6 Japanese Skincare Products that Will Revolutionize Your Skincare Routine

Japanese women (and actually many men too!) have absolutely beautiful skin.

I know it is rude to stare but… sometimes when I am riding the train in Japan, I find myself gazing at the smooth and milky complexion of the person standing beside me. It looks so natural and yet so perfect. How is it possible?? I often wonder.

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Actress Ayase Haruka known for her exceptionally beautiful skin. (Credit: Clozette.)

Forget make up. It is all about SKINCARE!

When I first encountered the exceptionally clear and bright complexions of Japanese women, I thought it must be due to the magic of make-up.

To be fair, I arrived to Japan a complete newbie when it came to make-up, cosmetics, beauty, and skincare. In college, my daily skincare “routine” consisted of washing my face with soap and then moisturizing with the same lotion I used on my body.

That’s it – two products – neither designed for my face.

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From college, the skincare and hair products I regularly used! I count just 1..2 …3…4 bottles.

I also never wore make-up before I arrived to Japan. (Starting to wear make-up is just another one of the unexpected ways that Japan changed me, along with changing how I sleep.) Back in college, when I looked at the flawless skin of Japanese women, I imagined that they must be highly skilled make-up artists.

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Barefaced in college.

Soon I learned that while make-up can be important, perhaps even more important is taking good care of my skin. To achieve that glowing and natural look, what matters is that the skin underneath is clear and smooth and healthy. And looking around Japan, I found lots of fantastic skincare products.

Try these 6 Japanese products.

Here are my top recommendations for Japanese skincare products (that don’t require a trip to Japan). You can buy all of these online.

 #1 Shiseido Perfect Whip Cleansing Foam

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This face wash creates a thick creamy foam unlike any other product I have tried! The foam is dense yet fluffy – like a soapy marshmallow. I love that the foam gently cleanses and provides a pillowy layer between my hands and the delicate skin of my face. No rubbing or tugging. Simply use your hands to glide the foam over your face.

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A little goes a looooooooong way.

You can create this luxurious foam by lathering the product in your hand and repeatedly adding water. Or you can use a foaming net! I use a foaming net because it makes a perfect foam in seconds.

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I like that this face wash is unscented and does not sting my eyes. Another plus, this face wash is affordable. In Japan, you can find it in the drugstore. Given its unique foaming action, a little bit goes a looooooong way! I use this face wash twice per day and a single tube lasts for months.

  • Where to Buy

Amazon ($16.31/2 tubes)

Ebay (sometimes, from $7 – $10/tube)

Water, Potassium Stearate, PEG-8, Potassium Myristate, Glycerin, Potassium Laurate, Dipropylene Glycol, Stearic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate Se, Myristic Acid, Lauric Acid, Polyquaternium-7, Beeswax, Phytosteryl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance.

#2 HADA LABO Goku-Jyun Clear Lotion

This product is challenging to describe… It is like a magical thick water.

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Doesn’t look like much I know.

It falls into the category of “keshousui” in Japan, sometimes translated as “moisturizing toner.” These products are transparent, moisturizing liquids applied after cleansing. It is close to an American toner but much less astringent. So why bother with this odorless, seemingly inert liquid?

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Photo from Walgreens!

This product delivers unparalleled plumping and moisturizing. Also it helps your skin absorb lotion and other products (like serums) that you might apply afterwards. I find that it helps “balance” my skin – oily parts are less oily, dry parts are less dry. It is like magic, which probably explains why it has become a cult classic among Japanese skincare aficionados.

Like the foaming face wash, this product also requires some “special technique,” what the company calls the “Hadalabo patting technique.” To apply the product, you dispense a small amount into your palm, warm it by rubbing your hands together, and then gently pat all over your face.

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Credit – Alex Tonichi at Little Beauty Bar.

GREAT for guys!!

I would especially recommend this product to men. Both my brother and boyfriend use it now. (Okay, Kosuke sometimes uses it when I make him but he says he doesn’t mind it.) A lot of times I hear men complain that products make their skin “greasy” or “sticky.” This product starts out wet but after patting completely absorbs leaving the skin dry and touchable. Absolutely no stickiness. Try it! (You might like it.)

From SkinandTonics, learn more about the science behind the product.

  • Where to Buy

Amazon ($11.57/bottle)

Drugstore.com ($19.99/bottle)

Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Disodium Succinate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Hydroxyethycellulose, Methylparaben, PPG-10 Methyl Glucose Ether, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Succinic Acid

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Caught in the middle of my hair and skincare routine! (Photo Credit: J. Lu.)

#3 Biore Aqua Rich Sarasara Sunscreen SPF50+ PA+++

When I say “sunscreen,” what words come to mind?

Oily? Gloppy? Thick? Smelly? Gross? ICK?

This sunscreen is NONE OF THOSE. There is no nasty sunscreen smell; no sticky greasy feeling; no white smeary finish. This sunscreen applies just like a light moisturizer and even feels cool on already burned skin.

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The first time I used it, I thought – this is the PERFECT sunscreen. The sunscreen I dreamed about. I have never looked back.

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Sunscreen, NOT just for beach days!

