In recent years, Korean Beauty (or K-Beauty) has become a huge trend in the U.S., but its counterpart further east is not to be underestimated. Thanks to the ever-expanding range of Japanese beauty products from brands like Shiseido, Tatcha, and SK-II, J-Beauty is also beginning to gain recognition in the West.
Japanese women have long been admired for their beautiful skin. Smooth and healthy, their complexions seem to be ageless, remaining even-toned and wrinkle-free even as they age into their 40's and 50's, and beyond.
So what's their secret?
Japanese women credit a variety of factors for their ability to age so gracefully, including a well-balanced diet, exercise, keeping stress to a minimum, and protecting and caring for the skin with scientifically researched beauty products. This last factor is especially important since the majority of the damage that our skin suffers is due to external forces, including over-exposure to the sun and environmental pollution.
Using only the best skin care products, J-Beauty has a minimalistic approach to skincare that pays attention to the finer details. In this article, we'll explain the main principles of the Japanese skincare routine, and share some of our favorite skincare tips, products, and beauty brands to help you delve into the world of radiant glass skin.
The Principles of Japanese Skin Care
Japanese skincare comes from a rich cultural heritage of self-care, and a holistic approach to beauty that starts from within. Let's explore the main defining principles:
Unlike K-Beauty and its complicated 10 step skincare routine, the Japanese beauty routine has fewer steps that are taken with more intention.
Omotenashi, the philosophy of Japanese hospitality that caters to the individual's needs, translates into Japanese beauty and the way in which Japanese beauty brands seem to create products that cater to our needs, without any unnecessary extras.
With this approach, each step of the skincare has a specific purpose, and it is taken with care.
While our American skincare routines tend to use a lot of gel cleansers, one of the main differentiating factors of Japanese skincare is the emphasis on balmy oil cleansers. A Japanese skincare routine focuses on cleansing and removing makeup with rich, oil-based cleansers that nourish and hydrate the skin without adding weight or grease.
These oil-based cleansers do a much better job at removing stubborn makeup, particularly when time is spent massaging them into the face. Following up with a water-based, foaming cleanser can then gently remove any remaining grime from the day, reducing the need for any toner. Cleansing at night should take you as much time as your makeup does each morning, as Japanese skincare emphasizes carefully treating the skin rather than wearing heavy makeup.
In case the thought of double-cleaning already feels like a lot of effort, the good news is that if you double cleanse properly at night, your morning routine could simply be a splash of water to the face before your moisturizing layers.
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Layers of Hydration
If you see a Japanese woman with glowing glass skin, you can be sure that her skin care routine includes multiple layers of hydrating products. While we typically may apply a serum followed by a moisturizer, a Japanese skin care routine could include up to five moisturizing layers.
A common term for perfect skin is mochi-hada, which literally means rice cake skin, referring to the soft mochi desserts you see in Japan. This emphasis on softness translates to the skincare routine, and it's why J-Beauty brands have some of the best serums, essences, oils, face masks, and lotions out there.
After cleansing, the Japanese beauty routine will typically skip toner and go straight to using a hydrating lotion, followed by a serum, followed by a moisturizer.
Hydrating lotions, in particular, are unique to Japanese skincare. These watery lotions act as a kind of skin conditioner, packed with moisture-boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides designed to soften the skin after cleansing. They are lightweight, non-pore clogging products that you pat onto your face using your hands, or you can soak the lotion into a cotton pad and gently dab it onto your face for an extra moisture boost.
More helpful reading: Your guide to finding the best moisturizer
Serious Sun Protection
The principle of bihaku is all about lightening and brightening the skin, beating pigmentation and dark spots from the sun and environmental pollutants. Using antioxidants and wearing high-quality sun protection every morning is essential, not only to prevent pigmentation but also to protect your skin against the collagen degradation and premature aging caused by sun damage.
And once you try a J-Beauty sunscreen, you won't want to go back to our U.S. drugstore products! Japan is a world leader in sun protection, and it's a major defining principle for J-Beauty.
Sunscreens from Japanese brands tend to have a lighter, texture that feels more luxurious than many of our sticky drugstore products, with a fast-absorbing watery lotion or gel texture.
Treating Skin From Within
Natural medicine is a very important part of the culture in Japan and throughout Asia. Natural extracts, oils, and creams are applied to the skin, hair, and nails to cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize and protect. Many botanical substances are also ingested as foods or supplements.
