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

Dermaceutical Skincare: DP Vitamin Rich Repair Cream & Antioxidant Cocktail Serum Review

Earlier this Summer wrote about my first Dermapen4 micro needling treatment done by REBEL Helsinki. After I was kindly gifted these *two DP Dermaceuticals (same company as Dermapen4) skincare treatments for test and review. I gave these a good go test go of two (serum) and three months (cream); now I feel like it’s time to share my experiences! I hope you enjoy reading.

*Products kindly gifted for consideration.
My thoughts are honest and my own.

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Choosing Dermaceutical Skincare Products

When reviewing dermaceutical or medical brands I have very high expectations. I don’t want scents, pampering or simply “feeling nice on the skin” from these products, I want to see and feel some real results. Both of these DP Dermaceutical products can be used as a part of your micro needling treatment (before/after), please ask customized product recommendations and routine from your Skin Therapist. At REBEL Helsinki I was chosen three products: SPF (more about that later), Vitamin Rich Repair Cream and Antioxidant Cocktail serum. Both of these product retail €118 for 30ml.

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Using DP DERMACEUTICALS VITAMIN RICH REPAIR CREAM

This cream is designed to nourish, comfort and repair the skin. It also promises to lift and firm skin’s contours and soften the appearance of lines. My own lines are fairly fine, I haven’t noticed any decrease or increase after my Dermapen4 treatment. The results have been excellent and I’ll partly give the credit to DP Dermaceuticals products. The INCI list is very impressive from what I understand; I started using these products without knowing much expect the titles.

The texture of this pink colored cream is very light. It spreads and sinks in quickly with no problem - I somehow imagined dermaceutical brand creams would be either very greasy or dimethicone heavy. The cream doesn’t dry you out despite some alcohol, dimethicone or retinol ingredients. On the contrary, this cream feels light yet nourishing. I sometimes enjoy a creamier texture in the evenings, but in day-time this cream sits beautifully under makeup; doesn’t leave a film or a greasy residue. Overall I’m very happy with the performance and ingredients. If I had to say one con it’s that there is some residue left inside the pump which tends to dry out - you’ll notice it the next time you’ll pump out some product. I feel it wastes the cream, but then again you don’t need a lot in the first place..

INCI DP DERMACEUTICALS VITAMIN RICH REPAIR CREAM

Water (Aqua), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Squalane, Acetamide MEA, Glycerin, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Propylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Jojoba Esters, Dimethicone, Cetyl Palmitate, Sorbitan Palmitate, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Pichia/Resveratrol Ferment Extract, Triethanolamine, Decyl Glucoside, Polyacrylamide, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tocopherol, Caprylyl Glycol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Alcohol Denat., Silybum Marianum Fruit Extract, Alchemilla Vulgaris Extract, Equisetum Arvense Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat/Spelt) Seed Extract, Medicago Sativa (alfalfa) Extract, Raphanus Sativus (Radish) Seed Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinyl Acetate, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Amino Esters-1, Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract, Methylglucoside Phosphate, Copper Lysinate/Prolinate, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Laureth-7, Disodium EDTA

Every skin enthusiast loves vitamins and antioxidants, and this cream is packed with them. There are Vitamin A Esters (active derivates of Vitamin A) which stimulates collagen and elastin production. If you’re familiar with retinol for example, Vitamin A is used for clearer, brighter, blemish free complexion. There’s also Vitamin E, Neodermyl which is a patented version of copper peptide, resveratrol from red grape skins and triple weighted Hyaluronic Acid complex. Hyaluronic acid is one of the best skin hydrators while resveratrol is a potent antioxidant. I’ve tried only one Copper Peptide product in the past from NIOD so I was happy to see it used somewhere else. It’s not mentioned on the websites, but this cream also has squalene and various botanical extracts.

