Lasting beauty is not a project. It's a way of life.
If there is no beauty gene, why are Japanese women regarded as beautiful by so many around the world? How do they manage to look 10, 20, or more years younger than their real age?
Japanese women are by far more interested in skin and hair care than color cosmetics and fragrances. According to the study by EU-Japan Center for Industrial Cooperation, skin care and hair care products comprise nearly 2/3 of the Japanese cosmetics market. Fragrances stand at the very bottom at less than 1%.
Japanese women take care of their skin and hair — regularly and meticulously. They eat right, dress well and don't overdo makeup either. They are not show-offy and like to be appreciated more than being noticed. To top it all, they are graceful and well-mannered.
These are learnable skills which will make any woman look more attractive — at any age.
1. Wash face with lukewarm water and additive-free cleanser
Proper cleansing with a good facial cleanser is where skincare begins. Natural soaps such as Artemisia (yomogi) or activated charcoal (sumi) for oily skin are also excellent choices. Wash the hands before cleansing the skin to avoid transferring germs and bacteria. Treat cleansing as a gentle massage, not a scrub. Use fingertips in soft, circular motions. Always use lukewarm water — hot water over-strips skin's essential oils and opens pores, causing dryness. Pat with a clean, soft towel, leaving the skin a little damp, and moisturize. Washing face twice a day is sufficient (once a day for very dry or sensitive skin). It is particularly important to wash the face if it becomes sweaty because perspiration irritates the skin and can trigger a variety of skin conditions, including itchiness, breakouts, and rashes.
2. Moisturize with unrefined rice bran oil
Rice bran oil is a fast-absorbing, gentle, effective, and non-comedogenic moisturizer. Unrefined rice bran oils do not undergo high heat or chemical processing. As a result, they are exceptionally high in vitamins E complex (tocotrienol), B1, B3, and the anti-aging Gamma-oryzanol anti-oxidant. Rice bran oil improves texture, diminishes wrinkles, evens tone, and reduces blemishes. Its natural plant Squalene forms a protective barrier against moisture loss and keeps skin soft and supple. Rice bran oil is also excellent for removing mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, and even waterproof makeup.
3. Pamper skin with germ and bran of Japanese rice
Japanese women have used rice bran (nuka or komenuka) to beautify and maintain their much-admired complexion for centuries. It comes in different grades. The choice grade for facial care is Shiro nuka (shiro means white, nuka means bran) made exclusively from the nutrient-rich germ plus the inner bran layer (called the aleurone layer) of the short-grain Japonica rice.
Shiro nuka tones, hydrates, improves skin's texture and diminishes wrinkle and fine lines. It contains high levels of vitamins E complex (tocotrienol), B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin) plus a potent anti-aging antioxidant called Gamma-oryzanol. There are a variety of ways to use shiro nuka. The Japanese traditional way is to apply it with sarashi cotton applicator bag it comes with. It also mixes well with water to make a brightening face wash. There is a detailed page on our site for shiro nuka step by step how to use instructions.
4. Deep clean face with azuki enzymes
Exfoliating once or twice a week can do wonders for the skin. Proper exfoliation removes accumulated dead surface skin cells, which make it look dull, and promotes cell regeneration. While abrasive or AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) type chemical exfoliants can be effective but harsh for delicate skin, natural enzymes in azuki beans offer a significantly gentler alternative.
Azuki has been an indispensable Japanese skincare ingredient since the eighth century Nara period. It contains a natural cleanser compound called saponin, and vitamin B9 (Folic acid) which promotes new, healthy cell growth. Azuki exfoliation is simple and takes only a few minutes: Wet skin with lukewarm water. Place 1/4 tsp of powder into palm. Add a few drops of warm water and mix. Apply to face. Rinse and moisturize.
5. Apply hydrating facial masks
Facial masks are a real treat. They hydrate the skin, draw out impurities, even-out tone, smooth texture, and improve the appearance of pores. Plus, they make you feel relaxed and pampered.
Matcha and yomogi masks are rich in anti-aging antioxidants and contain tannins which lift the skin and give it a smoother appearance. Mix five grams with four tsp of warm water. Apply to face and neck in thin layers. Leave for fifteen minutes, rinse and moisturize.
Pearl powder masks boost collagen production and repair damaged cells. Here is a sample recipe: Mix two grams with two tsp of wheat powder. Add three tsp of water, milk or soy milk. Add other ingredients such as honey or moisturizing oil to preference. Apply to face for ten minutes. Rinse and moisturize. Pearl powder is versatile and can be brushed on directly as a mineral highlighter or translucent setting/finish powder as well. Also, it dissolves fast and mixes well with moisturizers, cleansers, cosmetics, sunscreens and almost all cosmetics.
6. Lavish body and hair with Camellia oil
With its golden color and creamy texture, Camellia oil has been the beauty elixir of Japanese women's legendary skin and hair for centuries.
Japanese Camellia oil is fast absorbing, antioxidant-rich oil and does not clog pores (non-comedogenic). It is an excellent all-body moisturizer. It also does a great job to soften rough elbows, legs, knees, and heels, plus helps heal minor scars and stretch marks. As a facial moisturizer, Camellia oil is a transdermal carrier of collagen and repairs damage caused by dryness, sun exposure, and aging. Camellia oil's list benefits for hair is long: It softens hair and makes it more manageable, restores hair's natural sheen, repairs breakage and split ends, and eases dry scalp and itchiness. For unmanageable hair, applying Camellia oil before washing hair untangles it and makes it more manageable.
Japanese Camellia oil is cold-pressed from seeds of the yabu-tsubaki, the wild variety of Camellia japonica flower (yabu means wild, tsubaki means camellia). The best way to apply it is on damp skin and hair, such as in after showering. It spreads well, and a little goes a long way. See How to Use Japanese Camellia Oil.
