The Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence is only $16 but shares very similar ingredients to the famous SK-II Essence. Could this be the dupe we’ve been searching for?
What is it
Boosting essence that is used at the first stage of skin care. Provides a plentiful nutrition, and treats a various skin concerns intensively.
How I use it
Immediately after cleansing, twice a day. If I’m using a chemical exfoliant (eg. AHA or BHA), I will use that first and then the essence after. I pour a generous amount in my palms and pat gently into my skin until absorbed, or occasionally I’ll soak cotton pads with this for a quick masking session.
Best suited for
All skin types except those with fungal acne as Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate is a potential trigger.
Things to note
Other than the possible fungal acne trigger above, the ingredient list is pretty simple with no major irritants.
A frosted glass jar with a rose gold lid. Feels and looks as luxe as more expensive essences.
No noticeable scent despite this being the rose edition.
Exactly like water.
A natural finish. Seriously just imagine splashing your face with water.
Key ingredient Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate is the same yeast derived ingredient that’s featured in SK-II’s products, which makes this a possible SK-II Essence dupe at a much lower price! I’ve discussed fermented skincare previously and the idea is that:
Fermentation breaks down actives into smaller molecules and releases components like amino acids and antioxidants that the skin can easily absorb.
In addition we’re seeing glycerin for hydration and the superstar niacinamide, making this a seemingly better ingredient list on paper compared to the SK-II FTE.
Personally I love that Secret Key just included a few additional beneficial ingredients, and not a whole smorgasborg of dubious extracts.
Is it an SK-II Essence Dupe?
I’ve been testing this for 3+ weeks now and I’ll just say it up front: it’s not going an exact SK-II Essence dupe, but at the price you honestly shouldn’t expect it to.
What I really liked about the Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence is the value for the price. It’s one of the most affordable essences I’ve tried, yet it delivers brightening and hydrating results comparable to more expensive brands.
The only thing the SK-II does better is its ability to refine the skin and minimize the appearance of pores, which for me is a big deal. I’ve yet to find a product that does this as well as the SK-II.
How does this Secret Key Essence compare to other brands? I tested different 16 facial essences, and here are the best ones
If you want to dip your toes into first essences or are curious about the SK-II one but aren't ready to commit, this is a great one to start with! Don't expect incredible results immediately, but give it a few weeks and you'll start appreciating its hydrating and brightening effects. Literally no complaints given its wallet-friendly price!