Thursday, December 8, 2016

Secret Key - Starting Treatment Essence Review

Can you believe it's already December?! I have to say, this year just flew by. Have you started Christmas shopping yet? I have, but there are so many people to shop for!

I'm already trying to figure out what my New Years Resolutions will be. The last time I tried setting resolutions for myself  was when I was still a student. Naturally I always gave up on them within the first couple weeks of the new year/new semester. But this year will be different! (which I'm sure everyone has said that before...)

Anyway, I'm reviewing the Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence today.

I've heard a lot of great thing about the 'first essence' treatments. The most notable one being SK II. Many Korean brands have since come out with their own cheaper alternatives. Missha, Scinic and Secret Key to name a few.

Taken from yesstyle:
Containing 94% galactomyces ferment filtrate and rosewater, this essence improves wrinkles and clarifies skin, leaving it soft, supple, smooth and radiant
Reading from other websites, it also is supposed to be moisturizing, calming, whitening and an antioxidant. Basically does everything under the Sun for the skin.

Also note, that the photo above is the regular edition. There is a rose edition which I'm currently using (received from where as this regular version I received from my Pinkseoul subscription box). Aside from the limited edition packaging, there are no differences between the products.


The packaging is very similar if not almost identical to the SK II ones. Bottle is of frosted glass, looks and feels very luxurious. As I mentioned above, they released a rose limited edition. Pictured below.

The major difference is that the top is gold and has a picture of roses. Aside from that, they're the same. I mean, what can I say, it's gorgeous. I love it. Well weighted too so it would be a good item to hit someone over the head with. (Burglars beware!)

The only bad thing about this packaging is that it is a HUGE finger magnet. I became too impatient and starting using the product before I could take photos. When it came to actually taking photos, I had to wipe it down so many times. But since this bottle is limited edition, I'm tempted to keep it. (I know, this is how hoarding begins...)


I actually use this as my second essence because... well I have too many toners. Even though the instructions say to pour some on a cotton pad, I'd rather not waste the product so I treat it as an essence instead.

I am actually curious as to how it compares to the SK II and the Missha first essence treatment. It is important to note that the main ingredient galactomyces (the fermented filtrate) are named differently, but essentially are the exact same thing. A fermented fungus. SK II calls it Pitera, Missha calls it Fissione and Secret Key sticks with Galactomyces.

I've read that since the main ingredient is a fungus, it's actually quite pungent. a few reviews have stated that the higher the galactomyces concentrate it contains, the stinkier it will be. Which makes sense as it is fermented. From what I read, SK II essence stinks, the same as The Saem's essence.
This is where I am curious as to how concentrated is the galactomyces is for Secret Key. In their description they say they use 94% but there is absolutely no scent to their essence. While galactomyces is the first ingredient listed, I'm curious as to how diluted it is. Also while it does contain rose water, it's the second last ingredient listed in their list. So it does not contain a lot of rose water at all. Definitely not enough for an odor to be emitted.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for products that have no scents, I've commented in the past how much I'm against heavily scented products. I was actually going to write that it was a positive that this one isn't scented. But I want to know how diluted it is.

That being said, I do quite like the essence and I find it pretty effective. It's fairly hydrating. I mentioned previously that I'm using this as my second toner/essence since I have so many, but I also find that my 1st toner strips away any moisture I may have, since it contains alcohol. So this essence sort of replenishes my skin. It's very easy to use and my skin absorbs it quickly. It does leave my face feeling soothed and calm which is nice.

Overall Thoughts

I really like this essence. My skin is hydrated and within the first week of using this, my skin felt smoother and looked brighter as well. It never irritated my skin either. I know I commented on the lack of scent, but I'm actually quite happy that it doesn't emit a smell. Also, treating this as a second toner and not wasting so much of the product in the cotton pad has helped prolong the lifespan of the bottle. I received the first bottle I would say mid October which I've been using everyday and I've only used 25% of it.

Thanks to for sending me the rose limited edition for review. I'm glad I received another bottle in my PinkSeoul subscription box because I will definitely use this again.

Once I'm finished with this essence, I will likely purchase Missha's First Treatment. SK II is a little out of my budget ($179 USD to 150ml?!).

But price wise, it is certainly more affordable than SK II and even Missha. Yesstyle currently has the rose limited edition on sale for about $26 CAD where as the regular bottle is $32 CAD. has the regular bottle on sale currently for $14 USD.

Have you tried Secret Key's Starting Treatment Essence or other brands first step treatment/essences before? What are your thoughts?


The Good
  • Moisturizing (but not enough to wear on its own)
  • Soothing
  • Skin looks brighter
  • Luxurious bottle
  • No scent
  • Affordable
The Bad
  • Finger print magnet
  • Most essences with high concentrate of galactomyces emit a strong odor. This has no scent. Possibly highly diluted?
*Rose limited edition bottle was scent to me by in exchange for my honest review. My review is my own and no way influenced.

For my North American readers, if you follow me on instagram, then you'll know Take Good Care a Toronto-Based company launched last month and sent me a few of their favourite masks to try. Since Xmas is at the end of the month, they have kindly provided my readers with a promotional code. Receive 15% off on all orders from December 5-21. JOANN15

Disclaimer: I'm not paid or receive any commission for this. I'm under no obligations, but I like supporting fellow Torontonians. So if you're looking to get some Kbeauty shopping done, check out their website.


  1. I love the cute little paper stars. Nice review!!

  2. Hi. I've tried missha fte, i fell in love with it. However, i just can't keep noticing about the secret key essence everyone been raving about. Have u tried the missha one? What do u think? Would love to read a post on both secret key amd missha comparison.

    1. I haven't tried it yet. It's on my wish list though. I've read that they're not too much different.
      I do have a back up of the Secret Key essence. So I'll definitely get the Missha one to compare as well!

  3. I just got mine in the mail, and the scent is confusing me. It feels unscented but at the same time smells like something weird like glue or something, but the bottle was sealed. How would you describe the no scent- scent? LOL im a bit worried

    1. Hmm that's odd. It didn't smell like anything to me the entire time I used it. The only thing I can think of it could have been exposed to heat? They could have easily changed something in the ingredients. If you're worried, probably best not to use it? Or definitely patch test first.