What's J-Beauty? - a Beginner's Guide to Japanese Beauty

I’ve been meaning to write more articles on Japanese beauty, but there has been so many products I’ve wanted to review I easily forget to get back to basics. Today I’m doing an (updated) introduction post to Japanese beauty, makeup and skincare. Please notice that this is not from a viewpoint of a Japanese woman, but observations of a Finnish girl who used to live in Japan and travel there every ~2 years. I regularly get my updates from Japanese YouTube channels, ranking sites and magazines when I can get my hands on them. Anything you want to share, please leave them in comments!! x

What's J-Beauty? - a Beginner's Guide to Japanese Beauty | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

Origin of cuteness, or kawaii

Everyone and their Great Aunt knows about K-beauty, especially through quirky, even oddly packaged brands. But the “kawaii” (可愛い cute, loveable, adorable) trend originates from Japan. Kawaii could be a blog topic on its own, as it’s a big part of the Japanese DNA and aesthetic from popular culture to entertainment, clothing, mannerism etc. Today I’m talking about kawaii only briefly, from the viewpoint of beauty aesthetic.

When it comes to Japanese beauty ideals, the most popular is fresh, cute, youthful and conservative: big eyes, silky skin and flushed cheeks for example. Some may describe this as childlike, I’d say youthful or perhaps ageless trend. Where as Korean glass skin has trended recently, “mochi” (soft and silky sticky rice cake) skin has been popular in Japan for ages.

The cuteness trend is very prevalent in the packaging: the drugstore brands may feature anime characters, but even high end cosmetics like to make their appearance feminine, glowing and soft. This may be the use of custom decorative packaging (Paul&Joe, Anna Sui) or perhaps floral imprints in the pan. But don’t overlook the cute, cartoon items as a lot of drug store makeup is very nice quality and owned by bigger brands such as Shiseido or Kanebo.

What's J-Beauty? - a Beginner's Guide to Japanese Beauty | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

What is “whitening” in Japanese Skincare?

Bihaku (美白) or “beautifully white” is very prevalent in Japanese skincare. Where as in the history white skin free of blemishes was to display someone’s status, today I find this is mainly a word for evening out the skin tone. Obviously this depends on the person, but many Japanese tan or get sun spots very easily thanks to the hot sunshine. Clean pores, evening out age spots, melasma, acne marks etc. is very prominent in order to achieve the ideal, even complexion. Where as Europeans are very considered about wrinkles, I think in Japan “clear” skin is even more important.

The popular use of bihaku in skincare is to inhibit the production of melanin with ingredients like arbutin or kojic acid. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare may label functional skincare as ‘quasi drug’ (医薬部外品) if they use safe and effective ingredients for preventing or improving hyperpigmentation. When using “lightening” or “whitening” skincare, you don’t need to worry about using dangerous substances (bleach, lead, mercury etc) on your face. They do not whiten your skins appearance or turn you lighter than your natural skin tone.

What's J-Beauty? - a Beginner's Guide to Japanese Beauty | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

Bathing and Massage

If kawaii and bihaku are Japanese beauty ideals, then bathing and facial massage are essence when it comes to daily routines. Of course a busy Japanese woman (or man) doesn’t have the time for daily facial massages, but majority of Japanese people bathe every single day. In Japan there’s rarely a greater bliss than soaking in hot water after a long day at work or doing house chores.

If you don’t have a nice bath at home, you can visit public bath houses (銭湯, sentou) or even onsen (温泉, hot spring spa). Bathing is deeply rooted into Japanese culture. While Westerns like their bath bombs and bubbles, the Japanese most often enjoy plain very hot water. In sentou or a public bath house, and women have separate sides and you wash yourself before taking a dip into the hot water. You can bring a small towel to the bath to wipe off sweat from your forehead - as long as you don’t dip it into the water. There is no jumping, splashing or swimming in bath houses, only relaxation.

Facial massages are sometimes performed with massage tools such as face rollers, but usually just with your hands. During the massage session, pressure is applied with your fingers or your knuckles, usually starting from the centre of your face and finish draining your lymph nodes on your neck. When I’ve had a facial massage done in Japan they used quite a lot of pressure, which had some discomfort yet the final result was relaxing. This massage routine feels advanced to me, so I often perform the parts of it when my eyes or cheeks feel puffy or drooping.

