Take All of Our Yen: Japanese Skin Care Products You’ll Love
Japan is a country where a minimalistic, simple aesthetic has long been prized. Of course, step foot into the panic-attack-inducing, claustrophobic confines of an electronics store in Akihabara, Tokyo, and you may beg to differ. But overall, there is a theme that seeps into many different aspects of everyday life- one of nature, simplicity, and mindfulness – that stems from a Zen-like outlook on the world.
The importance of taking the time to care for one’s skin in Japan is more emphasized than the arguably quicker act of piling on layers of makeup to hide troubled skin. In the West, cosmetics are often seen as the fix when it comes to solving skin issues, never really addressing the cause of the problem or seeking out skin care products with simple ingredients that promote skin health.
Below, I’ll go over some of Japan’s top skin care products that are hailed as some of the best the country has to offer. Be warned, though: I’m about to change your life, and after that, there’s no going back.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
The DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is an excellent oil cleanser to try double cleansing with (double cleansing is the two-step process in which you cleanse first with an oil-based cleanser, followed by a foam or gel cleanser). Considered a holy grail cleanser by many in Japan, its gentle, simple formula that includes rosemary, licorice, and Vitamin E helps cleanse without stripping the skin (I’m looking at you, face wipes).
This olive oil-based baby will remove sunscreen, makeup (including waterproof mascara), and the day’s grime with ease. Use a quarter-size amount on dry hands and massage into your (equally dry) face. As you begin to rinse it off, it will emulsify into a luxuriously silky liquid, and, once completely removed, will leave your face fresh and ready for the next step.
And if you, like me, have oily skin and are running, not walking, away from this product, fear not: this cleanser is for you, too. The formula is non-greasy, lightweight, and will give your skin the nourishment it’s craving. Sold yet?
- Unique water-soluble formula rinses thoroughly
- Nourishes and hydrates for younger looking skin
- Rich in vitamins and antioxidants
- In a clinical study, 92% of participants agreed Deep Cleansing Oil worked better than a leading cleanser at removing complexion makeup
- Ideal for all skin types]
Shiseido’s Senka Perfect Whip
After you’ve finished with your oil cleanser, you’ll need a foam or gel-based one to finish up the double cleanse. The Perfect Whip foam cleanser (by Senka, a company owned by the much-beloved company Shiseido) is one of the best-selling cleansers in Japan.
With just a pea-size amount and some water added, rub your hands together and you’ll quickly be lathering up possibly the world’s most satisfying, creamy foam cleanser. The foam removes makeup (with the exception of waterproof eyewear) while drawing impurities from pores. Also, while it’s not necessary, I recommend using a facial cleansing brush to get a really deep clean.
Afterwards, your skin won’t be left feeling dry, but hydrated and baby-soft. And the best part? It’s a luxury-level item at drugstore level pricing, so it’s no wonder that it’s so loved by the masses.
- made in japan
- facial cleanser/moist and smooth skin
- 4.2oz/120g per tube
Meishoku’s Detclear Bright and Peel Fruits Peeling Gel
If I can make myself workout once or twice a week and not have a glass of wine (I know, how do I manage?), I know I can make the effort to exfoliate.
Enter: Detclear Bright and Peel.
This is a popular, jelly-like peeling gel that does exactly what it sounds like it does: after rubbed onto dry skin in a circular motion, it begins to gently peel away clumps of dead skin cells, all while clearing your pores of blackheads and impurities.
If you’re one of those twisted sickos (cough, me- yeah, I said it) that get immense enjoyment from somewhat gross-yet-satisfying imagery, watching several days’ worth of dead skin be physically expelled will bring you nothing but a sense of deep contentment.
And, of course, clearer skin.
The peeling gel comes in a couple different fragrances, but remember the theme of simplicity I hinted at earlier? I recommend trying the non-scented one out to start, and then, if you’re feeling adventurous, the Mixed Berry or Rose & Jasmine versions (but really, I advise against anything that gets too crazy with scents).
- Made in Japan
- Gently removes dead skin cells
Hada Labo Gokujun Hyaluronic Lotion Moist
Hada Labo is an incredibly popular brand in Japan and for good reason: some of the best toners and lotions on the market are theirs, and they aim at cleansing the skin, all while keeping it moisturized.
This “lotion” (although it’s called a lotion, it acts more as a moisturizing toner- I know, I said Japan keeps it simple but I didn’t say they always kept it simple) uses three different types of hyaluronic acid that attract water like a magnet. This, in turn, allows everything applied on top of it afterward (serums, lotions, etc.) to be more deeply absorbed and even more effective. This results in an overall increase in the quality of the skin’s appearance, from reduced fine lines to a glowing, dewy radiance.
Because of how hydrating it is, this toner is especially effective for those with dry skin (though it’s meant for all skin types- equal rights for oily girls! I immediately regret typing that).