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Using DP DERMACEUTICALS ANTIOXIDANT COCKTAIL

The Antioxidant Cocktail seems like a  product where you see the effects during a longer period of use; it’s an anti-ageing environmental shield designed to protect against free radical attacks (pollution, stress, UV rays). It’s designed to hydrate, revive and also re-texture skin with a refreshed appearance. Anti-ageing means usually lifting and tightening the skin, which is also the purpose of this cream. If you want something stronger for texture issues, I’d suggest trying a glycolic acid peel, mask or something similar. The website does suggest the using this serum as a spot treatment, but personally I’ve used it all over my face.  

INCI DP DERMACEUTICALS ANTIOXIDANT COCKTAIL

Water (Aqua), Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Niacinamide, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Ergothioneine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Aspalathus Linearis Extract, Xanthan Gum, Beta Carotene, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Limonene

First of all, this serum is pretty hydrating on its own. I don’t feel necessary to add a hydrating serum on the top, but sometimes I do add a couple of drops of oil (such as Max and Me) for more moisturised look. The second ingredient is a stable form of Vitamin C (if you didn’t know, Vitamin C is notoriously unstable ingredient in skincare), followed by Aloe Leaf Juice, my favourite Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and highly active Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 that may improve collagen production. There’s little “unnecessary” ingredients; fragrance is listed, but I personally haven’t paid attention to any scent from this serum. While I don’t necessary see a significant change in my skin after two months of use I can sayt hat my skin has been behaving exceptionally well. I can read from the simple ingredients list that this serum is designed to boost anti-ageing while giving skin protective, highly antioxidant rich ingredients with no nonsense.

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Final thoughts

I kind of wanted to not love these products.. They are fairly expensive, hard to purchase (not every website sells them, only beauty salons). The packaging is good, who doesn’t like an opaque pump bottle? But then again, it’s not “sexy”, hyped, highly branded.. just effective and simple, does what it says on the tin. A part of me wants to purchase highly hyped products, but then again so many luxe or high end skincare brands are in the same price range so… for once, I think I’ll repurchase both of these.

I’m more excited about the cream as it’s suitable for daytime use but includes Vitamin A Esthers and also its effects are easier to notice in the short therm. But then again, the Antioxidant Cocktail is wonderful, no-nonsense serum packed with great ingredients. I wish they had left out the fragrance and Limonene, but I doubts this serum would irritate sensitive skins. If you have concerns, ask help from your skin therapist. While this review wasn’t typography, packaging, styling or hype heavy, I think these are excellent products for people who want results and upkeep beautiful skin between possible treatments.

Have you tried premium medical skincare? Which one of these two would you pick up? x

Kora Organics Turmeric Brightening & Exfoliating Mask Review

My love affair with Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics continues, they seem to come out with very good and eco conscious mid-range products a lot. I’ve previously reviewed their Moisturizer and Luminizers, please check out the posts if you’re curious. Today’s product is a bit strange one as I think you’d either love or hate it..

*Product gifted for consideration, post contains ad links to support the blog.

 Copyright Laura Loukola

Kora Organics Turmeric Brightening and Exfoliating Mask

Kora’s Turmeric mask is a two-in-one exfoliating facial treatment to promote brightening look and cell turnover. It combines enzymatic exfoliation with manual scrub with rosehip seeds and quartz. Continuous use of the mask promises to help with discoloration, pigmentation as well as congestion. €49.9 for 100ml. Vegan product, comes in a golden squeeze tube. Available at Kora Organics, Jolie and Kicks.

Kora Organics Turmeric Brightening & Exfoliating Mask Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

Using Kora Organics Turmeric Mask

Up: Me and baby Cara

Some websites that sell this product do suggest regular using of 2-3 times per week. Personally I think that’s too much as this mask is pretty abrasive. The packaging also says “All Skin Types”, which I certainly disagree No matter how natural the exfoliating particles are - they can still be sharp and strong. This mask reminds me a lot of the Yon-Ka Guarana Scrub (review) I reviewed last Summer, but with an added kick. I don’t have a very sensitive skin, but I can’t put strong enough emphasis on the fact it is strong - scent-wise as well. The peppermint scent can be invigorating and cooling to some, but a big turn-off if you’re sensitive or prone to redness.

