Read the Label: SK-II Facial Treatment Essence


SK-II is a prestigious Asian brand of Procter & Gamble. Its signature product, Facial Treatment Essence, is based on a sake ferment Pitera (INCI: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate), a clear liquid containing vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids.

Derived from a strictly controlled natural fermentation process, Pitera is a combination of nutrients that improve the skin’s natural surface rejuvenation process. It is said to bear a close resemblance to the skin’s natural moisturizing factors, a deciding element in the restoration and enhancement of translucency, softness and smoothness.

Traditionally, sake brewers have observed soft, youthful hands by being in constant contact with fermented sake. Researching more than 350 yeast strains, scientists spent over a decade trying to isolate the single yeast strain that benefits the skin most.1

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence claims are numerous; the essence is said to help improve the appearance of beautiful, clear skin. With this product, spots are less visible, the appearance of wrinkles is reduced, skin texture is more refined, firmness is improved and radiance is increased. The formula is designed to gently exfoliate and help moderate the skin surface renewal cycle. This product penetrates easily and it is further said to replenish skin hydration and help prevent dryness.

This column will review the ingredient listing for claims substantiation and functionality.

The incredibly simple formulation is based on a water and Saccharomycopsis ferment filtrate (SFF) system. The texture is modified by butylene and pentylene glycols, used as viscosity-enhancing and skin-conditioning solvents. Preservatives include sodium benzoate, methylparaben and sorbic acid.

Research published on the benefits of SFF has shown it inhibits the production of the inflammatory agent nitric oxide; it also prevents epidermal damage.2 The up-regulation of tight junction-related proteins and an increase in human epidermal keratinocyte barrier function3 have been reported as well.

Although preservation of this water-based system is imperative, viscosity-modulating with inexpensive glycols could be improved upon. However, in my view, the high level of SFF in the formula is in line with hydration and mild exfoliation claims made and can, potentially, extend to enhanced radiance and refined texture. Without the availability of clinical data to evaluate claims substantiation, the extent of these benefits is difficult to predict.

Ingredients: Saccharomycopsis Ferment Filtrate (Pitera), Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Water (aqua), Sodium Benzoate, Methylparaben, Sorbic Acid.

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