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SK-II brand logo

SK-II, is a Procter & Gamble Beauty brand, launched in 1980 in Japan. SK-II is often considered one of the most expensive beauty brands in the world.


The history of SK-II goes back to the 1970s when a scientist in Japan noticed the very soft and youthful hands of women working in a Japanese saké brewery. After years of research the scientists were able to isolate the natural, nutrient-rich liquid which they called Pitera.

In 1980, the Japanese branch of Max Factor acquired rights to the ingredient, and launched the first cosmetic product containing the ingredient: Max Factor Secret Key with Pitera. Although only modestly successful, its customer base was very loyal, so Max Factor expanded the range, renaming it Max Factor SK-II.[citation needed]

In the succeeding 15 years, Max Factor passed through the hands of five different owners, each of whom ignored the SK-II product, until 1995, when current owner Procter & Gamble executive and brand manager A.G. Lafley was sent to Japan to overhaul P&G's declining business in Asia. Lafley made several changes to the company, including several at Max Factor: Lafley discovered Japanese women disliked the brand, so he focused instead on the SK-II cream instead. Within five years, it became Japan's top prestige cosmetics brand, outselling Shiseido.[1] Today, its most popular products include its Facial Treatment Essence, Stempower Essence, and Stempower Cream.

SK-II has since expanded into several markets. Products sold outside of Asia do not bear the Max Factor name, however; the brand is simply called "SK-II". In Japan and most of Asia, SK-II is a sub-brand of Max Factor and still bears its name.

Toxic ingredients[edit]

In September 2006, the People's Republic of China halted all imports of SK-II products, after a consumer found traces of neodymium and chromium. Both are banned in cosmetics, and can cause allergic dermatitis and eczema. P&G withdrew several of the affected products, however there was much confusion on P&G's initial status on the subject.

One employee was quoted as stating: "We believe only a small batch of products suffered the problem", however, P&G's official press release defended the amount of the heavy metals found in the products as being "safe" and "insignificant to human health". Nonetheless, P&G withdrew several affected products, but continued selling the rest of the line, requiring consumers to sign a "safe product" agreement, in which they recognize that the SK-II products they bought are safe and release P&G of liability.[2]

However, by the end of that week, P&G had suspended sale of the brand altogether, shutting down its stores and pulling all products (including refund centers for affected items) from counters.

Markets sold[edit]

SK-II is sold in the following markets:


External links[edit]