What To REALLY Expect When Using SK-II Facial Treatment Essence For The First Time

ELLE’s senior digital writer and resident beauty buff spills all the deets on her experience with the best-selling Facial Treatment Essence from prestige skincare brand SK-II.


Hailed as the undisputed #OG essence for crystal-clear skin, SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence has built quite the rep for itself since its launch more than 35 years ago. I’ve used it on and off for years, mainly because I can’t commit with all the new lotions and potions to try in my line of work. 

But here's the thing: I find myself reaching for my trusty bottle whenever my skin needs time off to "breathe" and recover.

Let's start by assessing the condition of my complexion. I have sensitive skin that’s blotchy and easily inflamed, but am happy to report that the Facial Treatment Essence (which FYI is free of artificial fragrance) has always been gentle enough to use on my skin. Here's what a fortnight of twice-daily use has done for me:


First thoughts: This stuff is incredibly lightweight, but will it actually do anything for my skin? And with its hefty price tag, is SK-II worth it? It seems the answer is a resounding yes. The deceptively watery essence  is potent thanks to being packed with more than 90 percent of the J-beauty brand’s star ingredient Pitera™, a  bio-ingredient infused with 50 micro-nutrients that work in synergy to ramp up radiance and boost overall skin health. 

And you can expect virtually instant results, too: I noticed soft and supple skin from the very first application. 


Let's address the elephant in the room. Will you get used to the oft-commented-upon unique scent of the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence? Real talk: It does take some getting used to, but it's far from unbearable (trust me, I’ve smelt worst) and the good news is the scent doesn’t linger and dissipates rather quickly. Once you see the results, the smell is frankly inconsequential. Anything for beauty! 


I decided to whip out one of my tried-and-tested hacks for a DIY facial, as I had a social engagement to attend in the evening. While you can pat the formula into your face using clean fingers, I prefer to douse cotton pads with the Facial Treatment Essence and swipe using the saturated sheets to enhance the gentle exfoliating effect. For a quickie mask, I soak several cotton pads with the essence, slap them on my cheeks and forehead and allow the formula to work its magic for a few minutes for a boost in brilliance.


“Crystal-clear skin” is a pretty accurate metaphor: After a week's use, my skin looks a whole lot glowier and reflects light in all the right places. Plus, I notice that my facial contours appear firmer and feel more hydrated, with no rough patches in sight.

DAY 10

Despite a day in the blazing sun (with sunscreen on!), my skin doesn't break out in blotches as it usually does. In fact, my skin tone appears more even, and it’s also definitely helping with hormonal-induced blemishes during that time of the month.

DAY 14

Verdict: The SK-II Facial Treatment Essence makes good on its promise to improve skin when it comes to texture, radiance, firmness, spot control, and wrinkle resilience – and all in just 14 days.  

One additional and entirely welcome effect was that it seems to balance sebum production and help squelch shine throughout the day, especially around my T-Zone. 

And while I’ve heard the myths that one will break out when you stop using it, I have not experienced any side effects – except a dimming of radiance. I'd almost forgotten just how "miraculous" of a product this is, and will defo be retaining it as a permanent item in my daily arsenal!

If you're raring to start your journey to crystal-clear skin, head here to find a store near you, where you can purchase a PITERA™ Welcome Set and your very own Facial Treatment Essence.

Still weighing your options? Hesitate no more: Check out how these six celebrities, including Chloe Grace Moretz and Tang Wei, found the courage to flaunt their bare skin with no makeup for SK-II’s Bare Skin Project – thanks to the Facial Treatment Essence alone.

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