The texture of the mask is pretty fluid and feels cooling on the skin. I wouldn’t answer the door while wearing it as the “baby puke” color from the turmeric isn’t too attractive. I apply the mask on dampened skin, let it sit about five to ten minutes and gently rinse without too much rubbing or tugging. The feel is very refreshing, clean but not tight, which I like a lot.

If I want just a chemical exfoliant mask or more gentle physical one, I reach for Evolve masks. They’re also very good price-wise. I reach for Kora if I don’t have the time to do multiple steps, but want a clean and refreshed look with one product, miss manual exfoliation or want a mental pick-me-up with the strong peppermint scent.

Ingredients

Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice*, Quartz, Rosa Canina (Rose Hip) Seed Powder*, Maranta Arundinacea (Arrowroot) Root Powder*, Lactobacillus Ferment, Bambusa Arundinacea Stem Powder, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder*, Glycerin^, Cetearyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Rosa Canina (Rose Hip) Fruit Oil*, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Populus Tremuloides Bark Extract, Lactobacillus, Morinda Citrifolia (Noni) Fruit Powder*, Sclerotium Gum, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Powder*, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Juniperus Virginiana (Cedarwood) Oil, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Salicylic Acid, Water/Aqua/Eau, Sodium Phytate, Tocopherol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Glucose, Alcohol, Sorbic Acid, Limonene**, Linalool**. *Ingredient from Organic Farming. ** From essential oils. ^Made using organic ingredients.

99.8% natural origin of total. 75.8% organic of total. 

Kora Organics Turmeric Brightening & Exfoliating Mask Review | Laura Loukola Beauty Blog

Kora has two hero ingredients: noni, which is a native fruit to South Pacific Islands and quartz (rose?) as Miranda believes in its healing powers, vibrations and opening the heart chakra. As I know little about chakras, I’ll focus on the INCI instead! But I assume that in this mask quartz bits offer also a manual exfoliation among the rose hip seed powder. With these type of products it’s difficult to be sure if these powders are crystalized aka do they cause potential micro cuts to the face. Couldn’t find more information on the website, but I suggest you don’t rub the mask vigorously.

The powders are in aloe base, which is a nice soothing and hydrating ingredient for almost all skin conditions. It’s soon by Lactobacillus ferment, a probiotic ingredient with promising antioxidant or environmental protection qualities. As I’m not a scientist myself I cannot tell if green tea leaf powder works as effectively as extract, but I’m happy to see lots of promising plant based ingredients at the top. I wish there was more resources about the topical benefits of turmeric, but at least orally it’s a very good antioxidant.

Papaya fruit extract is a source of the enzyme papain, which has some exfoliating properties. It may be a potential skin sensitizer, but so are many other exfoliants such as glycolic acid (this mask does have a small amount of salicylic acid). Personally I haven’t found skincare with papaya extract irritating, but I think the amount of essential oils can be a make or break to many users combined with exfoliation. There is Lavender, Lemon Peel, Peppermint.. to name a few. If you have no problem with essential oils, I think the natural moisturizing ingredients such as rose hip will help to condition the skin after exfoliating.

Final Thoughts

Do I like and use this product? Yes. Would I recommend it? ..Maybe, but you need to love scrubs and peppermint. Or love Miranda and her good vibes, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I like many products from Kora and this is one of them. I found the ingredients list nice, but some difficulties to if powder forms have the best topical effects (compared to extracts and so on). The Kora Turmeric Brightening & Exfoliating mask might give pretty polarized results. Especially with a price this high, I suggest you sample it somewhere and see if your skin and nose agrees. If you want a safer splurge, I’d go for Tata Harper’s Regenerating Cleanser (review) and use it as a mask.

Do you currently have a favorite exfoliating mask, would you try Kora’s Organics Turmeric Brightening and Exfoliating one? I’m also curious to hear if you love or hate peppermint!