SECRET KEY Starting Treatment Essence

Happy 2021 everyone, fingers crossed that this year will be much better than the last!

I’m starting things out right for my wallet this year with a budget-friendly “dupe” of SK-II. If you’re not familiar with SK-II, it’s an upscale skincare line that has been linked to many celebrities, including but not limited to Cate Blanchett, Chloe Moretz, and Behati Prinsloo. SK-II’s facial treatment essence is the most heavily marketed, but perhaps the price range is a little more suitable for celebrities only, coming in at a cool $100 for a 2.5 oz bottle. Secret Key, by comparison, is $16.

Behati holding onto a bottle of liquid money for dear life.

Right off the bat, I’m impressed by Secret Key’s packaging of their essence. I daresay the glass bottle is just as sturdy and aesthetically pleasing, if not moreso, than SK-II. A drop-check was also inadvertently completed: this has also fallen from my medicine cabinet to my floor without shattering the bottle.

But for as beautiful as the bottle is, the product inside is absolutely miserable to work with. Secret Key’s essence is basically… water. By the time you’ve dropped enough onto your cotton round or your hand, a lot of it will have absorbed leaving you shaking the bottle again for another dousing of product. The dropper is a shake dropper instead of a squeeze dropper, so it’s equally as difficult applying this directly to your face.

So with this being essentially… water… it absorbs really quickly, and you’ll need to shake the product out a few times to get an adequate covering. Now, granted, essences are generally the first step in a skincare regime, so it is not intended to be your primary moisturizer and thickness should be of no concern. But many essences I’ve tried — including SK-II itself — are of a little bit thicker substance, and are easier to spread around (keeping in mind that SK-II contains more chemically-based filler ingredients, whereas Secret Key doesn’t have as many, which may contribute to SK-II’s heavier weight. Pick your poison!).

Since it is so thin, this won’t affect the rest of your routine, or weigh you down as the day wears on. However, I am convinced that something within the product dries my pores out faster throughout the day, regardless of what I’m wearing over it. My skin tends to feel itchy more often than not when this essence is in my routine.

Though I did feel that this essence made my skin brighter within the first few hours of use, the dryness that inevitably ensued made my skin more inflamed by the end of the day, so any positive benefits would likely have been cancelled out. What I did discover was that this product is effective as a night-time makeup remover and toner — it’s gentler than most micellar waters or witch hazel toners I’ve tried.

If you’re not ready to drop the big bucks on SK-II, I would still recommend giving this a try, despite my lackluster experience. For a different skin type, I think Secret Key essence could be a great product, since I did notice subtle brightening. Also the ingredient listing is extract-based and free of sulfates and alcohol, so it’s also a good bet for those with acne-prone skin. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Recommended for sensitive skin:┬áSensitive skin, yes — dry skin, no!

Timeless Vitamin C 20% + Ferulic Acid

Timeless Vit C 20

My perfect Vitamin C quest has thus far been short lived, which is unfortunate since Vit C is touted to undo sun damage, which I undoubtedly have.

Prior to buying this product by Timeless (which, by the way, is pretty cheap on Amazon for $10-13), I had used some… unknown… concoction of Matrixyl and Vit C 10% that I purchased on Ebay for $5. As in, there was literally no branded name on the label. Probably not safe. Do as I say, not as I do. I didn’t really think that particular 10% product was doing anything, so I thought I’d up the ante to 20%, and use a product that was actually somewhat “heard of”, at least in the Reddit space.

I actually did patch test this one, since I’m a little leery of exfoliants — but nothing notable happened. So I went on with a full face of it at night. I did this every three nights, for about four nights total. It was slightly irritating each time I applied it, but nothing I haven’t experienced more profoundly with other exfoliants, and only for a few seconds. This liquid comes out clear, and very runny (if it’s orange or yellow, that means it’s going bad) — you don’t need very much of it for your full face. It actually smells like a really bitter/sour orange (“this is under-ripe” sour, not “spoiled” sour)

Ultimately, this was bad idea for me. Every morning I woke up with tiny whiteheads, which is usually indicative of me being sensitive to the product. I’m going to guess it was the 20% strength that did me in, not necessarily the product formulation itself — although, I have had issues with other Timeless products in the past, so who knows. It did make the still intact skin feel softer, but other than that, I didn’t notice any visible difference. In fairness, though, I didn’t try it out for very long. The end result of fresh break-outs really put me off of this.

All in all, this is definitely not a product for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. If you want to try out Vitamin C, I would recommend trying out 10% first. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1.8/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

 

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary Niacinamide

I found a post the other day on Reddit, in which the user was confused as to what the hype was re: products from The Ordinary. The concern was that the product — this one, specifically — pilled like crazy. At which point I thought… MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!

I like the company’s mission here, to strip out all the extra junk you don’t need. I appreciate that. But I also don’t understand how that makes this practical for every day use. See, on initial application, this stuff looks lovely — it makes a nice glossy-not-shiny sheen over your skin. Glassy with an “a”, actually, that seems like the best word to use. I like it. It’s odorless, and you apply a few drops with a dropper. A little goes a long way. And I think I picked this one up for $11 — not bad!

But that all comes to a halt after 30 minutes. Suddenly, even without touching your face, the pills start to form everywhere. Your skin just peeeeeeels off. Did you have sunscreen or makeup on? That’s going to come off, too. So I quickly learned that, at minimum, this is not for “going to work” use.

But then I thought… when the heck am I supposed to use this? Either way, it’s going to peel off, and apparently it’s going to peel off anything else I’ve applied as well, including other moisturizers.

And I mean — is the Niacinamide even working? Similar to the Cerave PM, I feel like the initial application does make it appear that my pores have shrunken, due to that glassiness both products create initially. As for any long term effects… I guess I haven’t been using it long enough to tell, but I also cannot fathom how it is useful when it falls off your face after 20 minutes.

I don’t know. I want to repurchase it, I want to love it because everyone else does. But I just… don’t get it. If you have any insight as to what I may be doing wrong, leave me a comment! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5 (that initial glossiness, though!)