If there is no beauty gene, then why are Japanese women regarded as so beautiful by so many around the world?
How do they manage to look 10, 20 or more years younger than their real age?
Japan is the second largest market for cosmetics in the world (after the US).
However, Japanese women are by far more interested in skin and hair care than makeup and fragrances.
According to a 2015 study by EU-Japan Center for Industrial Cooperation, skincare and hair care products comprise almost 2/3 of the entire Japanese cosmetics market (skincare 46%, hair care 18%). Fragrances stand at the very bottom at 1%.
Furthermore, nearly half (46%) of all the makeup sold in Japan are for skincare (primarily foundation) as opposed to color makeup (blush, mascara, lipstick,..)
Traditional Japanese beauty products tend to be simple, natural and non-toxic.
They are made from natural ingredients such as rice bran, camellia oil, various seaweeds, yomogi leaves (Artemisia princeps) and azuki beans and marine clay.
Japanese women tend to be subtle. They like to be appreciated much more than being noticed. For the most part they are not show-offy and don't overdo makeup.
They take care of their skin and hair regularly and meticulously, dress appropriately and care about looking proper. Japanese women eat right, and constantly care about staying fit and trim.
And to top it all, they are extremely graceful, polite and well-mannered.
These are learnable skills which can make any woman look more appealing.
Aging is a natural part of life, and every age has its own beauty and charm.
To look and feel our best at any age, we need to take proper care of ourselves — regularly and all the time, as Japanese women do.
It's not always easy, but alas there are no shortcuts.
Bringing out and maintaining one's best look at any age is a way of life, not a project.
Additive-Free Soaps: Proper cleansing is where skincare begins. If you use soap, it is essential to use an additive and fragrance-free one such as skin-beautifying Yomogi (Artemisia princeps) or pore-cleansing charcoal soap, which are mild-enough not to dissolve skin's natural oils excessively.
Washing face with lukewarm (skin temperature or a bit lower) water is an absolute key.
Hot water strips skin's natural oils. It also enlarges pores, which causes moisture loss and makes it easier for bacteria to get in.
Shiro Nuka Rice Bran: Japanese women use Shiro Nuka to cleanse, hydrate and lighten skin tone.
Shiro Nuka contains high levels of vitamin E complex (Tocotrienol), B1 (Thiamin), B3 (Niacin), and the anti-aging antioxidants called Gamma-oryzanol.
Azuki Powder: Deep cleaning once or twice a week with an "enzymatic" exfoliant such as stone ground azuki powder and marine clay can do wonders.
Azuki is one of the most important ingredients in Japanese skincare, used for nourishing and cleansing skin since the Nara period (710-794 AD). Its enzymes gently deep-cleanse skin by friction-free action and without scrubbing of any kind.
Japanese marine clay a very soft mineral-rich fine powder. It contains Montmorillonite (pronounced mon-morilo-nite), a pure form of Bentonite clay, also used in non-chemical treatment of skin disorders such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (eczema).
Facial masks moisturize, deep-cleanse, detoxify, increase circulation and provide deep nourishment to the skin. They add an extra dimension to skincare regimen, and are truly pampering.
Shiro Nuka makes for a very mild mask used once or twice a week for toning skin and lightening blemishes.
Made from nutrient-rich germ and the soft Aleurone inner layer of rice bran, it is also a good source of pectin, a natural moisturizing agent responsible for the growth of new skin cells (pectin is used extensively in wound care and healing products).
Matcha and Yomogi masks are tannin and anti-oxidant rich. These refreshing mask are used to tighten pores and lift skin.
Pearl powder applied as facial mask hydrates skin and promotes new cell generation. Pearl powder mixes well with almost any powder, oil or other ingredients such as egg yolk and honey.
Camellia (tsubaki) and Rice Bran Oils: Japanese Camellia (also known as Tsubaki) oil as well as Rice Bran oil are both used extensively for moisturizing.
They are best when produced from by cold pressing and no chemical refining. Both are mild, fast absorbing and non-comedogenic (do not clog pores).
