Brand Breakdown: SK-II

Brand Breakdown: SK-II

Prestigious Japanese Skincare with Real Results

SK-II is a Japanese-based multinational beauty brand with premium skincare solutions sold in East Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia. Since launching in December 1980, SK-II has reached millions of men and women, transforming their complexions into crystal-clear skin.


Brand History

It all started in 1970s Japan, where scientists were searching for naturally derived skincare ingredients. While observing some elderly workers at a sake brewery, the researchers noticed the workers’ surprisingly smooth, clear, and young-looking hands; the skin was smooth after years of submerging their hands in fermented yeast.

It was out of 350 kinds of yeast known at that time that researchers discovered SK-II’s “holy grail” ingredient, the special strain of yeast from which PITERA is derived. The scientists spent more than five years isolating this single yeast strain, and even after 40 years of further research and development, PITERA’s recipe remains unchanged.


More on PITERA

All SK-II products contain PITERA, a natural bio ingredient made up of more than 50 micronutrients. This clear liquid is rich in vitamins to condition the skin, amino acids to provide and maintain moisture, minerals to improve skin texture, and organic acids to remove and prevent the excess build-up of dead skin cells for a bright, translucent, and healthy complexion.

This combination of nutrients helps dramatically improve the skin’s natural surface rejuvenation process, and it’s similar to the skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factors, which aid in the restoration and enhancement of skin translucency, softness, and smoothness.

PITERA fights the appearance of uneven skin and dark spots, provides anti-oxidant benefits by removing free radicals that contribute to the appearance of skin aging, minimizes the oily look of skin, and makes pores visibly smaller.


SK-II Skincare Routine

We’ve also created a full skincare routine with some of SK-II’s best-selling and most popular products!


Cleanse Your Skin

Every routine starts with clean skin. SK-II’s Facial Treatment Cleanser intensely hydrates the skin as it gently removes impurities for a clean, silky soft complexion. It is a creamy foaming wash that gently exfoliates away dead skin cells to aid in the absorption of the next skincare treatments while creating a soft, smooth texture and radiant appearance.

As well as including PITERA, this cleanser also features a relaxing rose scent, SymCalmin, and White Willow Extract—which contains soothing, exfoliating, and sebum-balancing salicylic acid—to help support skin smoothness, water retention, and barrier function.

Guys can also try SK-II’s Men Moisturizing Cleanser, which removes impurities such as dirt and oil from the skin and pores to create a smooth, clear complexion without drying it out. By removing impurities from the face, this cleanser creates a firm, radiant appearance and feels refreshing.


Tone It Up

After cleansing, apply a toner. Cleansing the skin can only get rid of so much, while toner absorbs quickly to control dirt and oil deep in the pores. SK-II’s Facial Treatment Clear Lotion hydrates and brightens the complexion while evening its tone and texture for a healthy, smooth, youthful, and illuminated look. It also uses Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)—which are chemical exfoliants derived from sugar cane and other plant sources—to remove the dead skin as the PITERA hydrates and visibly reverses skin damage and aging.

The lightweight and watery texture of this clarifying formula penetrates the skin for a clear and purified look as well.



Relax With A Mask

If you need some extra hydration, SK-II’s Facial Treatment Mask intensely moisturizes the skin to even its tone and texture while improving its firmness and elasticity. These masks create a soft, smooth, radiant, and youthful complexion in as little as five to ten minutes.



Soak Up The Essence

Arguably SK-II’s most popular and famous product, with a bottle selling every two seconds, the Facial Treatment Essence smooths the skin and creates a dewy, luminous look. It features an unprecedentedly lightweight texture that mimics the skin’s natural flora to help absorb close to 100% of its goodness while minimizing signs of aging and making the skin soft, radiant, resilient, and even-toned.

The Facial Treatment Essence contains 90% PITERA, and Suda Sudarsana, SK-II’s foremost research and development expert on this essence, says that it, “comes out of the fermentation tanks, straight into the bottle.” This is why, as Sudarsana says, “when you open the bottle, it has the smell of fermentation. It would be the easiest thing for a scientist to change that — make it fruity, citrus, or floral. But we believe Facial Treatment Essence shouldn’t include anything other than what is required by the skin.”

Luckily, this scent is light, and it fades as the essence is absorbed into the skin.

