Introducing a new blog series titled “J-Beauty Spotlight,” where we interview key individuals in Japan who are passionate about skincare and self-care as well as rituals and practices that are uniquely Japanese. Join us as they reveal their stories and secrets revolving around J-beauty.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Robin and I’m originally from Stockholm, Sweden but I’ve been living and working in Tokyo since 2009 as a fashion model, actor and musician. I’m currently dabbling in many projects which keeps me motivated, such as hosting a slew of events that promotes local culture and helps entrepreneurs build a foundation for themselves. I also do musical projects where I produce music for art exhibits and commercials as well as for my own solo projects.
2. What is your morning routine like on a typical day?
I tend to set up my alarm clock to wake up at a very similar time every day. After I have my coffee, I always work out. I do a dumbbell and pilates routine and after that I have my yoga session. Both sessions aren’t long at all, but it varies. The dumbbell and pilates routine lasts about 5-15 minutes but it’s high-intensity. The yoga session can last about 15-45 minutes. So I’d say it’s about an hour a day in total. I do it all at home because I like to set my own time and choose content that suits me better. If I don’t do these, my day is not off to a good start, and it’s not going to work out for me (laughs). So that’s really important. Also, I make sure to cook something because I don’t like to buy things pre-packaged. I’ll cook and then get started with my day, maybe at around 11 AM.
3. Why is skincare/self-care important to you?
Number one, I think it’s about self-love. We spend so much time on social media and being out there and trying to connect with people. We’re always thinking about them and that goal you have in mind, but rarely spend time to sit down and focus on yourself and give yourself a little kiss on the shoulder. So I think especially for me with skincare, it’s not only to make myself look presentable and to take care of myself, but I think it’s also about that dedicated time you habitually force upon yourself to sit down with only yourself. It’s more than just skincare; it’s really like a ritual, cliché enough.
Maybe self reflection would be a part of that?
Yes, I agree, I think it’s almost like a meditative process.
4. What kind of beauty products are you currently using?
So, to start off with skin, I love cleansing my face using the KITAO Matcha + Chia Cleansing Cream. I love how natural and gentle it is. It’s neither sticky nor greasy yet manages to properly cleanse and moisturize the skin, without that feeling of a thousand chemicals and aromas packed on top.
After cleansing, I use products to clear out my sensitive skin. I always thought I had acne, but I recently realized I never had acne. I’ve had something called Malassezia, which is a fungus that naturally found on skin. If people have a fungal infection, you usually think of some kind of vaginal thrush or a white tongue or other symptoms like depression or feeling really tired or sick, but it really shows itself in many different ways including on the skin. And usually it comes out as little tiny bumps on the forehead which can be easily confused with acne. It’s kind of a topic that doesn’t have enough light shed on it. Sometimes I’ll see people on the street or meet people and it’s obvious that that’s what they have, but I can’t mention it first glance because the words “fungus” or “fungal” are so stigmatized and may sound so wrong. It is, however, something that exists in all of our bodies, and is nothing to be ashamed of.
The active ingredients in the products are tea tree oil and a combination of AHA, BHA, and PHA - all 3 of these acids are included but in minuscule amounts. It engulfs and attacks the overgrowth on your skin from all of these different directions with different kinds of scientifically-proven ingredients. It doesn’t really give a chance for something like fungus to grow on the skin. I used to be on heavy medication, but this line has completely cleared my Malassezia. It is the first skincare line that I have found that has actually made a difference.
All in all, I am all about minimal steps in my skincare routine using products that are effective.
For haircare I use a shampoo infused with plant extracts and oils that is very affordable and available at the local drugstore. It’s filled with organic compounds, smells herbal, almost like the incense at Japanese temple grounds. It’s so moisturizing that I don’t need to use any other products afterwards to seal in the moisture. I might be gay but I’m still a “dude”, and I like anything that is efficient and easy. That’s really the only thing I use in the shower. I don’t even use body wash - it’s like my all-in-one bath product.
I had my hair permed recently, and the hairstylist recommended a treatment foam, which is like a mousse. I use it every time I go out because not only does it protect my hair from heat damage, but it also moisturizes my hair and keeps my hair lightweight and shiny but not sticky. I like to keep things easy and non-greasy, and I don’t like knowing that I have products on. It doesn’t leave any residue and leaves your hair shiny and you don’t get any breakouts from using it. I can’t stand hair wax so this is a better hair styling alternative.
