Forget SoKo skin secrets and bid au revoir to French beauty buys, because now it’s all about Japanese skincare. Famed for smooth skin and youthful complexions, Japanese women know a thing or two about looking fresh faced and fabulous, so it’s hardly surprising that the world is turning to the Asian country for all things beauty-related. Supermodel Kate Moss has made no secret of her love for Japanese skincare, so much so that she’s now the face of Japanese beauty brand Decorté, revealing: ‘I can honestly say that this is the best skincare I have ever used’. Hey, if it’s good enough for one of the world’s top supermodels, it’s good enough for us. But why is Japan making such an impact on the skincare scene?
Let’s start with Tokyo-based brand Shiseido’s UAE rep Soha Diab. ‘Skincare is deeply rooted in Asian cultures, and Asian beauty as a whole is enjoying immense popularity today thanks to its innovation and the introduction of new ingredients. The Japanese were among the first to discover skincare treatments and are famous for their high-quality products – which is why Japan is one of the biggest skincare markets in the world today.’
‘It’s always been important for Japanese women to look fresh, clean and groomed. It is their omotenashi [hospitality] in order to respect others’ presence,’ says Chieko Kobayashi, wellness manager at the luxury Amanemu hotel in Japan’s Shima Peninsula.
Western brands are taking notice of the pioneering practices of Japan’s beauty industry. Jean-Alexandre Havard, VP and international general manager of US brand Origins tells us the brand has long been inspired by Asian ingredients and skincare influences. For example, ‘the rice and white tea we use have been so important to the efficacy and performance of our products.’ This especially rings true when it comes to new products hitting mainstream markets – ones that have clearly been created in accordance with Japanese skincare steps and rituals. Notably, the rise in treatment essences and lotions – an Asian beauty staple. ‘Origins was among one of the first brands to develop a treatment lotion at the beginning of the 90s, using processes and ingredients that come from Asia,’ Jean-Alexandre adds.
The Japanese way
Women in Japan pride themselves on having healthy, beautiful skin – taking every possible precaution to keep it in tiptop condition. ‘Pure, clean, radiant and glowing skin is very important in Asia’ explains Jean-Alexandre. ‘The face is considered a reflection of inner personality, beauty, and health – so there is a lot of attention paid to overall quality, texture and tone of skin.’ “In Japan, the attitude towards achieving healthy-looking skin is to spend time and care. This beauty philosophy isn’t about covering up what we deem flaws; it’s about a long tradition of self-care rituals that have been practiced by millions of women”, adds Amanne Sharif, Communications Manager for DHC – one of Japan’s top beauty brands. “Following a consistent skincare regimen, of high-quality ingredients, you can achieve beautiful, radiant skin.”
Here are the key things Japanese women do to stay young and beautiful
Firstly, it comes down to a strict regime that Japanese women adhere to every day. ‘Japanese beauty regimens consist of about 7 to 8 steps, from cleansing to using a foam wash, toner, serum, emulsion, brightening serum, and cream,’ reveals Emi Hayashi, senior vice president of global communications for Japanese personal care company KOSÉ Corporation. ‘The repetition of daily care is the basis of the beauty secret.’
“In Japan, there’s the tradition of beauty rituals, such as double-cleansing, which emphasises the importance of a long-term, consistent routine in skincare,” explains Sharif. ‘Cleansing is a ritual in Japan, and many women repeat the process two or three times,’ says Rebecca Treston, founder of Rebecca Treston Aesthetics at Euromed Clinic Dubai. ‘They favour heavy-duty yet gentle cleansing oils, as they’re rich in vitamins and are lipophilic – which means they keep toxins out and moisture in. They can also help shrink the appearance of pores and get rid of acne!’ So cleansing your skin once doesn’t quite cut it – because in Japan, it’s all about the double (or triple) cleanse secret.
Once you’ve got all your skincare steps in place, it’s time to get massaging. Adds Chieko: ‘Japanese women usually place their faces in their palms after putting on lotion – not only because it penetrates deeply and covers the entirety the skin, but also because it gives stimulation to the brain.’
Stars of the Show
The Japanese are always inventing new, innovative ways of keeping young and beautiful, but using tried-and-tested ingredients. ‘The Japanese ritual focuses on a few simple but efficacious ingredients that have been very carefully tested for a long time,’ explains Diab. Green tea, rice hulls and seaweed are something
that can be found in every home and kitchen. ‘They were the beginning of the now very trendy idea of “kitchen cosmetics”,’ says Chieko. ‘It came from the mentality of mottainai – not wanting to waste something that is usable. Japanese women started using natural things that were around them in their daily lives and skincare routines to really make the most of them.’ Take top model Chiharu Okunugi (pictured above) who swears by organic rosewater (but never forgets her Shiseido sunblock, either).
These are the 6 key ingredients the Japanese swear by for sensational skin
In Japan, mushrooms have long been valued as both food and medicine because they support the body’s natural defenses by enhancing the immune system. Packed with antioxidants, mushrooms help protect skin against environmental aggressors and free radicals, which in turn helps with signs of aging and visible damage. A natural anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, they can help heal and calm stressed skin, and they also boost blood circulation to restore your gorgeous, natural glow. ‘The mushrooms found in our hero range, the Dr. Andrew Weil Mega Mushroom collection, have been directly influenced by the mushrooms and natural ingredients found in the region.’ Jean-Alexandre tells us. It’s officially time to start using fungi on your face.
