SK-II Facial Treatment Essence Dupe Part 1: 10 Possible Dupes with Pitera

Sunday, January 3, 2016

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SKII's Facial Treatment Essence, with the acclaimed Pitera as the main ingredient, is one of the most famous products in the world of Asian beauty. It's got a cult following despite the high price, and people swear by it.

A year ago, I reviewed the SKII Facial Treatment Essence (together with the Clear Lotion and the Mask), I talked about the science behind Pitera (aka Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate), and also tried the product on myself. Once the review was up, I had a number of questions on whether there were any dupes for the SKII Facial Treatment Essence. Of course, I had to go and investigate myself!


SK-II Facial treatment Essence Dupes: Some of these products are said to be dupes for SK-II

Initially, when I started in my dupe hunt, I thought it would be an easy task - maybe a handful of products, and that's it. It wouldn't take long to do or be a lot of effort, right? Turns out, I was wrong! Upon closer investigation, however, I found that there were really many ways to make a similar product. There are products that try to mimic the formula almost exactly, while others bank on selling the star ingredient, Pitera, instead. Perhaps it is the popularity of the Facial Treatment Essence that prompts so many brands to create similar products. In fact, I found so many dupes and similar products that I ended up organizing them into categories:

Category 1: Close Dupes of the SKII Facial Treatment Essence
Category 2: 100% Pitera/Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate products
Category 3: Partial Dupes, retaining Pitera as the star ingredient, but don't closely follow the SK-II formula
Category 4: Dupes of the "Older Version" of SK-II's Facial Treatment Essence, with Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate instead of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate


SKII has something of a cult following, particularly with its Facial Treatment Essence

That's quite a list! Clearly, even when brands don't put out a close dupe, they do put out tangentially SK-II inspired products, and that's fine by me - the more options the merrier! As for Category 4, I'd like to clarify that while there isn't an "older version" of SK-II's Facial Treatment Essence in that the key ingredient, Pitera, hasn't changed, P&G (the parent company of SK-II) had previously mis-characterized Pitera as Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, and later changed it to Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate upon further analysis (you can read more about it in my SK-II review I posted previously). Despite this error, it seems a lot of companies were inspired to create products with Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate that seemed close to SK'II's formula, so I thought they might be worth a mention, too, for the sake of completeness.

So, as you might guess, we've got a lot to go through! Hence the "Part 1" in the title of this post - I don't know how many parts we will have eventually, but I do know that we'll need more than one post to go through all these!

What's in the SK-II Product, Anyway?

In order to find a dupe, the best place to start looking is, obviously, the ingredients list. As you may know from my previous review on the SKII Facial Treatment Essence, the ingredients are:
Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Water, Sodium Benzoate, Methylparaben, Sorbic Acid

SKII Facial Treatment Essence Clear Lotion Mask Ingredients
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence (and other SK-II products) Ingredients Lists

The main ingredients that provide the skincare benefit in the product are the Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, or the famed Pitera, as well as humectants (Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol), and Water. From the formulation, we can see that the product is designed to be extremely watery and lightweight, with its heavy reliance on humectants and no emollients.

So to find a reasonable dupe, we should look for products with the Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, some humectants, like Butylene Glycol or Pentylene Glycol, and Water. Additionally, the SK-II product supposedly contains 90% of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, so a good dupe should also have fairly high concentrations of the ingredient too. The higher up the ingredients list the Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate is, the better.

Lastly, I'd like to stress that this post is about finding dupes with similar formulas - the scent, appearance or texture of the products may differ, but the idea here is to find a product with the same key functional ingredients (in this case, the Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate and the humectants), that would produce a similar effect on skin.

Category 1: Close Dupes of the SKII Facial Treatment Essence

In order to keep this post from being too long, I've decided to look only at the products classified under Category 1 for this post, and leave the rest for another post at a future date. This first category of products are the closest dupes of the SKII Facial Treatment Essence in terms of similarity of formula. Like the SKII versions, these products also contain Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, humectants, and water. The formula may differ, for example with the inclusion of other ingredients, but the function and effect of the product will be similar. So, let's get started!


1. CosRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence (Previously known as Galactomyces 95 White Power Essence)

Ingredients: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Betaine, Panthenol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Allantoin, Butylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol, Adenosine


CosRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence (Source)

The CosRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence is a fairly popular product among Kbeauty fans. Not only does it check all the boxes formulation wise - high percentage of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, inclusion of humectants - it also goes one step further with the inclusion of Niacinamide and Panthenol, which are both beneficial for skin. (On a side note, I've written about Panthenol in my review on The Face Shop's Character Mask.) In fact, the Wishtrend website claims that the CosRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence has 95%, which would make it higher in concentration of the Pitera ingredient than the SK-II. So for those who are really hung up on the amount of Pitera in your product, this would be a pretty good choice.


CosRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence: One of the closer SK-II dupes around

There are some differences however: the choice of main humectants, for example consists of Sodium Hyaluronate, Betaine, Glycerin rather than Butylene Glycol and Pentylene Glycol (although Butylene Glycol appears further down the ingredients list in small amounts), and the preservatives are different, using 1,2-Hexanediol and Ethyl Hexanediol as the main preservatives. Nevertheless, the product will have a very similar effect on skin, with humectant properties and a good dose of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate. Out of all the SK-II dupes I've looked at, this is one of the closest.


2. CosRX Galactomyces Alcohol-Free Toner

Ingredients: Mineral Water, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Betaine, Panthenol, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cassia Obtusifolia Seed Extract, Ethyl Hexanediol


CosRX Galactomyces Alcohol-Free Toner (Source)

The CosRX Galactomyces Alcohol-Free Toner is also a similar product to the SKII Facial Treatment Essence. It also has the same formula of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate and humectants (in this case Butylene Glycol is the main one), but it only has 10% of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, so it is not the best dupe around, although it has similarities. Ideally, we would like a higher percentage of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate.

CosRX Galactomyces Alcohol-Free Toner: Similar formula, but a much lower percentage of Pitera

The Galactomyces Alcohol-Free Toner also has some similarities to the Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence, since they are both from the same brand. Both products use the same preservatives (1,2-Hexanediol,Ethyl Hexanediol), and have similar humectants (Butylene Glycol, Betaine), and both also contain Panthenol. Other than the levels of PItera, it is quite similar in formula to the Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence, so I don't have too much to add, since my comments on the Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence are applicable to the Alcohol-Free Toner too.


3. Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence

Ingredients: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Dipropylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Glycerin, Citrus Grandis(grapefruit) Seed Extract, Acorus Gramineus Root/Stem Extract, Perilla Ocymoides Leaf Extract, Rosa Centifolia Flower Water


Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence (Source)

Secret Key is a Korean beauty brand best known for their skincare, and particularly this Starting Treatment Essence, which has been noted as a SK-II dupe. I actually have a bottle of this that I got from BonjourHK, and I'll be doing a much more detailed review of it soon, but for now, here's a quick look at the ingredients.

From the ingredients list, this also looks like a pretty good substitute for the SK-II Facial Treatment essence. There's Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, humectants (Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin), so there you have the Pitera-and-humectants combination that makes for a good SK-II dupe. Then, there is also Niacinamide, which is a great skincare ingredient to include. There are also a few plant extracts for those who like them. I'm not personally a fan of citrus fruit extracts (e.g. Grapefruit Seed) as they can be sensitizing, but they are likely there in small enough amounts such that it doesn't bother me.


The Secret Key First Treatment Essence clais to have 94% Pitera (Source)

As a side note, some retailers claim that the percentage of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate is 94%, which would also make it higher than the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. So if you're looking for a product with as much Pitera in it as possible, this is a good one!


4. Tosowoong Time Shift Serum
Ingredients: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Glycerin, Propanediol, Water, Niacinamide, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Aureobasidium Pullulans Ferment, Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Laminaria Japonica Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Commiphora Myrrha Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rose Flower Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Styrax Benzoin Gum, Lecithin, Carbomer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cetearyl Olivate, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Olivate, Sorbitan Stearate, Dimethicone, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Sorbitan Isostearate, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Polyacrylate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Adenosine, Human Oligopeptide-1, Tromethamine, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin


Tosongwoong Time Shift Serum (Source)

Tosowoong is also another niche brand that hasn't been picked up by the general public yet, but has a fairly good following among kbeauty lovers, and the Tosowoong Time Shift Serum is one of their more popular products, largely in part because it is known among kbeauty fans as an SK-II dupe, although of course looking at the ingredients lists, there are some differences.

