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Japan—it’s the home of Mount Fuji, some of the freshest (and tastiest) seafood you can get your hands on, super kawaii fashion, cat cafés, vending machines and ramen—just to name a few. Last year more than half a million Australian tourists visited Japan, setting a new annual record—so it’s safe to say we’re hooked on everything the country has to offer. But it’s not just the food, sites and culture we love—Japanese beauty (J-Beauty) products have found their way into our bathroom cabinets in a big way. Whether it’s traditional J-Beauty brands that are created in Japan, or brands that are inspired by J-Beauty rituals and ingredients—there’s a reason J-Beauty is having a moment.
Japanese beauty takes time-honoured traditions and flips them on their heads by incorporating next-gen ingredients and unique techniques resulting in products that are carefully perfected—the Japanese have a meticulous eye when it comes to most things, beauty innovation is no exception.
Skincare is at the root of Japanese routines, as they believe beauty lies on a healthy skin base. Unlike Western culture that’s more concerned with correcting damages after they have occurred, Japanese skincare like elsewhere in Asia is more about anticipation, preservation and prevention. Traditionally, J-Beauty is also simpler and more pared back when it comes to the number of steps involved.
Here’s our line-up of some of the best in J-Beauty that’ll change up your current routine with real results—and you don’t have to travel nine hours to try it.
Shiseido has been creating skincare and beauty for 145 years, combining Eastern traditions and high-tech innovation to create products that are still cutting edge and forward-thinking in today’s fast-paced industry. Originally created by a pharmacist who worked in a naval hospital, the brand was the first in Japan to introduce Rainbow Face Powder in 1917—the first of its kind with seven colours when white face powders were the norm in Japan. Their Ultimune Power Infusing Serum Concentrate—a bestseller globally—uses the power of reishi mushroom (a source of skin-protecting antioxidants) and iris root extract (which moisturisers and strengthens delicate skin), plus other ingredients like lotus germ, shiso and gingko offer firming and smoothing properties. The Waso Clear Mega-Hydrating Cream is infused with carrot cells to hydrate and peony root extract to prevent the appearance of skin imperfections. Its clear, lightweight gel consistency means it can be applied under or over makeup, too.
Once a makeup artist for Hollywood stars like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra, Shu Uemura (the founder of the brand) launched his first product—a cleansing oil—in 1960 and with it the philosophy that the health of his customers’ skin should be the most important aspect of cosmetics. Today, the brand offers not only beauty products but innovative hair care that stays true to its Japanese roots; the line of next-gen hair products is inspired by traditional tea ceremonies—think of it as a ritual for your hair. From styling products to treatments, each product is designed around rare ingredients and precious oils like camellia, rose and argan oil. The Ultimate Rest Extreme Repair Mask is infused with rice extract to help hair retain moisture, which is a must for coloured hair that’s prone to breakages from heat styling. For hair that’s super oily, try the Anti-Oil Astringent Cleanser, which uses yuzu extract (a Japanese citrus fruit) which has astringent properties to rid hair of excess oil while rebalancing the sebaceous glands to slow future oil production.
Inspired by the less-is-more approach of traditional Japanese beauty brands during a visit to Kyoto, Vicky Tsai created Tatcha. The base of every product in Tatcha’s range is made up of Hadasei-3™, a group of anti-ageing superfoods born from the Japanese diet, and the basis for the original Japanese beauty rituals: green tea, rice and algae. One of the most traditional J-Beauty steps is applying an essence. This normally happens after cleansing and before serums or moisturisers for more effect absorption into the skin. Tatcha’s The Essence gets rave reviews for a reason—it instantly adds hydration and plumpness to the skin while smoothing texture and softening for a healthy glow. The brand’s The Rice Gentle Foaming Enzyme Cleanser uses rice bran as part of its formula to gently exfoliate the skin. This is a good daily exfoliator that won’t strip the skin, plus rice contains skin-smoothing enzymes, antioxidant properties and the ability to promote collagen production.
Once Kevyn Aucoin’s right-hand man and a talented makeup artist in his own right, Troy Surratt created Surratt Beauty after being inspired by the Japanese beauty products he’d always return home with every time he visited. The brand encompasses everything he loves about J-Beauty, with every element of his products is made in Japan, from pigment to packaging. The Surratt Beauty Artistique Eyeshadow, is created using a Japanese ‘slurry’ process where the pigments start out as a liquid and gradually dry to a creamy, suede texture—which means they can be used either wet or dry to create different effects. Surratt’s Beauty Artistique Smoky Eye Brush Petite is the epitome of precision when it comes to Japanese craftmanship—not a hair out of place, literally. Its tapered shape makes it perfect for blending shadow through the crease and soft hairs ensure a diffused look no matter the look you’re creating. Most, if not all, high-end brushes are made in Japan, specifically Kumano, a city in Hiroshima which was renowned for manufacturing calligraphy brushes for over 200 years—today it produces 80 percent of the brushes made in Japan.
Australian makeup artist Rae Morris’ Jishaku (which means ‘magnet’ in Japanese) brushes set her brand apart from others. Morris travelled to Japan to find a company in a region with over 180 years of brush making tradition that had never made a brush for any other brand—Rae’s brushes were their first. The Jishaku range marries traditional Japanese brush making techniques and Morris’ modern designs to create the ultimate makeup brush range. Each brush is designed for efficiency and precision so that anyone can feel like a pro, plus the magnetic stand means you’ll never have brushes rolling around or go missing again. Our picks? Rae Morris Jishaku #22: Pro Powder for applying powder seamlessly through the t-zone (the tapered effect gets in around the nose perfectly) and Rae Morris Jishaku #4: Square Kabuki, an ultra-soft goat hair brush that buffs out cheek colour and gently removes fallout, plus its angled shape will give you a precise contour.
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