Two essences COMPARED! SKII Facial Treatment Essence with Pitera and Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean

So I had already finished up three bottles of the Innisfree Soybean Energy Essence (which is now called Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean in the US) by the time I got my curious little mittens on a bottle of the SKII Facial Treatment Essence, two years ago.

I have now tried the SKII facial treatment essence for over two years and I’ve used the Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean for six years, so I have a strong insight into which of these products is best (and for whom… because one product is much better for one skin type than the other one is, keep reading to find out more).

I’d seen one or two people in the K-beauty blogging world say the Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean is a great dupe for the SKII Facial Treatment Essence. That actually put me off trying the SKII Facial Treatment Essence, for two reasons:

a) SKII Facial Treatment Essence is significantly more expensive in the full-size bottle.

b) I really, really, really, really loved the Innisfree one already. It’s a perfect product in its own right, and it’s so good that I don’t think it deserves to be called a dupe of another product.

So I decided the only way I could now write a review of the SKII product was to write it as a review/comparison, like my eyelash growth serum reviews or my Innisfree Perfect 9 Eye Cream vs Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream review.

I’ll also share the one packaging improvement both products would majorly benefit from (which you can do at home).

Here’s my full review/comparison of Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean vs SKII Facial Treatment Essence:

What the manufacturers say:

Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean: “6-in-1 liquid skin hero with a water-light feel helps visibly improve skin’s firmness, brightness, tone, smoothness, dewiness and moisture barrier. Formulated with high concentrations of antioxidant-rich Fermented Jeju Soybean Extract and Oil.” (from the US Innisfree site)

SKII Firming Treatment Essence: “Our iconic essence for crystal clear skin, loved by millions of women around the world.” (from the SKII site)

Scent: They both smell like nothing. You could completely mistake them for water if you decanted them into other containers.

Colour: They are both colourless. So keep them away from littles because babies/toddlers could think these are water and accidentally drink them.

Taste: Unknown. Seriously, don’t taste cosmetics.

Texture: Exactly like water. They absorb into your skin very readily and are not even slightly greasy.

Effect: Both products have a noticeable effect on fine lines, skin texture and brightness. In my own opinion, the Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean was just as effective as the SKII Facial Treatment Essence when I had younger skin, but six years after I first started using the Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean I’ve noticed the results aren’t as good as they were when I was younger. The majority of beauty bloggers are in their early or mid-twenties and don’t have the same skin ageing concerns as those of us in our thirties. As I’ve aged, I’ve found the SKII Facial Treatment Essence to grow with me, and still be as effective as when I first tried it in 2019.

Comfortable during pregnancy? Yes! Both of these have still felt comfortable to use during my two pregnancies and neither have any nasty ingredients that you would want to avoid when pregnant, either.

How to get better results: Instead of trying to get the product out of their original bottles every day, and using a cotton ball, which I find a bit of a faff, I use a cosmetic decanting syringe (which I bought in Japan) to decant these products into a travel spray bottle, then I use them as a facial mist on cleansed, dry skin before putting any other products. I use them twice a day.

Availability: This is where the SKII Facial Treatment Essence wins a lot of points, and why ultimately this is the one I buy now instead of the Innisfree product. See, the Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean is difficult to get unless you live in a country with an Innisfree online store. And Innisfree is (I have learned from bitter experience) very quick to discontinue their products. In fact, all of my favourite Innisfree products are impossible to get in Ireland. You might strike lucky in a TK Maxx but more than likely, you won’t. And if you want a product to become a reliable staple in your beauty routine, the SKII Essence will be around for a long time to come.

The SKII Facial Treatment Essence is also available in the duty free of almost every airport in the world, as well as being sold in most department stores worldwide. I have seen the SKII Facial Treatment Essence for sale in Dubai, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, America, Ireland, the UK, Greece, Turkey, Russia, France and Thailand. The only airport I haven’t seen it for sale in was Kathmandu, in Nepal, which doesn’t have any branded cosmetics or duty free shopping.

