SK-II’s approach to beauty is anything but boring

James Corden isn’t the most obvious choice as brand ambassador for a Japanese skincare range, but SK-II has proven that beauty and humour don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We speak to CEO Sandeep Seth about the brand’s refreshingly playful ethos

The world of beauty isn’t exactly known for its playfulness. As an industry it has traditionally been prone to clichés: think pastel colour palettes, slim white models and Hollywood smiles. Thankfully, the last couple of years have signalled a marked shift in thinking, spearheaded by diversity conscious, millennial friendly brands including Glossier and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty range, which launched in 2017 with no less than 40 different skin tones. Meanwhile, mags such as Beauty Papers and the recently launched Dazed Beauty offshoot are helping to champion alternative narratives around what beauty means today.

Founded in Japan in the early 80s and now owned by P&G, SK-II may well be part of a more traditional generation of beauty brands, but its back story is far from typical. Legend has it that the group of scientists behind the company were visiting a sake brewery in Japan when they noticed that, despite the older workers having wrinkled faces, their hands remained miraculously youthful-looking. After further research, the scientists managed to identify and extract a yeast byproduct from the fermentation process to develop their own skincare formula, trademarking the ‘miracle’ ingredient as Pitera.

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