Important Japanese Skincare Steps

In Japanese skincare routine, there are two very important steps in my opinion: double cleansing and applying a toner. The double cleansing is usually performed first with a cleansing oil (such as Shu Uemura, DHC, THREE, Hadalabo being popular brands for example), followed by a cleansing milk or a foam depending on your skin type. The Japanese are very particular about having their pores clean, so after removing makeup it’s essential to clean the skin.

Toner may also be called a lotion or an essence or some sort of combination. The word lotion/treatment lotion/first treatment essence is very often used instead of toner, but this is what you put on your skin first after cleansing: to soften the skin and prepare it for other products. Essences, milks, creams etc. are followed after. You start from the lightest in texture and move to heavier. Layering is key when it comes to skincare!

Here are two example routines. Skincare enthusiasts may also apply an essence while some might skip the milk or cream depending on the skin type.

Japanese PM Skincare Routine

Oil cleanser
Gel or foam cleanser
Lotion (aka toner)
Sheet Mask
Serum
Moisturizing Milk
Cream/Moisturizer

Japanese AM Skincare Routine

Cleanse (milk, gel)
Lotion (aka toner)
Serum
Moisturizing Milk
Cream/moisturizer
Sunscreen or makeup base with SPF

What's J-Beauty? - a Beginner's Guide to Japanese Beauty | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

Key Points in Makeup

Japanese women tend to put a lot of effort in their makeup, but the end result should be like you’re not wearing anything. Conservative, natural, fresh. Base products are very popular in Japan because of the high humidity, also they often have added SPF protection. After a makeup base comes foundation and I think that powder foundations are pretty common while I rarely see them in Europe (except mineral eco foundations). Blush is applied sheer, eyeshadow often a gradient with glitter. Eyeliner is popular, but very natural and slim line along the lash line. Japanese lashes are often short and straight, so most mascaras add just length, definition and above all last long. Japanese waterproof mascaras are honestly waterproof!

I find that Japanese brands don’t advertise their products with “exotic Asian traditions” (such as Tatcha) as widely, but there are some that honor the traditions (say, Kyoto brand Yojiya). Brands that have Japanese ingredients (SK-II’s famous Pitera was found from sake making) often base their claims on science.

What's J-Beauty? - a Beginner's Guide to Japanese Beauty | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

Japanese Brands To Check Out

There is a vast amount of Japanese beauty brands, many owned by same parent companies. Drug stores are filled with smaller brands that might be devoted to just mascaras or eye products. I’m listing here some brands to check out, perhaps in the future I’ll do another introduction post.

If you like kawaii brands you should check out Anna Sui, Paul and Joe, Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE as they’re very famous and distinguishable with their over the top cute packaging. If you’re into more simplistic sleek look, check out SUQQU, ADDICTION and THREE for example. These high end brands have been featured on my blog several times. Their style and philosophy are different, but quality overall excellent.

For luxury lover there is brands like Cle de Peau, Cosme Decorte and Lunasol that offer excellent quality makeup. If skincare is your main focus, perhaps check out the legendary SK-II. Yojiya follows the trend of Kyoto geishas and maikos, their products are very simplistic, but make a great souvenir from Japan. Their aburatorigami (あぶらとり紙) aka blotting papers, hand creams, lip balms and paper soaps are very popular.

From the drug store I try any liners and mascaras with anime characters (Sailor Moon, Rose of Versailles) – so far everything has performed so well! I also like Visée’s shadows and a variety of products from KATE. If you struggle to choose from drug store products, check out the “Top1” or similar stickers by magazines (iVoce, MAQUIA) or online rating sites (Cosme). Often the popular items are worth the hype.

Final word

Thank you for reading, I have soo much to talk about when it comes to Japanese beauty! I didn’t even touch hair trends or go deep into traditions or routines. What would you like to read more about? Do you like J-beauty? Also, a huge thanks to my friend Iida from Iida in Translation blog for the beautiful pictures!! If you can read Finnish or simply love beautiful Japan travel photography, check her out!

xx Laura

Makeup Therapy or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Routine

There are days when you will feel like like shit. Trust me, I’ve had a few of those recently. You may feel uncomfortable in your body, lack of energy and passion, pandas would envy your dark circles and perhaps there is a new zit or two (or three..) on your face. Today I’ll share you some peer support as well as tips how to deal with those days when you’d prefer to not get out of the bed.