You can buy SKII Facial Treatment Essence on Amazon (US) for around $130 and UK Amazon where it’s about £200 (work that currency conversion out because it makes no sense), both for a 7.7 floz bottle.

You can buy Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean in the US for around $40 and it’s not currently available on UK Amazon or anywhere I can find in Ireland. You used to be able to buy it on niche K-beauty import sites but it has sadly disappeared this year for some reason.

Verdict:

If you are under thirty, and can find it, buy the Innisfree Firming Energy Essence with Fermented Soybean. That’s probably why all the twentysomething bloggers are raving about it: It’s the most appropriate product for your skin.

If you are over thirty, buy the SKII Facial Treatment Essence. Not enough bloggers are talking about this but the SKII product is absolutely the best for more mature skin, and I highly recommend it (in fact, I haven’t bought the Innisfree one since I turned 34). It’s expensive for a reason and that reason is, it really works.

And do decant your product into a spray bottle it makes the BEST facial mist ever!

At-home half-hour DIY facial for new mamas

The salons are closed in my country. We don’t know when life will get back to normal. That doesn’t mean compromising on beauty treatments, especially when you’re a new mama and need pampering after pregnancy and birth. Here’s my go-to facial. The steps are based on when I lived in China, where the K-beauty routine is basically standard. This facial takes about half an hour and includes plenty of time while treatments are taking effect to go sort out the baby. 😉

First, set the scene. Light some scented candles or get your oil diffuser going. Put on some relaxing music (I love Enya or Clannad, which is probably my Irish half). Get into your comfiest clothes or dressing gown. And let’s dive into the half-hour facial for new mamas.

Part 1: Cleansing

If you’re wearing make-up, sunscreen, fake tan or anything else you’ve already put on your face today, start with an oil-based cleanser. I discovered these when I was in Japan and they’re soooo good! This one is my current favourite.

Next it’s time for exfoliation. The key to keeping skin looking firm, hydrated and toned all starts with a good exfoliation. This can be a physical exfoliator, such as the St Ives apricot scrub, which I’ve reviewed here (although I don’t know if they’ve changed the recipe due to the microplastics ban… I really need to try this again), or a chemical exfoliator, such as the Nip + Fab glycolic fix exfoliating pads. If your skin needs some serious TLC, I really recommend the Nip+Fab glycolic fix exfoliating scrub, which combines the chemical exfoliator glycolic acid and physical exfoliation for a very thorough skin exfoliation.

Part 2: Face mask

The benefits of a good vitamin face mask cannot be overstated. My favourite is the Dermalogica multi-vitamin power recovery mask, which contains nourishing vitamins and the clinically-proven anti-ageing ingredient retinol (so avoid during pregnancy as it will burn your skin, but it’s fine afterwards). It’s a great dupe for Kim Kardashian’s favourite Chantecaille Bio Lifting Mask, and I haven’t yet found anything else that’s even a fraction as good as these two, so for me, the Dermalogica one is worth the splurge because retinol doesn’t just make you look younger, it actually reverses the effects of ageing.

Keep this on for at least 15 minutes and don’t get any on your baby (retinol, duh) e.g. by kissing them or snuggling them. If you can’t last 15 minutes without a cute baby snuggle, you would be much safer using my homemade breastmilk face mask recipe, which is especially good for acne-prone skin. If you’re not breastfeeding, my avocado face mask recipe literally just requires some mashed avocado. You can actually leave any of these on overnight (my last tube of the Dermalogica mask had this idea as a tip from a skincare expert inside the box and it really works). I have a Japanese silicon face cover for using with wet masks.

Part 3: Cleansing (again)

You need to wash off the face mask. If you’ve made my breastmilk soap recipe, this is the perfect time to use it, as it’s super nourishing and a gentle but effective cleanser. Otherwise, another homemade soap or plain water will work fine.

Part 4: Essence and serum

Grab your favourite K-beauty essence (mine is Innisfree soybean essence in light) and cover your face in it. I have mine in a spray bottle so I can use it as a facial mist.

Once this has dried, I add a thicker serum. I love the It’s Skin Q10 effector serum. I use the dropper to get some on my fingers then I pat it into my face, avoiding my eyelids.

