Why J-Beauty Should Be On Your Radar (+ 6 Brands To Know!)
J-Beauty has its very own unique flavor. But what makes it so special? We take a deep dive and explore top J-Beauty and J-Beauty-inspired brands.
Although Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese beauty often get lumped in together as “Asian beauty,” all three have their own distinct rituals and traditions. In previous articles, I’ve compared J-beauty and K-beauty, addressed the fact that Japanese beauty isn’t one dimensional (like it’s often made out to be), and taken a look at its history. What attracts people to Japanese beauty in the first place? What are some of the brands to know? And how has J-Beauty branched out? We have all of the answers right here for you!
I recently asked my Instagram followers about their impressions of Japanese beauty, as well as what first made them take notice of it. “As someone with an extremely light complexion, I was attracted by the fact that J-Beauty products are designed for very fair skin,” says Lili Sylvestre (@lilisylvestre). “The focus on sun protection and the beautiful packaging also drew me in.” Christina Lam (@cee_lam) also claims packaging as what first caught her attention: “I remember being mesmerized by a MAJOLICA MAJORCA eyeshadow palette at age 15,” she recalls.
As far as aesthetics go, the Japanese beauty industry boasts some of the most intricate and luxurious packaging designs, as well as super minimalist ones. In my opinion, this is an accurate reflection of a duality that permeates almost every aspect of Japanese culture: simplicity versus over-the-top intensity.
It’s understandable why the distinction between Korean and Japanese skincare traditions isn’t always clear. After all, they have similar goals—healthy, glowing, perfectly moisturized skin—and share certain elements, like double cleansing and the use of daily SPF protection. “I find that Asian beauty, in general, emphasizes experiences in addition to quality, something which holds true for products across all price points,” notes Christina Lam. But, whereas K-Beauty takes more of a layered approach to skincare, Japanese brands often tend to favor a more streamlined routine.
And, as J-Beauty becomes more prominent outside of Asia, it has also inspired a new generation of brands that seek to honor traditional ingredients and rituals, while incorporating a Western flair. Which begs the question: what, exactly defines J-Beauty? Should it only include brands from Japan, or is it more of a wide-ranging category that also encompasses products inspired by its culture and rituals? No matter your interpretation, there are several stellar skincare, haircare, and makeup products to be explored.
Here are six Japanese and J-Beauty inspired brands you can’t help but fall in love with.
Not only is Shiseido one of the most well-known Japanese beauty brands, but it’s also one of the oldest cosmetics companies in the world. Founded in the 19th century as the first Western-style pharmacy in Japan, the cosmetics giant has come a long way, remaining at the forefront of beauty innovation, while continuing to embrace tradition, as well as a modern Japanese aesthetic.
Beyond the skincare and makeup brand that bears its name, there is a surprisingly wide array of luxury and drugstore brands made by the Shiseido Corporation. Some are sold mainly in Japan and Asia (the famous Tsubaki hair care line, skincare brand Senka, and popular sunscreen brand Anessa, for example), while others are also widely distributed in North America and around the world (NARS, bareMinerals, Laura Mercier, and prestige brand Clé de Peau are all part of the Shiseido portfolio).
I Loved: Shiseido Bio-Performance Glow Revival Cream, which is far from being easy on the wallet, but gave me the glowing skin of my dreams. I loved everything about it, from its texture to its futuristic-looking jar.
I’m Coveting: Shiseido Shimmer GelGloss, which comes in a rainbow of hues and is supposed to be non-sticky despite its high glossy finish.
You may have come across Sekkisei before, as it’s one of the Japanese brands that are a little easier to find outside Japan. (Psst! It’s also available on Beautytap, and I even wrote a full brand overview—complete with product reviews—last fall.) Did you know the brand was created in 1985, and that for several years, its only product was the iconic Sekkisei Lotion? Since then, its lineup has grown to include a variety of skincare essentials that harness over 100 Japanese and Chinese herbal extracts.