Makeup Therapy Routine | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog @laurantaina

Acknowledge your feelings

It’s okay to feel like shit sometimes. Some of us are more prone to stress, changes in our skin and body or mood swings. Don’t hate or put yourself down because of these feelings, acknowledging is the first baby step towards dealing. Once you let go off the unnecessary guilt of feeling bad, you may tackle the reasons or even do damage control.

“Today I want to cover myself in a sack.” That’s okay. “Today everything is going wrong and it pisses me off” It’s fine. “Today my zits are the centre of attention” It’ll pass. “..But everything is wrong and I deserve it!” Stop, it’s not your fault.

Use Humour As Your Weapon

You had lipstick on your teeth and poured coffee on yourself during a meeting? Maybe instead of getting embarrassed or angry, try brushing it off by saying “Sorry, oops, it’s one of those days”. You will most likely make other people more comfortable around you when you laugh at the situation vs throwing a tantrum. You will appear more grown up, handling the situation with your shit together. You can later let it all out, perhaps during a physical activity.

Bloating, Zits, Bags Under the Eyes..

They’re all temporary. Make sure to stay hydrated during the day, don’t poke or squeeze your face (it’ll make things just worse). Use cold towel, cold spoons or eye masks to make your face and eye area feel more cool and relaxed - it also reduces puffiness. Consider light exercise to get your fluids moving.

Dealing with people who drain you

Constant complainers, overly critical, dramatic, constantly negative and demanding people.. Some are always like that, but perhaps your friend, relative or colleague is also having a crap day - either way, don’t get pulled in. You can be kind and emphatic while protecting yourself. If you can, be open about it: “This situation/mood is affecting me, please lets change the subject” or “I hear you, but these are my boundaries”. If these methods don’t help; politely limit your contact and disengage.

Makeup Therapy Routine | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog @laurantaina

My Makeup Therapy Routine

First: take a shower and wash away your worries. If you feel very anxious, try a cold shower for a couple of minutes. When needing to relax a bit, use warm water or take a bath. It’s much nicer and easier to continue to next steps when you’re fresh and clean. If you can, wash your hair as well.

Second: Music, video or a podcast and a beverage. For me it’s always coffee, usually Youtube playing on the background with something inspiring that uplifts. Gather your tools and brushes. Eliminate negative thoughts and self-critique at this point, you’re trying to make yourself feel better and not worse. When looking at yourself in the mirror, don’t focus on “flaws” or start picking at your face; today your skin is what it is.

Third is prepping your skin. When I’m feel grimy or down I like to start with an exfoliating toner, followed by hyaluronic acid serum, moisturizer and SPF. Something simple, quick, that leaves my skin both feeling fresh and hydrated. If you’ve been crying or sleeping badly, I urge you to try a cold jade roller, refridgerated eye patches or spoons around your eyes. There isn’t a magic ingredient for puffiness except caffeine and lymphatic drainage with massage, I often prefer the latter. Little self-care and pamper makes me feel good mentally.

Finally is any makeup you enjoy using. Maybe there’s something you have been saving for a special occasion? Grab it now. Go on, do it. The routine doesn’t need to be long and elaborate in technique unless you want to. I often get energized when I do a nicely even base with foundation and full coverage concealer, lots of luminous blush and either glittery eyes or power lip with red, bright orange or maroon. Let the music or video play on the background, sip your drink and take a couple of deep breathes.

Some Youtube inspiration for you:

Matt D’Avella (minimalism, creativity)
Carly Rowena (positivity, fitness)
Michele Wang (luxury beauty)
Mel Thompson (luxury beauty)
Justine Leconte (fashion design)

Makeup Therapy Routine | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog @laurantaina

From Chores to (Enjoyable) Routines

I love healthy routines. When the brain doesn’t need to focus on planing the next step you can concentrate on being mindful in the moment or perhaps get inspired for future things. I try to think about my beauty routine as something positive and creative I can do each morning - plus taking some time for myself.

I avoid any negative associations like “I’m so busy, but I can’t go out looking like this”. Yes, you can. If you don’t have the time, just leave it. Makeup is always optional. Try building the confidence to go either makeup free or perhaps trying something new in your routine. When done in good lighting using clean tools, the application feels much more pleasant.

I hope you enjoyed this type of post! What beauty related self-care routines do you have? I just had a month long hiatus from blogging because of personal reasons, but I’m happy to be back and inspired to create new content! x

Dermapen4 Treatment by Rebel Helsinki (Review)

Have you heard about microneedling? I bet many of you have seen derma-rollers and other spiked, potentially damaging tools advertised online. Today I’m talking about safe and very efficient anti-ageing treatment which uses modern microneedling tool, the Dermapen4. The treatment was done in collaboration with REBEL Helsinki, enjoy!