Part 5: Moisture

The last thing is a replenishing moisturising cream. I have a bad track record for my favourite creams getting discontinued. It happened with my favourite Sanctuary Spa Covent Garden one, then the Manuka Doctor one, lastly the Innisfree Soybean one which I never even got around to reviewing, so I’m constantly wandering the beauty aisle like a nomad trying to find the next great cream. I still think there’s a lot to like about the Olay Regenerist 3-Point Cream, which contains matrixyl which is fab for under-eye dark blue circles, although for overall skin care, I prefer the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, which I reviewed here in 2016 and, in 2020, my skin’s now four years older (33… wow that went fast!) and I think this cream is better for thirtysomethings than people in their twenties as you get the long-term effects as well as the short-term plumping and moisturising effect.

Finished?

If you haven’t put a lash conditioner on your eyelashes, now is the perfect time.

Don’t forget to pop some hydrating lip balm on your lips to keep them soft! I love using a bit of coconut oil as a quick DIY lip balm.

That’s it for my new mama facial. Did you try this? Let me know in the comments if you want more articles on at-home pampering!

The K-beauty regime: Is it for you?

The K-beauty regime is such a big deal in East Asia. It’s also popular to a lesser extent in China (you can buy the products but people don’t necessarily use them all, and there’s fewer brands to choose from in China, but there are still a LOT of brands; it’s just a testament to how much of a big deal K-beauty is in Korea that they have the biggest selection of beauty products that I’ve ever seen in my life). One thing to note, though, is that China has its own beauty brands (usually with European-sounding names) and they don’t like to think of themselves as aficionados of K-beauty. In China, the exact same things are pretty much classed as Chinese beauty. 😉

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There’s been a lot of online articles from western magazines and whatnot which are all like, “Korean women spend two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening on their beauty regime!!!” Honestly? While they sure spend time on it, with VISIBLE results, they also generally work very long hours (much longer than people do in the west) and so I’d say twenty minutes to half an hour, morning and evening, is probably more realistic, certainly on the days when I’ve done a full K-beauty regime. Sheet masks, of course, take 15-20 mins all by themselves, but you don’t do those daily; two to four times a week is more reasonable.

Why do they do it? Well, unlike in the west, K-beauty tends to focus on skincare. Get a good canvas, THEN correct flaws with makeup. It’s a much more natural look, and I really like the whole idea, I mean, depending how long you’ve been reading my blog, even before I came to Asia you may remember that most of my beauty articles were skincare related. Makeup? Eh. When I hit twenty-five, I started to feel like taking care of my skin was WAY more important. #realtalk #confessionsofabeautyblogger some days, I don’t even wear any makeup. Most days, I wear the bare minimum. But I never forget my skincare.

So, the FULL K-beauty routine goes like this (usually… there are some variations depending who you ask and what brands they use), starting from a completely cleansed face (you would use cleanser and whatnot first, if your face was dirty):

Essence goes on first. This is usually the most watery or thinnest consistency of product. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you’re using K-beauty properly, usually it goes from thinnest to thickest consistency of product. 😉 And at the end of the day, it’s no biggie if you get one or two steps back to front. I use this Soybean Firming Essence [light] from Innisfree; it’s about the same price in China as in the US, and I plan to review it at some point.

Serum goes on after essence. I use the Innisfree Soybean Energy Serum which TRAGICALLY you don’t seem to be able to get in America. It’s like my favorite thing so that’s very sad. I do also like the Innisfree Jeju Pomegranate Serum which you ALSO can’t get in the US. Sometimes around now I’ll use a moisture spray, too.

Then, you put on something called “skin” if you want, but I’ve never found one I especially loved and the consistency seems to vary between different ones, too, which makes me feel like I’m just washing off my serum and essence. Some K-beauty people call “skin” “toner” but where the west calls toner something you remove makeup with/clean your face with, K-beauty “toner” seems to mean something that improves the tone of your skin. I’m not sure if they mean color or firmness, but I’ve tried a few and none of them did either for me. I skip this step.

