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What is J-Beauty? Your Ultimate Guide to Japanese Skincare

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What is J-Beauty? Ultimate Guide to Japanese Skincare

By now, you may have noticed the term “J-Beauty” in headlines of beauty magazines. Or perhaps your favorite beauty guru has talked about it on YouTube. It’s the biggest trend in beauty right now. So, why is everyone so obsessed about J-Beauty? Whether you’ve heard about it or not, you’ve come to the right place. We have compiled an ultimate guide on J-Beauty, covering what defines J-Beauty and how the Japanese skincare routine is different from the K-Beauty routine and more. 

What exactly is J-Beauty? 

Simply put, J-Beauty is beauty from Japan. But it isn’t just about the Japanese skincare and makeup products. It depicts everything from the products, the routine, the ingredients, the innovative research behind it and the concepts rooted from centuries of Japanese tradition. Yes, that’s a lot to cover, but don’t worry. Through our blog, our team of J-Beauty lovers from Japan and the U.S. is here to demystify the wonders of J-Beauty for you. Let’s dive right in. 

The 3 essential factors that define J-Beauty

1. Minimalist skincare routine

When it comes to J-Beauty, less is more. Contrary to the 10-step K-Beauty routine, J-Beauty is mostly simplified to a 3-step skincare routine — cleanse, hydrate and seal. Why so simple? Because J-Beauty is all about prevention, rather than cure. It’s far more important to nail down the basic steps with effective products because those basics are what create a strong foundation. The stronger foundation you have, the less curing products you’ll need.  

This simplistic J-Beauty skincare approach didn’t just happen overnight. It’s a routine that has been passed down for centuries, ever since the age of the Geishas. As professional entertainers, skincare was an important part of a Geisha’s everyday routine. Omotenashi is a Japanese philosophy of paying the utmost attention and respect towards your guest. Because skincare was considered a part of Omotenashi, Geishas took great care of their skin. Their ritual was quite simple, mainly consisting of ingredients used in the traditional Japanese diet, like rice, seaweed, green tea and camellia oil. The idea of this simplistic skincare routine has been passed down over the generations and still exists at the core of every Japanese woman to this day.

2. Unique natural ingredients

Your skin’s best friends might be born in Japan. In recent years, matcha has been the most trending Japanese ingredient in both beauty and food in the U.S. Cultivated and consumed for centuries in Japan, this antioxidant-rich ingredient has been recognized as a super-ingredient for healthy and beautiful skin. Like matcha, Japan is full of nature’s treasures that work wonders for your skin. 

The ceramide-rich Aomori apples, the moisture-retaining kombu seaweed, the plumping sakekasu, the brightening yuzu… the list goes on. These natural ingredients have been trusted and beloved for centuries.

3. Created with meticulous research and technology

Some beauty experts estimate that R&D in the Japanese beauty industry is about two to three years ahead of the U.S. They’re often the first to come up with breakthrough formulas. The reason for their forte in this area may be because the Japanese culture values precision and continuous improvement. It’s almost embedded in their DNA. 

The Japanese have come up with some of the most difficult extraction methods for beauty ingredients. Let’s give you an example. You’ve probably heard of collagen and hyaluronic acid. They’re pretty much the holy grail for moisture retention in skincare. Now, have you ever heard of Proteoglycan? It’s the miracle moisture-retaining ingredient extracted from the nasal cartilage of salmon. And it’s the next big anti-aging skincare ingredient everyone will want on their beauty counters. Not only does it have about 1.3 times more water retention power than hyaluronic acid, but it also stimulates the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid in your skin. Well, guess who invented the extraction method of this multi-functional ingredient? Even after the discovery of Proteoglycan, no one was able to come up with a safe and efficient extraction method for 40 years — until the Japanese did. 

This is another reason why the J-Beauty skincare routine can be so minimalistic. Every product is created with such high standards, with efficacy-focused product development. So, there is no need to pile on extra unnecessary products onto your skin. J-Beauty can bring maximum effectiveness with minimum products.

Minimal 3-step J-Beauty skincare routine

Avoid friction to your skin throughout your skincare routine!

Before we start the J-Beauty skincare routine, there’s one thing very important to remember. You must avoid friction to your skin at all times! All the rubbing, scrubbing and even harsh massaging that goes into your skincare routine leads to inflammation, which can accelerate skin aging such as causing fine lines, wrinkles dark spots, redness and sagging. Throughout the J-Beauty skincare routine, the focus is on reducing as much friction as possible. So remember this as the fundamental concept of the J-Beauty skincare routine and you’re on the right track for skincare success!

Step 1: Cleanse

Out of the entire J-Beauty skincare routine, cleansing is the most important step you need to focus on. If you’re cleansing the wrong way, skipping a step or using the wrong type of cleanser to begin with, all the skincare products you’re applying afterwards might go to waste. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty!

What type of cleanser should you use?

