Thursday, February 21, 2013

Japanese Skin Care Secrets

Skin is magical, it’s the story of our lives, an expression of our values, and the history of our families. There is so much you can learn about a person from their skin, and so many ways to treat it.

My skin will tell you, that I grew up in a middle class household, I was relatively healthy, and spent time in the sun. It will tell you that I value looks, and my own personal presentation. It will tell you that I desire look young.  It will tell you that I embrace what makes me look different, and do not try to look like the norm. It will tell you that my ancestors were from Europe, especially the colder, less sunny regions.

I love skin, in all its shapes and forms, from the leathery skin of avid hikers, to the bleached skin of older Japanese women, or the plastic looking skin of male body builders. Skin tells a story, and those stories fascinate me.

Skin is not always beautiful, and it doesn’t have to be, the most interesting stories are written on the most wretched skin.  I do not have naturally good skin, I had moderately bad acne in high school, and without the time and effort I put into it, my skin would still be bad. My skin is also very pale, and very thin, without makeup you can see veins, and capillaries all over my face. That being said, I love my skin.

I am remarkably white, most companies do not sell foundation white enough to fit my skin, I take this as a point of pride, although it does make my love for makeup a one-sided. My pale skin is an amazing canvas, blushes can go from innocent to sultry with ease, every lipstick known to man can look very bold on me, but the most fun part are eye shadows. Colors are so true, and because my face is such a blank canvas I can express any feeling I can think of.

As part of my cultural immersion, I wanted to learn about Japanese skin. Japanese women seem to age at half-pace, and I want the same for myself. Japanese women do tend to have an advantage in the war against aging. Most Japanese women have mono-lids, and less round eyes then western women, when they smile or squint, one crease forms on the side of their eyes, as opposed to western women who generally get a crow’s feet formation. These lines become wrinkles in all ethnicities, but the one line formed at the edge of Japanese women’s eyes is much less noticeable. Japanese also have more plump skin, this naturally helps prevent wrinkles, but also means that muscle definition is much more difficult for them to have toned bodies.

Luckily for those interested, not all of Japanese anti-aging secrets are genetic.
The majority of my skin care products are Japanese now, and I hope I never have to go back, the method is effective, and I enjoy clear skin all the time.

                Prevention is probably the most crucial way to slow aging. Japanese women’s most powerful tools against again are diet and sun protection.
Diet is probably the most difficult thing to change, but is crucial to maintaining young and beautiful skin. The Japanese diet has very little processed food, it is lower in carbs, and high in fish and high in fats.

Japanese women are obsessed with sun protection. Fair skin is considered very beautiful, and so during the summer months, Japanese armor themselves against the rays of the sun. On a sunny day, any skin conscious women will wear protective clothing, everything below the chin is usually covered in fabric, it is not uncommon to see women wearing turtle necks in the summer. Women wear full spectrum, high protection sunblock. Japanese women also wear the most amusing summer hats, some look like they were intended for bee keeping, and many have ear flaps.

Here are some other prevention methods that are common in Japanese women.
Sleep position-Sleep on your back, smooshing your face in to your pillow all night will lead to wrinkles.

Daily Activities
There are many steps in the daily skin ritual in order (Steps 1-4 should be done morning and Night)
1.       Cleansing
a.       Oil Cleanse
                                                               i.      America advertising has led us to believe that oil is the enemy of your face. Although both my husband and I are acne prone, cleaning our faces with oil as the first step has done wonders for our skin

b.      Foam Cleanse
                                                               i.      Really these are the same cleansers that you use at home, with the addendum of before you apply the product to your face you absolutely must lather it into a foam first. This is done with a loofah, or for certain products a whisk
                                                             ii.      Why foam? Foam removes dirt and makeup from your face, but doesn’t strip it of the lipids that protect your skin and keep it tight (young looking)

2.       Toner
a.       Toners here are called hydrating lotions, or softeners, and are used after cleaning the skin to remove any lasting impurities, and close up the pores.

3.       Serum
a.       Serums/essences are very potent and easily absorbed by the skin, If you’re buying anti-aging products, this is where to splurge and buy the highest quality, do some research and find the right set of ingredients for your needs.
4.       Lotion
a.       Lotion is applied over the toner and serum, it locks in moisture and keeps the skin soft.
                                                               i.      Use a lotion with sun protection during the day
                                                             ii.      Do not apply sun protection at night

5.       Makeup
a.       BB-Creams- Instead of foundations Japanese women usually use BB-Creams.
                                                               i.      BB-Creams in Asia are very thick, can offer full coverage and have many nutrients in them.
                                                             ii.      Western BB-Creams are a joke, and are nothing more than pricey tinted moisturizers.
b.      Makeup should be removed as early as possible in the day, if you know you are going to spend the evening in, wash your face as soon as you get home, the less time pollution and foundation sits on your skin, the better it will look.

6.       Sweat
a.       Eat spicy food, exercise, take a hot bath, or go in a sauna, Sweating is natural, and a great way to clear your pores, and rid your body of toxins, 

1-3 times a week
1.       Masks
a.       A huge array  of masks are offered in Japan, as well as cookbooks for homemade masks. Every person should on occasion make sure they do the following masks
                                                               i.      Purifying
1.       Pore cleaning masks like a clay mask are recommended
                                                             ii.      Hydrating
1.       Snail slime is fairly popular here, sea weed or platinum masks are also a good option.
                                                            iii.      Calming
1.       A homemade oatmeal mask is surprisingly nice

2.       Exfoliate
a.       It is important to resurface your face, cell turnover is key to healthy, ageless skin
                                                               i.      Japanese don’t tend to use abrasive exfoliants and instead either rely on masks or formulas like cure, which gently ball up any dead skin as you gently massage your skin

3.       Massage
a.       This is probably the most important, and the one that I most often see ignored by westerners trying to adopt Asian skin care methods. It is absolutely crucial, and will be noticeable if you do it right.
b.      Key points
                                                               i.      Do not drag your skin, although the videos I link look like they are really pulling at their skin, they really aren’t.
                                                             ii.      Drain Lymph’s- you can easily feel your lymph nodes in your cheeks and neck, by massaging on and around them you promote drainage
                                                            iii.      Circulation- If you have good circulation, your skin will keep itself much healthier, 
Gua Sha Stone and Cheek Massager

As lengthy as this explanation is, it is just the basics, I have dry/combination/pale/acne prone/sensitive skin, you should refine the products you use to best suit your skin. I really don’t recommend skipping any of the steps, irregardless of your skin type (Oily skin people should still oil cleanse, and still use lotion just find the right products).

I hope this is helpful, but most importantly…
Enjoy the Skin you’re in.



  1. A finishing a draft. I’m looking forward to Skinlastin reading it one Congratulations! There’s nothing more fun than that initial inspiration, except maybe the satisfaction of of these days!

  2. This was wonderfully informative but I'm unclear as to whether the foam cleanser is another option of cleanser or is meant to be used after the oil cleanser?

    1. Sorry for the confusion, the foam cleanser it to be used after the oil.

  3. Thank you for sharing your insights, Katie. Male or female, one must have the diligence to take care of themselves in terms of hygiene and health. Most people who neglect things such as skin care may end up with a nasty case of acne. Have you considered visiting skin care clinics?

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