It seems like just yesterday we were wiping our carefully curated beauty stash clean and replacing it with K-beauty products. What can we say, the lure of “glass skin” was just too enticing. But now there’s a new skin-care king in town: J-beauty. As you might have guessed, it refers to Japanese beauty practices that have been passed down from generation to generation. But what exactly is it and do we need it? We caught up with Vicky Tsai, the founder of Japanese beauty brand Tatcha, for some intel.
What’s the main difference between J-beauty and K-beauty?
“I’ve often found that a culture’s approach to skincare and beauty mirrors its food. Japanese skin care is like sushi—very few ingredients, crafted by expert hands in a simple arrangement. The ingredients they use also rarely change. Korean food is bold and flavorful and fun, just like K-beauty.”
How do you begin a J-beauty routine?
“With a proper cleanser. In the U.S., cleansing is often a throwaway step and often the first one to go at the end of a long and exhausting day. In Japan, they recognize that purifying and polishing the skin each and every day is at the heart of any skincare ritual. You can pile on expensive moisturizers or treatments, but they won’t do their best work without pure, fresh skin.”
So is cleansing the most important step in a J-beauty skincare routine?
"I would say an ‘essence’ is. I didn’t know what this was for years, often confusing it with American alcohol-based toners. But it’s actually a water-light formula that plumps the skin instantly and makes any treatment or moisturizer that follows more effective. Ninety-seven percent of women in Japan use an essence every day, more than use moisturizer.”
How will J-beauty transform your skin?
“Rather than trying to turn back the clock, J-beauty is about having your best skin at any age. It’s less about the overnight transformation and more about the issues that you never see with a preventative routine. If you care for your skin a little bit every day—purifying and polishing it like a jewel and nourishing it with skin-loving ingredients and treatments—it will be even-toned, even-textured, luminous and baby-soft.”
Is it the same for all skin types?
“Absolutely. It’s endlessly customizable to any skin type or need. While the classical Japanese ritual is a simple three to four steps each day, Japanese women recognize that the needs of the skin change with seasons, different stages of life, a move to a new location, and countless other factors. Thus, they add in serums or sheet masks as needed, or change up the lightness or heaviness of their moisturizer from time to time.”
K-beauty is all about sheet masks. Is there a J-beauty equivalent?
“Sheet masks are also very popular in J-beauty, but with a different focus. In K-beauty, sheet masks experiment with form and design of the mask material; in J-beauty, the innovation is focused on the serum and ingredients being delivered into the skin.”