The type of cleanser you should pick boils down to the heaviness of your makeup. If you have heavy makeup on, you should use an oil cleanser to lift away every bit of foundation and waterproof makeup. We also recommend micellar waters that will leave your skin feeling hydrated and conditioned, as well as acting as an essence toner. The Bifesta Micellar Cleansing Water collection comes in three different varieties (SENSITIVE, MOIST, and BRIGHTUP) to support sensitive, dry, and lackluster skin types.

Ingredients like pullulan for skin-tightening, Vitamin C for brightening, and lactic acid for gentle exfoliation make the Bifesta micellar waters a multi-tasking hero, and they function as a cleanser, essence lotion, and treatment all in one.

On the other hand, if you’re the type that only wears light makeup, we recommend a milk or cream type cleanser like KITAO’s Matcha + Chia Cleansing Cream.

With rich antioxidant-rich matcha green tea and three other powerful superfoods - acai, chia seed, and quinoa, the KITAO Matcha + Chia Cleansing Cream transform into a soothing cleansing milk when water is added and effectively dissolves makeup and excess oil.

How to use a cleanser the right way

Take a generous amount and gently massage it onto a dry face. Make sure you’re not applying too much pressure with your fingers, because remember, friction is your enemy! For delicate areas like around your eyes, use your ring finger and pinky finger and gently massage as if you’re touching a baby’s skin.

Then comes the important step most people forget. Take a small amount of lukewarm water onto your hands and gently blend it in with the cleanser. You’ll see the cleanser turn into a soft, milky texture. This process is called “Nyu-ka” in Japanese and it’s very important in getting all the makeup and dirt out of your pores.

Once you’re done with this, you’re ready to rinse. Make sure you’re rinsing at least 30 times. Wait, come again? Yes, you read it right. You need to rinse at least THIRTY times to thoroughly wash out the cleanser. If you skip this step, you’ll end up leaving dirt and residue on your skin and the moisture and nutrients that follow won’t be able to penetrate into your skin.

Wash with the foam, not your hands!

Now that the makeup has been removed, you’re ready to move on to washing. In Japan, “Awa Sengan,” which literally means washing with bubbles or foam, is the standard washing method. Remember our key concept here: friction is your skin’s worst enemy. That’s why the Japanese swear by creating the creamiest foam puff with a foaming net acting as a soft cushion between your hands and face. KITAO’s Matcha + Chia Enzyme Powder is the perfect face wash for this step.

Infused with organic matcha and other superfoods, the KITAO Matcha + Chia Enzyme Powder transforms into a rich and fine foam when applied to wet skin. Its gentle granules help buff away dead skin and impurities trapped deep within the pores, while gentle papaya extract brightens and refines.

We also recommend the Real Bell Black Charcoal Face Wash to effectively clean out your pores, the Edo Cosme Rice Bran Facial Wash to unclog pores for a brighter complexion, or the Hakutsuru Handmade Daiginjo Facial Cleansing Soap or Mutenka Sekken for an eco-friendly option to achieve glowing skin.

The Real Bell Black Charcoal Face Wash is a facial cleansing foam made of Kishu Binchotan (natural mineral cleansing ingredient). With great absorption and cleansing power, the gentle foaming cleanser will remove makeup and dirt from your pores. 

The Edo Cosme Rice Bran Facial Wash is a gentle facial cleansing exfoliant scrub that contains rice bran to improve dull skin and unclog pores for brighter, more radiant skin. This facial cleansing polish gently removes dirt and impurities while moisturizing the skin.  

The Hakutsuru Handmade Daiginjo Facial Cleansing Soap is a cleansing bar soap made with pure rice Daiginjo sake. The dipotassium glycyrrhizinate gently cleanses the skin and helps prevent breakouts and dry skin. This soap helps protect the natural moisture of the skin while smoothing the skin’s texture. 

Bar soaps handmade by artisans in Hyogo, Japan. These handcrafted soaps are made of luxurious all natural ingredients. From Yuzu to Hinoki to Cherry Blossoms and more! There are 8 different types of bar soaps made from different ingredients. Choose what’s best for your skin.

After wetting your face, take the loose powder onto the foaming net, add some water and scrunch it a few times until you get a puff ball with a whip cream-like texture. (If you don’t have a foaming net, you can simply use your hands) Press the puff ball against your wet skin so only the foam is touching your skin. Here’s the trick — don’t move your hands side to side or in circular motions. Just by pressing the puff onto your skin will remove dead skin and impurities trapped deep within your pores.

Now that the most important step in the skincare routine is done, your skin is in the perfect condition to hydrate!

Step 2: Hydrate

If K-Beauty strives for “Glass Skin,” J-Beauty strives for “mochi skin. In Japanese, “mochi hada” means soft and plump skin like mochi. In order to achieve mochi skin, you need to maintain a healthy balance of water and oil.  Here are two types of products you should use to maintain that balance. 