In many cases, ingesting certain nutrients and substances is better than simply applying them topically, since the entire body can benefit and it provides the perfect foundation for good skin, before beginning to apply products or makeup. Seaweed, matcha green tea, oily fish, and fermented rice drinks are consumed daily in Japan, nourishing the skin and hair from the inside out with antioxidants, probiotics, and other potent nutrients.
Japanese culture has embraced supplementation as a step in improving and maintaining their overall health and preserving their youth and beauty. Vitamins and botanicals have always been popular, as have more unusual substances such as powder pearls.
One of the more popular ingestible supplements that has been gaining in popularity in Japan and throughout Asia is liquid collagen.
Keeping it Together with Collagen
Skin, tendons, and ligaments all contain high concentrations of a protein called collagen. Collagen is a very abundant protein in our bodies; the skin alone is made of almost 70% collagen. If you are familiar at all with anti-aging treatments, you've probably heard of collagen and perhaps even used topical products containing it. But why is collagen so important to keeping the skin youthful?
Collagen functions throughout our bodies as a kind of structural framework for cell production and renewal. When we are children, our collagen levels are at their highest, which is why we are so flexible and have such smooth, plump skin. As we age, though, collagen production slows down and, by the time we reach our late 20's, production has completely stopped. As collagen slowly begins to decline, and as external factors chip away at the remaining collagen in our bodies, the effects of the loss begin to show. Our joints become stiffer, our injuries heal more slowly, and our skin begins to lose elasticity and a smooth, youthful appearance.
Collagen is now an ingredient in many anti-aging products, and it has also been used as an injection by dermatologists for decades. One of the newest forms of collagen supplementation is liquid collagen, a drinkable form of this important protein that may actually help boost collagen production in our bodies.
More helpful reading: How to get more collagen
What Is Liquid Collagen?
Liquid collagen, also known as ingestible collagen or hydrolyzed collagen, has been slowly making its way from Asia into Europe and the United States.
One of Japan's best beauty secrets, these collagen drinks are designed to replenish collagen throughout our bodies in order to reduce the signs of aging and restore youthful skin naturally – from within. It is sourced from either animals or fish, with fish being considered the highest quality because it is easier for the body to absorb more completely.
Collagen drinks, such as LAC Taut Premium Collagen Drink, contain a number of antioxidants and vitamins that work with the collagen to maximize its positive effects on our skin, hair, nails, joints, and connective tissues.
Liquid collagen supplements or collagen drinks help to improve the levels of collagen in our bodies that deplete as we age. Consuming liquid collagen supplements has been shown to improve the condition of the skin all over our bodies, improving the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite, as well as reducing the appearance of lines on the face and neck. Liquid collagen also benefits the hair and nails.
Liquid collagen supplementation can also benefit your body's ability to function physically, strengthening connective tissues and reducing joint pain and stiffness.
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Beauty Wisdom from the East
Aging is a part of life, one that cannot be avoided. It can, however, be made decidedly more pleasant and enjoyable. The Japanese and Koreans, like many in Asia, have taken this approach to age, finding ways to maintaining their beauty and vitality that are universally beneficial to the body as a whole.
Working with nature and embracing natural supplementation, Japanese women have embraced supplements in every form, including ingestible and liquid forms, to get the most benefits out of each. Though the quest for the "Fountain of Youth" took place in the West, it is from the East that the true secret weapon in fighting the signs of aging and preserving youth has emerged: liquid collagen.
More helpful reading: What is collagen good for?
Our Top 10 Japanese Beauty Products
Here is our guide to the best Japanese beauty brands and skin care products, with top tips to help you create a J-Beauty-inspired skincare regimen that works for you:
1. Taut Premium Collagen Drink
Taut Premium Collagen Drink is formulated in Japan, using Japanese hydrolyzed collagen technology to deliver potent 13,000mg marine collagen peptides into your skin. Its proprietary formula also includes 6 key ingredients (elastin, hyaluronic acid, grape seed extract, ceremide, DNA, and vitamin C) to give your complexion a visible transformation.
The combination of potent marine collagen with antioxidants, moisturizing ingredients, and collagen-boosters makes this collagen drink the best and most well-rounded choice for anyone looking for total skin rejuvenation. Even better, it has a delicious orange flavor, and it contains no nasty preservatives.