*Gifted treatment, in collaboration with REBEL Helsinki.

Dermapen4 Treatment By REBEL Helsinki Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog
Dermapen4 Treatment By REBEL Helsinki Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog
Dermapen4 Treatment By REBEL Helsinki Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

What is Dermapen4 microneedling treatment?

Dermapen4 should not be confused with at-home derma rolling or other traditional microneedling. Dermapen4 is a microneedling pen makes a minuscule punctures on the dermal layer of the skin, boosting the collagen and elastin production. It’s accurate, quick and safe with no permanent side effects. With Dermapen4 the trauma is kept minimal so the skin can improve its overall condition vs derma-rollers where skin uses most of its effort in fighting the ailment.

The Dermapen4 treatment begins with consultation and the needle length is customized to every client and treated area. Dermapen4 is suitable for everyone and can be used to solve skin issues such as post-acne scars, improve elasticity, diminish fine lines and pigmentation. Whether you have specific concerns or just “anti-ageing” or skin tightening, this can be the treatment for you. Recommended time between treatment sessions is about 5 to 7 weeks. Price (face and neck) €220 - see discounts for multiple sessions.

For more information and booking, contact:

REBEL Helsinki / Fabianinkatu 4 b 15 00130 Helsinki/ 0407771207

Dermapen4 Treatment By REBEL Helsinki Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

Dermapen Treatment Experience at Rebel Helsinki

At REBEL Helsinki all treatments being with consultation. For me, I had slight forehead lines, very dry lips and remains of acne scaring on my cheeks. After hopping on the treatment table the first step is cleansing and disinfecting the skin. My Esthetician, Jessica, is very experienced and professional in her work, I felt safe in her hands. At Rebel Helsinki the technique, experience and hygiene is everything and it shows. Next, she applies a treatment gel on my skin and begins needling with Dermapen4.

Jessica starts with my forehead as that tends to be one of the more sensitive areas. Dermapen4 treatment is fairly quick to minimize the discomfort, but max the results with personalized and adjusted needle length: different for lips, scars and so on. The needling isn’t exactly painful, but I did feel a bit uncomfortable towards the end. The feeling cannot be compared to a blood test, that’s way more intense, I’d compare the feeling of microneedling if you strongly scratch your arm. I can take a peek from the mirror and I see very, very slight punctures on my cheek. 

Next, she applies a gorgeous jelly-like sheet mask for about 10 minutes. I relax on the table, close my eyes and listen to calming music in the beautiful treatment room. Although Rebel Helsinki is a very results focused salon, the beauty and luxe feeling of the decor never ceases to amaze me. Finally my Esthetician removes the jelly mask, adds final cream and SPF. It’s recommended to avoid touching or wearing use any makeup for the rest of the day. “Babies, pets and partners - keep them away!”, Jessica laughs.

Dermapen4 Treatment By REBEL Helsinki Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog
Dermapen4 Treatment By REBEL Helsinki Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog
Rebel Helsinki Dermapen 4 Results | Laura Loukola Beauty blog

After the Dermapen4 Treatment

My face is a little tingly and red, I step outside the treatment room and I’m given a collagen drink. After a couple of hours the redness has mostly calmed down. My face tingles a little bit, but I resist my urge to scratch it. The down-time is pretty quick, next morning there I don’t have any signs of redness.

Next day I observe my skin from the elevator mirror of my apartment and notice how my acne scaring had almost disappeared. It’s hard to tell in the “After” image as my skin is pretty fair and even, but look at the circled area and tell me if you see red spot marks. There is some texture, but overall I’m ecstatic with the results! For years I’ve tried different lotions and potions to fade any acne marks. According to my Esthetician at Rebel Helsinki the scars were not bad (ie. treatable), but I was blown away to notice them faded. Same with my less prominent forehead line, it’s barely visible.

Final Thoughts

I feel like the treatment actually “did something” and wasn’t just for relaxation and pampering. There’s a time and place for those type of treatments, but if I go to a salon I do like to see some results. I can see why Dermapen4 is a preceding anti-age treatment that both improves the overall appearance of the skin as well as tightens and treats troubling areas. I will take a few weeks of from treatments and save up, as I want to do another round!

Have you tested microneedling yet?