Hydrate vs Moisturize. SK-II vs Missha Essence Review

In skincare, there are some finer details that we usually gloss over but feels kind of obvious in hindsight. The difference between hydrate and moisturize is one of them. People tend to use the term hydrate and moisturize interchangeably, and I’m also guilty of that sometimes, but they are not. Hydrate means to increase water content, it usually refers to humectants such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin that attracts water to the skin and hydrates your skin on a deeper level. Moisturizing products does include humectant and hydrating components, but more often it contains emollients such as different oil, beewax, butter and silicone that softens, smoothes, and forms a barrier on the skin to seal the hydrating ingredients in and prevent moisture loss from the environment.


And that is why, you should never look down on products that feels just like water (unless it’s actually 99% water). They may absorb so fast it feels like you didn’t apply anything, but it just works on a deeper level and can make a significant difference, especially if you haven’t been hydrating your skin properly. The best way to get all the benefits is to apply a hydrator (such as hydrating toner, essence or serum) then seal it in with a moisturizer. And today, it is FINALLY time to review the popular SK-II essence and Missha essence. My first foray into essence was when I was sent Secret Key and Monique Lab essence for review from Megan of EssentielleBeauty. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up looking for more essence to try. While Shiseido Eudermine Revitalizing Essence was one of the originals,  essences didn’t reach such spectacular popularity until SK-II Facial Treatment Essence appeared. There has been many attempts at dupes since then, with Missha being the most popular one, so I’m reviewing both here. After trying the sample to make sure I’m not allergic, I bought the full size of Missha when it was 40% off. As for SK-II, well, nothing says a skincare addict like buying a $200+ product at 2am cuz ohhh birdy!


Missha The First Treatment Essence

Honestly the sample packet feels exactly the same as Secret Key, but the scent is a bit sweet and juicy rather than floral. When I decided to actually buy it from Sokoglam, the bottle I received says Missha The First Treatment Essence Intensive. It seems the original has been reformulated and now have the word Intensive on it. 20151217_233810

The intensive does not have a scent, or a very faint fermented grain scent if you really try. It feels just like water and hydrates the skin without leaving any residue. If you apply generously it does feel a tad sticky before sinking in. It doesn’t feel quite as wet and hydrating as Secret Key essence or the original formula but it seems to absorb faster. It feels comfortable even on the eye area so I’d say it’s appropriate for sensitive skin as well. In addition to the normal fermented stuff, it also contains lots of other great ingredients:
Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Bigida Ferment Lysate, Propanediol, Niacinamide, Polyquaternium-51, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Betaine, Amaranthus Caudatus Seed Extract, Pirper Methysticum Leaf/Root/Stem Extract, Beta vulgaris (Beet) Root extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Cassia Alata Leaf Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Pentylene Glycol, Water, Trehalose, Disodium EDTA, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Adenosine, Ethylhexylglycerin, Butylene Glycol, Clycerin, Raffinose, Tromethamine, Acetic Acid, Lactic Acid, 1, 2-Hexanediol, Caprytyl Glycol, Hexapeptide-9 Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence


SK-II have a definite fermented scent, which disappears after the essence sinks in. When I patted SK-II over the whole face, it felt totally fine over eyelid so I’d say it’s safe for sensitive skin. It leaves absolutely no residue even when applied generously, no sticky feeling or even a moisturized feeling, as if I didn’t apply anything! It does hydrate and soothe my skin a little, but so does other essence. What’s different is how fast it sinks in, and how it doesn’t feel like anything afterward so it works with all products, no interference and I actually feels like they do absorb better when I use this. While other essence are mostly yeast/ferment ingredients but also contains a plethora of other plant extract, SK-II is purer. It’s just yeast/ferment ingredient with nothing else, which is perhaps why it have a stronger fermented scent while others are scentless or smell floral.

Maybe it’s because I’m spoiled by Tatcha (ok I definitely am), but I was a little disappointed by the packaging of the holiday LE bottle. It comes in a cardboard box with nothing holding it in place. While the essences I’ve tried previously all have a stopper/seal on the inside, this just have a piece of tape outside and no seal inside. There’s nothing printed on the box or bottle about the pretty LE packaging, it’s only on their website:

PERSEVERANCE: Blue HummingbirdAlthough one of nature’s smallest birds, the dynamic hummingbird is able to accomplish the seemingly impossible, symbolizing the spirit of persistence and dedication. Fearless hummingbirds can fly in every direction, and hover by fluttering their wings in the pattern of the infinity symbol, further emphasizing this bird as a metaphor for endurance and the power of perseverance in reaching our goals.


While Secret Key, Missha and SK-II all feels like water when applied, they are all slightly different. Secret Key seems to have a lower concentration of yeast/fermented ingredients and is more hydrating, so it’s great if you are a beginner and tentative about this yeast thing. SK-II is basically purely yeast (ok fine, pitera) and absorbs incredibly fast so it should work for everyone as long as you are not allergic. Missha is in-between as in it absorbs well just like SK-II but seems to have a lower concentration of fermented ingredients but have lots of other extracts added.

Maybe the difference would be more apparent if I had older or more problematic skin. I’m most likely to repurchase Secret Key since it’s the cheapest of the bunch and hydration is really my main focus rather than cell renewal. If you like ferment filtrate then go for Missha. I do like the way SK-II feels the best, but it contains paraben and with that price, I’m not bying unless I fall in love with the SK-II holiday bottles again next year. If you want to try the SK-II essence (and mask, reviewed here), they have great value set and the brand website sometimes have promotion with minis of it as well.  To end on a pretty note, here’s some past LE bottles they had done:


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