By now, anyone who is even a little obsessed with beauty trends has heard about K-beauty. From the sheet masks with playful packaging to the innovative formulas and 10-step skin care routine, I’ve immersed myself in the Korean beauty scene for the last three years, sharing my finds here at home. But I was always less familiar with J-beauty, aka Japanese beauty, a term that has been getting major buzz in the beauty world. So, I decided to pack my bags and head East to find out just what’s so compelling about the beauty philosophy and products in Japan.
When we think of Japanese beauty here in the United States, iconic brands like Shiseido and SK-II automatically come to mind. But I wanted to dig deeper – and I did. As you stroll through streets of the Asakusa neighborhood, which are lined with local shops, restaurants, and temple grounds, it almost feels as if you are in old Tokyo. I came upon boutiques filled with the most luxurious jars and bottles I had ever seen, and I met women with minimal makeup, radiant skin, and hair so shiny it looked like glass. I couldn’t wait to learn more about their beauty rituals.
Unlike the followers of the K-beauty 10-step skin care routine, they explained that Japanese women have a much simpler process, one that they practice it with patience. The J-beauty routine consists of just four methodical steps – cleanser, essence, serum, and lotion – with hydration and protection being the focus. Less is more is their mantra. As they explained to me, it’s all about achieving soft and supple skin from products that combine centuries-old traditions (think nightly facial massage to boost circulation) and ingredients indigenous to their region, like extracts of camellia flowers, sake, and rice, with today’s innovative science.
What’s more, Japan is a culture that adheres to a code of honor, among other principles, and this spills over into everything they do, including in the beauty industry. They don’t exaggerate product claims or oversell benefits just to market products, but rather they formulate them with extreme efficacy and longevity in mind. A great example is the Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil, which has been a staple in Japan since its launch 50 years ago.
While in Japan, I was introduced to incredibly rare products, like the Tokyo Love soap. It’s all the rage on social media, and it turns out that Tokyo Love, also known as “Celebrity Soap,” is hugely popular with Japanese celebrities, too. Made from all-natural, vegan skin-lightening ingredients, it helps even out and brighten the skin. The first time I tried it, my skin felt soft and was noticeably more radiant.
Another product I was impressed with was the Tsubaki Nano Hair Repair Lotion. A hair treatment that utilizes a patented surfactant-free (surfactants can cause skin irritation and strip the hair of moisture) nano emulsion, it’s a mix of only two ingredients: camellia flower oil and purified water. I applied it on damp hair, styled as I usually do, and was dumbfounded as I had no frizz the entire day, despite the hot weather.
The J-beauty advancements cross over into their cosmetics, too. I spent the day with Japanese TV personality Aya Yasuda, who created a patented mascara with a four-bobble brush design called Fairy Drops. It’s a volumizing mascara with ingredients that read more like a $200 serum, including royal jelly, collagen, and sodium hyaluronate (a safe thickener), to give you long, lush lashes.
What all J-beauty products seem to have in common? They are grounded in heritage and incredibly well-made. I have learned that while you will pay a little more for them, products made in Japan are more luxurious and every detail of the formulations have been meticulously crafted. Most importantly, though, you can expect results – and that, to me, is worth every extra dollar.
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About Chelsea Scott: Founder of The Beauty Spy, specializing in Asian beauty products and seen on HSN monthly, is an acclaimed beauty professional with more than 20 years of experience in product development and marketing. She has successfully represented beauty products in various countries for more than a decade, including HSN & TSC Canada. For more, follow her on Instagram, @chelseabeautyspy.