Japanese skincare is just like everything else in Japan: kawaii and delicious. To someone as obsessed with food as me, it’s very appealing that the Japanese refer to nice skin as as mochi-hada, or rice-cake skin. Don’t we all aim to have people comment on how our skin resembles a super soft, plump-looking Japanese dessert made with glutinous rice? I know I do.
Softness is the ultimate in Japanese skincare goals.
Japanese skincare is neither as harsh as the Western approach – with exfoliators and abrasive formulas – nor as intensive as a 10-step Korean routine. Instead the focus is on nourishing the skin and ensuring that it is healthy. This is achieved by protecting the skin, thorough but gentle cleansing and conditioning the skin by layering on lotions and moisturizers
The Japanese Way To Get That “Mochi” Skin
Other than a holistic healthy lifestyle and avoiding over-exfoliation, here are 2 ways Japanese skincare is unique and distinctive:
Double Cleansing: Even if you don’t wear make-up, the Japanese believe that you should be double cleansing. It is the most effective way to rid the skin of all impurities – starting with a cleansing oil before moving on to a gentle foaming cleanser that cushions the face.
Lotions: Another notable difference in the Japanese skincare is the use of kesho-sui or lotions (skin conditioners) that hydrate the skin by adding water into it. Thin and watery in consistency, pat lotion into the face after cleansing and before moisturizing and let it absorb along with humectants such as hyaluronic acid and aloe that help make the skin supple and oh-so touchable.
Here are 8 must-buy Japanese skincare products to pick up in Japan that will give you that “mochi” skin:
Cure Natural Aqua Gel Exfoliator
This product’s claim to fame is that it’s so sought after that a bottle is sold every 12 seconds! A hell of an endorsement, huh? One of the most popular treatments in Japan, this water-based exfoliating pore cleanser has glycerin and aloe vera with a similar smell and consistency of sanitizer. The gel starts to pill upon application and gently sloughs away old skin in an oddly satisfying way while still being hydrating.
Use: Apply 3-4 pumps of gel and let sit for a couple of seconds before gently rubbing into skin in small circles. Repeat 1-2x per week (depending on skin sensitivity).
Result: Smooth ass skin with a complexion that is more even, clear and hydrated.
Hadalabo Gokujun Hyaluronic Lotion Moist
You want to know the secret to Japanese skincare? Double moisturizing. You’d use this hyaluronic lotion moist as the first step followed by a moisturizer but instead of having the consistency of a thin cream, it’s more like a viscous toner. With 3 kinds of hyaluronic acid, it packs a triple punch to alleviating dry skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and speeding up wound healing.
Use: After cleansing and before moisturizing, gently pat it into the skin in both your morning and night routine.
Result: Plump and hydrated skin!
Kikumasamune High Moist Lotion
Dating all the way back to 1659, the Japanese sake brewing company, Kiku-Masamune, cultivated sake-based beauty products in addition to rice wine. Their High Moist Lotion is packed with a long list of good stuff that aid in everything from strengthening the moisture barrier in the skin to anti-aging and healing. It may smell like sake distillery but it contains kojic acid which brightens skin and reduce dark spots.
Use: An equivalent to Western-style toners, use a cotton pad to apply product morning and night after cleansing but before essences, serums, and creams. There’s so much that you could soak a paper towel and make your own sheet mask!
Result: Brighter and plumper skin, less dark spots.
Senka Perfect Whip Collagen
I picked this product up last minute for a combination of reasons. Firstly, I kept seeing the appealing pink tube everywhere and according to an old marketing adage, it takes seeing something 7 times before you take action (i.e. purchasing). Secondly, it sounds delicious. This dense Shiseido foaming cleanser cushions the face while cleansing the dirt from pores with minimal tugging on the skin.
Use: Add a bit of water to a small dollop in your palm and lather in hands before massaging into your face for 1-2 minutes to dissolve make-up and other impurities.
Result: Made with 60% beauty serum containing collagen that effectively cleanses while maintaining skin’s moisture. The double infusion of hyaluronic acid keeps skin hydrated and smooth.
HadaLabo Super Hyaluronic Cleansing Foam
This brand focuses on simplicity, eliminating all unnecessary additives like fragrance, colour and mineral oil. The pump in the bottle agitates the product so that it emerges in a light cloud of foam to bury your face into. It’ll take ages to finish as a little goes a long way but when you do, you can order a refill instead of ordering an entirely new bottle and save a bit of money…..to buy MORE skin care products, obvi.