- It can be used for all skin type
- After applying the toner, dispense a proper amount to palm, then apply gently to entire face
- It helps to prepare your skin for better absorption of other HADA LABO products
Nameraka Honpo Shittori Keshousui
Now for a nice lotion to round out the list. It’s a mouthful, but let’s tackle it: the Nameraka Honpo Shittori Keshousui (phew) lotion is a slightly thicker, yet still lightweight formula that glides smoothly onto your skin, sealing in all of that good stuff you just put on your face.
One of the ingredients in this is soy, which helps rid your skin of hyperpigmentation and aids in brightness.
Bonus points: because it’s so light, you can easily add another layer of this to give your skin some extra TLC.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
SK-II is one of Japan’s premier brands and even has a huge following in the states. At $99 USD, its essence is probably the priciest thing on any list of recommended skin care products I’ll ever make, but I wouldn’t put it on here unless I thought it was well worth it (I mean, think of how many bottles of good wine I could buy with that money).
This essence is watery in texture and contains Pitera (an anti-aging ingredient derived from yeast). Pour a few drops into dry hands, and then press the essence into your skin. I don’t recommend using a cotton pad, as that would cause some of the product to be lost (and that’s $$ down the drain, er, down the pad).
Press the essence into the skin until its fully absorbed evenly into your face (don’t forget your neck!). Your skin should feel soft and hydrated (soft and hydrated is sort of the theme of the list here) and prepared to absorb a couple more things before closing shop.
- Their iconic essence with over 90% PITERA.
- Recommended for all skin types
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by plumping skin up with moisture.
- Moderates skin’s surface renewal cycle to reveal more radiant skin.
Obagi Vitamin C Serum 10 Plus VE
A vitamin C serum can do wonders for your skin. It can brighten it, help fight hyperpigmentation, and improve hydration. Obagi’s Vitamin C Serum (which comes in different strengths: 5%, 10%, and 15% and is found at most Japanese drugstores) is a great option.
This serum has a more watery texture compared to other, more viscous serums, so I would recommend putting the drops directly onto your face, then patting it in (as opposed to placing the drops in the hands first). If you have sensitive skin, start with the lower-strength version of the serum (and, to be extra cautious, test some of it on a patch of skin a day or so before you want to incorporate it into your routine).
This serum is only available for purchase in Japan, but can usually be found on eBay here: Obagi Vitamin C Serum 10 Plus VE
Just remember, if you use this in your morning routine, always make sure you wear sunscreen afterwards! Speaking of which…
Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel Super, SPF 50 PA+++
There are so many excellent Japanese sunscreens; I could probably write up an entire list (and may yet, as the warmer months are approaching). But to keep it (let’s say it together!) simple, I’ll introduce just one: the Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel. And let me just say this now, and I’ll try not to sound too preachy: YOU SHOULD WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Was that too much? Sorry, let me try that again. IF YOU DON’T WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE, YOU ARE A FOOL. Ok, I think I nailed it.
I completely understand hating the idea of wearing sunscreen. I get it. I, too, grew up in America, where sunscreen is terrible and gives a white cast if you try to put it on your face where it promptly transforms your skin into a grease monster. Not so with its Japanese counterparts.
Nivea’s Sun Protect Water Gel is one of many sunscreens in Japan that are non-greasy, feather-light, and absorb quickly into the skin. Besides making your skin feel fresh and giving it a bit of a glow (and no sickly white cast), it protects your skin from harsh UVA and UVB rays, both of which cause the skin to age, wrinkle, and increase your risk of skin cancer.
So, what are we going to do, kids? That’s right. WEAR. SUNSCREEN.
Lululun Face Masks
The Lululun Masks (no, no relation to lululemon, sorry, yogis) are adorably packaged and incredibly popular in Japan. There are many different versions that target specific skin issues (dehydration, dullness, etc.), are incredibly affordable, and are easily found in drugstores and convenience stores.
They are sold in smaller packages that contain seven sheets that are meant to be used once a day consecutively for a week (quite the commitment), or in larger packs with 32 or 36 sheets that you can use at your own pace.
The Balance Moisture masks (in the pink box) are said to increase your skin’s ability to retain moisture and improve the absorption of serums. The hyaluronic acid is incredibly moisturizing for your skin, and the soybean extract helps to soothe any trouble spots your skin may have. After the mask is taken off, your skin will feel soft and hydrated, and will look brighter, to boot.
- This mask is specifically designed to deliver exceptional skincare benefits and effectively balance moisture levels
- Use daily and set your skin's moisture meter to the maximun
- It is suitable for all skin types
Curel Intensive Moisture Cream
If you want to try adding a layer of thicker moisturizer, the Curel Intensive Moisture Cream is ideal. It’s fragrance-free (so it’s great for sensitive skin types) and will seal in all of the products you just layered onto your (now glowing) skin.
- Japanese Skin Care Curel Junhita Moisturizing Face Cream 40G
- Soft And Gentle On Skin
- This Is Manufactured In Japan
Look, after all of this, there is only one thing left to do. Sit back, relax, admire the glow your skin is no doubt radiating by now, and repeat after me: “Thank you, Kristen. Thank you.”
Do you have any favorite Japanese skin care products that you think should have been on this list? Did you like the suggestions? Has this list forever changed your life? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Feedback is welcome below.