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Japanese Beauty Hacks

Written by on February 28, 2024

Steps 1 and 2: Double Cleansing
Japanese Skincare Routine Double Cleansing
You may or may not have heard of double cleansing, a somewhat recent method that’s made its way stateside thanks to the influx of all things South Korean: K-pop (BTS much?), food, and, of course, makeup and skin care. While there are differences between traditional Japanese and Korean skincare routines, one crucial step they both share (and one that stretches back centuries) is double cleansing.
Double cleansing is the act of first using an oil-based cleanser on your face to get rid of makeup, sebum, and dirt accumulated throughout the day (so don’t think this step is only necessary for those who wear makeup), rinsing that off, and then, and only then, using a foam or gel-based facial cleanser.
Geisha, who painted thick, white makeup onto their faces, needed a dependable oil cleanser that would melt it all away and keep their skin nourished. After, they would be able to get a deep clean of the skin with a water-based cleanser.
Are you listening, people? This is key. Get rid of all the gross stuff on your face with an oil cleanser before washing your face with a second cleanser. And yes, even if, like me, you have oily skin, oil cleansing is a necessary step. Oily skin produces more oil-related impurities, and you know what they say: fight fire with fire.
Tips: Use the oil cleanser with dry hands and a dry face. When using it, take your time. Give the muscles in your face a little love. Relax. It’s part of the ritual. Make sure to get that waterproof eyewear off you’ve been (rightly) flaunting all day. Rinse off and repeat this with the foam or gel cleanser of choice, avoiding your eyes. Rinse, and pat (don’t rub) dry.
Step 2: Exfoliating
Japanese Skincare Routine Exfoliating Skin
It’s recommended that you exfoliate at least once a week to slough off the buildup of dead skin cells, excess oil, and pollutants. When you exfoliate, you’re also clearing the way for deeper absorption of all products that follow afterwards, making for a more intense skin-cleansing session.
A lot of Western exfoliators are harsh on the skin, irritating your face. Luckily, there are a lot of products readily available in Japan that oh-so-lovingly, gently exfoliate your skin for you.
Tip: Remember, this is a step incorporated just once or twice a week!  Typically in a nightly routine (and, if you exfoliate in the morning, be sure to wear sunscreen! More on that later.)
Step 3: “Lotion”, or Toner
Japanese Skincare Routine Lotion
Lotion isn’t poured onto a cotton pad and swiped across the face like a toner. It’s meant to be poured out into the hands and patted into your skin and left to be absorbed.
The watery substance adds hydration (not necessarily moisture, like with actual lotion- argh, so confusing, Japan!) to your skin, and is typically full of ingredients that support this, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. For me, this is much more comparable to the benefits of a Korean essence (shout-out to my Korean skincare gurus!) than a toner, which, speaking of which…
Step 4: Essence
Japanese Skincare Routine Skin Essence
Essence is something that has a very small presence in the Western world of skin care (with trends going the way they are, though, my money’s on a big push for it in the next year or so). Hands down, the most popular, well-known essence is Japan is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which even has some popularity in the States.
The SK-II essence is water-light and is meant to follow the toner/lotion step. Like Japanese lotion, a few drops are meant to be poured into your hands, patted (or tapped) onto your face, and absorbed into your skin. The anti-ageing liquid known as Pitera, which is derived from a natural fermentation process, is this essence’s star ingredient. According to SK-II, the vitamins, amino acids, and minerals in it give a boost to your skin’s ability to rejuvenate.
Once I started incorporating essence into my routine, my skin changed completely: it appeared brighter, and smoother, and the skin tone evened out. Essence also preps your skin to better absorb the last couple of products you’ll be using, enhancing their intended benefits.
So, you may ask, why is it taking so long for the West to make this a major step in the typical skincare routine? Yet another mystery.
Step 5: Serum
After your essence, you’ll want to apply a serum, which is a thicker liquid that targets specific concerns like fine lines, dark spots, or dry skin. For more hydration, try a serum like Rosette’s Ceramide Gel, which plumps up your skin with collagen, ceramides, and sodium hyaluronate.
A few drops should be plenty when using serums since they’re so concentrated.
Following it up immediately with moisturizer might nullify any effects the serum would have had (and besides losing out on those benefits, you’re pouring money down the drain). So brush your teeth!  Do a little dance. Ponder the meaning of life for a few minutes. Then you’re ready for the next step.
Step 6: Emulsion/Moisturizer
Emulsion was something that took me a long time to wrap my head around. Why would I want to put a lotion on…before I put my lotion on? Turns out, emulsion is a light lotion that gives an extra boost of moisture if you’d like to layer it on before applying a heavier moisturizer. That technique is great for those with drier skin looking for an extra boost of moisture, especially in the winter months.
However, emulsions can be used on their own if you have oilier skin and don’t want to over-moisturize (which can clog up pores and lead to breakouts). If you’ve ever spent time in Japan during the hot, humid summer months, you’ll know exactly where the inspiration to create emulsions came from.
If you’re doing this routine at night, then congratulations! You’re done! Everybody go to sleep.If you’re starting out your day, however, don’t miss the next, vital step.
Step 7: Sunscreen
Japanese Skincare Routine Sunscreen
The irony is not lost on me that in a nation where the sun is smack dab in the middle of its flag, it tends to be warded off like the devil in the sky that it is.
Year-round in Japan, women wear long sleeves to protect their arms. People of all ages tote parasols above their heads throughout the seasons to shield themselves from the sun’s harmful rays.
Sunscreen is regularly worn every single day, no matter the weather or the season, and rightly so. Sun damage accelerates ageing, wrinkles, dark spots, and, of course, an increased risk of skin cancer.

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