The "Secret" Behind SK-II

At first glance, the connection between a sake brewery and “the secret” to skincare perfection is not immediately evident. But take a closer look, and you’ll discover the secret behind SK-II, our prestige line of skin care products that became one of two P&G brands to recently achieve billion-dollar status.

We recently announced that the brand, along with Vicks, crossed the “Billion-Dollar” Brand threshold. P&G’s Billion-Dollar Brands – of which there are now 26 – are among some of the world’s best-known household names, including Always, Charmin, Bounty, Olay, Pampers and Tide. To earn a spot on the prestigious list, brands must generate more than $1 billion in annual sales. 

The achievement has been more than 40 years in the making, dating back to the 1970s, when scientists were developing a skincare line called “Secret Key.” Their mission: To find the “secret key” to crystal clear skin – a naturally-derived ingredient that made skin more beautiful.

“During a chance observation of workers at a sake brewery in Japan, scientists noticed the elderly workers hadwrinkled faces, but something was causing their hands to stay smooth, clear and younger looking,” said Dr. Colin D’Silva, Associate Director of External Relations for SK-II. “Their hands were in constant contact with the yeast fermentation process.”

Researchers discovered that the sake fermentation process created a natural by-product: a clear, nutrient-rich liquid that could nourish and care for skin. Research into the yeast fermentation process began, and after years of study involving more than 350 different strains of yeast, scientists were able to isolate a naturally-occurring yeast that could produce a nutrient-rich ferment filtrate. They called it Pitera™.

A blend of vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids that work together to allow the skin's natural surface rejuvenation process to function at its prime, Pitera™ is similar in composition to the skin’s natural moisturizers and makes skin crystal clear. The ingredient was added to the “Secret Key” skincare line. The brand was renamed SK-II and was launched in December 1980.

Since then, SK-II has become a special secret shared by celebrities such as Cate Blanchett and women around the world, transforming skin along the five dimensions of texture, radiance, firmness, spot control and wrinkle resilience critical to skin’s crystal clarity.

There are several products within the SK-II line, including base/heritage, whitening, anti-ageing and color cosmetics. SK-II also launched products for men in October 2011. Each SK-II boutique is designed with active ingredients that address various skin concerns and attributes. All of the products contain Pitera™, which has been proven to transform skin to crystal clear in as little as 14 days. Facial Treatment Essence is the iconic product that is synonymous with the SK-II brand name; it contains over 90 percent Pitera™.

SK-II has touched and improved the lives of millions of women around the world. As a leading skincare brand in Asia, it is sold in 13 markets, including Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, USA, UK and Spain. The products are sold via counters in department stores, general merchandising stories and via travel retail and e-commerce outlets.