SK-II Facial Treatment Essence Review

This page contains affiliate links, which means that if you click them and make a purchase I can earn a small commission. This post is not sponsored. I was sent this product for free in exchange for my honest review.

As much as I have a weakness for eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks, the one thing I never regret investing my money in is quality skincare. Makeup is fun and beautiful to look at, but nothing is more important to me than taking good care of the face it sits on top of. You can totally build a great regimen on a budget (check out this full skincare routine I’ve put together for under $100), but that’s not to say that luxury products are never worth the splurge. For me it’s all about getting bang for my buck. Do I want to drop an extra $40 or $50 for pretty packaging and a name? Not really. But if I’m investing in top-notch, effective ingredients that actually deliver as promised, I can get behind that. The tricky part is understanding what exactly you’re paying for before you hit that checkout button. And that, my friends, is why I’m here. I want to help you #educateyoself so you can make informed decisions about the things you’re spending your hard earned money on.

Recently I was sent two insanely splurgey products from Influenster to test and review – the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence and the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask. And when I say splurgey, we’re talking triple-digit-burn-a-hole-in-your-wallet-splurgey. There are very few products I’ve tried that are more expensive than these, which left me all the more curious as to whether or not they actually work. Now, I haven’t explored much of the Asian beauty scene, but I have heard many rumblings about how amazing this particular brand is. With innovative ingredients, SK-II products promise to transform your skin and deliver a youthful, radiant glow. Transform is a pretty powerful word, and an enticing one at that, but ultimately I need more than words to become a believer. So, in the name of science and informed consumerism, let’s get into this!

Before we get into the products themselves, I think a mini history lesson is needed. SK-II is a Japanese luxury skincare brand, currently owned by consumer-goods giant Proctor & Gamble. Formed in the 1980s, SK-II’s entire line revolves around Pitera, their signature ingredient. After studying numerous natural sources, SK-II scientists discovered that sake brewers, despite being exposed to a variety of potentially harsh conditions, had exceptionally youthful looking hands. After almost a decade of research, they were able to narrow down the exact strain of yeast responsible for this phenomenon. The end result? The birth of miracle ingredient Pitera into the world of skincare.

While Pitera may look a lot like water, it’s actually extremely rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. This nutrient rich composition aids your skin’s natural cycle of rejuvenation, promoting a firm, hydrated, crystal clear complexion. Unlike heavy oils and creams that sit on top of the skin, Pitera’s lightweight, waterlike consistency is quickly and efficiently absorbed, helping to maximize its effects.

SK-II’s signature product, the Facial Treatment Essence, is comprised of 90% Pitera (the other 10% being Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Water, Sodium Benzoate, Methylparaben and Sorbic Acid – aka conditioning agents and preservatives). This is a pretty impressive number, considering how often skincare brands try to suck you in with claims of having good-for-you ingredients that ultimately end up being less than 1% of the final formula. However, considering that a single 150ml bottle will set you back $165, I would hope that SK-II would deliver as much of it’s miracle ingredient as possible.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to use the FTE regularly at mornings and at night. It feels a lot like water, and has a very light and almost briny scent. Unlike a toner, you don’t apply this product with a cotton round. Instead, you sprinkle a few drops into your hand, massage your hands together to warm up the product, and press it into your skin. At first I was afraid I would accidentally pour out way too much into my palm and waste $5 of product. But the stopper at the top of the bottle makes it surprisingly easy to control.

The FTE does absorb into your skin very quickly and leaves it feeling smooth and firmed. However, I personally feel that it also leaves my skin feeling a little dry. I would definitely recommend following up with your usual moisturizer and sunscreen.

After making such impressive claims, I was hoping to see an immediate transformation of my skin. So far I can say that I’ve definitely noticed the overall texture is a bit smoother, but my large pores and occasional breakouts are still very much a thing. As much as my oily and acne prone skin has its downsides, the one upside is that my skin has yet to really show signs of aging, so I can’t speak to whether or not I’ve seen a decrease in things like fine lines or wrinkles. Ultimately, I will definitely continue to use the sample bottle that I was sent, but I’m not completely convinced that it’s worth investing over $100.

The second product I was sent to try was the Facial Treatment Mask. These cotton masks are soaked in a high concentration of Pitera for an instant skin boost. Each mask retails for a whopping $17, although you can save a bit by purchasing them in 6 or 10 packs. If you’re in need of a little pick-me-up, I’d highly recommend watching this video I made demonstrating how to use a sheet mask. Seeing how ridiculous I look will hopefully make you giggle.

Now, I’m still relatively new to the whole sheet mask concept, so I don’t have a huge frame of reference to compare this one to. The cotton it is made out of felt thick and luxurious, and it seemed to fit well enough on my face. Once the serum from the mask had completely absorbed into my skin it definitely felt smoother and firmer. I’m pretty sure that the effects also carried forward into the next day, with my makeup applying a little bit more smoothly and evenly.

The final verdict? As far as luxury skincare goes, I appreciate that these SK-II products use such an innovative ingredient, and at such a high concentration. While a glance at their prices might make you a little queasy, you can at least be assured that you aren’t paying an arm and a leg for a bunch of cheap fillers. If you’re really curious about Pitera, but aren’t ready to invest $100+ on a bottle of the Facial Treatment Essence, treating yourself to one of the masks is a slightly more budget friendly option. They would be a great way to pamper yourself pre-wedding or for another special event. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to use my FTE and see if I notice any long term differences in my skin. If it ends up being a total game changer, I’m sure you’ll be the first to hear about it!

Have you tried SK-II products before? What do you think about investing in high-end skincare?