• Japanese Lotions

    Japanese Lotions

    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 skin care 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-ageing, 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.

    1. Pour appropriate amount onto your palm and gently pat into skin till absorbed.
    2. Pour appropriate amount on to a soft cotton pad and gently press and hold it against your skin.
    3. 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. 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.

    • Skin Type(s):
    • Beauty SOS:
    • Ingredient(s):
    • SkinCare

      Hello Razilla, Thank you for all the explanations. I was just reading the Skin Revolution book, and I have started treating my face with massages and am thrilled to see first results. The complexion of my skin feels and looks so much better already after two weeks after having changed my routine. – I have one question for you: Can you recommend a good product to use for the Cotton Pad Lotion Mask in Saeki’s book? It is not possible to get Japanese products here in Switzerland and I’m not sure about what to use instead. Thank you for sharing your knowledge so generously!! :)

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

        You can use any Japanese lotion you like, although something that comes in a bigger-than-average bottle would make it more economical.

        Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewing Skin care Lotion (500ml!) is a popular one for this purpose that’s very good. http://www.ratzillacosme.com/skin/kiku-masamune-sake-brewing-skin-care-lotion/

        Thayers Witch Hazel (or something similar) is nice for oily, acne-prone skin and it’s readily available outside in Japan.

    • Odeza Mae B.

      Hi there,i bought a MILK LOTION in a japanese store.Is this a toner or a moisturiser?I know usually the japanese skin care is Cleanser,Lotion,Serum,Milk then Cream…….so forth.I’m just confuse!

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

        Most likely an emulsion (aka moisturiser milk).

        • Odeza Mae B.

          Thank you! I appreciate your respond :)

    • Sugarplum

      I’ve often heard that alcohol denat (not moisturizing cetyl types) will damage skin even if it doesn’t actually dry or irritate. Is this just fear mongering or does it have root in fact? I’m a bit worried because my oily skin generally prefers products that contain alcohol.

      Thanks so much for all the great info on your site btw. It’s such a great resource.

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

        There is a difference between Alcohol and Alcohol Denat. in cosmetics. The latter rarely appears in Japanese cosmetics.

        Alcohol denat. supposedly cause free radical damage. I said “supposedly” because I’ve yet to actually find a peer-review study showing that that alcohol denat. in cosmetics can do such thing. I’ve only read that from Paula Begoun, who is known to misinterpret quite a bit of info from scientific studies (and being a major hypocrite)… and most sites seem to be just regurgitating what she says.

        Regardless, free radical damage occurs all the time no matter what you’re use or do. It’s not possible to completely stop free radical damage. It’s just a part of life. I’d say stressing about potential long term effects of alcohol denat. in cosmetics will cause more damage that the ingredient itself.

        I personally thinks it’s a not an issue unless it’s drying or irritating your skin.

    • Sueanne

      Which Japanese lotions brands would you suggest?

    • Pedro

      Personally do you prefer using lotions with cotton or hands?

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

        Generally hands.

    • http://easttowestskincare.com/ Pedro

      I’ve bought the Astalift Jelly Aquarysta and Lotion (Japanese version – great products!). I think the company says to use the lotion after the jelly. Am I right? Sounds a bit strange…


      • http://ratzillacosme.com ratzilla

        Yes. According to Astalift Jelly Aquarysta’s Japanese usage instructions, a large pearl-sized amount should be massaged on bare skin immediately after cleansing. Lotion goes after.

    • Anni

      Hi there, your site gave me the exact info I was looking for. Thank you for that.
      However, what’s your opinion on shiseido softener? Any Japanese lotions you can suggest that’s available online?

      Thankyou so much.

      • http://ratzillacosme.com Ratzilla

        Hi Anni. Which Shiseido product are you referring to? They make so many. Shiseido’s international line (found in department stores throughout N. America and Europe) as a whole is not my cup of tea as I have been quite underwhelmed by various the products I have tried. My list changes all the time but I have always liked Muji’s Light Toning Water (High Moisture Type), Nano Biryuwsui Mist Lotion, and Albion’s Skin Conditioner Essential.