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Essence Showdown Volume One Review SK II

What is an essence and why do I need it? It depends on who you ask. The description I like most is: a lighter, more watery serum. Adding this step is a great idea for anyone, but it is especially wonderful for someone with dry skin. Products absorb better when moisture is present in the skin. An essence not only adds nutrients to the skin, but the watery consistency assists in letting all the products applied after penetrate more deeply. A moisturizing toner also assists in providing that moisture base to help other products absorb, but it lacks the powerful ingredients available in most essences.

When adding a new skincare item, you can evaluate your routine to see which step you can skip. Someone already doing a double cleanse (usually an oil based cleanser followed by a foaming cleanser) may not need a toner and an essence. It has been a while since toners helped bring PH balance to the skin, because most soaps no longer mess with the balance. That means providing an extra cleanse and lubricating the skin are now the primary functions. If the second cleanse takes over the extra cleanse, and the essence adds moisture, you can drop the toner. That said, I still use mine. My thoughts are keeping it in cannot hurt.

So, after cleansing (or double cleansing if I am wearing makeup), I apply toner, immediately followed by essence. The item I did drop from my routine when I added the essence was my first serum. Yes, I always applied an activating serum followed by a more targeted serum. The essence took the place of the activating serum (I will miss you but it is not goodbye forever, Genifique). So far, my winter skin appreciates the switch.

In my quest to get a better winter skincare routine, I collected four essences. The first was a sample from Sephora. I purchased Secret Key and Original Raw which gave me the free Iope. I decided I wanted to use them one at a time to see which I preferred (show down style) and if any were worth purchasing (SKII or Iope) or repurchasing (Secret Key or Original Raw). Of course, I had to start with the reigning Queen of Essence, SKII. When people speak of essence, they almost always include this product in their lineup. When I finished the SKII a few days ago, I opened the Iope (making it the subject of Volume Two). It is mainly because it is small and gets me to Volume Three a little faster. I have not decided which essence will fill slot 3 or 4 yet, but I will decide after I finish the Iope.


It was not that long ago that I had never tried an essence. Shortly before winter began, I opened my first ever essence and immediately fell in love. Well, maybe not immediately, because the smell is terrible. If you’ve ever smelled alcohol on someone’s breath the morning after he woke up from a night of drinking and was too wasted to brush his teeth before sleeping, you’d have an idea of what SK II Treatment Essence smells like. I feel like the smell is something they should warn you about. After applying it (yes, I applied it bad smell and all, because it’s liquid gold), I immediately began searching to see what it should smell like.

The smell really concerned me. I also started second guessing the date on the bottle. Though I’ve read most Asian brands list the manufacturing date instead of the expiration date, my mind was racing a million miles a minute. Certainly the essence I waited so long to sample did not arrive rotten. When it comes to really expensive products, I have a strict sample before I buy policy. My policy not to return things unless they arrived damaged would fly right out the window if I purchased something for $200 I hated.


Luckily, my research on confirmed the date is the manufacturing date, so I had almost a year left before this baby expired. I took a screenshot of their post below in case they ever remove the post on the link. If you want to read it in detail, I do suggest visiting their site, because this is their work. I’d never heard of this site before, but I was really glad to find this information. In addition to reassuring me my product has not expired, it also helps you understand serial numbers. It gives you a detailed explanation on how to spot a fake (which helped with a future sample). Although it is not mentioned on their site, dates are listed day first, month second, and year last. That means the second number in the date sequence is the month.

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It was also nice to see that most reviews (that address scent) mention this is unpleasant. After feeling relief that I could continue the sample, I felt something else. My skin, which is almost always tight, was not. After one use, my skin was not tight. How did this magical water moisturize my skin so well. Due to sensitive skin, I usually only introduce one new product at a time. There was no mistaken this is what did it.

I was so worried I put a rotten product on my face that I did not even notice how comfortable my skin felt until I confirmed I did not. When I sample expensive products, I always have a love.hate relationship with the process. Trying them to see if they live up to the hype is exhilarating. Finding out they do live up to the hype is excruciating. Why must I sample things I really should never purchase! If you’re none the wiser to the magic, are you missing out, or are you blissfully ignorant?

The story behind this essence if women who worked in the fermentation plant had beautiful hands 30 years later, but their faces aged the way other women did. That means direct contact has the effect, and SK II pumped 90% of that Pietra ingredient into the essence. While a tiny sample will never give me an idea of how well this works, I almost want to keep trying it for 30 years and experiment myself. I’d be pretty bummed if I woke up one day looking the same age as the people who used a much cheaper essence or worse, no essence at all.

