Monday 21 October 2019

J-Beauty: your Japanese beauty guide

As Ireland's collective gaze turns towards Japan in the Rugby World Cup, we look towards the incredible beauty revolution inspired by the country

Irish-Japanese model Yomiko Chen shares her beauty advice
Irish-Japanese model Yomiko Chen shares her beauty advice
Japanese ritual: Skin-fasting
Yomiko Chen
SK-II Facial Essence
Shiseido Future Solutions LX Night Cream
DHC Skincare Cleansing Oil
Ruth Griffin

Ruth Griffin

Did you know that lots of our favourite beauty products originally hail from Japan?

The country's beauty pedigree harks back to the 6th century and its ancient beauty aesthetic is responsible for modern makeup brushes, the original red lipstick (geishas wore crushed safflower petals), and the still common practice of using rice powder as makeup setter. While K-Beauty has taken the beauty industry by storm of late, much of these Korean skincare trends have their roots in Japanese rituals. Now Japan is now taking back the beauty limelight (it has the oldest skincare company in the world, after all), and championing J-Beauty' routines.

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Popular Japanese beauty rituals include taking hot baths enriched with oils ('onsen' bathing in hot springs), gentle facial massages, avoiding tan, proper face cleansing (double-cleansing), understated makeup, and using layered, simple skincare consistently. Relying on double-cleansing, essences, moisturisers, serums, and facial massages, Japanese beauty is all about nourishing skin gently but consistently. Think of it as the older, calmer, more sophisticated big sister to K-Beauty.

At its heart, there is simplicity and elegance to J-Beauty. In Japan, they have a phrase, "mie-nai oshareh", which translates as 'unseen' or 'hidden' beauty. In essence, true beauty doesn't have to be overtly displayed to be appreciated. Beauty comes from the inside out - kindness, poise, elegance and happiness radiate from within, they can't be painted on.

I'm travelling to Japan myself next month and am busy researching all things Japanese. The Japanese aesthetic has intrigued me for many years and I can't wait to see this stunning country.


Why not try the Japanese ritual of skin fasting? Once a week, thoroughly cleanse your skin and go to bed with zero product on your face. It is believed by many that this fasting allows skin to cleanse itself, and restore its own moisture and sebum levels.

3 of the Best: J-Beauty products

In essence

SK-II Facial Essence, €74.53, from and Sephora (now €35 from

SK-II Facial Essence

This is a Japanese skincare step that we don't really have in the West. An essence is used after cleansing and toning, but before applying serums and moisturisers. It's used as prep for hydration. This essence, or "miracle water" as its known in Japanese beauty circles, is an award-winning bestseller from Japanese brand SK-II, good for skin clarity and smoothness.

Miracle moisturiser

Shiseido Future Solutions LX Night Cream, €330, from department stores and pharmacies nationwide

Shiseido Future Solutions LX Night Cream

Shiseido (pronounced shu-say-do) is Japan's top skincare brand and its skincare lab is an industry-leader. I was lucky enough to road test this absolute gem of a moisturiser, which took 10 years to formulate. I know its pricey (Shiseido have tons of other less expensive skincare options) but it is an unbelievable miracle skin worker if your budget can stretch to it.

Deep clean

DHC Skincare Cleansing Oil, €5.95, from

DHC Skincare Cleansing Oil

Double-cleansing is par for the course in Japanese beauty rituals, first using an oil to remove topical makeup and sunscreen, then cleansing again to really deep clean grime from the skin. Cleansing oils have their origins in Japan, after the Japanese brand Shu Uemura's cleansing oil became beloved by makeup artists everywhere. If you fancy giving it a go, try this brilliantly priced cleansing oil from DHC, Japan's No 1 direct-selling skincare brand.

Ask the expert: Yomiko Chen

Yomiko Chen is a top fashion model and co-owner of restaurant chains Kokoro Sushi Bento and The Ramen Bars. The Japanese beauty gives us the inside track on J-Beauty

What makes Japanese beauty and skincare so famous?

The Japanese cosmetics industry is one of the oldest and most traditional in the world - J-Beauty is known for melding science and quality ingredients with harmony and tradition.

What's a popular Japanese beauty ritual?

The Japanese have a nourishing philosophy, emphasising sun protection, thorough but gentle cleansing, and multiple hydrating and moisturising layers. The basic Japanese skincare routine boils down to removing makeup, cleansing, hydrating with a 'lotion', treating with a serum, and sealing everything in with a moisturiser.

What are the differences between Irish and Japanese beauty routines?

Japanese women aspire to have beautiful skin. They don't like artifice or anything overly glamorous. In Japan you won't see gimmicky face masks or aggressive peels, which is almost akin to attacking your own skin with aggressive exfoliation and harsh formulas.

If you could recommend one Japanese beauty product, what would it be?

The legendary SK-II Essence (see above). Its star ingredient is a sake ferment, which is rich in dark spot-reducing kojic acid, but also has moisture-boosting ceramides and the brightener arbutin.

For more see

Weekend Magazine Japan Special

As the Rugby World Cup kicks off, we have everything you need to know about Japan, with our ultimate culture, food, travel and beauty guide

Big in Japan
In a nation of 126 million, the Irish population of Japan, which stands at around 1,300, may seem relatively small - but it's a community that punches above its weight. JJ O'Donoghue meets some of them

East meets west
The chefs championing Japanese cuisine here tell Katy McGuinness how they incorporate local Irish ingredients into their dishes

A run on tweed
A team of Irish designers will line out for Tokyo Fashion Week and take part in a unique two-wheeled tweed event, writes Bairbre Power

A taste of JapanFrom pancakes to noodles, Meera Sodha’s exciting new book takes you on a culinary journey to the Far East

The Japan Bucket list
Travelling to the Rugby World Cup? Pól Ó Conghaile, Yvonne Gordon, Alex Meehan and Conor Power pick 25 unforgettable things to do in the Land of the Rising Scrum

Weekend Magazine

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