All About Japan

A Beginner's Guide to Japanese Skin Care

| Beauty , Makeup

Walking into any Japanese drug store, you'll be overwhelmed by the endless variety of creams, toners and salves. What does it all mean? What do they all do? Luckily, the mysteries of Japanese skin care aren't as difficult or expensive as they first seem. Here we'll take you through the process step by step.

1. Makeup Removal

1. Makeup Removal

It may sometimes be tempting to simply pass out in bed after a long evening with a full face of makeup on. Yet a film of old makeup is not considered the best path toward healthy skin. Instead, a cleansing oil helps remove makeup and any built-up dirt and impurities while prepping your face for a good washing.

Use two pumps of oil onto clean, dry hands. Then gently spread the oil over your face with your hands before massaging it into your skin. When you're all set, wet your hands and massage your face to gradually wash the oil away. You'll probably have to perform this step a few times to completely wash away the oil.

DHC is most famous for its best-selling olive-oil-based Deep Cleansing Oil. It's readily available both internationally and in Japan, and retails at around US$30. If you're looking for something a little cheaper, Bifesta's Cleansing Lotion is a good choice.

2. Cleansing

2. Cleansing

The next step is pretty basic—wash your face! For some bathtime fun, nothing beats the iconic Shiseido Perfect Whip, which can be built into a thick foam. It's a great daily cleanser that's not too harsh on skin. Cleansing Research's AHA+ Medicated Acne Wash also combats breakouts without drying your skin into a husk. The product contains soybean extract to keep your skin nice and smooth, while the AHA fades dark spots and scars.

3. Toner

3. Toner

Most Japanese toners are translated as "lotion" on the Japanese packaging, which is a tad misleading. Keshosui (化粧水) follows up the cleansing process by removing any remaining impurities left behind. You only need to put two or three drops of your chosen product on your hands. Warm it up a little by rubbing your hands together gently before carefully patting it onto your face.

When selecting a toner, you can't go wrong with Hada Labo's line—the brand is a Japanese best-seller. Cleansing Research's AHA Clear Peeling Lotion sounds scary, but actually smells like apples and does a great job brightening and evening out your complexion. Sana Nameraka Honpo Soy Milk Lotion (toner) is also highly effective at keeping skin moisturized and flawless.

4. Serum

4. Serum

Serum fights fine lines while firming up skin. Apply the serum after toner and let sit for two to three minutes before moisturizing. Serum dips into the realm of anti-aging products, and consequently gets pretty expensive. Luckily there are some trusty drugstore brands that do a great job without busting the bank. Once again, Hada Labo steps in to save the day. They have a normal line of serums, including one with retinol for some heavy-duty wrinkle refining.

5. Moisturizer

5. Moisturizer

Now that that's all out of the way, it's time to apply your moisturizer. Depending on the product you're using, you may only need a small drop or two. Hada Labo trumps all others in this category because of its price and effectiveness. A small amount goes a long way with this lotion, and you'll find your skin quickly improving after switching to this product. It's scent-free and doesn't cause breakouts. If you're looking for a more natural alternative, Sana Nameraka Isoflavone Facial Milky Lotion is a good choice. It's great for oily or sensitive skin, too.