It’s official, Japanese beauty is set to become the heir to the K-beauty throne
Although our favourite Korean beauty products such as CC creams and cushion compacts are still in hot demand, J-beauty is officially having its moment in the spotlight.
“Japanese beauty has been prevalent in prestige beauty for decades. Brands like Shiseido and SK-II are perhaps the most well known, and are built on the traditional Japanese aesthetic. But with the 2020 Olympics scheduled for Tokyo, a renewed focus on the region is invigorating sales and inviting consumer interest. And newer, emerging brands like Tatcha are gaining awareness” explains Jennifer Famiano, manager and skincare analyst at The NPD Group.
As it turns out, the Japanese beauty industry is one of the oldest and most traditional in the world. Most agree that it officially dates back to 1872 when Shiseido opened Japan’s first private Western-style pharmacy in Tokyo’s Ginza district. “In Japanese culture, the ritual of beauty is centuries old,” says makeup artist Troy Surratt, who works with Japanese labs to create his Surratt beauty line. “When we think about the art forms of Kabuki (a classical Japanese dance-drama) and the geisha, there’s a long history of adornment and the ritual in both skincare and makeup application.”
There’s fewer products but more focus on application technique
Unlike the arduous 10-step Korean routines, the J-beauty regimen focuses more on ritual and application technique, with fewer products, to garner greater results. The idea is that you double-cleanse (first with an oil cleanser to remove makeup and a second time to truly purify the skin), then apply a lotion, essence or toning water and finish with a serum, oil or moisturiser (not all three).
Double-cleansing has been practiced in Japan for centuries and it originally started as a way to remove the white metallic makeup worn by women as a sign of beauty. Cleansing oils, which were introduced in Japan in 1967 by Shu Uemura, were the only product that could remove this paint-like foundation. After the makeup was removed, a second wash using a foam-like cleanser refreshed the skin and removed any oily residue.
The importance of cleansing
Although cleansing is emphasised as the key to healthy skin in Japan, that essential step is not a priority in the Western world. “We tend to invest the majority of our beauty budget on moisturisers and serums while failing to wash away impurities like dirt, sweat, oil, sunscreen, and makeup. Choosing a cleanser is often an afterthought. The most important lesson I have learned from geisha is that cleansing is key to a clear, radiant complexion,” explains Vicky Tsai, founder of skincare brand Tatcha and author of Pure Skin: Discover the Japanese Ritual of Glowing.
Tsai also believes that less is more when it comes to Japanese beauty. “Western women tend to focus much more on makeup than on skincare, accumulating an impressive collection of lipsticks, eye shadows, and highlighters from a young age. Japanese women instead prioritise a clear, smooth complexion using a curated skincare ritual. When it comes to both their arsenal of products and the ingredients within, they believe that less is more. Each cleanser, moisturiser, or treatment is a beloved and essential step.”
Japanese skincare rituals isn’t about overnight success. It’s about pure ingredients, self-care and simplicity. If you show your skin love and attention, it will reward you.
Ten of our favourite Japanese beauty products:
Words: Gracie Stewart