International Skin Care Philosophy: Japan 🇯🇵

In part I of our interntional skincare philosophy we looked at Korean Beauty Philosophy. This part II of our multi part system covering beauty philosophies from different countries.  Today’s post is going to Japan, land of the geisha a very secretive imperial family and some of the fairest skin in the world.

The ideal of Japanese beauty is the geisha. Not only the refined characteristics of holding a fan, how one walks, dances or converses but the clean, white skin with ruby, red lips and black, shiny hair (calling Snow White anyone?). The red of the lips, eyeliner, and eyebrows is meant to brighten the face and offset the stark contrast between the black hair and white skin. Moles and freckles aren’t seen as beauty marks or traits like it is in the West but a flaw that takes away from the perfectly white, unmarked skin.  White flawless skin signifies someone who is wealthy and has not seen a day of sunlight (travel was non-existent or inside the Japanese version of a sedan chair, a Noromon) whereas in the west a healthy glow is part of our highest beauty standard. The Japanese beauty standard dates back before feudal Japan, before the shogunate, before 600-800 AD when the first geisha or the predecessor of the geisha is described.

Modern Japanese beauty standards have become more westernized in facial features. Like S. Korea, Japan has seen it’s own increase in plastic surgery particularly the double eyelid surgery but also skin whitening, Botox, rhinoplasty (nose jobs).  Approximately 10% of procedures performed in Japan to enhance beauty are eyelid surgeries.  It’s a very popular surgery and something nearly every celebrity in Asia seems to have had.  Although facial features have been inspired by Western facial features the beauty ideal seen in geisha’s of white, flawless skin remains the beauty goal.

Although skincare in Japan shares a lot of similarities with S. Korean skincare there are some distinct differences. Japanese beauty companies have a very long history of technologic advances and worldwide successes with those advances.  Japanese consumers also prefer a natural skincare philosophy instead of something heavy with industrial sounding names.  The height of technology and a more simple, cleaner skincare, that’s not too much to ask for when you then add blemish free, white skin on top of that.

Where Korean beauty has the 10-step system, Japanese beauty has 6-step system.

  1. Cleanse (some say double cleanse but that’s fairly new)
  2. plumper/softener
  3. Sheet masks/Eye mask
  4. Eye Concentrate
  5. Moisturizer (one for am, another for pm)
  6. Sunscreen

Having wrinkle free eyes is incredibly important within Japan so you’ll see a lot of good eye creams and under eye masks coming from Asian companies including Japan. The plumper/softener is a replacement for the toning and essence step in K-beauty. Moisturizer also tends to have more skin benefits combining the serum and moisturizer step in K-beauty.

Japanese beauty sees the face as requiring very gentle management. You won’t see lots of heavy scrubbing.  A soap lather is created on the hands then patted over the skin. You may rub where oil is more abundant such as the T-zone. All skincare is patted onto the skin. The theory is that this allows the skincare to stay on top of the skin and be thicker instead of being pushed into the pores. Your skin only needs a gentle cleansing instead of a rubbing because rubbing will stretch the skin too much and over rubbing will over strip the skin of its natural, beneficial oils.

J-beauty lines:

  • Tatcha – New comer in the J-beauty system and a powerhouse in the American markets. Tatcha was founded in 2009. Barely a baby compared to other lines.
  • Kose – a plant based skincare line with a moderate price point
  • SK-II – who hasn’t seen their Facial Treatment Essence and pined for it.
  • Lululun – a small skincare line in Japan with a devoted following for their sheet masks
  • Shiseido – Shiseido is the largest and oldest skincare company in Japan. Founded in 1872 they also own NARS cosmetics and Bare Escentuals (No it’s not a typo, not Bare Essentials but Bare Escentuals the parent company of Bare Minerals which was purchased in 2010). Only Pond’s, Yardley’s of London, and Kiehl’s have been around longer than Shiseido.
  • Pola Cosmetics – one of the leading innovators of skincare in the world. Developed hyaluronic acid, foam masks (in 1958), and cream cleansers (in 1938).


Final Thoughts: I tend to prefer Japanese beauty systems personally.  I like the simplicity. I like the plant origins. This philosophy of course is not exclusive to Japan.  You see that in other skincare lines around the world. Obviously I do like Shiseido a lot if you’ve read anything else I’ve posted and have an order coming in from Tatcha. Shiseido has very good products, obviously they wouldn’t still be in business if they didn’t. For both these companies I really like their essence and softeners and cleansers. I’m not the biggest fan of their moisturizers though, I do skip those when shopping.

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