• 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 (calledlotion 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.

    • Chispa

      I apologize for posting this in the wrong place, I did not see anything similar in your product list on your search page. What is your opinion of tools like this: http://global.rakuten.com/en/store/motebeauty/item/sa-ebi-fa-u-00007/ ?
      Which I was thinking looked similar to the Hitachi Hada Crie (which I know only very little about).

      This one even has LED lights that claim to do various things! Have you tried anything similar to these?/Have you heard that they are effective/do anything beneficial for skin at all? I would love to try one but wanted to know what you think since I really love your website and sincerely respect and appreciate your opinion and honesty.

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

        Those gadgets are based on LED light therapy, ion therapy, and ultrasonic therapy. Some say after using one regularly for a month or so, their pores look smaller and their skin is clearer — I haven’t read anyone noticing anything more beyond that. Anti-ageing isn’t a result anyone can after using it a few months, especially since a lot of users are fairly young to begin with!

        I’d say they’re very comparable to Fereo Luna and Clarisonic.

        • Chispa

          I see! Thank you for your response I really appreciate it!

    • Kristy Ross

      Hi, i love creams Monsia.

    • Ga

      Hi Ratzilla, just discovered your site and thinks it’s great for a Japanese skincare novice like me. I am looking to begin a skincare routine and was wondering if it best to use all products in the same line e.g. Whitening lotion, whitening essence, whitening emulsion or can I choose anti aging lotion, whitening essence etc? Thanks in advance and look forward to your advice!

    • https://petitgrainandcoffee.wordpress.com/ Anasta Pr

      Thnx for the info and the humorous twist)))

    • Martyna

      Lovely Ratzilla, thank you for your amazing work you’re doing in here, for a newcomer to Japan it is a life-savior!

      I’d like to ask you for some advice. I’m 25 and I’ve just arrived to Japan. My skin didn’t took it very well and my acne prone skin just went mad – I don’t know if it’s a water, climate change, or both.
      I’m having problems similar to adult acne, but my skin is actually mixed – I’m having an oily T-section and quite dry around-mouth part, but that’s where my pimples decided to locate.

      I’d like to improve my skincare routine in here and find some good cosmetics, since due to all this problems I finished most of those, which I brought with me.

      My regular morning skincare routine in here is Biore facial foam (great product, switched from Vichy and it’s amazing and way more cheaper!), Vichy Normaderm as a base and then Revlon colorstay foundation with some Paese finishing matte powder.
      Evening routine is Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil, Biore foam, Avene water lotion and then Vichy Normaderm with some puncture ointment called Tormentile Forte (Natrii tetraboras, Ichthammolum, Potentilla tormentilla, Zinci oxidum).
      I also used Effeclar Duo K before, but my skin got used to that.

      Now I run out of my Vichy supplies and I’d love some advices about what would be helpful for my situation. I don’t want to look like this anymore :(((((

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

        Vichy isn’t available in Japan, but La Roche-Posay, Avene, and Bioderma are readily available if you prefer to stick with more familiar Western drugstore brands.

        There isn’t a huge variety of acne products in Japan — the ones that are available tend to be geared towards teenage boys or sensitive skin. Acne just isn’t a common skin problem for women. Some acne brands you might want to take a lot at are Shiseido’s D Program (for sensitive skin), Skinlife (very popular among teenage girls), Care Acne (for adults), Fancl’s AC Care line. Curel’s Sebum Control line isn’t for acne, but it is specifically formulated for oily yet dehyrated skin.

        • Martyna

          And how about something lighter that Revlon foundation for my type of skin? I’d prefer to use less make up in the summer. Any BB/CC cream would work with my skin? Thanks for your help <3

        • Jaehyus

          Why isn’t acne a common skin problem for women in Japan?

    • Mariana

      I’ve been a reader from your website for quite a while! I absolutely love it, and we seem to have very similar skin type, which really helps when I read your reviews (-:
      I have a question: do you have any opinion on the suhada shizuku all-in-one pack gel? I started using it in lieu of a lotion+moisturizer (I’m very new to skincare, only used the tonyu isofurabon(?) lotion before, didn’t use a moisturizer), and my skin feels much better, but I was wondering if I should use a lotion before, or if the pack gel is enough.

      Also, as I said, I read a lot about skincare but my routine is very bare. I have a few masks I use every so often but since I can’t buy them where I live they are a bit of a luxury. I wanted to start on a BHA exfoliant for my few blackheads/enlarged pores and some serums (sooner than later, right?).
      Do you have any recommendations for serums, to a beginners that only wants to avoid aging as much as possible? (I’m 20, but my family has a history of early wrinkles ):)

      I’m using plenty of sunscreen, and chose the Bioré watery essence. I love the feeling on my skin. I’m planning on getting the watery gel next, and am researching about what to use on very sunny days/on my body (arms and such).

      I tried to make this short, but I always babble on comments. English is not my first language (Brazil), sorry if I worded something wrong ):

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

        I personally don’t skip anything when I use “all-in-one” gels. To me, they’re simply moisturiser gels, nothing more.

        I think a good vitamin C serum is an excellent addition to routine no matter your skintype or skin concern — it fades dark marks and brightens skintone, and it’s also a powerful antioxidant. Certain vit. C derivatives can also improve acne.

        • ksu

          what will be the best way to use Vitamin C serum, morning or evening?

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

            Vit C boosts your sunscreen’s protection when worn underneath but it’s better at repairing skin at night. The vit C will get “used up” by UV during the day so ideally, both morning and nigt.

    • Sonia De Los Rios

      Hello! I LOVE your website! I am currently trying to start a new skin
      routine now and I was wondering what would be a good start for me? I am
      23 years old, I have fair skin and pretty acne prone, but I also want to
      start anti-aging routine. I am considering the Hada Labo Super
      Hyaluronic Acid as a lotion (toner), what do you think!? ?


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

        Thank you!

        My advice? Only try one new product at a time, especially if you’ve acne-prone or sensitive skin! It can be tempting to do a complete overhaul, but if you get a breakout or irritation, you wouldn’t know which product is causing it. The Hada-Labo is a good, basic hydrating lotion that layers very nicely.

    • 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!