The Essence Toner

With a water-like texture, an Essence Toner is packed with essential ingredients for hydration. It also softens your skin to allow all the nutrients to permeate deep inside your skin. The La Vie Précieuse APG Essence Toner is our top recommendation for this step.

The La Vie Précieuse APG Essence Toner combines the power of apple-derived ceramide, proteoglycans (a miracle ingredient which retains 1.3 times more water than hyaluronic acid), and glycyrrhizinate, extracted from licorice roots. It soothes stiff skin and provides deep and thorough moisturizing.

We also recommend a more affordable option which is the Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioner. This essence toner is great for all skin types and helps achieve mocha skin. 

This coix seed lotion toner is a cult-favorite in Japan. It deeply penetrates the skin to hydrate, soothe, and prep the skin for serums and moisturizer. This facial essence is rich in vitamin B and amino acids, to boost hydration and achieve soft, mochi-like skin.

Take a quarter-sized essence toner and warm it up in your hands. Next, envelop your face with your hands. Gently press the essence onto your skin as if you’re hydrating each and every pore on your face. It’s important you’re not gliding your fingers side to side or patting your face because…you guessed it! No friction! When your entire face has absorbed the essence, you’re one step closer to reaching “mochi hada” status! 

The Emulsion

This is the key product in achieving a healthy balance of water and oil that your skin needs. Because it’s made of both water and oil, it has a lighter texture than a moisturizer or cream. Layering this emulsion after the essence toner is a must in J-Beauty. Try the La Vie Précieuse Moist A.P.G. Emulsion and apply it using the same steps as the essence toner. 

A light, but rich hydrator or emulsion that envelops the skin in a veil of moisture, supplying the essential oils required by the skin for a healthy, beautiful appearance.

Step 3. Seal

Now, you’re ready for the final step of the skincare routine. It’s time to lock in all the moisture and protect your skin with a cream. All the love you gave your skin will mean nothing if you don’t seal it all in. Here, you’re taking the same method as the essence toner and the emulsion. Take a small amount of cream, warm it up in your hands and gently press onto your skin.

The Cream

For this step, you can choose the La Vie Précieuse Moist A.P.G. Cream if you’re looking for anti-aging properties with rich moisture.

The La Vie Précieuse Moist A.P.G. Cream  reinforces the properties of the first two products applied to your skin – the essence toner and hydrator, resulting in revitalized, resilient skin.

If you’re still in the preventative stage and looking for lighter moisture, the KITAO Matcha + Chia Facial Cream will be perfect for you.

With antioxidant-rich matcha green tea and three other powerful superfoods, the KITAO Matcha + Chia Facial Cream quenches dryness while replenishing the skin with Matcha. Chia seed helps fight aging free radicals and acai helps enliven the complexion as quinoa balances oil.

Depending on your skin condition, there are, of course, other products you can add to this basic routine like serums and face masks. But as long as you follow this fundamental routine every single day your mochi skin will be thanking you! 

Undiscovered J-Beauty skincare brands with innovative products

When you think of J-Beauty, some of the iconic brands like Shiseido might come to mind. But there are so many more great Japanese beauty brands that have yet to be discovered. And that’s exactly why we’re here. We’ve scoured throughout Japan, tested out products firsthand, learned about the ingredients, talked to the researchers and owners about what makes their products so special. Below are the J-Beauty skincare brands that we recommended in this post. 

J-Beauty Skincare Brand 1: La Vie Précieuse

This J-Beauty skincare line takes the very best, most unique aspects of Japanese skincare. It offers a simple, high-quality skincare routine made with carefully sourced natural ingredients. Focused on anti-aging, it incorporates unique beauty ingredients born from cutting-edge bio-research. The three naturally derived ingredients - “Proteoglycan” extracted from salmon nose cartilage; “AP ceramide” from Aomori apples; and the revived domestic “Tsugaru licorice root” offer preventative care and remarkable benefits such as hydration, restoring elasticity, reducing redness and irritation, and helps to preserve the levels of hyaluronic acid in your skin.

J-Beauty Skincare Brand 2: KITAO Matcha

KITAO’s Matcha is a skincare line consisting of natural ingredients such as antioxidant-rich matcha, chia seeds, quinoa and acai. With powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, matcha has caught women’s attention who are looking for skincare. Another reason why we recommend KITAO is that it only uses ECOCERT certified organic matcha harvested in Kyoto, Japan — sustainable and safe for your skin and the environment.

In addition to Matcha, the KITAO skincare line includes chia seeds, quinoa, and acai which contains essential ingredients such as calcium, minerals, and essential amino acids. These benefits are well-known to achieve a healthy body and beautiful skin.

More Coming up on J-Beauty Skincare…

In our blog, we will be providing more information on J-Beauty - from the amazing ingredients used, how Japanese women take care of their skin, exceptional J-Beauty products and more. We want to share everything we’ve learned with you. Enjoy and see you on the next blog!

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