The Tosongwoong Time Shift Serum consists primarily of the usual component of a successful SKII dupe, and then some. In addition to the usual combination of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, humectants (Glycerin, Propanediol) and Water, it also throws in Niacinamide, an emollient (Cetyl Ethylhexanoate), and a silicone (Cyclopentasiloxane). These are good in my book - Niacinamide is a good anti-aging ingredient, it never hurts to add an emollient in small amounts, and Cyclopentasiloxane is volatile and evaporates from the skin when applied, so it probably helps to improve the skinfeel of the product.

There is also the inclusion of various other ingredients derived from microorganisms, namely Aureobasidium Pullulans Ferment, Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Bifida Ferment Lysate, and all three may have some skincare benefits. There is some indication that Aureobasidium Pullulans may have antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatoryand other antiaging properties. Meanwhile, I couldn't find much on Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, which was a bit strange since it seems to be quite popular in skincare, although I've blogged about the general effects of yeast in skincare before in another blogpost on the The Face Shop SMIM Fermentation line. I've also previously looked at Bifida Ferment Lysate in a previous Lancome review, and there is some indication that it can improve skin carrier function and hydration. Naturally, you'd expect the company to make a big deal out of the fermented ingredients in the product, and they do:


The Tosongwoong Time Shift Serum markets itself on the strength of its microorganism-derived ferments and extracts (Source)

Humectants, emollients, silicones, and feremented ingredients, including the Pitera. So far so good, right? But then, the product also goes on to add a bunch of various plant-derived oils (Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Commiphora Myrrha Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rose Flower Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil). This is where it gets a little hairy for me, because contrary to popular belief, not every plant derived ingredient is good for skin. While the plant oils may have emollient benefits (like any other oil used in skincare) and can help the product smell nice, some oils, such as citrus oils (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil), and other fragrant oils (Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil), can often be irritating to sensitive skin and trigger allergies for some people.

That said, if we look at the formulation as a whole, it's quite likely that the various plant oils are all present in really small amounts, because they are quite far down the ingredients list, particularly if we are assuming a fairly high percentage of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, humectants, and water, which could easily be more than 90% of the product. So I guess the product has some good, some bad - some nice ferments that may have beneficial effect on skin, but also some potentially sensitizing or irritating oils. While most people would probably be fine with the small amounts of irritating oils in there, if you have very sensitive skin, it might be a good idea to skip this one and opt for one of the earlier options discussed, where there are no irritating plant extracts.


5. Skin Watchers Galactomyces Treatment Toner

Ingredients: water, galactomyces ferment filtrate, dipropylene glycol, glycerin, 1,2-hexanediol, sodium hyaluronate, polyglutamic acid, panthenol, allantoin, niacinamide, butylene glycol, aronia melanocarpa fruit extract, carica papaya fruit extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder, zanthoxylum piperitum fruit extract, pulsatilla koreana extract, usnea barbata (lichen) extract


Skin Watchers Galactomyces Treatment Toner (Source)

Yes, another kbeauty brand! Skin Watchers is admittedly one of the lesser known kbeauty brands, but this particular product has gotten a lot of attention within the kbeauty circles as an SK-II dupe. The Skin Watchers Galactomyces Treatment Toner also has a similar formula of water, humectants, and Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate. Here, the humectants are dipropylene glycol and glycerin rather than Butylene Glycol and Pentylene Glycol, but otherwise, the main functional ingredients seem similar. After that we hit 1,2-hexanediol, which is the main preservative in this product, so the rest of the ingredients are there in pretty minimal amounts.

After the preservatives, there are some other skin beneficial ingredients like more humectants (sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, butylene glycol), and things like allantoin and niacinamide which are always great to have, although they are there in small amounts. There's also some plant extracts, for those who like that kind of thing, although again they are there in such small amounts that I don't know how effective they are.

All in all this is a pretty reasonable dupe for SKII's Facial Treatment Essence, except that we don't know what the percentage of galactomyces ferment filtrate is - it could be fairly high, but in a toner product like this, it could be low, too. My best guess is that it could be 10% or so, because most of the product would be comprised of water, but it's hard to be sure.