2. Rice bran
A staple in Japanese culture, rice is so much more than a base for your sushi. Japanese rice bran, known as komenuka, has been used for centuries by Japanese women and is still a staple skincare ingredient thanks to its deep moisturising abilities. Geishas were known to use leftover water from washing rice to then wash their faces in a bid to get smooth, supple, and luminous skin. Rice bran is bursting with fatty acids and squalene – an essential fat that makes up 12% of human sebum. This makes it extremely effective on very dry, ageing, and even super sensitive skins. It’s also rich in vitamins B and E and gently exfoliates whilst hydrating and promoting cellular turnover.
3. Green tea
‘Many women drink several cups of green tea every day, which helps to slow down the ageing process and keeps skin youthful and supple,’ explains Treston. This is because it’s one of the healthiest brews you can buy. Abundant in antioxidants, it’s one powerful protector and is rich in a variety of phytochemicals, polyphenols, enzymes and amino acids. It works wonders for soothing stressed and irritated skins whilst its anti-ageing properties prevent wrinkles and fine lines. It’s also great for detoxifying and keeping skin hydrated, and it’s been proven to help banish blemishes. No wonder the likes of Kareena Kapoor and Gwyneth Paltrow swear by it. ‘Even if you’re not a tea drinker, you can apply it topically and still reap the benefits’, recommends Treston. ‘Use green tea as a toner by letting two cups cool after brewing, then apply it to your face with a cotton ball. This natural alternative can give you glowing skin and reduce the size of pores.’
Most of us think of collagen coming in the form of fillers or pills, but in Japan it’s consumed as a drink. Women across the country boil beef and chicken tendon to make their own beauty-boosting beverage, as – unlike creams which work solely on the epidermis (outer layer of skin) – ingesting an ingredient works from the inside out to target the deeper layer of skin (the dermis).
Collagen is a protein that gives skin structural support and is key in maintaining firm, supple skin. It slows the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, improves elasticity, and helps retain moisture. The good news is we naturally produce collagen. The bad news is that as we get older we produce less of it. Therefore, it is no wonder the Japanese have developed yet another helping-hand to keep them young and beautiful.
If boiling up bones is not quite for you, there an array of collagen drinks now available to give you a beautifying boost.
Scientists have long believed that marine bacteria were the first forms of cell life to form on Earth. As the depths of the ocean offered protection from the sun’s harsh UV rays, species of micro-algae could benefit from the nutrients in seawater and develop into powerful organisms beneath the surface of the sea. This is due to their amazing ability, like that of human skin, to adapt and develop according to their environment in order to combat aggressors and protect their DNA – in turn, acting as a natural form of protection for our skin.
Packed with vitamins and minerals, the goodness from this green stuff is quickly absorbed by the body due to its cellular structure being so similar to that of our skin. Not only does this super sea-vegetable restore moisture levels in the skin, but it also firms it, slows ageing, boosts cell generation and helps with detoxification – all while purifying and improving skin texture and tone.
If you want skin as smooth, lustrous, and perfect as a pearl, then (you guessed it) it’s time to make pearls your skin saviour. Abundant in calcium, magnesium, and zinc - which help rebalance skin, promote regeneration, and reduce breakouts – pearls act as a potent antioxidant and are able to boost the body’s own production of enzymes. Pearls also pack a serious anti-ageing punch as they’re rich in amino acids and proteins, which help preserve collagen and even increase its production.
Shop the best Japanese beauty buys guaranteed to transform your skin from blah to beautiful faster than you can say arigato
Sensai Prime Solution (Dh788)
Designed to work on cleansed skin and before any other product, this lightweight water-based lotion is infused with Sensai’s signature Koishimaru Silk and Sanzashi Extract to increase cellular receptivity, boost levels of collagen and hyaluronic acid, and deeply hydrate.
Shiseido WASO Fresh Jelly Lotion (Dh147)
Harnessing the perfecting powers of white jelly mushrooms, this gel-to-liquid lotion locks in water and moisture to give skin that fresh, dewy, plump look whilst mattifying and reducing pores.
Suqqu Moisture Rich Mask (Dh227)
This mighty moisturising mask is packed with organic, natural ingredients – including green tea extract and pear juice ferment – to deeply hydrate, soothe, nourish, tighten, and brighten for a younger looking fresh face.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil (Dh116)
A cult beauty classic in Japan, one bottle of this clever cleanser sells every ten seconds – and it’s not hard to see why. Loaded with antioxidant-rich olive oil, it not only nourishes skin but it leaves it squeaky clean by dissolving daily dirt and grime (even waterproof make-up!) without drying.
Decorté VI-Fusion Essence (Dh716)
In the words of Miss Moss, “Vi-Fusion Essence is amazing, your skin just drinks it”, and that’s because it’s a hybrid of two of Japan’s most popular treatments – a serum and a lotion in one. Using onsen water from geo-thermal volcanic springs, it infuses skin with vital minerals - including magnesium and potassium – to revitalise, rebuild, and renew.
Tatcha Polished Gentle Rice Enzyme Powder (Dh143)
A gentle powder exfoliant that uses Japanese rice bran to polish skin to perfection, this powerful powder also uses a trio of anti-aging Japanese superfoods (green tea, rice, and algae) to visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles and to leave skin silky soft and smooth.
RMK Refreshing Yuzu Herb Mist (Dh81)
Infused with orange and green tea extracts, this magic mist moisturises skin and gives it a refreshing, brightening boost whenever you need it most. Your secret to superstar skin with just a spritz.