It seems everyone and their grandmother knows Korean skin care. K-beauty is praised as innovative and set trends all around the world. But not so much is known about Japanese skin care. Maybe that the K-beauty industry got better marketing or maybe it’s just that many Japanese manufacturers don’t bother with translating the product labels into English.

Whatever reason is contributing to the fact that Japanese skin care is not so well known and has been less of a cultural beauty brand, Japan has some of the oldest beauty traditions in the world. The rituals go back for more than 3,000 years.

Onsen is a Japanese natural hot spring, photo by soycamino

Japanese women are famed for smooth skin and seem to look decades younger than their actual age. Two words often used to describe Japanese skin is porcelain-like and powerless. Doesn’t it make sense then to look closely at the Japanese, a population with a reputation for flawless skin so that it makes it difficult to guess their age? Actually, the methods are simple: a healthy, well-balanced diet and caring for the skin as a whole.

The Japanese way

In contrast to the Western way of thinking, the Japanese skin care routine is all about health and wellbeing. Put differently, in the West, skin care is very solution-oriented. It’s an approach where people are thinking about what can be done to target a specific skin issue? What can be done to reduce the redness? What can be done to get rid of oily shine?

This approach often leads to reducing ourselves to just a collection of skin concerns. An example would be, what can we apply on the chin to dry out the zit? We want overnight if not instantaneous results. And for that, we often choose harsh and aggressive products. But we don’t stop and reflect on what could be the underlying causes.

Also, in the West, women tend to focus much more on makeup than skin care. Put bluntly, more on covering up. But in Japan, people tend to invest in showing off their nice skin.

The Japanese rituals show that beauty and health are intrinsically linked. Healthy, beautiful skin is much more than just a flawless face. There are many factors that can alter the quality of the skin, including stress, pollution, alcohol, smoking, sun exposure, and so on.

This is why it’s not just the result of toners, essences, and creams, and lotions – other lifestyle choices can also make a huge difference. It’s about taking care of your skin inside out. Your face is considered a reflection of your inner personality and health.

Which is why the skin care philosophy in Japan is about hard work and sincerely committing to a daily skin care routine so that you get and maintain perfectly healthy skin that you can proudly show without wearing any makeup.

Somehow it sounds like a lot of hard work, right? So what can you try out right away?

Use a gentle cleanser

The gentler the better. Of course, cleansers are designed to wash away the daily grime, but products with too many chemicals can be harsh and damaging to your skin. The same can also be said to the tendency to over wash. Often, people can get obsessed with removing all traces of oil. But, you may be damaging your skin barrier and setting your skin up for irritation, dryness, and even zits.

Rather than washing several times a day, wash only once a day – before bed. Naturally, if you’re wearing makeup, you go with double-cleansing. Remove your makeup in the first step with an oil-based cleanser. Cleansing oils are the best choice because they’re mild but also remove all the dirt, makeup, and dust.

In the second step use a water-based gentle cleanser. If you find a foaming formulation, all the better! They’re soft and gentle, AND, you don’t have to rub and tug on your skin to spread it around. You can also opt to use a konjac sponge with or without the cleanser for a very gentle exfoliation.

A thorough cleanse at bedtime comes with two perks: For one, you can just skip washing your face in the morning. Just rinse with water, and so save just that little bit of time in the morning rush. The second gain may be weightier. You avoid stripping your skin of all the valuable natural oils and don’t dry out your skin. And dry skin looks old.

Use a toner

After cleansing, follow up with a toner. With a toner, I don’t mean the Western-style toners that are astringent or meant to wipe away any remaining makeup (that’s what double cleansing is for, duh!).

In Japan, people call this step skin softener or lotion. It’s watery and runny like the Western-style toners but they’re meant to boost your skin’s hydration level. It’s essential to get the Japanese mochi skin.

A softener also helps the following products to better penetrate into your skin. So, if you feel you want to treat spots, acne, and other issues, now it’s the time to apply essence.

Moisturise the Japanese way

Perhaps also lesser-known is double moisturising. In the first step, you use a lightweight emulsion and then follow up with a cream of thicker consistency.

Emulsions, milk, oils, and creams all lock in the hydration you added in the previous step. Emulsions are lightweight moisturisers and depending on the weather or your skin needs, they can be the only moisturiser you apply. If you have dry skin or are living in a dry environment, apply cream or oil after the emulsion.

Protection and prevention are the keywords

It’s essential to take care of your skin from an early stage on. Contrary to the West, in Japan people are focused more on prevention than repair. This means thinking of your skin as a reflection of yourself, your health, your body, and your mental well-being.

This means taking the time and thinking about the deeper causes of a wrinkle or a pimple. Is it because you didn’t get enough sleep that your complexion looks dull and ashen? Is it because you’re stressed that you got pimples on your chin?

Use green tea for (it seems) everything

Switch out your coffee with green tea. Green tea is a staple in the diet of the Japanese. We all know how drinking this soothing beverage has excellent health benefits.

So it makes sense to not only drink it but to supplement your skin care with green tea-infused products. If you want to know how green tea can help protect your skin against UV exposure or reactivate dying skin cells, check out how marvellous it is for your skin.

Eat seaweed

The same can be said about seaweed. It plays a big part in the Japanese diet and is considered a superfood. So, eat seaweed regularly to counter the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Seaweed is abundant in vitamins and minerals hard to find in other foods, making it a great addition to a balanced diet and a great anti-ageing food.


Bathing is more than a cleansing routine: It’s an integral part of Japanese culture. Visiting a hot spring called onsen is often associated with holidays and relaxation. Besides being a soothing place to soak and scrub, onsen is very good for your skin.

That’s because the water of the natural springs contains minerals known to have healing properties. Apart from the nutrient-enriched and mineralized natural waters, a steaming bath can relax you, help with blood circulation or stiff shoulders.

Wrapping up

Ageing has its pluses and its minuses. On the positive sides, we all grow and the accumulated experience makes us wiser and improve our quality of life. It’s true that with age comes wisdom.

And on the minus sides, we get lined skin and maybe even age spots. And who likes that? We may feel great and better with each year on the inside but it’s not noticeable on the outside.

But with just a few minor tweaks, you can incorporate Japanese wellness methods to look as awesome as you feel.

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