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An Easy 6-Step Japanese Skincare Routine for Healthier and Clearer Skin


The women of Japan have been famed for centuries for their porcelain-like skin.

And recently, the world is only now catching up.

In this part of the globe (North America), Western skincare and beauty industries are emulating and experimenting with different Japanese skincare routines.

But what exactly are Japanese skincare routines all about? And how are they done?

Here we’ll break down the J-beauty skincare routine, compare how it differs from Korean skincare, and finish off with a Japanese skincare routine you can work in today.


What’s a Japanese Skincare Routine? Nourish and Protect

Gentle skincare is a well-established philosophy to achieve a flawless, exquisite complexion. The Japanese actually have a name for skin like this – lovely skin is referred to as ‘mochi-hada’ which means ‘rice-cake skin’ or ‘mochi skin’.  

This term is a direct reference to the luscious Asian desserts that are soft and plump, which directly translates into the goals of Japanese skincare.

Although it’s arguable that we in the Western Hemisphere share the same goals, it’s quite clear that our methods in reaching them are different.

Instead of applying aggressive exfoliation and harsh chemicals as we are generally known for, the Japanese philosophy involves nourishing the skin and protecting it from the sun.

So, in other words, practicing J-beauty is about cleansing your skin in a gentle way and keeping it hydrated.

But if you’re familiar with Korean skincare or K-beauty, you might be wondering, how is Japanese skincare any different?


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Korean Skincare vs. Japanese Skincare Routines

There are far more similarities than differences as K-Beauty and J-Beauty share many of the same East Asian beauty standards. Both apply a skincare routine that is ritualistic, built on a philosophy of prevention-first and protection, all while introducing the goal of keep yourself hydrated to improve skin.

Plus, the face-mask game is strong for both.

However, the main difference is that K-beauty focuses greatly on skincare advancements. The industry is passionate about mastering the science of skincare and innovating to discover new ingredients and formulations.

On the other hand, J-beauty is a relatively “slow” beauty approach, with fewer steps. In comparison, J-beauty is steeped in a culture that believes in time-tested skin results, and largely ignores trends (yes, glass skin, we still love you), choosing to complete a more simplified routine.

Korean beauty trends also emphasize the order of steps as very important. Ideally, in K-beauty you apply the thinnest to the thickest consistency product so that each product is absorbed properly.  

What K-beauty and J-beauty do share is a nourishing philosophy through cleansing, focusing on skin protection from the environment, and intense hydration and moisturizing.  

So with this said, how can you adopt a Japanese skincare routine today?


A 6-Step Japanese Skincare Routine You Can Use Today

The J-beauty routine encourages holistic skin health through layering effective products. The routine emphasizes hydration just like K-beauty, adding water to the skin, and then locking it in with oils and moisturizers.

The skincare routine revolves around a double cleanse, followed by a lotion (the equivalent of a toner), serums, moisturizer, occasional exfoliation and face masks, as well as an SPF.

Now that you have an idea of the approach, let’s go through it, step-by-step!


Step 1: The Double Cleanse

Every morning, cleanse your skin using a double cleanse method. Just like the K-beauty routine, start off with an oil-based cleanser (removes make-up residue and oil) as the first cleanse, followed up by a foam cleanser (to remove remaining sweat and dirt).

It’s so important you effectively remove all makeup or product you’ve been using during the day and rid your face of sweat, sebum, or whatever you’ve been exposed to. Get that skin nice and clean!


Step 2: A Lotion (i.e. Toner)

Japanese “lotion” (kesho-sui) is the equivalent of a toner that you gently dab onto clean skin.

J-beauty is also very big into hydration which is why lotions are typically full of incredible humectants like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and aloe.


Step 3: Essences

Applying an essence is so important to achieve ‘mochi-hada’. An essence provides a layer of active ingredients to visibly brighten, hydrate and ward off fine lines and wrinkles.  It also preps the skin to better absorb serums and moisturizers.


Step 4: Serums

Aside from moisturizing creams and milks, serums are recommended for those looking to target specific problems. Perhaps you’re concerned with acne, scarring, dryness or wrinkles.

Whatever it may be, serums contain a LOT of active ingredients that target your specific skin concerns, that is, if you pick the best one for your needs. Think Vitamin C, retinol (concentrated Vitamin C) or a collagen product for anti-aging.


Step 5: Moisturize

As you age your skin doesn’t produce natural oils as effectively, so give it some help with a quality moisturizer. A moisturizer is seen as a barrier to lock in moisture and nutrients from the serum. It also helps your skin remain soft and supple throughout the day.  


Step 6: Sunscreen

This last step is only done in the morning. You don’t have to apply sunscreen before hitting the sheets. However, during the day you should always wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Japanese women always protect their skin from the sun. For centuries they’ve carried small, cute umbrellas to shield themselves from sunlight.

You should apply a layer of sunscreen every morning, even if it is cloudy outdoors.


Occasional Steps


This step is only needed once or twice per week. Harsh scrubs and brushes are avoided. J-beauty relies on ultra gentle exfoliators such as a rice enzyme powder to get the job done. These exfoliants gently buff the skin to create a brighter complexion.

There isn’t a direct translation of “exfoliator” in Japanese, but usually products that exfoliate contain the words gel or peel in the title — these should be what you’re looking for.

Glycolic acid is also know to be a effective exfoliator. 


Japanese Face Mask (or Any Other)

Applying a nutrient-soaked mask to your face once or twice a week will leave your skin smooth and radiant. Once applied it should be left on your face for between 10 to 30 minutes. Everyone’s skin is different so you will need to decide what type of skin mask works best for your own unique needs.

Also, don’t be afraid to alternate with the distinct types of masks each week so your skin always receives different beneficial ingredients.


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After-Care: The Japanese Beauty Way

After you’ve performed this Japanese skincare routine, it’s time to apply makeup in the morning!

In Japan, most women take a very minimalist approach to makeup. Wearing heavy makeup is exceedingly rare.

However, it’s your choice what foundation, powder, or blush you choose to wear.

Overall, practicing a Japanese skincare routine every day should have your skin looking and feeling fantastic.

To healthy and glowing skin!

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