I am really excited about this post because I have been planning on writing this for a long time now. Around a year, to be exact. I was hearing nonstop about SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence, a product containing a magical ingredient named Pitera, so I decided to try it out for myself for 12 months. Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced in this very expensive experiment.
Pitera is the highly touted “miracle ingredient” that was discovered incidentally in the 1970’s, when scientists noticed the soft tender hands of sake brewers that sharply contrasted with their wrinkled and aged faces. According to the SK-II website, scientists spent years looking through 350 yeast strains to isolate the Saccharomycopsis yeast strain that produces Pitera. When they discovered it, leading scientist on the SK-II team Takashi Yoshiji said, “We knew we had found something very special – a gift of nature that will transform skin for generations to come. Even today, we are constantly making new discoveries about its efficacy after 30 years.” They even made a feel-good promotional video about this. No joke, they love this stuff.
Here are some of the many many Pitera products that SK-II features:
Basically, Pitera, a natural by-product of yeast fermentation, is a rich liquid containing amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and organic acids, said to improve skin lucency, decrease wrinkles and lighten dark spots. Sound too good to be true?
As usual, I went onto PubMed to see what kind of scientific evidence there is for Pitera. After searching a variety of key words including Pitera, I finally found ONE study examining the effects of Saccharomycopsis Ferment Filtrate (Pitera) on reducing inflammation in mouse macrophage cells and on exerting protective effects on artificial human skin cells. Another study I found on Google (in a journal that is not accepted into the rigorous PubMed database) concluded that Pitera enhances skin’s barrier functions in human skin cells. That means it helps your skin retain moisture better. The authors in both of these papers include scientists from Procter & Gamble, the company that houses the multi-billion dollar industry that is Pitera. Both of these experiments, as you may note, took place in cell lines, which is far from real life human skin. I can’t find any experiments systematically examining and testing the effects of Pitera on humans, even though this product is obviously safe to use.
Scientific evidence aside, I was still willing to believe that there must be a reason thousands of women around the world swear by this product. I didn’t want to give up on Pitera until I tried it for a decent amount of time. I purchased one SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, the product containing the highest concentration of Pitera, on Sephora in December 2013 and started diligently applying it to my face every night in between toner and night cream (click here for the step-by-step night-time regimen every gal should follow for better healthier skin). Now, over a year later, this is what I’ve found:
What I liked:
– The product comes in a beautiful weighty frosted glass bottle that looks very elegant and fancy
What I didn’t like:
– I’ll just come out with it right here. After using the product every night for a year, I notice no real improvement in my skin. No skin brightening, no lightening of dark spots, no noticeable increased skin firmness, no decrease in wrinkles. I just don’t see a difference.
– It smells weird and unpleasant
– It’s SO EXPENSIVE for what it does (which in my case is nothing). The smallest bottle is $105 for 75 mL (equivalent to 1/3 of a cup). That calculates out to be $1.40 for each 1 mL (about 20 drops) of “miracle water.” That means each DROP of Pitera is about 7 cents. Every time I accidentally fling a droplet on the floor I cringe because hey, those cents add up.
So all in all, I think I will finish off my bottle since I shelled out a pretty penny for it already, and just wipe my hands clean of my Pitera experiment for good. I have to hand it to SK-II, they are geniuses at marketing. And they actually managed to get one paper published in the scientific literature, even though it was in mouse cells. At least they tried.
Of note, in doing research for this article I came across another blog’s review of SK-II Essence which I thought was quite good. This blogger compared SK-II essence to a similar yeast derived product from Korean brand Missha, and came to a similar conclusion as me.
Being a dermatologist who strongly believes in evidence backed skincare, I have put together a guide to antiaging ingredients that actually work and how to build your perfect skincare routine here. For me, I believe in the efficacy of topical retinoids over Pitera, since retinoids have been shown over and over again in hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific experiments in cell lines and in humans to speed up cell turnover, decrease fine lines and dark spots, treat acne, and actually increase collagen production. If I’m going to be spending the big bucks on a skincare product, you bet I’m going to examine the primary scientific literature to make sure the product’s ingredients actually function as they are marketed!
What has your experience been with SK-II facial treatment essence?
photo credit: early-morning sake brewery via photopin (license)