6. Skin Watchers Galactomyces Whitening Essence

Ingredients: water, galactomyces ferment filtrate, glycerin, dipropylene glycol, niacinamide, 1,2-hexanediol, panthenol, allantoin, portulaca oleracea extractt, butylene glycol, ethyl hexanediol, aronia melanocarpa fruit extract, carica papaya fruit extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder, zanthoxylum piperitum fruit extract, pulsatilla koreana extract, usnea barbata (lichen) extract, arginine, carboxyvinyl polymer, disodium EDTA


Skin Watchers Galactomyces Whitening Essence (Source)

The Skin Watchers Galactomyces Whitening range also has an Essence, and just like the Galactomyces Whitening Toner, this also has some similarities - the same main humectants (glycerin, dipropylene glycol), and some of the same skin-friendly ingredients (niacinamide). And like the Galactomyces Whitening Toner, it also follows the same formula of galactomyces ferment filtrate and humectants. The only thing we're not sure of is the percentage of galactomyces ferment filtrate in the product - again, it could be really high or really low, and it's hard to tell from reading of the ingredients list.

To solve this mystery, I turned to the Skin Watchers website, which says, "Fermented ingredients are 87% out of 100%. (Yeast fermentation distilled water 76% + galactomyces ferment filterate 10%)", but honestly, while that sounds impressive, it's also deliberately obfuscating. We know that Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate is 10%, sure, but what on earth is "yeast fermentation distilled water", and why is it so high? Basically, "yeast fermentation distilled water" is water, with bits of yeast ferment floating about in it. So out of that 76%, it could be that 70% of that is water, and 6% (or less) of that is actual yeast ferment. In fact, if you look at the ingredients list, you'll notice that there is no "yeast ferment filtrate" or similar ingredient, although certainly Water and Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate are there. So I wouldn't put too much stock into the "yeast fermentation distilled water", although it's helpful that we've established the percentage of Pitera.

On a related note, since we know that the first two ingredients (Water + Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate) are already 87% of the product, all the other ingredients - the humectants, plant extracts and so on - are only 13% of the product combined. So this means that individually, they aren't there in very significant quantities. Possibly the humectants may be there in meaningful amounts, but the plant extracts are probably there in fairly token levels.

Given the comparatively low percentage of Pitera, I don't think this is the best dupe out there, but it is one of several possibilities, and I wanted to be more exhaustive in my search.

Edited to add response from Skin Watchers:
The Skin Watchers CEO, Mr Jong Han Yoon, has responded to my review. I appreciate that he took time out of his very busy schedule to read and respond to my review, so out of courtesy, I have included his response here. He also helps to shed light on the formulation process of their products, and how they arrived at the final amount of Galactomyces in their products. Here it is:

Thanks for your information. This is Skin Watchers Head Quarter. We would gladly accept your research and review.

Some of you know or some may not, we put top priority on the sensation, permeatability and the finish of a product. We're trying to use better ingredients as well.

To tell the truth, 100% or high concentration galactomyces products cost far more less. They're watery. Your skin can not absorb the solution, either.

When we first experimented, 100% solution did not permeate the skin and fell down, we decided to replace it with fermentation filterate to enhance permeatability. That's why we don't focus on concentration. Besides, if the concentration's high, people have a tendency to believe the quality of the product would be better.

If we enhance the concentration, it'll be so much cost-effective to us. 'Cause we don't have to go thru different processes while we produce the items. Just FYI.

If you wouldn't believe us, just feel the difference. And you'll just feel that our products permeate your skin so fast. We have a critical reason. And even though customers would still keep on believing we're making products at cheaper products, we'll still stick to this formula which is far more costly.

'Cause we do not make products just to beg planned misbelief, but the real value we wanna deliver to our fans. Thanks.


7. Grinif Galactomyces Treatment Toner

Ingredients: Water, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Alcohol, 1,2-hexanediol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hydrolyzed Rice Extract, Chamaecyparis obtusa Water, Aloe Vera Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Potassium hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Malic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Spice


Grinif Galactomyces Treatment Toner (Source)

Grinif is also another lesser-known Korean brand, and one that even within the kbeauty fandom, doesn't seem to get much attention. But, while this looks like yet another similar-to-SKII-toner/lotion product, there are some key differences. For one, the key ingredients are Water, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, and Alcohol. 1,2-Hexanediol is a preservative with humectant properties, but this is indicative of the fact that everything after the preservative is in tiny amounts. What this means is that there are virtually very little humectant properties to this product, if any (after all, the preservative seems to be the main "humectant" here), and furthermore, Alcohol is the third ingredient in the product. I know not everyone's skin is sensitive to alcohol, but for those that are - or for those who just want to avoid the skin-drying effects of alcohol over the long-term - this isn't the best choice. Although Grinif claims that this is suitable for sensitive skin, with all the alcohol in the product, I wouldn't personally recommend this for anyone with sensitive skin.