Use: Gently massage 1-2 pumps into skin in circular motions at night to cleanse face before moving on to normal nightly skincare routine.
Result: Clean, residue-free, soft skin.
Bioré UV Aqua Rich SPF 50+/PA++++
Anyone who is religious about their skin care knows how important it is to wear sunscreen but most formulas are thick and greasy, leaves white streaks and feels like it’s doing more harm than good by clogging up your pores. This Bioré product is revered as THE HOLY GRAIL of sunscreens, aptly described as “watery essence,” gliding on smooth and semi-opaque that feels more like a water-based moisturizer.
Use: As the last step in your skin care routine EVERY DAY!!! Even when it’s cloudy out or winter when you can’t remember the last time you’ve seen sunlight, you should be wearing sunscreen. However, it’s not waterproof so not ideal for beach days or sweat gym sessions.
Result: Containing hyaluronic acid, your skin is not only ultra protected from UV rays (50 SPF!) but it is hydrating.
Kose clearturn eyezone mask
As a rule of thumb, the thinner and more delicate the skin, the more prone it is to aging faster. Seems pretty common sense, no? If you want to continue to be carded at liquor stores way past your sell-by date, these eye masks by Kosé will help you achieve your goal. Coming in a resealable pouch, each sheet is contoured to fit around the eyes and mouth. Packed with rich collagen, hyaluronic acid, Q10 and glycerin, the ingredients will help to revitalize and moisten skin.
Use: Apply daily (if you like) after cleansing and toning
Result: Reduced wrinkles and laugh lines in delicate skin under eyes while infusing moisture to prevent sagging
Lululun Facial Hydrating Mask
Nothing screams “self-care” more than Netflix, a glass of wine (or 3) and a face mask. The Lululun face mask brand is wildly popular in AND out of Japan, thanks to its kawaii packaging and effective and varied formulas packed with honey and ginseng. These “daily masks” are meant to be used EVERY DAY (as you probably gathered). The serum-soaked sheets come in a tissue box-like package of 36 or you can get a week’s supply in a resealable pouch.
Use: Apply sheet to face for 10-15 minutes a night. Don’t leave on for longer because as the sheet dries, it pulls the moisture back out of your skin.
Result: Depending on which mask you get but the blue one that I got is “High/Rich Moisture mask” intended for intensive moisture care that firms skin and keeps it super hydrated/dewy.
People also rave about:
+ DHC Deep Cleansing Oil but I try to limit the amount of oil-based products I use on my face because it’ll interfere with my permanent lashes.
+ Haba Lift Up Serum but I was too lazy to hunt it down in a department store where it’s sold. Apparently it’s too high-end to be sold in a regular Matsumoto Kiyoshi.
Where To Buy Japanese Skincare Products In Japan:
Most products can be sourced in the standard department stores, Don Quijotes and the Tokyu Hands has half a floor dedicated to beauty products.
I hit up the Matsumoto Kiyoshi, a major chain in Japan distinguished by the bright yellow and blue storefronts and piles upon piles of glorious skin care products practically spilling into the streets. They can be found in pretty central locations (like at Shibuya Crossing) and I was able to find most things on my list in one spot.
Tips For Buying Japanese Skincare Products:
💻Pre-Trip Research: Do your research before you go….like reading this blog! Good for you. Have a list of products that you want ready because aisles of foreign labels can get very overwhelming.
📱Reference Photos: If you’re having issues finding the product you’re looking for, bring up photos on your phone to reference and show people who work there.
🗓️Timing Matters: This will require admirable self-control but try to do all of your shopping at the end of your trip so you’re not lugging it around with you.
🧳Pack Efficiently: Keep in mind to leave room in your luggage OR buy another luggage to check in
🧾Buy in Bulk: Consolidate your shopping and bring your passport because if you spend 5,000 JPY (about $60 CAD) you can shop tax-free and save 8%. Note that whatever you buy tax-free you can’t open while in Japan.
You can buy all of these products online without ever having to board a plane but where’s the fun in that?! Also, it’s much, much more expensive. I purchased all of these products and then some at the Matsumoto Kiyoshi in Shibuya for under $100 CAD. I was just glowing when I walked away, feeling like I just committed highway robbery. Maybe that doesn’t say great things about me that the feeling of doing something illegal thrilled me to my core.
For more skin care recommendations, check out this post.
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