Ever wonder how people cared for their skin back in the day? Plant-based skincare might seem like a hipster trend, but history tells us that the use of botanical ingredients in skincare is far from new. You might know that the ancient Egyptians maintained skin hygiene with natural soap, the Greeks beautified themselves with olive oil for a healthy glow, and medieval Europeans relied on herbal remedies to zap pimples. Similarly, Japanese people have long relied on botanicals to care for their skin. Plant-based ingredients such as rice bran, kombu seaweed, and matcha have been incorporated in skincare for centuries, and still continue to be used in J-Beauty routines today.
Why choose plant-based skincare?
Evolutionarily speaking, the human body recognizes natural ingredients and can easily respond to botanicals (as opposed to man-made synthetic ingredients). Of course, some people genuinely have allergic reactions to certain plants, so we can’t rule out non-plant-based skincare either. Every type of skincare product has its place. But here’s where plant-based skincare holds an advantage.
Botanical ingredients versus synthetic ingredients
Each plant is its own storehouse of many (think in the hundreds and thousands range) active substances that work together in a naturally occurring harmony. Think back to “symbiosis” from high school biology class - each substance supports the others in a synergy. For example, a single essential oil will contain a wide variety of beneficial compounds, but in natural ratios that are readily absorbed by the skin. So from just one botanical ingredient, you can benefit from a whole pharmacy of healing and nourishing substances, without sacrificing balance.
On the flip side, synthetic ingredients tend to isolate one or few active substances in higher concentrations. While your skin might get super charged-up from the higher dose, you won’t reap the benefits of multiple compounds available in plants. There’s also the increased likelihood of unwanted side effects, due to the aggressive one-way push. To top it off, synthetic ingredients are usually accompanied by artificial fragrances to mask their unpleasant scent. Botanical ingredients like the tsubaki flower don’t need artificial fragrances – they already carry their own natural fragrance!
The science behind J-Beauty plant-based skincare
Plants are naturally loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants include vitamins, polyphenols, carotenoids, and other compounds that protect plants from the damage of free radicals. In the human body, free radicals harm DNA and cells, which can lead to early skin aging. Human skin can directly benefit from the antioxidant protection offered by plants. Antioxidants support cell repair and promote collagen synthesis, which helps to slow down skin degeneration, including wrinkling, fine lines, loss of elasticity, and a lackluster complexion.
J-Beauty brands conduct extensive research on Japan’s natural resources, due to respect for plants’ abilities to endure a variety of harsh environments. When J-Beauty brands seek out high-quality botanical ingredients, they look for plants that have withstood the test of time – this means pest-induced disease as well as weather conditions. Such a plant survives when it has developed antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, as well as the ability to retain water, which prevents it from drying out. You’ve also probably never wondered “Why don’t plants get sunburn?” Plants essentially produce their own sunscreen, which defends them from harmful UV rays while allowing photosynthesis to occur. Knowing that plants have these special characteristics, J-Beauty brands are highly selective not only when it comes to which botanical ingredients to include, but the purity of botanical ingredients. Improved extraction methods and purification processes ensure skincare products with more powerful effect.
What happens when powerful botanical ingredients come together?
If a single plant-based ingredient isn’t already enough, the benefits of botanicals are amplified when combined correctly in the right ratios. J-Beauty Brand Biolab’s Créme Brillante is an example of the kind of powerhouse that forms when great botanicals come together. A rich blend of 80+ botanical ingredients, the Créme Brillante restores resilience to the skin and guards against dryness and premature signs of aging. Among its highlighted ingredients is “momo” or Japanese peach extract. Sourced sustainably from discarded yet healthy peaches, the extract carries the natural moisture retention properties inherent in the peaches. Then you’ve got the moisturizer’s alpine rose extract, which pretty much speaks for itself. A plant native to the Alps, the Alpine Rose survives for nearly a century throughout severe weather conditions. We can definitely thank its antioxidants for shielding our skin in the same way they shield the plant from environmental stressors.
Where can I find plant-based Japanese skincare?
If you’re on the hunt for Japanese botanicals, you’re in luck. Since J-beauty is all about harnessing the goodness of Mother Earth, most Japanese skincare products include botanical ingredients in some form or another. The following guide will help you get moving in the right direction. Check out our brand picks below!
Do you need your skincare to be 100% vegan, clean, and animal-friendly? From ingredient sourcing to sustainable packaging, UNNNATURALLY NATURAL sets the bar high while also delivering the best gifts to your skin. This is the brand to choose if you need vetting with a fine-toothed comb.
If you seek a balance of beauty and brains, EDOBIO is the brand for you. The whole collection is based on simple beauty rituals of ancient Japan, where botanical ingredients like cherry blossoms and green tea were harnessed for silky, soft skin. EDOBIO uses cutting-edge biotechnology and breakthrough extraction methods to make the most of Japan’s botanical resources.
KITAO brings the magic of matcha green tea right to your vanity. All of their matcha is organic, ECOCERT-certified, and ethically sourced. Their products also include plant-based ingredients like quinoa, chia seed, and acai berry, so if you dig superfoods, this brand is for you.
Want to learn more about the power of Mother Earth in J-Beauty skincare? Check out this related post on natural ingredients in Japanese beauty products.