Also, I have a little quibble with the ingredients list, which clearly hasn't been translated properly. The last ingredient is "spice", and I have no idea what on earth that is - it's certainly not written in proper INCI format. This calls into question the ingredients list I found online: I'm not sure if it's accurately or properly translated, and if simple things like keeping the ingredients in the right order are adhered to. This link (direct to image), and this link (to site if image link doesn't work) is the full ingredients list in Korean. If anyone knows any Korean and is willing to help out a little, I'm keen to know if there is a difference between the translated version and the original!


Grinif Galactomyces Treatment Lotion: Not too sure about the sensitive skin part (Source)

Lastly, for those who are wondering about the level of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, the product claims to have "more than 80% of Galactomyced ferment filtrate", but this does raise a couple of questions in my head. If over 80% of the product is Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, then why is it listed second, after water, rather than before? If it makes up the lion's share of the product, it should definitely be listed first. Or could it be that the 80% refers to the mix of water and Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate? Or could it just be an error in translation of the ingredients list? So many questions, and no answers!


8. Grinif Galactomyces Treatment Serum

Ingredients: Water, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Witch hazel Leaf Extract, Niacinamide, Alcohol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Xanthum Gum, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Spice


Grinif Galactomyces Treatment Serum (Source)

Grinif has a whole range of Galactomyces Treatment products, so of course there would be a serum as well. And, like the Galactomyces Treatment Lotion, I find the same issues with the ingredients list for the Galactomyces Treatment Serum, too. The Galactomyces Treatment Serum claims to have over 90% Galactomyces, so again you should have Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate coming in as the first ingredient, not water. And again, there is that annoying "Spice" ingredient - I don't know about you, but I'm definitely not a fan of spices in my skincare, no matter how awesomely "natural" they sound, as some of them can be pretty irritating to skin!

Below is the ingredients list in Korean, if anyone wants to help translate, again. Do let me know if there are any inconsistencies between the translated ingredients and the original!


Grinif Galactomyces Treatment Serum Ingredients in Korean Source

Other than the curious case of the percentage of Pitera, the product seems alright - it's got water, Pitera, humectants (Sodium Hyaluronate), and Niacinamide, which is great. And then we have Alcohol, again. This time though, it seems to be present in much smaller amounts than in the Lotion - my guesstimate would be somewhere in the single digit percentages. Then, we hit the preservative, so the combination of humectants, water, Pitera, Alcohol and Niacinamide is what makes up the bulk of the product. Between the Lotion and the Serum, I prefer the serum because it appears to have much less alcohol, but otherwise, my assessment of the two products is pretty similar.


9. L'élan Vital Time Evolution Facial Treatment Essence

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Water, Propanediol, Collagen Extract, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Cellulose Gum, Fragrance(Parfum), Sigesbeckia Orientalis Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Rabdosia Rubescens Extract, Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide, Polyglutamic Acid, Myristoyl Tripeptide-31


L'élan Vital Time Evolution Facial Treatment Essence (Source)

Unlike most SK-II dupes, which come from Korea, L'élan Vital appears to be a Chinese brand, perhaps from Hong Kong. I honestly had a hard time figuring out where this brand is from - there doesn't seem to be a website or anything, but the main seller online appears to be eCosway, a Hong Kong-based site. Nevertheless, as you can see, this follows the standard Pitera-and-humectants combination that makes for a decent SK-II dupe. In this case the humectants are different (Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Water, Propanediol, Collagen Extract), but overall this looks like it would function pretty similarly to the original SK-II product. Phenoxyethanol is the main preservative here, the rest of the ingredients are present in really small amounts of likely less than 1%.

