A Japanese skincare routine

My skincare routine had been one of constant change throughout my teens and twenties, resulting in what can pretty much be summed up as chaos. My skin is dry / combination (I know that now), but because I suffered from acne, I just assumed it was oily and used very harsh and abrasive skincare for many years.
After realizing my mistake I switched out all the nasty chemical laden products for vegan, non-cruelty, natural and organic products and have seen a huge improvement in my skin!
Now, as I enter my mid-late thirties (cringe) I want to start adding a few anti-aging products to combat the fine lines and age/sun spots that are starting to appear.

I recently added a hyaluronic serum to my morning routine and am loving it so far.

I also want to add a few other products, (thanks to the incredible array of beauty-things available in Japan) and start a more organized skincare routine like the ever-youthful women who live here.

*UPDATE : I bought the ORBIS U 化粧水 (Moist Up Lotion) which had great reviews online and am loving it so far!!

So what does a Japanese skincare routine look like? At first glance it seems complicated and expensive because of the long list of items that are needed. But on closer inspection the steps are simple and most products can be used both day and night.

The Japanese refer to nice skin as mochi-hada, a reference to the ultra soft and plump Japanese sticky rice desserts. The concept of softness is a reoccurring theme in Japanese skincare. While the alternative approach is similar to attacking your own skin with aggressive exfoliation and harsh formulas, the philosophy in Japan is emphasizing sun protection, thorough but gentle cleansing, and multiple hydrating and moisturizing layers. 

The basic Japanese skincare routine is; removing makeup, cleansing, hydrating with a “lotion”, treating with a serum, and sealing everything in with a moisturizer, plus using masks regularly!

Simply translated...

Let’s start with the morning (朝のケア - asa no kea).

After double cleansing the night before (read about that later) you can skip washing your face in the morning and just splash on some water.


The first step is “lotion” known as kesho-sui (化粧水) or a skin conditioner. It has the texture and appearance of water and is designed to prep the skin for whatever comes next. It is applied using a “patting technique” and left to absorb into the skin.

Although this lotion looks like western “toner” it is neither astringent nor meant to wipe away left-over makeup.

A vital step in obtaining mochi-hada, lotion softens the skin, hydrates it, and sometimes performs a few extras. The Japanese are big into hydration (which is technically adding water to the skin and not to be confused with moisturizing or adding oils to the skin) and lotions are typically full of water-pushing humectants like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and aloe Vera.

Some of the famous and more popular kesho-sui available online or in almost every drugstore are listed below (with links to their Amazon Japan / website product page).

On a normal day, you can pat on a lotion in the mornings and evenings after cleansing, but it can also work just as well as a mask. Just soak thin cotton pads or dry paper masks with your choice of lotion and then apply as you would any sheet mask (ローションパック).


Biyoueki (美容液) which roughly translates to "beauty liquid," targets specific conditions like dark spots, wrinkles, or dullness. Beauty liquids address some of the same things as lotions, but they’re typically thicker and a little more concentrated.


The next step is to seal in all that liquidy goodness with a cream (クリーム) or milk (乳液 nyueki).

Here are some popular moisturizers...

Japanese women rarely leave the house without some kind of sun protection (parasol, hat, gloves) and sunscreen liquid (日焼け止め - hiyakedome) is no exception.

Because of this, the sunscreen market is very competitive, with both luxury and drugstore brands with advanced formulations that are both effective and cosmetically elegant (or, in basic terms, not sticky and gross). Since SPF only refers to UVB protection, the Japanese have even developed their own rating system for UVA-blocking: from the lowest (PA+) to the highest (PA++++).

There are fast-absorbing gels, like Canmake Mermaid Skin UV Gel and the popular Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50 PA++++. And there are runnier milks, such as Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen SPF 50 PA++++ and Biore Perfect Face Milk SPF 50 PA++++. 

At night the process is very similar: double cleansing followed by lotion, serum, milk and a heavier night cream. Other extras like clay packs, eye cream or acne/spot treatments can be added too, although this is a recent change in the Japanese routine.

Night care (夜のケア - yoru no kea)

CLEANSING (Double Cleansing)
In general it seems that the women of the western world have been washing our faces wrong all this time! The Japanese routine of double cleansing has been gaining recognition in other countries in the last few years and articles/blogs are even appearing on the pages of Vogue and Marie Claire.

Japanese skincare guru Chizu Saeki, author of The Japanese Skincare Revolution, recommends spending as much time at night washing your face as you do applying makeup. Removing your makeup with an emulsifying oil or balm before cleansing is a good way to ensure you don’t leave dirt, grime, pollution etc in your pores all night.
Oil cleansing has been around in Japan since 1967, when Shu Uemera introduced it. The brand’s Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleanser is historically popular, but now, almost every Japanese skincare brand offers its own. Popular, cheaper versions include the olive-oil based DHC Deep Cleansing Oil  and Fancl Mild Cleansing Oil, a meadow-foam seed oil-based formula.

Secondly, foaming cleansers are most common because they are soft, and you don’t have to rub your skin too much to spread them around. Hada Labo, offers the low-pH Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam,  free of harsh chemicals!
Japanese exfoliators do not contain micro beads or ground shells or sugary scratchy ingredients. Most of them appear as watery as gels or lotions and the polymer-based liquid binds to the oil on your face, forming teeny little balls. As you massage your face, those little balls ever so gently physically exfoliate your skin, revealing a lighter, brighter complexion. The No. 1 exfoliator in Japan is Cure Natural Aqua Peeling Gel, which famously sells every 12 seconds.

A much more gentle option, especially for those with sensitive skin!


Typically richer than a daycream, Japanese night creams pack a lot of ingredients in, and also work as a barrier to keep the layers of moisture that you have worked hard to apply. They are usually referred to as sleeping packs or all-in-one gels.

Some popular creams include...

Astalift Night Cream

Hada Labo all-in-one gel


Japanese facial steaming machines and facial rollers are available widely and can turn your bathroom into a spa experience!

Generally you get what you pay for, and although plastic facial rollers can even be found at the 100 yen shop, platinum coated rollers like this one by ReFa are the preferred option (and recommended by estheticians). 

Probably a good lymphatic massage with your hands would be a great start!!

I am starting the change in my routine by adding a lotion (kesho-sui) this week (UPDATE: I chose the ORBIS 化粧水 and am liking it so far). As my other products run out I will definitely add in some more of the Japanese products too! 

Happy shopping and beauty fun!

Fran xx

*this post contains Amazon JP affiliate links. Thanks for clicking xx


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