The Japanese Skincare Craze: What Is It and How Can You Save on These Beauty Products?

From green tea cleansers to rice masks, Japanese skin care products offer a diverse range of beauty solutions that are quickly winning the attention of Americans. Refreshing and restorative, these formulas have helped many achieve a naturally vibrant appearance and prevent against signs of aging. But while the results may be powerful, shopping this beauty category isn’t necessarily easy.

What Makes Japanese Skin Care Unique?

Japanese vs. American Beauty Products

Before you start exploring Japanese skin care products, it’s important to know what makes this beauty category different from its American counterparts. Although both focus on enhancing one’s look with anti-aging benefits, Japanese products pull more from traditional solutions that have been used by women—including geisha—for more hundreds of years. These formulas work primarily by cleansing the skin in a natural way.

American beauty products may incorporate ingredients developed through scientific breakthroughs that actively restore imperfection. You’ll also discover many more products that focus on cosmetic enhancement—as opposed to natural enrichment—when you shop US collections.

Japanese vs. Korean Beauty Products

It’s also crucial to know the difference between Japanese and Korean beauty products. While both categories are insanely popular and overlap in the way they are applied, but they are actually quite different in composition.

K-beauty solutions are focused more on incorporating new innovations. For example, many formulas feature a range of out-there ingredients, such as those that contain snail foam or pig collagen. Japanese products, on the other hand, typically focus on cleansing impurities through the use of natural, gentle ingredients.

5 Popular Types of Japanese Skin Care Products

1. Rice Masks

These products utilize a gentle formula that is taken completely from natural rice extract. It works by nourishing dry skin while cleansing pores to help them become less visible. Rice masks can come in many forms, including at-home concoctions and pre-packaged formulas. However, sheet masks remain the most popular and easiest way to embrace the restorative benefits of rice. Many enjoy the affordable and simple-to-use masks from Japanese-producer Keana Nadeshiko.

2. Cleansing Oils

Removing makeup before bed is a staple of Japanese skin care, but many soaps and cleansers produced in America are considered to be too abrasive. Instead, Japanese use cleansing oils, which come in many varieties but are typically built off of an olive oil base. These oils are carefully wiped across the skin to pick up stubborn cosmetics and moisturize the skin at the same time. While there are many brands that produce these products, many regard DHC Cleansing Oil to be the standard.  

3. Sunscreen

There’s no doubt that sunscreen is necessary to protect against skin cancer and reduce the effects of UV damage. But in America, consumers don’t have a lot of choices—they either have to apply harsh sprays, greasy lotions, or expensive moisturizers just to get the daily protection they need. Fortunately, Japan is known to produce some of the highest-quality sunscreens that utilize a wide variety of safe, effective ingredients that aren’t yet approved by the FDA.

As a result, these solutions tend to be easier to apply than US-manufactured formulas, leave little to no grease, and offer more resilient UV protection. Interestingly, some of the most popular Japanese skin care brands are recognizable in the US—such as Bioré and Nivea. However, these formulas are able to include the ingredients that the FDA has been slow to approve for use in US markets.

4. Aqua Exfoliators

Exfoliation is necessary to get all the dirt and grime out of pores, but the majority of American products feature ingredients that cause damaging micro-tears in the skin. Japanese aqua gel exfoliators, on the other hand, massage away unwanted elements rather than abrasively cleansing the skin. If you’re looking for a mid-range place to start with aqua gel exfoliation, consider trying Natural Aqua Gel from Cure.  

5. Green Tea Cleansers

Drinking green tea can have immense benefits for the skin—and health in general—as it is full of antioxidants that help keep cells healthy. But drinking the popular Japanese beverage isn’t the only way to get these benefits—you can apply them as topical formulas. If you’re looking for a refreshing, gentle pick-me-up, opt for the Fermented Green Tea foaming cleanser from First Green Tea Natural. Or, if you want to really clean out those pores, you might enjoy the Volcanic Mud Facial Mask with Matcha Green Tea Extract from Hokkuu.

Tips for Using Japanese Skin Care Products

Getting the most out of your Japanese skin care products may mean making a few changes to your hygiene routine. In general, always follow the instructions on the packet—however, if the instructions are all in Japanese, you may need to do some research and watch a few YouTube videos to figure out the best way to use these products. You should also make sure to:

  • Cleanse Every Day. To enjoy optimal effects of cleansers, creams, and masks, you can’t just use them when you feel like it—it has to be done every night before you go to bed. Otherwise, you may just end up leaving dirt and grime in your pores that could cause blemishes.
  • Practice Facial Massage. Facial massage is a cornerstone of skin care application in Japan, as it stimulates the lymphatic system to help fight the effects of aging. While most practice these techniques by gently rubbing specific areas of their face, there are massaging devices that can also feel quite relaxing.
  • Follow a System. Korean culture is widely-regarded for its intensive 10-step skin care application system, which can be practiced using Japanese beauty products. However, if you’re short on time or want to start simple, you might also want to follow the Japanese 5-step system. To do so, you’ll need to apply makeup remover, cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer in order.

Shopping for Japanese Skin Care on a Budget

Just like the American cosmetics market, Japanese beauty products can vary extensively in price. If you’re strictly shopping at US retailers like Ulta Beauty and Sephora, you might only expect to find a limited range of products, such as the high-priced SK-II and the slightly less expensive Shisheido. But if you’re willing to get a little adventurous as an online shopper, consider these tips to save on your Japanese skin care purchases.

Shop Japanese Products From Independent Sellers on Amazon

With a little research, you can discover plenty of products that are made specifically for the Japanese market. While you can find many of these formulas on Amazon from independent retailers for incredibly low prices, it’s important to note that they tend only feature instructions in Japanese—so be sure to read the user comments before buying.

Look for Free Samples

There are many opportunities to snag free skincare samples from Japanese manufacturers—including DHC and Takaski—if you check out their individual sites. You might also want to sign up for a free sample service, such as Cosmeria and SampleStore. Many Japanese skin care brands listed on Amazon also include free samples of other products when you purchase a regular-size item.

Buy a Starter Kit

Since proper Japanese skin care involves the use of several products, it can be expensive to get started from scratch. Fortunately, brands like Shishiedo, SK-II, and Tatcha sell reasonably-priced starter kits to get you into the groove. While these kits may feature smaller-size containers, they can introduce you to different types of products and allow you to discover what works best for your routine.

Subscribe to Beauty Boxes

Subscription boxes are all the rage among consumers these days and the Japanese beauty market is certainly no exception to the trend. While you will have to pay a regular fee to receive monthly boxes, the value is usually well worth it, as you’ll get a diverse assortment of the latest products from Japan. Both NoMakeNoLife and Kira Kira Crate are exceptional options priced under $30 a month that can introduce you to some of the hottest Japanese skin care products available today.

Make Your Own

While some Japanese beauty products contain proprietary formulas, many of the traditional skin care solutions can be made right in your own home. For example, there are many easy DIY recipes online for rice masks and green tea skin care treatments.

If you end up shopping online for your Japanese skin care products, never make a purchase without checking for coupon codes first. As always, CouponSurf is your premier resource for all sorts of discount codes, including those for beauty retailers such as Sephora and Ulta.