The eCosway site claims that it "蘊含80%酵母萃取", i.e. contains 80% yeast filtrate/extract, which I presume refers to the Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate. This would also make sense, since the Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate is listed as the first ingredient on the list. If that's the case, then this product has less Pitera than the original SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, but a good enough amount to make dupe-seekers happy.


10. Tony Moly Intense Care Galactomyces First Essence

Active Ingredient: Glycerin 20%
Inactive Ingredients: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Ethylhexylglycerin


Tony Moly Intense Care Galactomyces First Essence (Source)

Just so you guys know, the ingredients list for this product was pulled from DailyMed, hence the seemingly weird listing of ingredients separating Glycerin as the active ingredient and tossing everything as "inactive ingredients". But basically we know that there's also a good amount of glycerin in there, which should also impart humectant properties to the product. Otherwise, the product follows the combination of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate and humectants (Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol) that we've been seeing. There's also PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, which would impart some emollient properties to the product too, which is a little different from what we've been seeing so far.


The TonyMoly product claims to have 94.5% Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, but that's not possible(Source)

The retail sites for this product claim that it "contains 100% pure, non-processed galactomyces (94.5% mix proportion)", and honestly, I'm not sure what that means. What is a "mix proportion"? It certainly can't be 100% pure Galactomyces, because there other other ingredients in the product.

Also, the DailyMed site (which, as a regulatory site, would be accurate) notes that there is 20% of Glycerin in the product. In that case, it's not possible for the product to have 94.5% of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate - the very maximum (assuming no other ingredients) would be 80%. But given that there are a bunch of other ingredients (other humectants, preservatives, whatnot), it's safe to assume that the product has under 80% Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate. I suppose maybe 70%, if you want to be very generous? I'll give the product the benefit of doubt and assume that most of the product is Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, but there's no way the amount of Pitera comes anywhere close to what they're implying. It's just mathematically not possible.

Nevertheless, other than the fuzzy math, this product looks like a decent substitute for the original SK-II product in terms of general formula. The fuzzy math really annoys me to no end, though, because it's very dishonest to have customers assuming your product has 94.5% Pitera when the true amount has to be less than 80%!


So, Which is the Best Dupe for the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence?

While there are differences among the 5 products here, they all function similarly, and all follow the SK-II formula of water + humectants + Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate. But, if you're looking for as close a dupe for the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence as possible, then I think the CosRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence and the Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence are probably your best choices, because these are the products with the highest level of Pitera, and a general formula that is most comparable to the SK-II product.

Among the rest of the dupes, then there are tradeoffs involved, and which one you like best will depend on your personal preferences. For example, those who like lots of plant extracts and oils in their products will probably like the Tosowoong Time Shift Serum, but those with very sensitive skins may want to go for another option, like the Skin Watchers Galactomyces Treatment Toner or Essence, or the CosRX products. Meanwhile, if your skin is sensitive to alcohol, then you would probably steer clear of the Grinif products, but if you have particularly oily skin, your skin might like those. And you want your lotion to be a bit more emollient, then the TonyMoly First Essence might be better, but if you prefer your lotion to have no emollients at all, then the CosRX and Secret Key options are more appealing. So it really depends!

So, that rounds up some products I've found that are perhaps the closest dupes you can find for the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence! In our next posts, we'll be looking at other SK-II-inspired products, namely some of the other categories of products - the 100% Pitera/Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate Products, as well as the partial dupes.

24 comments:

  1. i always love how thorough you are and i really appreciate the effort that goes into these sorts of posts. i was using the missah time revolution essence which was supposed to be a dupe and i really liked it. i'm guess it might be featured in another one of the categories?
    the secret key and cosrs 95 whitening options look pretty good and i might go for them in the future. i'd love to see the prices included in the post too if that's ok. thanks for doing these!!

    Jenn
    A Beautiful Zen

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    1. @Jenn F: Thanks for your comment! I did look at the Missha product you mentioned, but it would fall under the last category of products (products using Saccharomyces instead of Galactomyces), so you'll see it in a future post. I've heard great things about the Missha product, though!

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  2. Really loved the thorough post. I got thr COSRX essence awhile back because it was supposedly a dupe. Its really inexpensive and I feel that it has made a good difference in my skin. But I'm not sure galactomyces work in the first place ;)

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  3. Wonderfully thorough post and really enlightening! Thank you for all the research done on this post, going to have to look into adding to my CosRX collection!

    threebb.blogspot.co.uk

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  4. This is super helpful! Another dupe is the From Nature Age Treatment Essence, which I'm currently using! It's 95.7% galactomyces ferment filtrate and 2% niacinamide with some other goodies thrown in too and I quite like it!