All in all, I like completing my skincare/self-care routine with as minimal steps as possible.
5. What else do you do as part of your self-care routine?
Cooking is a huge form of therapy for me, but I also like to know what I put in my food and what kind of benefits they may have for my body. I have an innate obsession of Wikipedia-ing anything, an endless curiosity that I apply into my cooking. I have a list of ingredients that I know are good for my body. One of my favorites is goya* - hands down my favorite vegetable on earth and finding new recipes with goya is something I really enjoy. Also, buckwheat. My mother is French, and I was raised with knowledge on buckwheat. There aren’t many countries that use buckwheat the same way that the Japanese and French do. The French use it to make galettes which is kind of like a savory crepe. The Japanese use it to make soba among other things. I make a lot of soba, crackers, bread and of course, galettes using buckwheat. It’s a wheat flour substitute that provides proteins and carbs soluble for the human body. It’s easier to absorb the nutrients in buckwheat in comparison to white flour or germ wheat, for example. It’s a really good one I swear by. This is also partially to take care of the fungal problem I mentioned earlier and also because there is so much refined wheat in our diet these days - delicious but so bad for us. I’d like to charge myself up with good ingredients when at home to balance out my meals in case I eat out.
Apart from cooking, I incorporate a lot of yoga and meditation. Partially because my mother has been studying Dharma, or the practice of Buddhism, for many years. She got me into Okyo (mantras) so there are specific types of mantras that I use to meditate before I go to bed. Or if I see a dead animal or insect on the side of the road, there are short sentences you can say to yourself up in repetition to stay aware, mindful and compassionate, such as, “I’ve seen this, this is what’s happening and I’m grateful.” So I do that a lot which really helps humbling me. I started doing Okyo about three years ago and it’s now a big part of my life. There’s also the Japanese versions of mantras. I wouldn’t consider myself truly devoted but it feels good and it is more of a tool to stay mindful.
6. Are there any sustainable practices you follow in your daily routine?
I’m very mindful of electricity - I turn them off whenever I don’t need it. I also try to unplug appliances around the house to save energy. I also try to not keep the water running. I love baths but I’m also more of an onsen (hot springs) kind of person so when I’m at home, I try to not take any baths. And if I’m showering, I’ll turn it off when I want to brush my teeth or something.
When cooking, I do take a lot of focus on using as much of the vegetable as possible before chucking it out. There is a surprising amount of things you can use that are actually delicious. For example, I recently learned you can boil the silk in raw corn and eat it as a pasta substitute and it’s delicious! Another recent find is coriander roots. When you buy it in the store, most of the time they have the roots on them. You can lightly fry them and they taste better than the actual plant! It is so delicious!
7. What is something that you love about Japan/Japanese culture?
It’s cliché but the Japanese’ respect towards one another is something I learned when I first came here. I would not have grasped this if I stayed in Europe. It has significantly helped with my growth and understanding. One principle which I feel is quite important is that opinions and ideas of concepts are purely made within your mind, which means you can also remove them. And I think Japan has an amazing way of dealing with this. Even if you believe something about a person, that opinion doesn’t necessarily mean it is true and also doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be expressed. Even if there was someone that was homophobic or racist, there’s a much lower chance of someone saying that to your face than abroad. I learned that not everything is worth mentioning and I try to incorporate that into my life, especially because I am opinionated and loud-mouthed. It’s a good thing actually, considering that it’s for the better.
Also, the love of nature and natural flavors, natural behaviors, and natural clothing. Japan is a beautiful culture that enshrines Mother Earth and shows respect to the people and to Her.
8. Any final words or a message you’d like to share?
If you are in Japan, please try out the different kinds of food it has to offer! In terms of skincare and self-care, there are so many products that it’s hard to know where to start, but one thing that’s for sure is Japanese products rarely go wrong. I feel like most Japanese products are trustworthy. If you have an issue with your skin, you should try a Japanese product. The most important thing is to start somewhere.
Lastly, don’t forget to give yourself a kiss on the shoulder! Don’t ever forget to love yourself.
*Goya: Also known as “bitter melon” or “bitter ground” in English, it is a green, bumpy, cucumber-shaped vegetable that is a considered a superfood of Okinawa prefecture in Japan.