I got my SK-II Pitera Essence Set quite a while ago at one of their stores, while I was waiting endlessly for Mr. A to OT, at a mall, on a public holiday. I paid $450 for it, and the price has raised to $530 today.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is the star product of the entire SK-II line. It is nicknamed "Miracle Potion" in Hong Kong, and "Youth Dew" in Taiwan. Due to its popularity and fame, there are a lot of myths and mis-conception about this Essence. The biggest of them all is the mysterious ingredient Pitera.
What is Pitera? Senior skin care researcher for the company, Dawn French says the main ingredient, pitera, is not a yeast extract common in many cosmetics. She says SK2 uses a unique yeast only found in one place in Japan, and through a special process, the yeast is turned into something else entirely. "Pitera is the broth that's made by the yeast. It is rich in amino acids, proteins, organics, acids." Source.
In the actual ingredient lists I got with the product, this Pitera didn't appear. Instead, "Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate" is used. Galactomyces, according to google search results and wikipedia, is a kind of fungi. Googling this word 'galactomyces' brings up a lot of new Korea skin care, Tony Moly has an essence to offer, for instance.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence - Joyeux Jacq
It is a good product, and one of my favourites, but not yet Black Jacq status. After cleansing and toning, apply this in tapping motion using hands, or soaked cotton pads. This is the common method to use, day and/or night, but not my favourite. My favourite way to use it, is to soak several thin cotton pads in this, and lay it all over my face, in the fashion of a lotion-mask (or toner-mask). Note: I soaked my Naruko cotton in this, then tear it into thin layers. For just 3 to 5 minutes, skin is significantly brighter and moister, pores much smaller. This Treatment Essence DIY mask replaced my morning moisturiser for a week straight before I flew to Taiwan for the shoot. That week, my skin was maintained at very clear and baby soft condition!
Ingredients: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Water, Sodium Benzoate, Methylparaben, Sorbic Acid
SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion - Black Jacq
If you have been reading or experimenting with skin exfoliation, you may have learnt about chemical exfoliation in the form of acids and enzymes. This is one of those exfoliating toners. This SK-II toner has both Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA) in the form of Salicylic Acid, and Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA) in the form of Malic and Lactic Acids.
On a cotton pad, twice a day, this is applied to face and neck in gentle wiping motion. I sometimes do circular massaging moves on my nose and cheeks where pore issues are more prominent. This toner is great in result, removing all dead skin cells and dirt, revealing brighter cleaner and smoother skin. On the other hand it also adds moderate hydration, not drying me out. The feeling left behind is fresh and crisp ("爽" - this word doesn't have a good English substitute!). I have been missing this toner ever since I finished it up, I need to repurchase!
Ingredients: Water, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Butylene Glycol, PEG-20 Sorbitan Cocoate, Glycerin, Methylparaben, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-150, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Citrate, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate, Salicylic Acid, Malic Acid, Lactic Acid
|1 packaging / 2 before / 3 during / 4 after|
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask - Non Jacq
I used this in the morning, before I had my pre-wedding photo-shoot. I woke up early, cleanse and tone, and throw this on. It is a thick cotton sheet soaked in the Pitera broth and more. The sheet is no good. I'm spoilt by the newer sheet textures in the market nowadays.) Also, the cutting of this thick heavy sheet didn't impress me. It does feel good on, and a little luxurious. Scent is similar to the Treatment Essence, and feels refreshing and cooling. The result is bright, soft, moist skin with a crisp feeling, not sticky at all.
All in all, I prefer soaking cotton pads in the Treatment Essence and use that as mask instead of this.
Ingredients: Water, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Butylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Salicylate, Methylparaben, Disodium EDTA
Dos and Don'ts with Facial Treatment Essence
- Do - Use Facial Treatment Essence in conjunction with an exfoliating toner. SK-II recommends their own brand Facial Treatment Clear Lotion, but you can pick your own.
- Don't - Use Facial Treatment Essence alone as a toner, i.e. Pure product wastage! Chinese SK-II video by Taiwan doctor Qiu (邱) on this issue, link.
- Do - Do a patch test and increase dosage gradually, especially if you have sensitive or thin skin.
- Don't - Over-dose. I use this once a day, either as a lotion-mask in the morning or a patting pre-essence in the evening.
- Do - Get a sample, or buy a trial set, or go to the counter and test it out.
- Don't - Shell out for the big size or jumbo size before trying. It is not cheap and it may not do anything for your skin.
- Do - Know that these are fragrance-free and has a distinct aroma. The company says the smell comes from the fermentation with special yeasts to produce Pitera. I would describe Facial Treatment Essence as having a faint bad cocktail drink scent. Qiu also explained it on SK-II HK's youtube channel.
- Don't - Expect this to smell like Dior.
Last but not least, links to more Q&A videos regarding this SK-II Essence, by SK-II with Qiu:
- Why would some find Facial Treatment Essence ineffective? http://youtu.be/ez-hsIRCDXs
(You need to use it in the correct way and results differ on individuals...)
- Will it thins out the skin? http://youtu.be/CS8KtB9Yd8Q
(No, it is not strong enough as other exfoliants...)
- Is it true if started using too soon, the Essence will lose its effect? http://youtu.be/YMxv23OG7UU
(No, no evidence showing that...)
SK-II is quite a controversial brand/product. People who love it worship it whole-heartedly. People who do not, try all means to bash it. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle. Knowing what Pitera (or yeast, or sake wine, or exfoliation) is, helps me make a more humble expectation of what SK-II can deliver. The result is fine, and I like it. For the price, it is not disappointing, nor over-whelming.
The one biggest thing I do not like about this brand is its extravagant, over-whelming advertisements. Every year they hire new and more spokespersons, and more money is spent on printed or TV commercials. This simply means, however good or bad the product itself is, a lot of the cash I pay is going to fund the celebrities, not the labs. That being said, if they hire Shu Qi as their spokesperson again, I may buy a bottle or two to support my favourite movie star. ;)
Will I repurchase? I will most probably get the Clear Lotion as an exfoliating toner; and definite No for the mask. Treatment Essence is good too, I really enjoy using it as soaked-cotton-pad-mask. It is very nice to use under make up and to maintain skin's condition. However, I have recently encountered a very impressive serum (more on that later), so I may not need Treatment Essence for my big day.