Next comes moisturizer or lotion. Some brands call it one, some call it the other. I would usually use one with an SPF, but if it’s a day when I’m not going outside, I’ll use one with other properties instead. My favorite non-SPF is the Innisfree Green Tea balancing cream. My favorite SPF is the Clio Kill Cover SPF 50 but you can’t get that in the US. My second favorite (better for oily skin as it has a matte finish, so with my normal skin, I use it on top of another moisturizer like the Innisfree one, above) is the Etude House Sunprise SPF32 (the US one is SPF50 and reviews claim it’s better for dry skin so maybe that’s a slightly different product to the one I have).

Now you put on your base (or primer, or veil… some people use veil and base, I personally feel they’re interchangable). I have some nice ones of these, and the K-beauty ones all seem to be good for color-correcting, especially if you have dark circles under your eyes. My favorites are the Etude House baby choux because I wear it on its own for color correction and it’s fabulous (I will review this, too, soon) and the Cle De Peau Correcting Creme Veil which I also wear on its own sometimes, without any other makeup on top. It is a French brand but, like many western cosmetics companies, they have a completely different line of (arguably better) products for the Chinese and Korean market, because they have to compete against homegrown Asian products that are really good. And HOLY MACARONI I had no IDEA how much that Cle De Peau one cost as I got it as a thank-you gift, as part of a big set of Cle De Peau cosmetics from a first-grader’s mom after I taught her daughter English. It’s sooooo good though. If all expensive cosmetics are that good, I can totally see why Kim Kardashian looks so good, even if we ignore the surgery and personal trainer sessions.

After primer, you add either BB cream, cushion, or what-have-you (whatever you use for foundation). I was using the Innisfree cushion but I’ve just ran out, so last week I bought the Clio Kill Professional one. I like cushion makeup (it’s like pressed powder but wet… I can’t explain it), because it’s quick to apply, but when I have time, I prefer BB cream applied with a beauty blender (or a 20-cent Chinese knock-off… $10 for a sponge?? Nope) as it’s more nourishing and I think it looks more natural on my face. I haven’t used western foundation since I got to China because it’s complete garbage compared to the stuff here, and SO bad for my skin. All the redness I’ve had, and which I’ve seen pretty much every western beauty vlogger seems to have before they apply their makeup, has vanished since I stopped using western foundation; I think there’s something badly wrong with it. Unless you have deeply tanned skin, Asian foundations are way better.

After that, you do the rest of your make-up; blush, eyeshadow, lipstick, brows.

Lastly, dust with some finishing powder and you’re good to go. And if you feel dry during the course of the day? Don’t be afraid to mist your face with moisturizing spray in public. Seriously, people do this SO OFTEN at coffee shops in Korea. I just got the LaNeige Water Bank Mist last week and I really love it. It’s so much fun, and quick and easy to use, although I’m lazy and only use it about once a day.

HOWEVER, there’s a huge difference between what I know I *should* do and what I actually do. I feel dowdy just thinking about the fact that some people are doing all of this every day. They will look like Zsa Zsa Gabor when they’re 80, and I’ll look like Sir Ian McKellen. I know I should do all this, but it’s so much effort and when I was working full-time I didn’t have time. Anyway, I tend to go along with how my skin feels, and a lot of the time, I don’t feel like I need to use all of that stuff.

So instead, usually I go:

Essence,

Serum,

Moisturizer/moisturizing suncream. I put all those on my face AND neck, because I feel like my neck needs more love than my body lotion can give it. If I get too much product on my hands, I also rub it into the backs of my hands and I’ve noticed the difference in my hand skin since I started doing that, but I still can’t bring myself to regularly use hand cream, it just isn’t me.

If I feel red or washed out I add one of the choux base veils I mentioned.

Then, unless I’m going out somewhere nice or Youtubing, I usually just sort my brows out, throw on some lipstick (my current favorites are Bobbi Brown or Elizabeth Arden… because I know where I left those) and get on with finding where I left my shoes and whether I have any hair elastics.

Then I am ready to face the day.

I’m a soccer mom waiting to happen.