Let’s play a game. You’re on a desert island and you can take only one treasured skincare item with you. Which do you choose?
A. Cleanser B. Toner, Essence or Lotion C. Serum D. Cream
Ok, so the title kind of gives it away, and it’s a really unfair question... but I’m willing to bet that your gut instinct was C or D! In the west, we place a high value on treatment heavy products like serums, masks, and night creams. But sometimes we write-off cleansing as a not-so-important step. Remember those Friday nights when we passed out, eye-makeup, contacts, and everything?
In Japan, cleansing is considered one of the most important, in fact sometimes the most important step in your skincare routine. When you don’t have a cleansing ritual in place, it can be hard to know where to start and which product to use. So here’s the lowdown on the different types of Japanese cleansers, demystified.
Foaming cleansers are like Starbucks in Japan. They seem to be at every corner! Men and women, teens and the elderly alike have embraced them. Why are they so darn popular? Japanese foaming cleansers are designed to protect the skin from the many unintentional mishaps of cleansing. The foam forms a protective barrier to guard against abrasion, scratches, or pulling at the skin. Foaming cleansers are suitable for any skin type, but especially normal to oily.
J-Beauty tip: To activate the foam, work the product into a lather with your hands or a foaming net until it forms a nice foam cloud. Don’t be afraid of wasting product - you should actually notice that just a little goes a long way and the lather saves you product. Plus, the foam micro-bubbles seep into pores for deep cleansing, so all you have to do is gently swirl the foam on your face and rinse off. The key here is to not make direct hand-to-face contact. Let the foam do the work!
Use: Daily day and/or night as a one-step cleanse, or after removing makeup.
Cleansing creams are an ideal year-round option for dry and sensitive skin types but can be used by all skin types in colder climates and seasons. Cleansing creams dissolve makeup, dirt, and other impurities without stripping your skin of its natural moisture, so the result is hydrated and soft skin. They make for great massage creams as well.
J-Beauty tip: Apply the cleansing cream and gently massage onto the face. Remember to avoid direct contact with the skin. Rinse off with lukewarm water or remove with a tissue.
Use: Daily day and/or night as a one-step cleanse.
We suggest: KITAO Matcha + Chia Cleansing Cream
Enzyme Powders are exfoliators in their own right, but very different from their western counterparts. Japanese beauty isn’t big on abrasive scrubs and harsh chemical peels, which are seen as damaging to the skin. Instead, exfoliators like enzyme powders gently slough off skin to reveal a youthful, healthy glow.
J-Beauty tip: Apply the powder on wet palms, and work the product into a lather. As with foaming cleansers, the key here is to whip up a dense foam, and gently swirl it on your face without directly touching your skin.
Use: 1-2 times weekly after a gentle cleanse.
We suggest: KITAO Matcha + Chia Enzyme Powder
Cleansing oils are the first step in the famous double cleanse process. The cleansing oil gently lifts off surface impurities such as makeup and sunscreen, and preps the skin for a deeper cleanse with a foaming cleanser. You don’t want to be rubbing and tugging at the skin to remove layers of foundation - they’re easily broken down by oil in just seconds.
J-Beauty tip: As with all J-Beauty cleansers, the goal is to let the product do the work. Gently massage the oil on your skin, starting with your cheeks (the driest region of your face) and moving upwards to your T-zone (the oiliest). Rinse off with lukewarm water.
Use: Many brands now offer cleansing oils as a one-step cleanser. However, for cleansing oils offered as part of the double cleanse method, feel free to follow up with a gentle foam cleanser as your second step.