Beyond that they offer different benefits, and choice of which to use is a matter of preference and which works best to suit individual skin.
Rice Bran oil is a significant source of Tocotrienol, the "super" vitamin E, as well as an anti-aging antioxidant called Gamma-oryzanol.
It is pressed from bran of Japanese rice (Oryza sativa japonica), and does a great job for sensitive and soft tissue such as around eyes.
Camellia oil has the highest Oleic fatty acid (Omega-9) content of any plant-based oil.
It is an emollient (softener) and transdermal carrier of collagen and elastin into skin, which repair damage caused by dryness, aging and sun exposure.
While most Western women remember to apply sunscreen before leaving the house, Japanese women take avoiding the sun's damaging rays to an entirely different level.
Of course there are always beautiful parasols, but they do not stop there.
There are fashionable UV rated long gloves and leggings, and trendy hats which cover their face and neck as much as possible.
Even for when riding a bike, there are special hand covers attached to the steering wheel, which protect the hands completely.
Many sunscreens use zinc oxide (or titanium oxide) as their active ingredient.
Zinc oxide as sunscreen goes on thick, pasty and white. It has been around for a long time.
Many lightweight or clear sunscreens contain the "nano particle" form of zinc oxide, typically without disclosing it on the label (since most governments do not require it yet).
A good rule of thumb: If your zinc oxide sunscreen goes on light and clear, it most probably contains nano particles.
According to a 2014 study funded by MIT’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences, nano particle zinc oxide can rapidly penetrate the cell walls causing significant DNA damage.
Advocates like the (EWG), an American environmental organization, find them to be “generally” safe. However, they also admit “We don’t know everything we would like to know about their performance because manufacturers are not required to disclose the qualities of the particles used in their sunscreens.“
In other words, buyer beware!
Besides zinc oxide, many sunscreens (especially ones over SPF above 50) also contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone and retinylpalmitate.
In Japan, sunscreens are classified as "quasi-drugs" and regulated by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Officially, quasi-drug is defined in Japan as a "product that has restricted purpose of use and has a mild action on the human body".
SPF 50 is the maximum level allowed on the Japanese market.
Japanese traditional makeup brushes are highly stylish and practical. The designs are multi-purpose and have virtually stayed the same for centuries.
They are used for applying foundation, powder and contouring and for facial masks. Bristles have full bodies as well as precise contours in a variety of directions and angles for packing, creating shapes and detailing.
Calligraphy-style lip brushes have a wide body to pick up a lot of color, and a fine tip for precision detailing and contouring. It's like having two brushes in one.
Thin, delicate sheets of Abaca leaf facial blotting paper - called Aburatorigami - are used to remove perspiration and oil/sebum, without smearing makeup.
Aburatorigami is also used for smoothing foundation and removing excess moisturizer before applying final makeup.
Japanese herbal teas are refreshing beverages. They can be consumed as alternatives to sugary drinks.
These healthy concoctions offer numerous benefits ranging from weight loss and beautifying skin to allergy relief to ridding body toxins.
Yomogi-cha (Artemisia princeps Tea): For beautifying skin, reducing blemishes, age-spots and sun damage.
Yomogi is the Japanese "wonder herb" and its extract is used by leading cosmetics manufacturers. Refreshing tea with pleasantly vegetal taste.
Biwa-cha (Loquat Leaves Tea): For healing inflammatory skin conditions and boosting general immunity against infections. Earthy, very mild with subtle hint of sweetness.
Hatomugi-cha (Adlay Millet Tea): For lightening skin and improving complexion and getting rid of freckles and spots. Light, roasty, popcorny and slightly sweet tea.
Japanese women are famous for the beauty of their hair well into old age. In fact shampoos were not even available in Japan until 1930s.
Funori Seaweed: Japanese seaweed hair cleanser comes in powder form. It is mixed with water to produce a light gel-like mixture which is used to cleanse hair. It used to cleanse and conditions hair and supplying essential nutrients to hair and scalp, chemical-free.
Seaweed is abundant in calcium, magnesium and iron. It is also a rich source of iodine, the lack of which according to many studies causes the thyroid gland to under-produce thyroxin, resulting in dry hair, thinness, poor hair growth and hair loss.
