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If there's one woman we'd take skincare advice from, it's Cate Blanchett (do they give out Oscars for "glowing complexion?") So we were pretty psyched to hear that SK-II, which the actress is a brand ambassador for, has a new counter at Bloomingdale's. SK-II's national skincare expert Steve Jan was in town to celebrate the counter's opening earlier this month, so we stopped by for a consultation and a quick overview.
Here's a primer: the brand was founded in Japan around 30 years ago, when a group of scientists met with an aged sake maker who had—mysteriously—a wrinkled face but baby-soft hands. "Being scientists, they wanted to know what happened," Jan explained. "They discovered that during the peak of sake fermentation, a clear water rises on top. The [old man's] hands were always handling that water, so that water could be the reason for his smooth skin." The scientists spent five and a half years studying the liquid, and found that it contained a yeast filled with skin-beautifying amino acids, organic vitamins, and minerals.
The scientists named the rare ingredient Pitera, starting bottling it up in beauty products in a factory in Japan, and the SK-II brand was born. (What's in the name? It stands for the "secret key" to beautiful skin.) The skincare line became available in the States about eight years ago, and its signature product is Facial Treatment Essence.
"How we make the is so simple," Jan said. "We put that special yeast [Pitera] in a kettle with water from Japan, and let it sit there for seven days and ferment. After we filter the yeast two times, it leaves that natural liquid." All skin types can benefit from the Facial Treatment Essence, according to Jan. It makes the skin brighter after just one minute (seriously, go to the counter and try it) and it's a great product to start out with if you're interested in exploring SK-II.
"We don't tell clients: you need to buy the whole line," Jan says. "You just start with one thing: Essence." The product works "like a multivitamin," addressing several areas of skincare: texture refinement, radiance, firmness, wrinkle appearance, and even skin tone. And if you wish, staffers can recommend products to round out the Essence based on a skincare analysis by the Magic Ring.
Housed at the counter, the Magic Ring snaps a close-up photo of your face, then gets to work analyzing the skin's texture, spots, firmness, and more. The analysis will help identify areas of "opportunity" in your overall skincare regime.
Our Achilles heel was texture, which was hardly a surprise, given the winter-weather-induced dryness we're so familiar with right now. To tackle that, Jan recommended the Signature Melting Rich Cream. It acts, he said, as a "mink coat for your face," and shields it from the damaging effects of hopping between the cold outdoors and the overheated indoors all winter. Another key product is the Facial Treatment Mask, which gives an intense blast of hydration (Blanchett swears by it.) We gave it a whirl, and—is this ok to admit?—spent a good ten minutes gazing in the mirror afterwards, amazed by how glow-y it made our skin.
· SK-II USA [Official Site]
· SK-II [Bloomingdale's]
· Bloomingdale's [Official Site]