I’m a total snob when it comes to face masks, but it has nothing to do with luxury—it’s all about results. Face masks are the quick fix of the beauty world, and while many can have dramatic effects, the bulk of them are nothing but fillers and fragrance in fancy packaging. One of the benefits of working in the beauty and grooming industry for as long as I have is being able to tell right off the bat if a product is going to have any effect. I start with the active ingredient(s), checking to see if they’re listed high enough to do any good, plus other little tip-offs, like how long you’re supposed to leave it on or if you really should rinse it off when you’re done.
But then I met the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask and that all changed. At the core of this enigma of a face mask is an exceptional concentration of one key ingredient called pitera, which is essentially a yeast extract with a wealth of qualities such as making skin brighter, more even-toned, and younger-looking. And that’s where my discerning editor’s eyebrow was raised, because even though I’m admittedly a huge fan of the brand’s Facial Treatment Essence (the cult-favorite that put SK-II on the map), I wondered if the power of pitera could be any better in a mask. Especially a mask that comes in at just under $20 a pop.
So, when I got one free with a purchase of my beloved essence, I couldn’t wait to try it out. Keep reading to see my honest thoughts about SK-II’s power face mask.
BEST FOR: All skin types
USES: A deeply hydrating mask that infuses skin with signature ingredient pitera to promote more even skin tone, lessen fine lines and wrinkles, and increase skin’s elasticity.
POTENTIAL ALLERGENS: Not likely
BYRDIE CLEAN? No; contains parabens
PRICE: $95 for 6 sheets, $139 for 10 sheets
ABOUT THE BRAND: SK-II came about in 1980 with the discovery of pitera, a strain of yeast used in the sake-making process that made the hands of those who were involved smoother and younger-looking. Since then, SK-II’s pitera-containing essence has become a cult-favorite the world over, with a bottle reportedly sold every two seconds.
About My Skin: Sensitive, oily, sometimes cranky
My skin is a veritable goody bag. I’m somewhat sensitive, yet plenty oily and with visible pores, especially in the warmer months. I’m a retinol user, which my skin actually takes to, and the rest of my skincare routine is pretty simple and focused on hydration. Once in a while, I’ll wake up to upset, blotchy skin, usually after I’ve tried something it doesn’t agree with.
When it comes to masks, I’m way too sensitive for anything that’s loaded with acids or clays that can be overly drying, so when I want to treat my skin, I spring for water-based hydration masks. Because I’m bearded, I rarely go for sheet masks, on account of only being able to benefit from half of them.
The Feel: Cool and refreshing
For a mask that costs more than a decent bottle of red, I was surprised at how, well, generic the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask looks right out of the package, which is your basic white face-hugging style. It’s saturated with a slightly viscous clear liquid that doesn’t run when you put it on. Once attached to your face, it’s cool and fresh, and you can feel your skin drinking up the hydrating liquid.
Note: This mask is super saturated with product, so when removing it from the envelope, give it a little squeeze from both sides to get out any excess, which you can use for the next few days.
The Ingredients: Skin-loving pitera
The star of the show here is pitera, SK-II’s hero ingredient that shows up as galactomyces ferment filtrate on the ingredients list. Pitera contains over 50 micro-nutrients including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and organic acids that deeply nourish skin for a smoother, more revitalized complexion.
The Scent: Naturally fragranced with yeast
Like we said, the key ingredient of the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask is yeast-based, so without any artificial fragrance to mask the smell, it tends to have a light, yeasty aroma to it. It’s nothing to wrinkle your nose over, however. It either fades or you get used to it, but I didn’t mind it to begin with.
The Results: Dolphin skin that’s smooth and supple
If you don’t know what dolphin skin is, it’s a step up from glass skin. Where the former is smooth and poreless (like glass), the latter is smooth and poreless and with a natural sheen that borders on a shine. Not in an oily kind of way, but rather in a “your skin is so plumped with hydration that your pores stop mattering, and the texture of your skin takes on the almost artificialness of a dolphin’s skin” kind of way.
That was the deciding factor on whether or not I liked this mask. After I left it on for 15 minutes, I gently massaged in the leftover liquid, which felt silky and refreshing. An hour or so later, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and was taken aback by how smooth my skin appeared. My pores were invisible, and my skin had a healthy sheen to it—but it wasn’t shiny. But what really surprised me was how it wasn’t red, considering the massaging I had just done. I figured it would’ve boosted my circulation and made me a little pink for the rest of the night, but nope—I looked so fresh and clear, I could’ve gone out for the night instead of to bed. The next morning, I looked like I had some kind of treatment done: My skin was clear, fresh, and even-toned.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and was taken aback by how smooth my skin appeared.
The Value: Pricey but extraordinary
After taking in the exceptional results staring back at me in the mirror, my heart sank when I realized how much purchasing the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask would set me back. Then I remembered the little reservoir of product that was still left in the foil envelope—enough to last at least three or four days if applied once a day, which means you could stretch this mask’s effect a wee bit longer.
If you’re someone who likes to really go for it with your skincare and you’ve got the cash to spend, I wholeheartedly recommend you try this mask.
In the end, I did go for the full-size pack with six masks for $95 (which put each mask at around $15), with the caveat that I’ll use one every Sunday night or before a special occasion.
Similar Products: You’ve got options
Secret Key Starting Treatment Essential Mask Sheet: This sheet mask ($2.49) from K-Beauty brand Secret Key is loaded with over 90% galactomyces ferment filtrate and promises to hydrate, clarify, and brighten skin while it deeply nourishes.
Chereskin Solution Sparkle Mask: Also from Korea, this balancing sheet mask ($2) comes to the salvation of the red-faced with not just galactomyces ferment filtrate, but also centella asiatica extract, which helps reduce redness and boost skin’s natural healing process.
As a fan of the brand’s essence, my skin is already getting its daily dose of pitera no matter what, and after more than six months of constant usage, I’ve seen the benefits for myself. My skin is a lot more resilient, and therefore less prone to upsets and redness. However, after seeing the dramatic results the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask gave me after only one use, the mask has become my official go-to before any kind of special occasion—and sometimes that just means an ordinary Monday night.