• Japanese Skincare Routine


    If you’re reading this, perhaps you’re a cosmetics enthusiast who have a finely tuned, carefully researched skincare routine. What’s the difference between Japanese skincare routine and Western skincare routine?

    From my observation, many (Western) women’s morning skincare routine goes somewhat like this:

    1. Wash face — Water only or cleanser.
    2. Toner — Ok, maybe not as many have already automatically dismissed it as being useless.
    3. Serum — 50/50. For those feeling fancy.
    4. Moisturiser — Dry skin, oily skin… who cares? *Piles it on.*
    5. Sunscreen — “I’m not in the sun and my foundation has SPF in it already.”

    The evening routine is somewhat similar as well:

    1. Cleanser — “This better thoroughly removes makeup and gently cleanse skin.”
    2. Mask (Rinse-off) — Only when in the mood or skin needs extra help.
    3. Toner — See morning.
    4. Serum — Actives work better at night, right? *Layers them up.*
    5. Moisturiser — Again, see morning.

    Chizu Saeki (佐伯チズ), 68 this year, is Japan’s renowned skincare guru and she has never had any cosmetics procedures done. Her first English book, The Japanese Skincare Revolution (2009), has caused a stirred in the Western Hemisphere with her ‘revolutionary skincare’ concept. The book is actually a translation of her 3rd book, Bihada Kakumei 美肌革命 (“Skincare Revolution”), published in 2004. Since then, she has written 26 skincare books in Japanese already!

    In Japan, Saeki is a regular fixation on TV shows and in women’s magazines. Most of her skincare techniques and routines are nothing new as they have been standard practice (although not as widespread) in Japan long before she published her first skincare book in Japan back in 2003.

    A typical Japanese skincare routine goes somewhat like this in the morning:

    1. Wash face — Same as above. Nothing new.
    2. Toner (called ‘lotion’ in Japan) — Considers a must-have! In depth explanation of Japanese lotion (toner) HERE.
    3. Serum — Product changes according to skin’s needs. Another must-have!
    4. Moisturiser — To seal in active(s) given by the serum. A different purpose altogether.
    5. Sunscreen/Makeup Base — Since it’s considered very ill-mannered for women to not wear makeup in public and perfect fair skin is ideal, most act as both.

    Saeki’s morning skincare routine is no different except she emphasizes on facial massages while doing each step.

    Japanese moisturisers are bit different in terms of function and texture. Their main function is to seal in the actives(s) given by the serum you just applied, although they do moisturise skin as well. There’re 2 main types: creams and milks (very liquid-y) — Western moisturising ‘lotion’ does not exist in Japanese skin care.

    According to a recent consumer survey in Japan, women spend an average of 10 minutes in the morning on skin care alone. Personally, I don’t find it surprising as it’s about the same for me. The average makeup application time for those under 26 is 15 minutes according to CanCam magazine readers poll (those over 26 spend average of 10 minutes). In Japan, your appearance matters. It matters a lot. Rather than vanity, it’s considered a sign of respect — for yourself and others.

    The day has ended. What about evening care? The typical Japanese evening care routine is the same as the one Saeki is teaching:

    1. Remove makeup — Using a makeup remover first → Japanese skin care often refers this step as cleansing.
    2. Cleanser / Face Wash — A gentle cleanser to wash away sebum, dirt, and impurities from face → Japanese skin care often refers this step as washing.
    3. Toner (a.k.a. lotion) — See morning. Saeki does a DIY lotion mask nightly using unquilted cotton wool pads.
    4. Sheet Mask — Generally twice a week. (Sheet masks contain beauty serum not lotion.)
    5. Serum — Again, changes according to skin’s needs.
    6. Moisturiser — See morning.

    Those who are used to the Western skin care routine may find the Japanese counterpart overly long and complicated. Saeki advocates women to spend time and care, not money for beautiful skin. In her English book she noted: if you spent 30 minutes putting on makeup, take 30 minutes removing it. It is not meant to be taken verbatim — of course — but rather, a mind-set that you should take the same care in the evening as you would putting on makeup. Personally, I think that’s excellent advice. Even people who are blessed with good genetics are still subjected to environmental and lifestyle stresses and ageing!

    While I don’t agree with her on a lot of things — mixing sunscreen with moisturiser, scrubs should be used more often on broken-out skin, cleansing oils should be avoided as they contain surfactants (but soaps are OK) — I love that she advocates self-care techniques that can be done for free at home rather than expensive products or costly procedures. She teaches women how to have beautiful skin at their age rather than how to turn back the clock on ageing.