Reducing use of shampoos or going shampoo-free has many obvious benefits. Shampoo strips hair of sebum, the oily substance we naturally secret to nourish and protect our hair and scalp.
To compensate for the resulting loss, scalp produces too much sebum, leading to the need to wash hair frequently, and necessitating use of conditioners and other aftercare products.
The most common use of Camellia oil in Japan is for conditioning hair after bathing, as it works best applied to hair when it is damp.
Camellia oil not only softens hair (because of its very high Oleic fatty acid content) and makes it more manageable, but it also protects hair by forming a barrier against environmental pollutants.
Also, it seals the hair shaft preventing moisture loss, and can help treat damage from perms and coloring and repair breakage and split ends.
Combing your hair properly distributes hair's natural oils to the rest of your hair. It also keeps hair from tangling and improves its texture and health.
Proper groming makes hair more manageable and easier to keep clean and wash.
"Tsuge" Wood Combs: Japanese wood combs are handmade and polished tooth by tooth from Tsuge (boxwood,) one of the densest, hardest types of wood.
In contrast to synthetics, wood teeth have microscopic pores which pick up and re-distribute scalp's natural sebum and any oil you apply in a thin, even layer, promoting natural shine and gloss.
The smooth, seamless teeth do not snag and damage hair. Also, wood does not generate static electricity, resulting in less frizz.
Traditional Japanese wash cloth is made from soft, undyed cotton with an uneven weave pattern (called garaboseki), which which makes close contact with skin's tiny folds and creases, wiping away trapped dirt using little soap.
Japanese use a variety of herbs in baths for their skin-beautifying properties as well as for aromatherapy.
Hinoki (Japanese Cypress) Bath: Hinoki is a highly fragrant species of cypress native to Japan. It contains antimicrobial compounds called "phytoncides" used for aromatherapy and for relaxation.
Green Tea Bath: Taking a bath with green tea (Cha Buro) to improve skin's condition and has been a tradition in Japan for generations. Tea's tannins tighten pores and help skin retain moisture.
Yuzu (Japanese Citron) Herbal Bath: Yuzu is packed with essential oils which will leave your skin naturally moisturized. It has an subtle and exotic citrusy aroma which is unmistakably Japanese. Yuzu extract is used by leading cosmetic manufacturers for rejuvenating and replenishing the skin.
Yomogi Leaves Herbal Bath: For beautifying skin and reducing blemishes and age-spots. Fresh, spring-like spicy fragrance. Yomogi leaves contain vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, as well as minerals such as iron, calcium and phosphorus.
Besides applying to hair, you can also use Camellia oil to moisturize your entire body, including applying it to your cuticles and nails.
Because of its remarkable emollient properties, Camellia oil also softens skin in areas such as elbows, legs, knees and heels.
Camellia oil also helps repair stretch marks such as in after pregnancy, and with healing minor scars. Best when applied to damp skin such as after bathing.
Rice Bran oil is an all-around facial and body moisturizer. High in vitamin E complex (Tocotrienol) and numerous antioxidants including Gamma-Oryzanol.
It is non-comedogenic (does not clog pores) and suitable for sensitive skin.
Hint: Some prefer to apply Rice bran and Camellia oils in combination to take advantage of their different benefits. They both absorb quickly, and one can be applied in about 15 minutes after applying the other.
Compared to Western ladies, Japanese women tend to be slim. Japanese women are some of the most weight-conscious in the world. Getting around by bike is a common site in Japan, and the average Japanese takes 7,168 steps per day.
According to a 2012 study by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the female obesity rate in Japan is about 3%. This compares to an astounding 36% in USA, 23% in the UK, 24% in Australia and 14% in Germany.
The Western diet is characterized by high intakes of red and processed meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains.
In contrast, the traditional Japanese diet is characterized by high intake of vegetables, mushrooms, fish, seaweeds, grains, soy products and green tea.
Compared to a forks and spoons, chopsticks pick up less food. Smaller bites result in more efficient chewing and better digestion.