This is our number one choice because it is the most natural, powerful, and effective liquid collagen solution that your skin needs to fight the signs of aging and restore your youthful healthy glow from within. Enjoy one bottle each night before bed, and you'll have the perfect foundation for achieving mochi-hada in no time.
2. Taut Collagen Masks
Taut Collagen Mask is a sheet mask saturated with hydrolyzed collagen, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and botanical squalene, which works to tone, hydrate, and brighten your skin in one 15-minute treatment.
These sheet masks form a protective layer that keeps the active ingredients in close contact with your face to ensure maximum absorption. These masks contain a powerful dose of collagen peptides, so each treatment will plump your skin and reduce fine lines for a more youthful, wrinkle-free appearance. Hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates and moisturizes your face, while botanical squalene and vitamin C act as skin-brightening antioxidants for a maximum bihaku glow.
You can apply one of these face masks straight away after cleansing your skin, as it can tone, hydrate, and brighten your skin in one go, taking care of the remainder of your beauty routine. Simply apply the mask and relax for 15 minutes while the active ingredients get to work, and you can use it morning, noon, or night. Once you remove the sheet, massage any excess essence into your skin and you are good to go, no need for any further serums or moisturizers. Ready, set, glow!
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3. Taut Hydrate
Deep hydration is key to Japanese skincare, as is the philosophy of taking care of your skin from the inside out. That's why Taut Hydrate, RenewSkin Inc.'s best hyaluronic acid supplements, is the perfect match for anyone looking to apply the Japanese approach to their skincare routine.
Taut Hydrate is a supplement that works from within to replenish your body's supplies of hyaluronic acid, alongside a powerful dose of grape seed extract, a skin-loving antioxidant. Together, these ingredients work synergistically to plump and add moisture to your skin, improve firmness, smoothness and visibly reduce signs of skin imperfections.
Taking two capsules per day for four weeks can fill, hydrate, and plump up your skin from deep within, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and boost your skin's natural radiance. Keep your skin smooth, supple, and soft, before your topical skincare or makeup routines have even begun!
4. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
This J-Beauty product tops many beauty editor's lists of best makeup-removing skin care products, and for good reason!
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil makes the first step of your skincare routine feel luxurious, like a mini spa ritual that helps set the tone for the remainder of the day.
Formulated with 100% organic olive oil, DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is an effective makeup remover, melting even the most stubborn waterproof makeup, sunscreen, dirt, sebum, and impurities. The olive oil texture makes this cleanser particularly effective for dry skin, adding hydration for a soft, smooth complexion.
Despite the luxurious oil-based formula, this cleansing oil is surprisingly light, and it doesn't clog pores or leave your skin feeling greasy. Not to mention the reasonable price tag. All in all, it's a winner in our books!
5. SK-II Facial Treatment Essence With 90% Pitera
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence with 90% Pitera is a lightweight, powerful essence that promises to hydrate and soften skin, reduce the appearance of pigmentation and dark spots, and promote a bright, radiant glow.
This is one of the beauty products with a hefty price tag (the recommended retail price is $220 for 160ml), so you may be wondering if it's really worth the hype. But the good news is that, for most, this product by SK-II really does deliver.
This essence boasts pitera as its main ingredient, which is a fermented yeast extract that is rich in peptides, amino acids, and vitamins that hydrate and repair the skin's natural barrier layer. Pitera is an ingredient that was discovered when brewing sake (Japanese rice wine) and heavily researched over the years to become SK-II's so-called "miracle ingredient."1
Simply dab this light, hydrating essence by SK-II into the skin after cleansing and toning, either with your hands or a cotton pad. It's the perfect addition to your beauty routine, particularly if you are struggling with pigmentation, dullness, rough skin, or fine lines and wrinkles. It even works for sensitive skin types!
6. Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Gel SPF 50+/PA++++
Coming from one of the best Japanese beauty brands, this gel sunscreen by Shisheido is a must-have if you want light, bright, and youthful skin into your 40s and beyond.
As we now know, sun protection is one of the primary principles of Japanese skincare, so a high-quality sunscreen is absolutely essential to your morning routine. This product by Shiseido offers top-quality sun protection for a reasonable price.
