Upon my first introduction to the essence category back in 2011 as a budding beauty editor, I was less than impressed. Most of them look like clear water, so I was convinced it was the snake oil of skin care. Is it a toner? No. Is it a chemical exfoliant? No. Well, what could a liquidy product devoid of acids really do for my face? Then, I was gifted a bottle of the iconic SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which most beauty editors openly fawn over.
It looks like water — just like the rest — but this formula is packed with the proprietary Pitera complex. Pitera was discovered when scientists realized that Japanese sake makers had ageless hands. Now, a similar yeast and fermentation process is used to create the vitamin and mineral-rich ingredient that stars in many SK-II products.
For me, this essence immediately gets rid of that tight feeling my cleanser leaves behind. I notice that my brown skin looks instantly brighter. To apply, I pour about a teaspoon of the essence into my palm then I rub my hands together and pat it on my face and neck. Repeat. This product is like a booster for every product you layer on top. Serums sink in faster. Creams seem to moisturize longer. And it takes the sting out of chemical exfoliants, too. I’ve combined it with hundreds of products, and I’ve never had a bad reaction.
I can honestly say it’s one of the only beauty products that I’m still using 10 years after I was first introduced to it (this and Dove body wash make my very short G.O.A.T. list). I can’t say that I still look like my 21-year-old self… it’s not a time machine. But during the brief times, when I’ve slacked on my SK-II essence habit, my skin didn’t have the same radiance and would dry out faster. There’s a reason why this essence has made our 2020 Best of Beauty list, yet again.
Check out the full list of Allure’s 2020 Best of Beauty winners.