While having a skincare routine may be universal, the types of products in your arsenal, the steps you take, and when you take them definitely aren’t. In fact, go anywhere in the world and you’ll find many different methods on keeping skin healthy, moisturized, and protected from the sun. One of the most famous routines, the Korean skincare regimen, has gained international popularity from its ten-step routine that promises dewy, glass-like skin if you’re willing to put in the work for it. But another, more streamlined beauty regimen is also gaining recognition for taking some of the best elements of K-beauty and synthesizing it down to something a lot more approachable: Japanese skincare.
Much like K-beauty, J-beauty focuses on keeping skin hydrated, free of blemishes and discolorations, and protected from the sun. However, because Japanese culture values blending the traditional with modern innovation, J-beauty centers around utilizing ingredients readily available in Japan that have been used for many centuries and have been backed by scientific research as essential to skin’s overall health. The result is a routine with fewer steps and products to achieve the same result. If you’re new to J-beauty, you’re going to want to pick up some of these skincare favorites loved both in Japan and around the world to get you started.
Shiseido Senka Perfect Whip Facial Wash
Cleansing is an important step in any skincare routine, but finding a product you actually enjoy washing your face with is another issue entirely. Japanese skincare brands have taken this into serious consideration and the result is mousse-like cleansers that you can whip up into a foamy lather for a more gentle clean. One of the best out there is the Shiseido Senka Perfect Whip Facial Wash, which works with water to form soft, pillowy clouds you can scrub into your skin day or night. Once activated, the cleanser will help remove dirt, sweat, and makeup from skin without much rubbing or effort on your part. While some have found the formula to be a bit drying for sensitive skin, many love this cleanser because of how soft it is and how fun it is to use.
Buy it here: Shiseido Senka Perfect Whip Facial Wash | $9
Tatcha Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser
Alongside Shiseido, Tatcha is one of the more famous Japanese skincare brands with a higher price tag. Known for using ingredients commonly found in Japan, like silk and rice, Tatcha offers luxurious products that are gentle but highly effective. One of the brand’s most popular products is The Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser. At first, the formula acts as a gel, but it quickly turns to a foam when you add water. Unlike many exfoliators which use chemicals or abrasive beads to remove dead skin, this water-based cleanser has Japanese luffa fruit fibers which serve as natural exfoliants to resurface new skin. Simply put, it won’t dry out new skin while getting rid of dead skin.
Buy it here: The Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser | $38
Biore Aqua Rich Watery Sunscreen
Biore Aqua Rich Watery Sunscreen is a Discoverer favorite for a reason; it’s light, hydrating, not sticky, and offers Japan’s highest UV-A protection rating along with an SPF of 50+. Because of ingredients like hyaluronic acid and royal jelly extract, this sunscreen by Biore feels a lot more like lotion than the thick, white goop that typically leaves streaks and heavy scents on your skin. You can actually go about your day after applying it like you’ve put nothing on, and it’s bliss.
Buy it here: Biore Aqua Rich Watery Sunscreen | $13
Curél Hydra Therapy In-Shower Lotion
In-shower moisturizers are a godsend for both people with incredibly dry skin and those who don’t have the patience to moisturize after they shower. Curél, one of Japan’s top-selling skincare brands for dry and sensitive skin, makes a must-try iteration of in-shower lotion. The Hydra Therapy Lotion will work with the water left on your skin after you shower to replenish moisture and retain that moisture throughout the day. The formula also includes ceramides, the fatty barrier of skin that keeps moisture in and dirt and pollutants out. Despite its intense hydration power, the lotion is still incredibly light and dries on skin quickly so you don’t have to awkwardly wait to towel off when you’re done showering.
Buy it here: Curél Hydra Therapy In-Shower Lotion | $11
Hado Labo Tokyo Anti-Aging Hydrator
If you ask someone to recommend a quality moisturizing serum when in Japan, they’ll likely point you toward Hado Labo Tokyo Anti-Aging Hydrator. The light non-greasy formula features the two powerhouse ingredients the skin needs to repair itself and stay hydrated: retinol and hyaluronic acid. It also features collagen to help improve skin’s elasticity. Because it’s more like a serum, you can use this product on its own or in conjunction with any moisturizers, depending on the level of hydration your skin needs.
Buy it here: Hado Labo Tokyo Anti-Aging Hydrator | $12
Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circle Eye Cream
Let me preface this by saying, I’ve used many many under-eye creams on the market that claim to reduce the appearance of under-eye circles, but not one actually did it aside from Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circle Eye Cream. Instead of leaning on trendy ingredients like caffeine, Shiseido has developed a light-diffusing powder and mixed it into the cream’s hydrating formula to gently brighten under-eye bags. While this cream won’t replace a concealer for most people, it truly helps darker, sunken-in skin reflect light more readily. Tap a bit onto one eye, compare it to your other eye, and I promise you’ll notice the difference.
Buy it here: Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circle Eye Cream | $53
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
It might sound counterintuitive to use oil to clean your skin, but there’s a method to the madness that the Japanese understand best. They actually invented the double cleansing method that K-beauty has popularized, which utilizes both oil- and water-based cleansers to remove impurities, dirt, sweat, and makeup from skin without losing your skin’s natural moisture. The DHC Deep Cleansing Oil was one of the first cleansing oils on the market and is a cult favorite for a reason. Olive oil within the formula binds with dirt and grime in your skin to remove it from your pores without taking moisture with it. If you’ve ever struggled to find a cleanser that will effectively remove all of your makeup, this one is it.
Buy it here: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil | $27
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
Essence isn’t a typical mainstay in a Western beauty routine, but it’s really time we changed that. As light and refreshing as water, essence is used to prep the skin for moisturizer, helping it to absorb deeper and for longer. SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is basically the queen of the essence kingdom. The formula is extra special because it features Pitera, a yeast-derivative first observed by scientists who noticed sake brewery workers had extremely youthful-looking hands. Not only does this essence prepare skin for moisturizer, it hydrates on its own, softening the texture of skin while diminishing the look of dark circles. It’s definitely worth looking into.
Buy it here: SK-II Facial Treatment Essence | $99
Main photo by Jared Rice/Unsplash.