This formula by Shiseido has a gel texture that is super lightweight but very powerful, providing waterproof sun protection that doesn't leave any annoying white cast on your skin. Even better, it has a refreshing citrus scent that you'll love wearing on your face!
This Shiseido Anessa sunscreen is SPF 50+ and PA++++, which is the highest possible sun protection as rated by their stricter and more advanced system of testing – showing more accurately just how much protection each sunscreen is really giving you.
7. Tatcha The Water Cream
This dreamy moisturizer from Japan feels like a refreshing splash of water to the face. Tatcha is one of the top J-Beauty brands that can be relied on to deliver high-quality products, with a mid-range price tag.
The Water Cream has a light, oil-free formula that is packed with skin-loving ingredients like Japanese wild rose, Japanese leopard lily, rice, green tea, and algae.
It's the perfect moisturizer for oily skin, hydrating the face and neck without weighing your skin down or clogging pores. Another bonus for oily skin types is that it also tightens and reduces the appearance of pores.
Thanks to its botanical antioxidant formula, this moisturizer has gentle soothing effects which make it perfect for anyone struggling with inflammation, redness, or sensitive skin.
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8. Kitao Matcha & Chia Cleansing Cream
Kitao's cleansing cream is one of those beauty products that feels like a superfood for your skin, with a formula that is packed with matcha tea and chia seeds for a refreshing lift. Kitao is also a brand that provides high-quality products with an affordable price tag.
The rich formula dissolves oil and makeup to leave your skin feeling refreshed and clean. It has a cream texture that you massage into dry skin, which turns to a milky lotion when you add water to rinse it away. We love this luxurious texture and easy application!
Best of all, Kitao's cleansing cream is entirely free from parabens or sulfates. It's suitable for all skin types, but its hydrating antioxidant formula makes it especially good for people with dry or sensitive skin.
9. Shiseido Concentrated Balancing Softener
This skin conditioning lotion by Shiseido is the perfect combination of deep hydration and anti-aging benefits. Designed to be applied after cleansing and removing makeup, this moisturizing essence hydrates and refreshes your complexion before you apply your serums or moisturizers.
Shiseido's 5-star formula boasts Enmei extract, which is a herbal extract that is widely renowned for its health benefits in Japan. In skin care products like this one, Enmei has antioxidant, skin-firming benefits that work to reduce the signs of aging on the face and restore youth and radiance to the skin.
This skin-softening lotion by Shiseido also contains green tea extract, which works as an antioxidant to protect your skin against oxidative stress, while Oshima Sakura leaf extract and Hokkaido Anjelica root extract work to brighten and refresh your complexion. A little goes a long way with this product, so don't be put off by the price tag (approximately $100 per 170ml).
More helpful reading: Herbs for skin
10. Kosé Sekkisei Emulsion Excellent
This medicated skin serum by Kosé is perfect for anyone struggling with pigmentation or dark spots. Packed with botanical antioxidants and herbal extracts, this emulsion cream is designed to beat pigmentation and naturally whiten the skin.
Moutin bark works to suppress melanin production in the skin, while Coix Seed and Anjelica root hydrate, brighten, and moisturize. So if you're looking for lighter skin in true bihaku fashion, this emulsion cream is an excellent choice.
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Boost Your Skincare Regime Inside & Out
After learning these beauty secrets from Japan, you may be asking yourself the best way to incorporate them into your lifestyle. By paying a little more attention to detail in your skincare routine and choice of beauty products, and by incorporating some skin-loving nutrients into your diet, you will be well on your way to Japanese beauty.
We recommend our Ultimate Transformation Program to anyone looking to rejuvenate their skincare routine and start forming healthy lifestyle habits that will benefit their complexion. The Ultimate Transformation Program combines some of our best skin care products in a 24-day program designed to provide visible results for your skin, nourishing the skin from the inside out and rejuvenating from the outside in.
A daily dose of Taut Liquid Collagen over 24 days will have visible benefits for your skin, hair, and nails. Combined with Taut Hydrate, our hyaluronic acid supplements, and Taut Collagen Mask, our topical collagen face masks, this bundle creates a program that works over the course of 24 days to totally transform your complexion. These three products work synergistically to hydrate and brighten your complexion, using collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants to tackle skin aging.
With this bundle, you can harness the secrets of Japanese skincare to visibly reduce wrinkles, plump your skin from within, and achieve a natural and youthful glow!
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