Application techniques vary. Some suggest using a cotton round, because it absorbs less product than your fingers do. I apply this with the back of my hands by patting it on. It may seem odd, but if excess product absorbs during application, it may as well go there than the front of my hands or a cotton pad. After all, the women who worked in the factory had beautiful hands after working with the main ingredient for 30 years. If you’re going to try this, apply very little. Applying too much causes it to roll right off, because the back of your hand cannot cup it. You can always add more if needed.

SK-II on hand

Hold the bottle over the back of your hand and do not lift up until you’ve angle the bottle to a point where it will not spill. If you do apply too much and spill a little, rest assured, you will be more careful next time. Spilling the liquid gold hurts a little. Rub the backs of your hands together for a fraction of a second to spread the product before it spills on the floor. Lightly pat the back of your hands into your face. Be sure to get some on the back of fingers to target hard to reach areas.

Because I do not have 30 years to invest in this experiment, I am going to say based off the time I did spend with this product that it is wonderful. My skin does appear more radiant. It is definitely more hydrated. This is a wonderful product that I would be happy to use. Hopefully, using this long-term does re-create the results found in the factory, but I cannot attest to that at the moment. I really look forward to trying the other three to see what they can do. None of them have the long-term research to prove they work, so it will be a gamble if I settle on any of them.


I ended up getting a second sample in a trade that was larger. These samples do not come sealed, but they probably should. It did not have the same yellowish tint or awful smell. The person I received it from said it came directly from SK-II. After using it the first two or three times, I got a minor rash. That did not happen with the first sample I received from Sephora. My skin did start responding to it by around the fourth treatment, so I continued to use it. It did not moisturize as well as the first sample, so all the signs were telling me this sample was not legit.


The bottle is definitely legit (I am certain based on the how to spot a fake research I came across when I looked into the smell). My guess is she really got the bottle from SK-II as she says. I am guessing the original product was in it at some point. It was likely diluted with tap water to the point where almost none of the original product was left. Hard water at certain hotels can give me a slight rash, but my skin usually gets accustomed after the first few days. This is probably what happened here. After getting another sample from Sephora, I compared the bottles. Even though the one likely filled with water is almost empty, you can tell when you look at the liquid on the bottom that it is much lighter than the actual product. There is likely residual essence left in the water, and I am so close to finishing it anyway, so I will.

This makes me weary of future trades though, because the person I traded with seemed very credible. I hated to even ask her, but I was almost positive this was not a legit product from the moment I used it. There is still an outside chance she received a bad batch, and I really hope that is the case. Either way, I would not trade with her again. She’s either a person who knowingly gave me a fake product, or I’m the person who rudely called her out on something beyond her control. Neither of us can really come back from this regardless of who is right. My advice for products like this that do not come sealed is only get them from reputable retailers unless you sincerely trust the person you’re trading with. In my case, it was almost certainly water, but more damaging ingredients can go inside other fakes.

I doubt anyone will notice delayed signs of aging after a single bottle. My guess is it slows down signs of aging over considerable periods of time, which also means this little sample will not do enough in the long-term if this miracle product really works that well. The new sample from the Sephora Rewards Bazaar is in my travel bag, because I am finally ready to try a new essence for this series when my SK-II “water” is gone.

Do you use this essence? What do you think of it? Whether you’ve tried it before or not, do you think it is worth the price to buy a bottle? If it really provides a fountain of youth, are you willing to invest?

See all Essence and Challenge articles. View my main page for the guide map to the site and deeper deal exploration.

notcreative View All

I'm Kimberly. Shopping is always more fun when I've found the best deal available, so I am always on the hunt. My father instilled that in me, and I love that I carry a piece of him. Sometimes, my husband and sons (12 and 7) let me shop for them, too. They do not use as many beauty products as I do. We can all benefit from nice products, even though their routine ends with moisturizer. That is when I can convince my 12-year-old to apply it.

6 thoughts on “Essence Showdown Volume One Review SK II Leave a comment

  1. I am thinking the third one will be the Secret Key to try it as close to the SKII as possible for comparison. My love is new, but it is certainly growing. This is the first winter where my skin is not overly dry.

  2. I enjoy May Coop Raw Sauce a little more than I liked the SK II, better smell, and slightly thicker. MISSHA Time Revolution is another favorite, and more similar to SK II in texture and smell (although still not as bad)

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