Many people are often confused by Japanese lotions. They’re more commonly refer to as toners, astringents, or softeners in the Western Hemisphere.
Here are what Japanese lotions are NOT:
- They’re not a type of moisturisers (although most are moisturising).
- They’re not designed to remove traces makeup left behind, to balance pH, nor to close pores (which by the way, it’s scientifically impossible to do).
- They’re also not meant to be swiped on.
Functions of Japanese lotions:
There is no equivalent product available in North American or European brands. This step is primarily a Japanese concept and it is a considered essential in a Japanese skin care routine.
- Prepare for skin care products that follow by softening skin.
- Hydrate skin. Majority of them contains a blend of several humectants (e.g. hyaluronic acid). Many skincare brands offer 2–4 different moisture levels to suit different skin types.
- There’re also a myriad of additional features available (depending on the product) like brightening, whitening, soothing, firming, anti-ageng, reducing acne… the list goes on. These formulations act as a skin treatment in addition to the first 2 basic functions listed above.
There’re 3 main methods to apply Japanese lotions, and the method you choose depends on how much time you have and what you have available.
- Pour appropriate amount onto your palm and gently pat into skin till absorbed.
- Pour appropriate amount on to a soft cotton pad and gently press and hold it against your skin.
- Saturate a sheet mask (or a few cotton pads… toilet papers would also work) and place on skin for 5-10 minutes as a lotion mask. *This is generally done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in addition to applying it twice a day using the one of the 2 methods mentioned above.
How can they moisturise the skin when most are high in alcohol?
Alcohol is a common ingredient in Japanese lotions (and other skin care products like sunscreens). This is added to give it a lighter texture and help it absorb into the skin faster. In a lot of Japanese lotion formulations, the alcohol content doesn’t dry out the skin due to other moisturising and hydrating ingredients that are also present.
In very high humidity environment like Japan (and Taiwan!) alcohol is an important ingredient since without it, the product can take quite long to absorb into skin completely or skin will feel sticky — even on dry skin. There are alcohol-free options available but they are generally rated rather poorly in Japan for the reasons just mentioned. They can work well, however, if you live in a very dry environment.
You shouldn’t automatically dismiss a product simply because it contains alcohol. Like everything else, some products do a better job than others. Just because something contains alcohol, it doesn’t means that it is going to be drying or irritating.
Hopefully this post answered some of your questions and cleared up some confusions you might have on Japanese lotions.