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    1. @Vanity Rex: Ah yes, that is also a possible FTE substitute! I'll have to add that to the list :)

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  5. Really interesting post. I write for a german blog and so I did some research about FTE and SKII dupes and also about products with snail mucin (snail secretion filtrate) and came to the conclusion that the termn "filtrate" is used with different meanings. Sometimes it is used correctly with the meaning "active ingredient", in this case fermented yeast. Mostly it is used like "extract" which is a watery solution with some active ingredient in it. None of this essences can't contain about 90 % fermented yeast and just a tiny bit water because they are all very liquidy and yeast is no liquid. So I guess all of these essences including SKII consist of about 80 % water and 10% fermented yeast, maybe a little bit more or less. I never used SKII so I can't say anything about the "original" but I used the COSRX Whitening Power Essence for two months and was very unimpressed - it did nothing for my skin. The Missha FTE (old version) gave me a nice glow after some weeks.

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    1. @Dinah: Just to clarify, Galactomyces Ferment "Filtrate" should contain the water, that is the correct definition. Filtrates are basically made by letting the yeast ferment in some sort of substrate (water + sugar or whatever food the yeast needs to eat), and at the end of the time period, they run the water through some filters to remove the larger bits and particles and things like that, leaving behind smaller molecule byproducts produced by the yeast suspended in the watery substrate. So it's not just the yeast itself, but the yeast byproducts that you are putting on your face too (I'm not sure if the yeast itself is filtered out during the straining process). This is something that is obvious in the SK-II product, because it is a watery product despite being 90% Galactomyces ferment filtrate, so that much is clear. People sometimes confuse it with the yeast itself, but that is usually due to a lack of understanding of what a filtrate is.

      What makes it confusing for me when writing this post, is not whether the filtrate contains water or not (because by definition it does). It is when the marketing for the product is 1) conflicting, e.g. saying the product has 95% Galactomyces ferment filtrate when glycerin is already 20%, or 2) vague, e.g. Saying the product has 10% Galactomyces without specifying whether it is the filtrate or the yeast itself or byproducts or something else (most likely it is the filtrate, which is my assumption in this case). These make it hard for me to figure out how much filtrate is in the product. Hope this helps!

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  6. What a nice post! I really enjoyed reading, it must have been so much work to put it all down. I have never tried SKII but Im familiar with some of the dupes you mentioned. How would you say the SKII compares to the dupes? Is it worth a try...?

    kbeauty.bymaya

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    1. @Maya y: If the original SKII is out of your budget, then I think getting one of the alternatives is a good idea! :)

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  7. So interesting! I have some samples of Cosrx in my stash. I should probably start using them, haha. Loved this post!

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  8. Owhhh I am using the CosRX without knowing it was a dupe to my SK2. No wonder my skin is so much better these days!! I'm using twice the amount of Pitera I used to put on my face hahaha.

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  9. Thank you for this post, as SK II has had me under its ridiculously expensive spell since I tried a teeny tiny sample from Sephora's kbeauty reward. I am currently using a few small samples while trying out Nature Republic's FTE (has grown on me, but smells too perfume-y) and Secret Key (which is a dupe in terms of feel and smell, which seem to be more important to me than result!). I love everything CosRx so when I run out of the sample sizes of SK II and secret key I may put their essence in rotation. I used an entire bottle of Missha, and while it smelled faintly yeasty and was soothing, I did not notice any amazing feeling on the face or effects. Looking forward to more posts on the subject:)

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  10. Thanks for your information. This is Skin Watchers Head Quarter. We would gladly accept your research and review.
    Some of you know or some may not, we put top priority on the sensation, permeatability and the finish of a product. We're trying to use better ingredients as well.
    To tell the truth, 100% or high concentration galactomyces products cost far more less. They're watery. Your skin can not absorb the solution, either.
    When we first experimented, 100% solution did not permeate the skin and fell down, we decided to replace it with fermentation filterate to enhance permeatability. That's why we don't focus on concentration. Besides, if the concentration's high, people have a tendency to believe the quality of the product would be better.
    If we enhance the concentration, it'll be so much cost-effective to us. 'Cause we don't have to go thru different processes while we produce the items. Just FYI.
    If you wouldn't believe us, just feel the difference. And you'll just feel that our products permeate your skin so fast. We have a critical reason. And even though customers would still keep on believing we're making products at cheaper products, we'll still stick to this formula which is far more costly.
    'Cause we do not make products just to beg planned misbelief, but the real value we wanna deliver to our fans. Thanks.