Furthermore, using chopsticks slows down the entire eating process, giving the brain time to realize that the stomach is getting full, and therefore eating less.
The Japanese diet includes large amounts of rice, cooked and eaten with no butter or oil. A low-fat, complex carbohydrate, rice is a filling dish, which leaves less room for cravings. So, you eat less other things.
Rice provides the body with a quick boost of energy. Its benefits include stabilizing blood sugar levels and good bowel movement.
It is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin D, calcium, fiber, iron, thiamine and riboflavin.
The Japanese diet contains about five times the amount of "Brassica" vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes and bok choy) compared to typical western diets.
Brassicas are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Many studies have shown links between their regular consumption and warding off ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
Mushrooms are excellent nutrition sources for invigorating the immune system and fighting disease and illness. They also lower cholesterol and contain powerful anti-aging antioxidants.
Five ounces (140 grams) of shiitake mushroom contains 27% of daily value of vitamin B3, 21% of vitamin B5, 21% of vitamin B6 and 18% of vitamin B2.
Furthermore it is an excellent source of minerals (manganese 17%, phosphorus 16% and potassium 12.3), while only having about 25 calories!
The Japanese annually consume more than 70 kg (154 pounds) of fish per person. This is compared to 26 kg (57 pounds) in western Europe and a mere seven kg (15 pounds) in the United States.
Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is also an excellent source of low-fat protein and vitamins, such as riboflavin, and minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, potassium, iodine and magnesium.
Seaweeds (such as Kombu, Wakame and Nori) contain high amounts of minerals, fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and pantothenic acid and riboflavin (the two B-vitamins needed for your body to produce energy.)
With the exception of green teas, most teas (such as black or oolong) are made by undergoing varying degrees of fermentation, from several months to many years.
Fermentation is basically an open-air oxidation process which alters the aroma and color of the tea, and typically intensifies its taste. The process also chemically alters the nature of tea’s antioxidants.
In contrast, green teas are produced primarily by steaming or roasting the fresh tea leaves — thus able to maintain the maximum possible amount of tea’s important antioxidant molecules called “catechins“, responsible for many of the health benefits of green tea.
You can't walk into a cosmetics store these days without bumping into a skincare product containing green tea.
Even the convenience stores and vending machines carry a wide selection of both hot and cold bottled green teas. A thermos full of green tea is a common staple on family or school outings or as an accompaniment to lunch boxes.
Japanese women are graceful in general, and greatly appreciate the value of poise, femininity and proper mannerism.
Proper manners and poise can make any woman look more attractive. Poise comes from being comfortable with who we are, what we do and how we do it, and is a necessary element of elegance which can radiate.
Beauty is a relative quality which exists within perception of individuals, and a "beautiful" woman is a product of other's imagination.
Japanese say "When one is in love, blemishes become dimples" (horete shimaeba, abata mo ekubo). Just like the saying "love is blind" in English.
When it comes to describing looks, words such as “graceful” and “charming” have a very significant place.
When a lady is seen as graceful or charming, there already exists a feeling that likable is beautiful.
There is a Japanese concept called mie-nai osharé. It roughly translates to “unseen (or hidden) beauty.” The basic idea is that beauty does not have to be displayed to be appreciated. True beauty radiates, exhibited or not.
When a Japanese lady dresses up (which she does routinely even for everyday occasions), she will carefully pick not only the right outerwear, but also what she wears under it – not for public display, but just for herself and herself alone.
These are not same as lacy lingerie or intimate apparel at all. Such things, though beautiful, are still there to be shared, albeit intimately.
Japanese garments often come with fine inner linings, typically of silk.
It is customary for them to have subtle patterns or delicate emblems – felt, but seldom seen. Often, they also have beautiful inner clips and fasteners, which cannot be seen from outside.
Simply put, a Japanese woman wants to be appreciated much more than being noticed.
She is not out to put up a show. She simply cares for herself and her femininity, for her own sake, and treasures her mie-nai osharé.
She is feminine inside and out, and radiates with the beauty and assured dignity which comes from not being fake.
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