The Korean makeup and skincare craze has dominated headlines, beauty aisles and even Instagram, with its groundbreaking cushion compacts, 10-step routines and bizarre ingredients used in its sheet masks. But the K-beauty eclipse may soon be over. For years, its more established and older sister, Japanese beauty, firmly stood in its shadow, quietly inventing products like facial essences and double cleansing rituals. But no more — a new day has come for the Land of the Rising Sun. Now, Japan is officially taking back the spotlight with its devotion to time-honoured rituals and advanced nano emulsion technologies. Ahead, we list some of the world’s most famous Japanese beauty brands.
This power skincare brand will never slip under the radar. Loved by celebrities and beauty insiders alike, its secret lies in Pitera: The brand’s patented combination of 50 micro-nutrients including vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Its cult bestseller — the Facial Treatment Essence — contains over 90 percent of it to boost skin brightness, smoothen texture and prevent spot formation from prolonged exposure to the sun.
Shiseido is said to be the oldest beauty brand in the world — its history goes back over 140 years ago. Looking at its products today, you’d hardly believe that it started as Japan’s first Western-style pharmacy, before it gradually moved to cosmetic development. Shisedo’s success is attributed largely to its technological advancements, and impressive combination of art and science. Today, the brand’s extensive range includes makeup, skincare, fragrance and a men’s grooming line.
Kenzoki is the beauty arm of fashion label Kenzo. The skincare collection uses Asian plants in its formulas. Each of its product lines are created around a specific ingredient, such as white lotus, rice and ginger flower, and are deeply sensorial with rich textures and fragrances. New to the brand is its global anti-aging skincare line, which targets all signs of aging using lotus glycolysat to nourish skin firmness and elasticity.
Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai was suffering from acute dermatitis and travelling in Japan when an encounter with a modern-day geisha changed her life (and skin). From an ancient beauty book, she learnt classical Japanese beauty secrets passed down for generations and at the heart of it all is a time-tested philosophy: that less really is more. Harnessing those secrets, Tatcha combines it with Kyoto craftmanship and the wellness philosophies from California. The foundation of Tatcha’s products is Hadasei-3, which combines the basis of a geisha’s beauty rituals: Green tea, rice and algae.
5. Shu Uemura
Named after legendary makeup artist and beauty pioneer Shu Uemura, this classic Japanese brand emphasises that beautiful makeup first has to come from beautiful skin. To achieve this, its skincare combines powerful phyto-ingredients and breakthrough technologies. Its star product is the cleansing oil. Created 50 years ago, it combines eight botanical oils for maximum nourishment, has a smooth texture and targets different skin concerns, including excessive sebum, dullness and large pores. Besides the classics, Shu Uemura also puts out a regular rotation of exciting new makeup collections, like the Rouge Unlimited Burnt Orange Collection above.
Astalift takes the phrase “photogenic” seriously and that’s because it is founded by Fujifilm, the photography and imaging company. And as one would expect, the brand delivers groundbreaking skincare formulas. In birthing its beauty arm, Fujifilm channelled its photographic nano and collagen film technologies into the making of its products. Its In-Focus Cellactive Serum, for instance, combines the brand’s trademark Nano Astaxanthin CP+ and Nano Boswellin Acid to protect and activate stem cells for rejuvenation.
7. Clé de Peau Beauté
Seeing luxury skincare brand Cle De Peau on this list may surprise some — while the name may sound French, it is actually founded in Japan. Cle De Peau has legions of dedicated, high-powered fans, including society elites and celebrities. Befitting the price tag of its products, it combines top-of-the-line skincare science with luxurious ingredients. The foundation, for instance, is no average base as it contains the brand’s trademark Illuminating Complex EX to combat dryness and has a unique gel-oil base to blur pores and imperfections. It is even rose-scented for a luxurious touch.
Albion’s unique approach to skincare is “milk first”, which puts forth its Milk Lotion in place of toner after facial cleansing. What this does is restore skin moisture in the outermost layer, which sheds its natural oils in the cleansing process. It’s a multi-pronged battle — results include better skin elasticity, suppleness and smoother texture. For special occasions, gear up with the Infinesse Injector OSK Serum to supercharge your skincare routine. Available in single-use vials, the powerful anti-aging serum is inspired by collagen and hyaluronic acid injections, and visibly firms skin from deeper layers of the skin. It works by first loosening the outermost layer of the skin to allow for better penetration of active ingredients, such as the brand’s proprietary OSK9, directly into the cells which produce collagen. Newest to the brand lineup is the premium Embeage Cream Parfait which puts forth an aggressive skincare approach thanks to dhea: An ingredient that prevents the overproduction of melanin, strengthens muscles, and also purges damaged cells while regenerating new ones.