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    1. @JH: Thank you so much for your gracious and courteous response, and for helping to shed some light on the formulation of your products. It is true that we don't always have the full picture of what goes on behind the scenes during the formulation process, and how the company arrived at the most optimal formula. So while I agree that this current method has its limitations, and may not paint a complete picture, it is still the best method we have for evaluating products, incomplete as it is. However, I will edit my post to include response too, so readers can also get a better understanding of why your products are formulated this way. I definitely better understand the Skin Watchers products now, so thank you :)

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    2. JH from Skin Watchers left another comment on my blog. Since his original comment included an email address and phone number, I've taken the liberty of posting his comment below for him, so that I can remove the private details. His comment is below:

      "I just found out that you relayed my messages to your fans.Yeah, we don't really care about the sales, but the real thing we wanna do thru skin care items. I think I could tell you so many pumped up stories. Always welcome to contact me at [removed private email] or [removed private number]. We're fighting lies and that's why we take it for granted that we can not expect a sudden rise in our sales. 'Cause we don't do what others do. But I don't wanna broadcast what're those. I still think exposing those stories to the public would be another cheat because it might bring rather emotional things to people. We'll just adhere to what we've been doin'. Hope your technical reviews will help people get a better understanding of what's goin' on in this line of business. I really really thank you."

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  11. Great post! Though its kinda long, I'd never bored me for I have learned so many things about products that we consumer must know. Thanks for the effort and sharing this to us.

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  12. really great post.. =)
    thank you.. =)

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  13. There’s this Purebess 100% Galactomyces, haven’t tried it though.

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  14. Thank you very much for the (usual) most excellent, in-depth, and insightful review!

    I've used the CosRx Galactomyces 95 essence and, like most CosRx products, it is a very straight-forward, no-nonsense and effective product. Given it's (relatively) low price, I'd say that it is certainly up there as a "cost-effective" dupe for the SK-II. That said, it does smell a bit "yeasty" when first applied, and I don't particularly care for this.

    I'd be remiss if I didn't add that I am quite impressed with the entire Tosowoong Time Shift line, all of which products seem to have galactomyces filtrate in them to a greater or lesser degree. I did a review of all of them on the r/AsianBeauty web site. I rather like botanical extracts and oils in my products, but do agree that someone who is sensitive to these ingredients might be better off looking elsewhere.

    I'm every much looking forward to reading your further reviews on SK-II essence dupes. One thing I would also be especially interested in would be dupes for the SK-II sheet mask. I keep reading that the effect of using this mask on a daily basis for an extended period are extraordinary, and this certainly intrigues me.

    It would be nice, though, to get the same (or similar) results with sheet masks that are (hopefully much) less expensive.

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  15. Secret key starting treatment essence doesnt have simple ingredient. Here's the full ingredients list : http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-KtC-zz3IzvU/UXJ_S4GTl6I/AAAAAAAAIro/LKoEVhLG_S4/s1600/Ingredients+list.JPG,
    source : http://www.diaryofaproductjunkie.com/2013/04/secret-key-starting-treatment-essence.html

    And the second picture is Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence Rose (Limited Edition). There contain 94.5% Galactomycess while the Regular only 90%. Sorry for my bad English

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  16. That was just amazing! Have you written any of the follow-up blogs about the other 3 categories, yet?

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    1. @pinkmagnolia921: I haven't, but I will soon! I just keep getting sidetracked by other blogposts I want to write :)

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  17. Already used SK II, its make my face glowing look..but i'm still looking product that priceless than SK II maybe i will use secret key.. hope it will make my face better or similar result from SK II

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Thank you for commenting! I read each and every single comment! If you ask a question in your comment, please check back to this post, as I will reply in a comment to this post as well :) Please note that comments with soliciting links to shops or websites will be removed. Thanks!

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