Birth of an Icon: SK-II

The so-called Fountain of Youth is legendary in its elusiveness. The universal quest for skin perfection and a youthful appearance has been going on for…let’s just say ages. People have looked everywhere.

But it wasn’t until someone put 2 and 2 together in a sake brewery, that the secret to young looking skin started to reveal itself. Those insights developed into SK-II, P&G’s prestige line of skin care products and the leading skincare brand in Asia.

In the 1970s, scientists in Japan were developing a skincare line called “Secret Key” because they were looking for the secret key to crystal clear skin – a naturally derived ingredient that made skin more beautiful.

They happened to stumble upon something really interesting while observing workers at a sake brewery. Elderly workers had wrinkled faces that showed their age, but their hands were smooth, clear and younger looking. And those hands were constantly submerged in the yeast fermentation process.

Hands sorting through rice



Research began right away and soon scientists found that the sake fermentation process created a natural by-product, which was a clear, nutrient-rich liquid, actually nourished skin. Years of study involving more than 350 different strains of yeast ensued. Finally, scientists isolated a naturally-occurring yeast that could produce Pitera.

Pitera is a specialized 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 best. It is similar in composition to the skin’s natural moisturizers and makes skin crystal clear. We added Pitera™ to the “Secret Key” skincare line, renamed it SK-II and launched it in December of 1980.

SK-II grew to become a special secret shared by celebrities and women around the world. Its signature ingredient, Pitera, has been proven to transform skin to crystal clear in as little as 14 days. It is effective in transforming skin along the five dimensions of texture, radiance, firmness, spot control and wrinkle resilience critical to skin’s crystal clarity.

The brand has attracted a well-known group of women who are famous for their beauty to serve as global ambassadors. They include Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett and Kate Bosworth, Japanese actors Kaori Momoi, Koyuki Kato and Haruka Ayase; Hee Ae Kim, Soo Jung Lim, Yeon Hee Lee and Yoo Ji-Tae in Korea; Tang Wei, Lee Sinje and QiQi in China; Sheila Sim in Singapore, Jaeb in Thailand, and Susan Bachtiar in Indonesia.

Sk-II red logo

The SK-II line includes a base/heritage product, as well as those with whitening and anti-aging properties, plus color cosmetics. Active ingredients address various skin concerns and attributes in many of the brand’s products.

And it isn’t just for women anymore - a line for men was launched in October 2011. The iconic product at the forefront of the SK-II brand is Facial Treatment Essence, which contains over 90 percent Pitera.

SK-II earned its spot among P&G’s Billion-Dollar Brands just last April, by literally touching and improving the lives of millions of women around the world. It is sold in 10 markets in the Asia-Pacific region and in Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, in stores and online.

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