Beauty + Skincare

Ask the Edit: Is SK-II Really Worth It?

Our skincare obsession has created so many pricey serums, creams, and tonics.  But few have the cult-like following of SK-II, a Cate Blanchett-repped Japanese skincare potion.  So is it worth the price?

Hi Abra:

You use the SK-II Essence, right?  Is it worth trying?  I see so many rave reviews, but I can’t trust them.  All of those 28-day challenges are sponsored, and who knows what they promised to write.  Help.


I bought my first bottle of SK-II Facial Treatment Essence ($99) a few years ago.  I religiously used the cloudy, sour-smelling liquid every night for weeks.  I noticed a difference, but like so many must-have skincare items, they didn’t match up to the hype.  So I abandoned it.

A few months later, I found half a bottle languishing in a cabinet and decided that I had spent the money on it, so I was going to use it until it was gone.  Freed from the idea that this product would save my skin, I was better able to evaluate its real benefits.

After a few days, my skin was quite a bit brighter.  After a couple of weeks, I noticed that it was less dry.  And after a month or so, I noticed the benefit that I cared about, my skin was smoother.  Smaller pores and crepe-y skin really benefit from the product, but deeper pits or wrinkles are only lightly softened.

Recently, I started applying the essence to where I really needed it: my neck.  Not applying your face cream to your neck?  Nora Ephron wrote a hilarious book about why you should.  Sk-II is the only product that I can apply to my neck without breaking out, so I keep up with it.

The results still aren’t the neon-flashing “This Will Save Your Skin” that some reviews claim, but they were good enough that I buy one bottle a year (yes, I can make it last a whole year and then some).  I use it on my neck, and now on my hands (thanks wrist wrinkles).  And in the winter, I use it on my face if I notice a lot of dryness, because it is wonderful at keeping skin hydrated when paired with moisturizer.

Not willing to shell out $99 for moderate results?  Yeah, I don’t blame you.  Luckily, there’s a less expensive dupe.

Missha’s Time Intensive Moist Treatment runs $22 per bottle.  It uses similar yeast extracts to the SK-II and promises similar results — brightening, smoothness, wrinkle reduction.

I’ve had a number of friends with oily or combination skin that they use this and SPF instead of day cream now.  I plan to switch over when my current bottle of SK-II runs dry.

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  1. Pingback: Ask the Edit: Is SK-II Really Worth It? – Beauty Care

  2. Claire says:

    I’ll vouch for the Missha dupe! I’ve never used SK-II So can’t compare, but I do feel like the Missha does…something? I’ve been using it for about a year, just emptied my 2nd bottle. I have absurdly dry skin that is uncomfortably tight as soon as I pat my face dry after washing it, so I get the Missha on as fast as I can and it has an immediate quenching effect. I like to think it makes my skin softer and brighter as well but who knows.

    November 1, 2018/Reply
  3. Ling says:

    I used SKII for a couple years, back in 2009/2010. I got a few things, which include essence, serum, masks. I would say this, as long as you use it regularly, you would see the difference. My skin was more smooth, less noticeable lines, and in general felt great. It didn’t work so well, if I use it say one time per week. I do love the Essence water serum. I know of one person then who applied it on the pregnant belly, for belly wrinkle prevention.

    Personally, I stopped buying it when I moved here and didn’t have a job then. After that, I discover green beauty product and just stop on mainstream beauty products.

    November 2, 2018/Reply
  4. Saramel says:

    I switched from SKII over to Missha and don’t miss anything but the price tag. I couldn’t tell it was doing anything at first, but now I can tell a huge difference when I don’t use it. I didn’t pack it for a trip once and missed it terribly! My skin just didn’t feel as smooth, moisturized, just better. For travel I decent it into a small bottle using a kid’s medicine syringe.

    December 2, 2018/Reply