A Japanese Beauty Blogger Shares Her Secrets

Amy Lawrenson

Here at Byrdie UK, we're fascinated by the beauty routines of women the world over. Last week we focused on French pharmacy finds and the three reasons we can't get enough of them. Now, we're looking further afield to Japan to find out what beauty tips and tricks we can take inspiration from for our own routines. We spoke to Japanese beauty blogger Nic in Tokyo, who runs an English beauty blog called The Beauty Maniac in Tokyo as well as a Japanese site called Beau Tea Time, to let us in on a typical Japanese woman's beauty regimen. Keep scrolling to find out what we learnt.


A photo posted by Nicole⑅◡̈* (@nicintokyo) on

BYRDIE UK: Do young girls learn about beauty from their mothers or grandmothers?

NIC IN TOKYO: I don't think that it's common in Japan for women to learn a beauty regimen from their mothers or grandmothers. Of course, there must be some people who have, but I personally have never seen that. 

BYRDIE UK: What does a typical skincare routine in Japan consist of?

NIT: Here are the differences I see between Western and Japanese skincare…

1. Cotton pads: Japanese people are said to have thinner skin that is prone to discolouration compared to Western people. Rubbing your skin causes unwanted pigmentation, which is why Japanese people are very careful not to rub their skin too much. When it comes to cleansing, they prefer to use a cleanser that washes away waterproof eye makeup instantly rather than using an eye makeup remover with a cotton pad. Micellar water isn’t as popular in Japan as it is in the UK. Some people also pat-dry their skin with a towel, rather than wiping their skin with it to avoid friction.

2. Lotion: One of my American friends once told me, “When you say lotion in the States, it means a thick moisturiser, which is completely different from what you call lotion in Japan.”

In Japan, lotion is a water-like liquid that balances your pH after washing your face. When you use a cleanser or soap, your skin becomes alkaline. As your natural pH balance is mildly acidic, you must use lotion to bring it back to that healthy state.

Also, Japanese lotion usually contains quite a few different ingredients that are good for your skin such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides and collagen. Lotion is usually applied with hands rather than a cotton pad, but recently some brands started recommending using a cotton pad for an even application, so the usage of cotton pads is increasing. I must also add that the quality of cotton pads is much better in Japan—they are very soft, don’t fluff easily and there are different types according to your liking.

3. Emulsion: I personally am not familiar with emulsion because I mainly use Western skincare products, but emulsion (乳液 Nyuueki) is very popular in Japan. Normally it’s looser and lighter than moisturiser, and contains more moisture than creams.

Typical morning and evening skincare regimes for Japanese women are as follows:

The must-have items in a Japanese woman’s beauty cabinet are makeup remover, cleanser, lotion, serum and emulsion or moisturiser. In addition to that, eye cream, oil and sheet masks are always commonly used.

Unless we are talking specifically about a woman who is massively into beauty, women usually don’t switch up their skincare routines much.

Makeup remover: Oil and milk cleansers are popular. Just like cotton pads, muslin cloths used to wipe the cleanser off aren't common in Japan. Most of the Japanese oils, milks, creams and balm cleansers can be washed off completely with warm water.

Cleanser/face wash: Japanese women don't care for cleansers much. Drugstore ones sell well.

Lotion and emulsion: As mentioned earlier, lotion and emulsion are must-haves when it comes to Japanese skincare. Albion, SK-II and Ipsa are all popular.

Serum: Women in Japan look to serums that have anti-ageing, whitening and brightening benefits

Sun protection: In Japan, it’s common knowledge that you must wear a sunblock every single day all-year round. Tanning is not common at all (we do not have fake tan in Japan). Maintaining pale skin is very important for Japanese women.

BYRDIE UK: How does it differ to say a Korean or French routine? Or the British routine of cleanse and moisturise?

NIT: The biggest difference to a French routine is that Japanese people wash their face more often than French women, for sure. I am not sure about Korean beauty regimens, because I personally am not a big fan (Korean pharmaceutical affairs law is not as strict as what it is in Japan, which means their products are more effective and can be very harsh. I always break out when I use a Korean products).

BYRDIE UK: Contouring is big on social in the UK and U.S. What are the big makeup trends in Japan right now?

NIT: When it comes to skincare, I believe Japan is a step ahead compared to Western countries, but makeup wise, not so much. We value the beautiful and healthy state of the skin, rather than piling up a lot of makeup on. Sheer and natural foundation is more common than heavy coverage foundation. Recently, some magazines started talking about contouring, and some brands like Cezanne brought out contouring products.

The trends I have seen recently are coloured eyebrows and coloured eyeliners. Though Japanese people are usually very conservative, recent trends suggest more playful looks.

BYRDIE UK: What Japanese beauty products and ingredients do you think would do well in the UK?

NIT: Japanese consumers are very curious about beauty products. They want to know what they are paying for, why the product is effective, and how it works. This means the brands usually list the active ingredients, so Japanese women tend to have a good knowledge of ingredients. They value how it feels and how the skin reacts, rather than thinking in a very analytical way as Japanese women do. Hyaluronic acid has been well-known in Japan for more than 15 years (possibly 20 years), but it’s just became popular in the UK in the past couple of years–I am not sure if it was because there were not so many products containing the ingredient or none of the brands marketed it.

Ceramides should be more popular in the UK [Ed note: Ceramides are lipid molecules naturally occurring in the skin that help retain moisture and keep the skin plump]. It is an incredibly well-known ingredient in Japan, and in some sense it’s better than hyaluronic acid.

BYRDIE UK: We Brits look to women like Kate Moss and Alexa Chung as modern beauty icons and then back to women like Brigitte Bardot and Twiggy. Who are the Japanese womens' beauty icons? 

NIT: I much prefer Kate Moss to any Japanese beauty icons, to be honest (because Japanese women love a “cute” appearance rather than beautiful or sexy).

Keep scrolling for the Japanese beauty icons Takahashi introduced us to. 

BYRDIE UK: Are there any beauty lessons, tricks or rituals British women could learn from Japanese women?

NIT: 1. Do not rub your skin, it will cause pigmentation especially around the eyes! My heart stops when I watch a YouTube video and find a beauty blogger rubbing their eyes with a cotton pad or muslin cloth SO HARD!

2. Wash your hair every day. It might not apply to the girls in the U.K. because of the water (we have soft water, which doesn’t dry out the skin and hair), but for Japanese people, the idea of not washing the hair every day is just disgusting! Forget about your hair for a minute, we think of the scalp as being the same skin as the face, so we cannot go to work or meet friends without washing our hair. Regularly washed hair doesn't equate to damaged hair in Japan. Also, we use hairdryers all the time. I can't leave my scalp damp, you never know what bacteria is growing in the damp environment! It causes odour and irritation.

3. Wear SPF all-year round, even when it’s cloudy. UVA passes through clouds and windows; you need SPF all the time if you want to maintain the beautiful and healthy state of your skin!

For more Japanese beauty insights head to Nicole in Tokyo's blogs: The Beauty Maniac in Tokyo and Beau Tea Time.

Next up! Three reasons why we're obsessed with French pharmacy beauty products.

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