I Loved: Sekkisei Treatment Cleansing Oil because it’s thick, moisturizing, and removes makeup beautifully. It also has that signature Sekkisei scent that I personally really enjoy.
The brand’s new Miyabi Ultimate Line launched just a few months ago in Japan. The Ultimate Facial Massage Cream looks particularly divine. (And yes, that is two-time Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the video!)
You’ve likely seen Tatcha’s breathtakingly gorgeous creams and serums at SEPHORA and on Instagram, but did you know the brand isn’t actually from Japan? It was founded by Victoria Tsai, who fell in love with the Japanese approach to beauty on a trip to Kyoto. According to the brand’s website, it works with scientists in both Japan and the U.S., making it a true hybrid of Japanese beauty traditions and ingredients and Western wellness practices.
I Loved: Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream, in all its purple perfection. Targeted for dry skin, it made my skin bouncy and plump. But I prefer to use it in winter because it’s so nourishing! And, the alluring packaging is a dream.
I’m Coveting: Tatcha The Kissu Lip Mask for its jelly texture, peachy color, and attractive ingredients (Japanese peach extract, camellia oil, and squalane, oh my!).
Hada Labo (literally “skin lab” in Japanese) is an inexpensive yet efficacious line of drugstore skincare most famous for its hyaluronic acid toners. Thanks to its formulas which often contain multiple molecular weights of the super hydrating ingredient, many Asian skincare enthusiasts swear by them. But the brand’s other products are also worth exploring: from sheet masks to facial cleansers, they are free of fragrance and dyes, making them suitable for even sensitive skin types.
I Loved: Hada Labo Gokujun Premium Hyaluronic Acid Lotion, which is a cult favorite for a reason. The all-in-one Gokujun Perfect Mask (toner, emulsion, serum, cream, and mask) also performed extremely well for me. I’m looking forward to purchasing another pack next time I’m in Japan!
I’m Coveting: Hada Labo Gokujun Hydrating Jelly, which boasts five types of hyaluronic acid, and is positioned as a one-and-done product that replaces your toner, emulsion, serum, and mask. Whoa!
Boscia is another brand I bet you thought was from Japan! Although it’s officially from the U.S., the brand’s founders, Gen Inomata and his daughter, Lan Belinky are Japanese, and its natural beauty ethos is very much inspired by Japanese rituals. Suitable for even the most sensitive skin, the Boscia range is free of ethanol alcohol and synthetic fragrances and colorants—it’s all about botanicals and results (and, also available on Beautytap!).
I Loved: Boscia Tsubaki Swirl, a gel-and-cream moisturizer duo in the same jar. As the name states, it contains camellia (“tsubaki” in Japanese) oil, which is rich in antioxidants, as well as rice bran, which also has a plethora of skincare benefits. My skin took well to the dual texture, and I’m looking forward to using it again soon!
I’m Coveting: Boscia Cryosea Firming Icy-Cold Cleanser that is supposed to go on icy cold—sounds great to use during a heat wave!—and contains AHAs for some exfoliating action.
For the longest time, I brushed Canmake off as an inexpensive drugstore brand that was likely all packaging and no substance. Until one day, I asked Instagram for Japanese sunscreen recommendations, and someone suggested the Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV. I hadn’t even realized the brand’s offer went beyond cute makeup products! I tried it, and several years later, it’s still one of my favorite sunscreens ever. A pleasant surprise that will absolutely lead to me trying more Canmake products as a result!
I Loved: Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV because it’s lightweight, leaves no white cast, is free of alcohol, and leaves my skin nice and glowing. It also gets bonus points for being super affordable. I’m also a fan of the brand’s Lip & Cheek Gel, a creamy smooth formula that is buildable and has an immediate color payoff.
I’m Coveting: Canmake Glow Fleur Cheeks, because look how pretty the little compact is! Plus, Canmake’s blushes (especially their Cream Cheek product) have a good track record.
What is the first Japanese beauty product you ever tried? Do you have any J-Beauty products in your current routine? Share in the comments below!