On a recent trip to Japan, I spent $500 on skin-care products at the duty-free shop at the Tokyo airport. I couldn’t help myself: Everything seemed to beckon to me, and the Japanese women I’d seen over the course of my vacation had straight up #flawless skin. What surprised me about the whole thing wasn’t the fact that I was willing to empty my wallet for the sake of fancy-looking serums (I do that often, sigh), it was that until then I didn’t truly understand all that Japanese skin care had to offer.
“Japan has a rich history of ancient beauty rituals that have proven results, and well-cared-for skin is the foundation of beauty,” says Amanne Sharif, the communications manager of Japanese skin-care brand DHC. “In Japan, beautiful skin is important and Japanese women understand that starting a consistent skin-care regimen is essential to achieving beautiful skin. It’s a beautiful and luxurious part of the day that is about treating yourself.”
Treat your skin-care routine more like a self-care practice than a chore.
Well no wonder their products were so irresistible—even under the fluorescent lights of the duty-free shop. Japanese women treat their skin-care routine more like a self-care practice than a chore, which means they actually take time to enjoy and appreciate it.
Keep reading for the Japanese skin-care secrets you need to know.
1. Soak in the simplicity of ingredients
All-natural skincare is trendy and growing in popularity in the US, but for Japanese women simplicity of ingredients has always been a core principle. “Japanese women appreciate the proven results of simple, natural ingredients,” explains Sharif, who notes that DHC was founded on the principle of delivering antioxidant skin solutions. Because of this trend toward simplicity, the products end up being much gentler.
“Japanese products are generally kinder to the skin. They often contain less chemicals or are weaker in concentration, which is better for the skin as they strip off less of the natural oils,” says Caroline Caron-Phelps, founder of the lifestyle blog Pickled Plum. “While Western products tend to dry out the skin in order to reveal a new layer, the opposite can be said of Japanese skin care—they aim at keeping it as moisturized as possible.”
“Japanese products are generally kinder to the skin. They often contain fewer chemicals, which is better for the skin as they strip off less of the natural oils.”
Ingredients like rice water, snail mucin, and olive oil, which are commonly found in Japanese products, help make that possible.
2. Know that beauty comes from within
Products can only get you so far in the quest for perfect skin—your diet plays an important role, too. “If you go to Japan you will see that Japanese women eat very little meat and dairy compared to the amount we consume here,” says Caron-Phelps, who adds that she’s noticed those things cause her to breakout. “They also drink a lot of green tea, which is an antioxidant that also pushes toxins out of your body. Foods like natto (fermented beans), tofu, seaweed, and sweet potatoes are also power foods regularly consumed in the Japanese world—all great at helping with collagen production and for fighting wrinkles.”
Caron-Phelps drinks a cup or two of matcha every day, and often adds kombu or shredded nori to her food. Any ingredient that can help with digestion she recommends. “A healthy gut is so important for good skin, and [ingredients that] act as an anti-inflammatory are a plus,” she says.
3. Cleanse two times and pat on your moisturizers
Want your skin to look extra nice? Cleanse twice. “It’s a traditional Japanese cleansing ritual that calls for an oil-based cleanser, to break down and remove makeup and impurities, followed up by a lathering cleanser that deeply cleanses to lift away dirt and leave skin fresh,” says Sharif.
It’s smart to try changing up the way you wash, too. Sharif recommends a circular motions during your facial massage. “Avoid rubbing, which can stretch or cause trauma to the skin,” she says.
And when it comes to additional products—giving them a pat is where it’s at. “Delicately patting on a serum or moisturizer (instead of rubbing) allows the product to penetrate the skin while stimulating blood flow, which helps make your complexion brighter,” says Sharif.
4. Try a face roller
There’s a reason why jade and rose quartz rollers have taken over your Instagram and Pinterest feeds in the last few years. “Facial rollers are all the rage in Japan and Korea,” says Caron-Phelps. “It’s supposed to encourage blood flow, which can firm the skin and minimize wrinkles.” Running them over your skin every night while you lie in bed watching “This is Us,” or your other binge-worthy show of choice, is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Just saying.
Japanese skin-care products
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