Essences are packed with vitamins and minerals that absorb quickly and easily to nourish the skin.  The Facial Treatment hydrates the face to help prevent dryness and moderate the skin surface renewal cycle.

Once again, men also have the additional option of SK-II’s Men Facial Treatment Essence, which takes the original Facial Treatment Essence and specially formulates it for men’s skin needs. It’s an anti-aging, hydrating essence that creates crystal-clear skin by minimizing dark spots and wrinkles, refining the skin’s texture, and firming the face.



Apply Serums

While essences help renew the skin overall, serums target specific skincare concerns, such as wrinkles, dark spots, or dryness. SK-II has the GenOptics Aura Essence Serum—which reduces the look of spots for an even tone and healthy glow—and the SKINPOWER Essence, which minimizes the appearance of pores and lines for a smooth texture. Both also contain PITERA, which is full of those anti-aging benefits.



Add Hydration

Keeping skin moisturized is as important for oily skin as it is for dry. SK-II’s Skinpower Cream plumps normal and dry skin with hydration from within, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles for a refined texture, fuller structure, and bouncy, supple complexion. It melts into the skin to visibly improve dryness, firmness, and elasticity for a healthy and youthful look, making it great not only for dry skin but also before bed and during dry, winter weather.

As well as PITERA, which hydrates and visibly reverses skin damage and aging, it also uses InfinitPower Technology—an exclusive skin-plumping cocktail of calla lily extract, Dokudami extract, and peony extract—and Niacinamide, a vitamin B3 complex that improves skin barrier function, firmness, and brightness.

There’s also the lightweight and anti-aging Skinpower Airy Milky Lotion, which absorbs quickly and gives the complexion a healthy, radiant glow, making it perfect for hot summer weather and oilier complexions. It moisturizes and plumps the skin to minimize the appearance of pores and fine lines to create a smoother, supplier, more elastic texture.



Eye Cream Time

The skin around the eyes is some of the thinnest and most easily compromised on our bodies, so the eye area needs extra care. SK-II’s Skinpower Eye Cream hydrates the dry eye area for a smoother and more luminous appearance.

Not only does the skin look and feel more supple and smooth, but this anti-aging eye cream minimizes pores and fine lines for a youthful look. It also absorbs quickly to create a bouncy and elastic texture while making the eyes appear larger and healthier.


Final Step: Protect

The most important step for daytime skincare is SPF protection, as sun damage is one of the biggest causes of skin dullness. Covering your face with at least SPF 30 and PA++ UV protection is your first line of defense.

For SPF coverage combined with tone-evening color, SK-II’s lightweight Atmosphere CC Cream protects against sun damage with UVB-blocking SPF 50 and UVA-shielding PA++++. It’s a tinted sunscreen that provides hydration as well as light coverage to conceal spots and minimize imperfections while adding a healthy iridescent glow.


Other Options

As well as these popular skincare products, SK-II has a range of other options, from a Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil and Facial Treatment Gentle Cleanser to the LXP Ultimate line, Facial Lift Emulsion, Skinpower Essence, and Whitening Derm-Revival Mask.

If picking just one or two products from all of these options sounds too daunting, or if you want to try out some of the formulas before investing in full-sized bottles, there are also several trial kits available. The Pitera First Experience Kit includes the Facial Treatment EssenceFacial Treatment Clear Lotion, and Facial Treatment Mask, the Pitera Experience Kit 2 comes with the Facial Treatment Clear LotionFacial Treatment Essence, Skinpower Cream, and Skinpower Eye Cream, and the Bestseller Trial Kit comes with the Facial Treatment EssenceFacial Treatment Gentle CleanserSkinpower Cream, and one Facial Treatment Mask.

There are also sets like the Skinpower Series Set with the Skinpower Cream and Skinpower Eye Cream to get all that Skinpower goodness, the Whitening Series Aura Care Essentials Collection with the GenOptics Aura Essence Serum and Facial Treatment Essence for a brighter complexion, and the Pitera Deluxe Hydrating Set with the Facial Treatment Clear Lotion, Facial Treatment Essence, and Facial Lift Emulsion for soft, moisturized skin.

Discover more incredible skincare solutions from SK-II here.

For questions, concerns, or article ideas, feel free to reach out to our eCosmetics Beauty Editor directly at [email protected]