Now I wear this sunscreen every day, which is another tip I learned in Japan. Before I only wore sunscreen when I went to the beach (and even then I was not very diligent). But in Japan, where paler skin is prized, women apply sunscreen everyday.

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If you are a frequent traveler (like me), diligent skin protection is especially important. In planes, the higher altitude makes sun exposure harsher, which means it is easier to burn. I always apply an extra layer before boarding the plane.

Fortunately this sunscreen from Biore makes daily sun protection so easy. It applies smoothly and absorbs quickly (unlike those nasty gross American sunscreens). It does not ball up under your make-up or leave any ghostly white haze.

  • Where to Buy

Amazon ($11.66/tube)

Water, Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Lauryl Methacrylate/Sodium Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Dimethicone, Acrylates/C10-30 Acrylate Crosspolymer, Glyceryl Stearate, Agar, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citrus Grandis, Citrus Medica Limonum, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis, Xylitol, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Fragrance

#4 Kose Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil

This product is part of the “double-cleansing” technique, another beauty secret from Japan. Double cleansing involves first removing make-up with cleansing oils and then washing with a foaming cleanser (see recommended product #1) to remove any residue. This method of washing the face was developed in Japan as a way of cleansing the thick, almost paint-like white make-up used by women (think – geisha).

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Credit – MakeUp Alley.

As someone with extremely oily skin, rubbing more oil on my face sounded like absolute insanity. Indeed, when the “double-cleaning” craze hit the U.S. several years ago, I ignored it as just another way to make  me buy EVEN MORE products.

I have been convinced though…

The cleansing oil melts away make-up (even tough waterproof mascara) eliminating any rough scrubbing or tugging, especially of the delicate skin around the eyes. Plus, it does not unbalance my skin and make it even more oily. Instead the oil cleanser keeps my skin’s natural balance, preventing stripping and overproduction of oil. Great stuff! (Even if you do not wear make-up)

Currently I am using this cleansing oil from Kose Softymo because it is economical, has a pleasant orange scent, and works well. No complaints from me.

The true Holy Grail of cleansing oils from Japan is the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. At nearly $30/bottle, the DHC cleansing oil is more than 3 times as expensive as the Kose Softymo oil I am currently using. Some day…maybe I will get a bottle of DHC.

For now, I have been more than happy with my Kose Softymo cleansing oil! I also like that I can buy filler bags (which can be used to easily refill the bottle). That makes this product even more economical and I like that I do not have to throw away the bottle every time!

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  • Where to Buy

Amazon ($9.99/bottle)

Refill from Amazon ($6.43/pouch equivalent to 1 bottle)

  • Ingredients (Courtesy of CosDNA)

Oryza Sativa Bran Oil, Mineral Oil, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Triethyl Hexanoine, Cyclomethicone, Orange Oil, Tocopherol, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Glycerin, Polyglyceryl-2 Diisostearate, Trilaureth-4 Phosphate, Water, Phenoxyethanol

#5 Curel Intensive Moisture Cream

Wow! I just found out this product is now available online!

This moisturizer won the @cosme Best Cosmetics Awards 2015 for Best Face Cream.

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I stumbled upon this product in the pharmacy one night when I ran out of lotion and ran to the  store to buy more. My random choice ended up being amazing. I have tried countless lotions over the years and this one beats everything else.

This cream is fairly thick but does not weigh down your skin or feel sticky. It does not irritate or cause breakouts. As a night cream, it is wonderful, wake up with soft skin that feels well moisturized and not at all tight. The last time I went to Japan, I bought three bottles of this moisturizer. I am happy to see that it can now be purchased on Amazon!

  • Where to Buy

Amazon ($23.70/container) A little pricey but worth it!

  • Ingredients (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Allantoin, Water, Glycerin, PPG-2 Hydroxyethyl cocamide, Cyclomethicone, Squalane, Trisiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Copolyol, Bismethoxypropylamido, Isodocosane, Eucalyptus, Magnesium sulfate, Butylene Glycol, Isostearyl Glyceryl Ether, Succinic acid, Sodium Hydroxide Paraben

#6 up & up Oil Absorbing Sheets (from Target)

WHAT??! You might be thinking. Target isn’t Japanese!

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Credit: Target.

That’s true. But these oil absorbing sheets from Target are made in Japan. Who knew? I only just saw the sticker on my package a few months ago. The sheets are made from a thin blue plasticky material that turns transparent as it absorbs oil. The sheets only remove oil without smudging make-up. (Just to be sure to blot not wipe!)

  • Where to buy

Target ($4.49/70 sheets)

My Current Skincare Routine

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  1. wash face with Perfect Whip Cleansing Foam
  2. apply Vaseline around eyes
  3. pat Hadalabo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion on entire face
  4. apply Curel Fragrance Free Lotion to the rest of the face and neck
  5. apply Biore Aqua Rich Sarasara sunscreen to face and neck

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  1. wash face with Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil
  2. wash face with Perfect Whip Cleansing Foam
  3. apply Vaseline around eyes
  4. pat Hadalabo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion on entire face
  5. apply acne.org 2.5% benzyl peroxide on problematic areas
  6. apply Curel Intensive Moisture Care Moisture Cream to entire face and neck

Thanks for reading! Do you have any favorite skincare products or tips? Let me know below!

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