    Whether her massage techniques really do work to improve sagging, firm skin, and smooth fine lines are anyone’s guess but many of her “followers” do swear by them. Lymph node massage to fight double chin in her English book:

    If you’re not familiar with the Japanese way of caring for the skin and you’re looking for a good read, do check out Chizu Saeki’s The Japanese Skincare Revolution. The content may be slightly outdated with some questionable advice but she empowers women to take their skin into their own hands — quite literally — without fancy gadgets, expensive potions, or invasive procedures. Everytime I think about her advice on fantasizing celebrities that you have the hots for while putting on skin care products and applying makeup (to get the hormones going for healthy skin), I can’t help but smile.

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    • Cynthia Heitkemper

      I had the chance to read this book. Very informative. Little insights though, first I tried the massages that the author is teaching especially to prevent sagging skin. I am in my late 40s and since last year I have been doing the facial massages religiously and all I can say is that it definitely helped in improving the general appearance of my skin.. It is so easy to do plus its free. Second, I agree with you on the mixing of the moisturizer and foundation, its a big no no to me, I haven’t tried it and definitely will not do, but that is just me.

    • Guesto

      Hi, do you happen to have any posts detailing your own current routine? I combed through your site but haven’t seen one so far. I’d love to hear about the products that work for you.

      • http://www.ratzillacosme.com/ Ratzilla

        No, but it is in the works. It’s difficult to do a one since I don’t adhere to a specific routine — the products I choose to use depend on my skin condition, the climate, and what I’m going to be doing
        that particular day. I do write product reviews about once a week though.

    • joy

      Hi Ratzilla! I’m wondering if it’s ok to use skincare products with different brands?For example I will use Shiseido as my toner, then Dr. Cilabo as my moisturizer and another brand as my serum and so on?

      • http://www.ratzillacosme.com/ Ratzilla

        Certainly! Each brand has its hits and misses. Pick and choose products from different lines based on your needs would be better.

    • Parsimonious Penny

      Love this post, thanks for sharing!!

    • http://gravatar.com/larilauton larilauton

      I recently met Japanese skincare style, and I’m delighted. I’m spreading to all people, and the interest is so much that I started selling Japanese skincare products. Thank you!

    • claud

      She is right about the scrubs on skin that breaks out. I have learned this myself by trial and error and it is interesting to see a skin guru thinks the same. I do it with salt body scrub but after reading more about japanese skin care I think that next time IÂll scrub my face a bit more gentle than I used to. :) Anyhow: if u have skin break-outs use a scrub, ur skin will look much better after some days! :)

    • Judith

      I wonder why it is necessary to use serum in the evening, after the mask, as masks leave a lot of lotion, normally after 15-20 minutes the mask is not dry, it still has lotion. Thank you.

      • http://www.ratzillacosme.com ratzilla

        Store bought sheet masks actually have serum in them, not lotion. The DIY lotion mask/pack that is popular is a little different. Nothing is really “necessary” — you don’t have to use a lotion, serum, moisturiser. etc. if you don’t want or feel the need to use one. The mask is meant to be an addition rather than a substitution to your skincare routine.

    • Vicky

      Did she name any skincare products in the book? in case i read the tips and want to follow…

      • http://www.ratzillacosme.com ratzilla

        No recommendations, just product placements from Estee Lauder’s brands.

      • Amy

        I use RMK (it’s a japanese brand) the ingredients they use are all moisturising. I have dry skin and my face tends to have flakes in the winter. I asked for samples and I was shocked at how instant it was. I use their Skintuner EX Light and Fruit barrier cream, I have no flakes and my skin is so clear. :) !!

        Only thing is it’s pricey. But my theory is, if it works then its worth it. Considering a lot of creams don’t do much for my dry skin.

        • moon

          from where u buy japanese products


    • Raquel

      Have your heard anything on the Japanese product “Orbis”??

      • http://ratzillacosme.com ratzilla

        It’s a Japanese mail-order company, very similar to DHC and Fancl.

    • http://www.jadebeautyblog.blogspot.com Sandra3619

      Wow, this a great post! Im trying to follow a new skin routine, this is really helping, thank you

      • http://ratzillacosme.com Ratzilla

        Good luck with your new routine!

    • http://www.glossedintranslation.com Elizabeth

      This is a great post, I’m really going to try to spend more time on my skin. I spend hours choosing the products I use on it, but only about 2 minutes putting them all on.
      I’ve seen Saeki a lot on Japanese TV, but I never really looked her up; thanks for the info!