The Korean makeup and skincare craze has dominated headlines, beauty aisles and even Instagram, with its groundbreaking cushion compacts, 10-step routines and bizarre ingredients used in its sheet masks. But the K-beauty eclipse may soon be over. For years, its more established and older sister, Japanese beauty, firmly stood in its shadow, quietly inventing products like facial essences and double cleansing rituals. But no more — a new day has come for the Land of the Rising Sun. Now, Japan is officially taking back the spotlight with its devotion to time-honoured rituals and advanced nano emulsion technologies. Ahead, we list some of the world’s most famous Japanese beauty brands.
This power skincare brand will never slip under the radar. Loved by celebrities and beauty insiders alike, its secret lies in Pitera: The brand’s patented combination of 50 micro-nutrients including vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Its cult bestseller — the Facial Treatment Essence — contains over 90 percent of it to boost skin brightness, smoothen texture and prevent spot formation from prolonged exposure to the sun.
Shiseido is said to be the oldest beauty brand in the world — its history goes back over 140 years ago. Looking at its products today, you’d hardly believe that it first begun as Japan’s first Western-style pharmacy, before it gradually moved to cosmetic development. Shisedo’s success is attributed to its technological advancements, and impressive combination of art and science. Today, the brand’s extensive range includes makeup, skincare, fragrance and a men’s grooming line.
The beauty arm of Kenzo the fashion label, Kenzoki uses Asian plants in its formulas. Each of its product lines are created around a specific ingredient, such as white locus, rice and ginger flower, and are deeply sensorial with rich textures and fragrances. New to brand is its global anti-aging skincare line, which targets all signs of aging using sacred lotus glycolysat to nourish skin firmness and elasticity.
Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai was suffering from acute dermatitis and travelling in Japan when an encounter with a modern-day geisha changed her life (and skin). From an ancient beauty book, she learnt classical Japanese beauty secrets passed down by generations. At the heart lay a time-tested philosophy: that less really is more. Harnessing those secrets, Tatcha combines it with Kyoto craftmanship and the wellness philosophies from California. The foundation of Tatcha’s products is Hadasei-3, which combines the basis of a geisha’s beauty rituals: Green tea, rice and algae.
5. Shu Uemura
Named after legendary makeup artist and beauty pioneer Shu Uemura, this classic Japanese brand emphasises that beautiful makeup first has to come from beautiful skin. To achieve this, its skincare combines powerful phyto-ingredients and breakthrough technologies. Its star product is the cleansing oil. Created 50 years ago, it combines eight botanical oils for maximum nourishment, has a cashmere-like texture and targets different skin concerns, including excessive sebum, dullness and large pores. Besides the classics, Shu Uemura also puts out a regular rotation of exciting new makeup launches, like the Rouge Unlimited Burnt Orange Collection above.
Astalift takes the phrase “photogenic” seriously — it’s founded by Fujifilm, the photography and imaging company, and as one would expect, the brand delivers groundbreaking skincare formulas. In birthing its beauty arm, Fujifilm channelled its photographic nano and collagen film technologies into the making of its products. Its In-Focus Cellactive Serum, for instance, combines the brand’s trademark Nano Astaxanthin CP+ and Nano Boswellin Acid to protect and activate stem cells for rejuvenation.
7. Clé de Peau Beauté
Seeing luxury skincare brand Cle De Peau on this list may surprise some — while its name sounds French, it’s founded in Japan. Cle De Peau has legions of dedicated, high-powered fans, including society elites and celebrities. Befitting the price tag of its products, it combines top-of-the-line skincare science with luxurious ingredients. The foundation, for instance, is no average base as it contains the brand’s trademark Illuminating Complex EX to combat dryness and has a unique gel-oil base to blur pores and imperfections. It’s even rose-scented for a luxurious touch.