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Estee Lauder vs SK-II 2022 (The Definitive Guide)

By Calum Torrington

1 June 2022

Hailing from Japan, the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence has long been crowned as the "iconic essence for Crystal Clear Skin", but does its less expensive Franco-American cousin—Estee Lauder's Micro Essence—give it a run for its money?

Well, that's what we're going to find out today as we compare the two skin-transforming essences side-by-side. Enjoy!

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Estee Lauder Micro Essence vs SK-II Facial Treatment Essence

Beyond the obvious similarities and differences between the product names, choice of packaging, and bottles, we're going to have to dive straight into their formulas to start seeing any differences of note.

Comparison

Both the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence and Estee Lauder Micro Essence claim to improve moisture levels, soothe irritation, soften and smooth texture, reduce appearance of dark spots and fine lines, enhance radiance, even skin tone, and the list goes on. They truly are made out to be the essences to end all essences, which actually isn't as far-fetched as it might initially sound considering their cult-status.

The magic behind their success revolves around yeast fermentation (yes, you read that right). Fermented yeast is packed with micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and organic acids to condition the skin's natural functions. More importantly, though, it closely resembles your skin's Natural Moisturizing Factors meaning that skin welcomes it in for fast absorption (unlike thicker formulas such as serums and creams).

There are hundreds of different yeast strains to choose from, but SK-II settled on Galactomyces (which they have more glamorously named "PITERA"), whereas Estee Lauder uses two strains: Lactobacillus and Bifida. Though this is the first major difference between the two, any claim that one ferment is better than the other would be purely anecdotal—and we don't do that around here.

The SK-II Facial Treatment Essence contains more than 90% PITERA, with the remaining 10% of the ingredient list being fairly lean, including only Butylene Glycol (conditioning), Pentylene Glycol (humectant), Water (solvent), Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Methylparaben (preservative) and Sorbic Acid (preservative) for a grand total of 7 ingredients.

It isn't quite clear what the concentration of ferment filtrate is in Estee Lauder's Micro Essence; this is a big deal, especially considering that the ferment is what you'd be paying top-dollar for. There is a 98.9% number floating around, but we have been unable to confirm whether that is correct. A conservative estimate would pin it around the 80-90% mark, though. The ingredients list is fairly lean like SK-II's, and it includes additional goodies such as Caffeine (antioxidant), Hyaluronic Acid (hydrating), and Trehalose (hydrating).

The biggest difference of all, though, is price. The SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is in the order of four times as expensive as Estee Lauder's Micro Essence per fluid ounce.

Summary

Both essences boast impeccable reviews and extremely loyal cult-followings, so ultimately it just comes down to budget. SK-II is far more upfront about the ingredients and concentrations for the Facial Treatment Essence—which we love—but the huge premium you pay for a slightly different ferment filtrate at a potentially slightly different concentration is understandably a sticking point for some.

Estee Lauder's Micro Essence is far more affordable and delivers incredibly similar results. It is also available in two different forms: the Micro Essence with Bio-Ferment for normal-to-dry skin, and the Micro Essence with Sakura Ferment for normal-to-oily skin.

Micro Essence by Estee Lauder, awaken youthful, healthy-looking skin..

Micro Essence by Estee Lauder

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Awaken youthful, healthy-looking skin.

What makes it special? With this essence lotion, skin is hydrated and smoothed so pores look reduced. Reveals a stunning radiance. Micro Essence’s fast-penetrating, nourishing texture with essential nutrients intensely hydrates to minimize the appearance of dry pores and reduce the look of fine, dry lines. Skin feels soothed, and its inner glow appears revealed.

Which skin types? All skin types.

Find the best price on Amazon

Facial Treatment Essence by SK-II, the iconic essence for Crystal Clear Skin, loved by millions of women around the world.

Facial Treatment Essence by SK-II

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

The iconic essence for Crystal Clear Skin, loved by millions of women around the world.

What makes it special? Whatever your skin type/concern, SK-II's PITERA Essence helps you achieve your best skin ever—Crystal Clear Skin. It is the ONE almighty product you need to moisturize, soften and smoothen texture, reduce appearance of dark spots and fine lines due to dryness, enhance radiance, even skin tone, and... the list goes on.

Which skin types? All skin types.

Find the best price on Amazon

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