You've heard of K-beauty, now it's time to wise up on J-beauty
The world has been obsessed with Korean beauty products for several years now, but Japanese beauty has just as much to offer in terms of excellent and effective beauty products.
The truth is that Japan is responsible for creating some of the very best face serum, cleansers and lotions in the whole wide world, and is the birth place of some of the world’s biggest brand names. SK-II? Shiseido? SUQQU? Yep, all Japanese.
Curious to learn more about the country’s beauty brands and famous 7-step routine? We asked Japanese skincare brand Curél‘s aesthetic dermatologist ambassador Dr Catharine Denning for some insight.
What trends has the rest of the world borrowed from Japanese beauty?
‘From double cleansing to face masks, there isn’t much that we in UK can’t take from the J-beauty regimen. Double moisturisation is a lesser know trend that I predict to be adopted this year by the UK beauty enthusiasts.
‘A great place to start is to use Curél’s ceramide-rich dry and sensitive skin range (actually suitable for all skin types despite the name), which incorporates all of the J-beauty steps and is easy-to-use, feels luxurious but at a high street price point.
‘More and more in this country we are adopting the effortless, natural make-up look that the Japanese are famous for and so beautiful and hydrated skin is becoming more of a focus, thanks to our trend setting J-beauty friends.’
What are the hero ingredients used in Japanese beauty?
‘Japanese skincare tends to use naturally-derived ingredients such as green tea, which acts as an antioxidant on the skin. Rice and silk proteins are great for supporting hyaluronic acid production in the skin and so are often found in the hydrating face masks and the lotion step of the J-beauty routine.
‘Rice extract is also a good source of ceramides, which are beneficial to repair the skins hydrolipid barrier in compromised skin.’
What does a Japanese skincare routine look like?
Step 1 – Cleanse
‘The first step of any routine is to cleanse! Rather than using the foams and gels that we would steer towards in the uk, J-beauty focuses on the luxury of rich creams and oils to cleanse with. The Japanese like to have a luxurious ritual to start and end their day.’
Step 2 – Cleanse again
‘Double cleansing is a must in the J-beauty routine, particularly at the end of the day. You’ll never feel cleaner when you get into the swing of it’
Step 3 (optional) – Face mask
‘The Japanese skincare regimen wouldn’t be complete without a regular face mask with either active or hydrating ingredients to match your skin concern.’
Step 4 – Essence or lotion
‘Not a creamy lotion that we would think of in the UK, but rather a liquid hydrating fluid that’s more like a toner consistency. Lotion is used after cleansing at the beginning of your routine to really help the subsequent products penetrate into your skin more efficiently. This is the first moisturisation stage in their “double moisturisation” step.’
Step 5 – Serum (optional)
‘There is an increasing trend towards brightening serums in Japan to help with skin texture and even out pigmentation, so often this step is focussed on brightening ingredients.’
Step 6 – Moisturiser
‘This step tends to be a bit more bespoke to skin type, with lighter, hydrating gels for oily or acne-prone skins and heavier, often oil-based creams for drier skin needing more nourishment. This completes the second moistuisation of the double moisturisation that is so popular in the routine.’
Step 7 – Eye cream
Finish the whole thing off with your best eye cream.
Keep scrolling to learn about some of the best Japanese beauty products you can get your hands on in the UK, including both make-up and skincare buys.
The number one brand for sensitive skin in Japan, Curél is a brand that sits on over 30 years of research and development. The light moisturiser can be used as the 'second moisture step' mentioned earlier, and contains unique ceramide technology that helps to strengthen the skin barrier – it's non greasy and helps your skin to become super soft over time.
Now with three stores in London, the UK was actually the first country in which Shiro launched outside of Japan. There's a range of great skincare and make-up products to suit everyone's tastes, including these excellent metallic cream eyeshadows – use a cream shadow brush or your finger to blend across the lid. Easy.
Japanese skincare and lotions go hand in hand, and SK-II's is possibly the most famous out there. Cate Blanchett is a known fan of this Pitera-rich essence, which clears and refine's the skin's appearance and texture over time for a "crystal clear" look.
This one is Japan's best-selling serum, and it's a hydrating dream. Dehydrated and unhappy skin's thirst is quenched almost instantly, with tiny capsules that absorb into the deepest layers of the skin, and slow time-release technology keeping its moisture levels topped up throughout the day.
Licorice is a big name in Japanese beauty when it comes to trusted ingredients, as it calms and detoxifies the skin while brightening the complexion. Kosé's medicated lotion is full of the stuff, and improves radiance and skin texture over time.
Fairy Drops was born when Japanese celebrity, Aya Yasude, customised her own mascara brush. Struggling to find a mascara that was just right for her TV appearances, she took a pair of scissors to a mascrara wand and cut away until she was left with a brush that made her eyes pop. The distinct 'bobble' wand is the perfect companion for the jet-black, water-resistant formula that leaves lashes big, bold and camera-ready.
Think of this cream as being to Japan what something like E45 is to the UK: it deeply soothes, protects and repairs skin and is found in most homes across the country. It goes on with a strong smell of camphor that disappears within seconds.
Taken from the Japanese word meaning 'posture with attitude', SUQQU is all about the modern woman with a fresh, polished and radiant approach to beauty.The Designing Colour palettes contain four complementing shades that are everything you need to define, shadow and contour the eye area for day or night looks. We wouldn't be without one (or four or five) in our beauty kits.
If you have sensitive skin, this facial wash is a great exfoliating option for you; the powder transforms into a light foam as you wash and cleanses the skin leaving it feeling fresh and smooth.
One of the brand's most popular products, the Ibuki Concentrate is a great pre-moisture treatment lotion that soothes and smoothes. A great step in your journey to that coveted 'baby skin' texture.
The teeny-tiny wand on this mascara allows for the ultimate precision when trying to lengthen out every single lash. As indicated by its name, the formula is only removable with water at a temperature above 38 degrees, making it sweat and humidity resistant.