the power of pitera and sleeping tree extract to combat signs of fatigue so that you wake up with energized, radiant and clear skin. Pitera is the star ingredient for many, if not all of the SK II hero products. This fermented rice water helps to smooth and soften the skin and is rich in vitamins, organic acids, minerals, and amino acids. The idea behind this product is to use one, simple, all in one treatment to repair the damage that stress, late nights and environmental damage can cause. To get the most out of this product, the brand recommend that you simply cleanse the skin to remove any dirt, debri and left over makeup, and then apply the Overnight Miracle Mask. And that’s it! The mask will do the work of a serum, a moisturizer and a mask in one, travel friendly product. Because of this, we’d recommend this product for those of you who are looking for an instant pick up me product for late nights or long flights.

INGREDIENTS

SK-II Power Cream Review

The SK-II Power Cream was designed to act as a potent, anti-aging moisturizer that features some of the same star ingredients that SK-II is known for. The main actives in this formula include Pitera, chlorella extract and the RNArchitect complex. Pitera is the iconic ingredient that has been used in cult favorite products like the First Treatment Essence. This form of rice extract has been fermented in order to boost the ingredients efficacy. Rice is an excellent brightening and soothing ingredient that has been used for centuries in skincare. In addition to Pitera the RNArchitect complex uses soy and yeast proteins which help to boost firmness as well as radiance. Finally, chlorella extract offers a range of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals that help to protect and nourish the skin while also boosting the skin’s natural moisture barrier.

SK-II R.N.A. POWER Eye Cream Review

SK-II has gained cult status with their iconic First Treatment Essence, but this brand actually offers so much more than just this product. The SK-II R.N.A Power Eye Cream, for example, is a potent eye cream that features the same hero ingredient that you’ll find in the First Treatment Essence. Pitera is, in it’s most simple form, a fermented rice extract. Rice water has been used for centuries for soothing and brightening the complexion. But by fermenting this ingredient, SK-II has been able to increase the potency of rice in order to deliver more noticeable results in a shorter amount of time. In addition to this ingredient, the Power Eye Cream also features the Radical New Age Complex. This complex contains hydrolyzed soy and yeast proteins which help to boost firmness around the eye area. This product, as well as many others in the SK-II product line have won over 347 beauty arounds around the world for their innovative formulas and dramatic results.

INGREDIENTS

SK-II Facial Treatment Mask Review

SK-II Facial Treatment Mask Review: Product Overview and Ingredient Information The SK-II Facial Treatment Mask is designed to offer its users relief from dry, dull skin. This product, which is sold by SK-II, a Procter and Gamble company, is a cotton mask that rests over the contours of the face and allows the skin to absorb the vitamins, minerals, and hydrating ingredients that it contains. The SK-II Facial Treatment Mask can be purchased directly from the company website, from other online skin care and cosmetics retailers. These masks are individually wrapped and come in packs of six or ten for a price that varies from $90-125. Because the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask is an expensive item to add to your beauty budget, you should understand its effects on the skin and what kind of results you can expect versus the ones you want to achieve, and read SK-II Mask reviews before deciding on a purchase.

How to Use SK-II Facial Treatment Mask

You should apply your SK-II Facial Treatment Mask to clean, dry skin. Try and avoid touching the serum contained on the mask before application to keep it sterile. Apply the mask firmly to your face and leave it on for up to fifteen minutes. You should not leave the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask on for longer than 30 minutes, as the serum may dry out on the sheet and not remain on your skin when you pull it away. Once you remove the sheet, do not rinse your face. If any extra serum from the SK-II Mask is visible on the skin, gently wipe it away with a moist cloth. Be sure that you follow all directions on the product package to avoid any unpleasant side effects or accidentally over-drying skin.

INGREDIENTS

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