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5 (Yes, 5) Exceedingly Convincing Dupes for SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence

Photo: Retailers

If you love K-beauty or have ever stepped into the Chinatown treasure that is oo35mm, it’s likely that you’ve seen (or maybe even already own) a product that uses galactomyces ferment filtrate, a yeast ingredient derived from sake. “Galactomyces ferment filtrate” may not roll off the tongue — Alexa Chung joked on her YouTube channel that it sounds like the name of a prehistoric dinosaur — but it’s deeply beloved by skin-care experts (including Soko Glam’s Charlotte Cho) and constantly called “magical,” “transformative,” and “skin-slash-life-changing” for a reason. It’s capable of moisturizing skin while simultaneously calming down inflammation, keeping sebum production controlled, restoring smoothness, and brightening up your complexion.

It also happens to be the the main component of SK-II’s cult-favorite Facial Treatment Essence (they call it “pitera”), which has been a favorite of celebrities like Cate Blanchett and Olivia Culpo (and every skin-care blogger and Reddit-obsessive on earth) for years. SK-II’s $185 price tag long led me to believe that to reap the benefits of GFF, I would have to spend far more than I was comfortable spending. This, as it turns out, is not the case: Many products include a high percentage of galactomyces ferment filtrate and are miraculously affordable. Like an extremely effective brightening essence jam-packed with GFF for $17, and a pore-shrinking serum for $19. Below, a list of my very favorite not-obscenely-expensive galactomyces ferment filtrate–filled products.

(A note: Just use one of these products at a time — using too much of any ingredient can throw off the pH balance of your skin, which can lead to breakouts or irritation. And since this product is derived from yeast, I would avoid using any of them if you are prone to fungal acne.)

This wallet-friendly essence from Purito is jam-packed with galactomyces ferment filtrate — 92 percent, to be exact. It also has a 5 percent kick of niacinamide, a workhorse ingredient that’s known to significantly brighten up any post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne or sun spots. These two ingredients together means this essence has some seriously radiance-inducing, skin-nourishing effects. Depending on how sensitive your skin is, you can use this product anywhere from once a week to three times a week to daily, after exfoliating and before moisturizing. Within just a few weeks of using this, I noticed a little dark spot from an old breakout was starting to fade away.

This essence is an absolute dream. It’s the most expensive thing on this list, but I included it because I would argue that this it is comparable, if not better, than SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence at a quarter of the price (and I’m not the only one who thinks so — my skin-care-obsessed friend also thinks it’s equally as moisturizing, brightening, and replenishing). Aside from galactomyces ferment filtrate, it incorporates antioxidant-rich blue chokeberry and calcium-rich red algae, both of which work to calm and illuminate your complexion. When I use this product, my skin looks particularly plump, nourished, bouncy, and bright — it’s truly one of my favorite products I’ve found in years. It’s helped me so much when it comes to combating stubborn dark marks without irritating my skin, and my mom swears it’s helped with her fine lines and wrinkles, as well. This can be used daily after exfoliating and before serums and moisturizers.

I have talked about this moisturizer a lot recently because I am absolutely obsessed with it. Aside from galactomyces ferment filtrate, it incorporates chamomile for soothing and antioxidant-rich shiitake mushroom extract. It’s the perfect balance of hydrating and healing and isn’t too rich or pore-clogging. After a few days of using this, I noticed the little flaky patches on my face starting to calm and fade away. This is a perfect last step to lock in moisture and sooth your skin.

When I asked my pals at oo35mm what their favorite serum was, they told me how much they loved this one for its “pore-shrinking” and “skin-clearing” capability. This serum from K-beauty brand iUnik is a cocktail of 50 percent galactomyces and 10 percent rose water — these two ingredients work together to brighten up your complexion and deeply moisturize the skin. Since this is a serum rather than an essence (meaning it’s more concentrated), I would use it once a week to see how your skin responds, and then increase your usage accordingly.

If you don’t want to commit to a whole bottle of something but want to see what galactomyces ferment filtrate can do for you, these masks are a great place to start. They’re absolutely dupes for SK-II Facial Treatment masks and incorporate anti-bacterial and healing honey as well as hydrating humectants glycerin and hyaluronic acid to deeply nourish and replenish the skin. This is one of my favorite masks for a pick-me-up when my skin is looking spotty, red, or just “bleh.”

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Five (5!) Extremely Convincing Dupes for SK-II’s Essence