7. Care for hair with seaweed, Camellia oil, and wood comb
Japanese are famous for the beauty of their hair, which typically retains its health and sheen well into old age. They have used seaweed to cleanse, beautify, and nourish hair for a very long time. Shampoos were not known in Japan until modern times; in 1932, KAO Cosmetics sold its first shampoo under the brand name Kami-arai.
Seaweed for hair care has a near-neutral pH of about 6.5 which, in contract to shampoos, does not throw off the healthy balance of hair's natural oils. It cleanses and conditions, volumes up thin hair, makes coarse hair more manageable and reduces hair loss. There is a detailed how-to-use page on our site. Camellia oil adds brilliance and forms a protective layer over the hair shaft and prevents moisture loss. Japanese combs are handcrafted tooth by tooth from super-dense tsuge boxwood. The smooth, seamless, anti-static teeth glide through hair without snagging. Tsuge has microscopic pores which pick up hair's oil as you comb, and re-distribute it in thin, even layers, bringing out hair's natural gloss.
Japanese women protect their skin from the sun's damaging UV rays with a three-prong strategy:
- AVOID EXPOSURE with chic sun-protective clothing and apparel
- FORTIFY THE SKIN with green tea and foods rich in vitamin C
- BLOCK UV with water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreens
They wear stylish UV-rated gloves, scarves, leggings, and hats which cover the face and neck as much as possible. In Japan, it is a common sight to see women with their beautiful summer parasols. Even for riding a bike, covers attached to the handlebars fully protect the hands — UV damage is not only caused by the sun's rays coming from the sky; UV rays bounce off concrete pavements, glass buildings, cars, and other objects.
Japanese women drink green tea regularly, and make sure to have a high intake of vitamin C. Green tea's polyphenols (called EGCG catechins) protect the skin against UV damage and photo-aging. Vitamin C prevents and treats damage caused by exposure to the sun's harmful rays. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C; they also contain an antioxidant called lycopene, which further guards the skin against effects of exposure to UV.
Japanese women use quality broad-spectrum sunscreens to block both UVA and UVB rays, and meticulously follow the use directions — putting on too little could be as bad or worse than putting on too much.
9. Take baths to soothe body, mind, and soul
Japanese love water and bathing. They take baths at home (ofuro), in communal bathhouses (onsen), and wash their bodies in ritual purification ceremonies (misogi).
Japanese bathe typically in the evening. First, they shower and scrub thoroughly. Next, they step into the tub and relax for ten to fifteen minutes. The water temperature should be comfortable to the skin, typically between 38 and 40 °C (100 to 104 °F). After bathing, they put on comfortable clothes and power down to deepen their relaxation. Japanese call this yu-agari (after bathing).
Japanese also use a variety of herbs in baths for their skin-beautifying and healing properties. Green tea baths tighten pores, soothe skin irritations, and improve moisture retention. Yuzu (Japanese citron) baths are refreshing and contain moisturizing aromatic essential oils. Hinoki (Japanese cypress) baths are anti-microbial, lower blood pressure, improve mood, and have the serene aroma of Japanese bathhouses. Yomogi leaves baths have the refreshing, spring-like aroma of cineole essential. They condition and beautify the skin, ease inflammatory conditions such as eczema, and soothe joints and muscle pain.
If you live outside Japan, chances are your home is not equipped with a Japanese style bath. Nevertheless, you can incorporate the essential elements of the Japanese bathing ritual into your routine. See How to Take a Japanese Style Bath at Home.
10. Drink plenty of green and herbal teas
Japanese women drink one or two cups of green tea per day, at least. They also pour it over cooked rice sprinkled with savories for a quick-to-prepare traditional dish called ochazuke (recipe here), use matcha to make a super-green smoothie or a cup of umami-rich latte, and cut down on salt intake by mixing green tea with sea salt to make a traditional food garnish called matcha-zhio.
Green teas come in different varieties, but they all have one thing in common: Green teas are produced by either steaming or roasting the fresh tea leaves — while other teas, such as black, are made by fermentation. For this reason, green teas are able to retain more of tea leaves' beneficial antioxidants. Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan. Even convenience stores and vending machines carry a wide selection of sencha and other varieties, hot and cold. Green tea slows the skin's aging process, boosts protection from sun damage, increases immunity, and improves cardiovascular health, among numerous other benefits. There is a comprehensive information page on our site for Japanese green tea flavors, benefits, and how to make.
Japanese herbal teas offer benefits ranging from improving complexion to ridding the skin of toxins and relieving irregular periods. Yomogi cha (Artemisia tea) is the Japanese wonder herb for women's health and beauty. Yomogi boosts skin's renewal cycle, alleviates inflammatory skin conditions, improves tone, and relieves cramps. It has a refreshing, spring-like aroma. Hatomugi cha (pearl barley tea) is routinely recommended by Japanese dermatologists. Hatomugi contains an array of anti-oxidants which diminish blemishes and spots by slowing-down skin's melanin production. It has a light, popcorny and slightly sweet taste. Gobo cha (burdock roots tea) is a skin-healer and detoxifier. It increases circulation and rids skin of accumulated toxins and acne-causing bacteria. Gobo's tannins tighten pores, giving the effect of smoother skin using less makeup. It is bittersweet and roasty with distinct earthy notes.
The Japanese traditional method for brewing herbal teas is called senjiru (to infuse, to decoct). It's easy to do at home and does not require special setups. See the How To Brew Herbal Teas page on our site for detailed explanations.
11. Eat a variety of balanced foods in moderation
Contrary to common belief, Japanese meals are not very small. However, instead of serving lots of one type of food on a big plate, they serve more variety in smaller dishes. The typical Japanese meal has one bowl of rice, one soup, and three dishes, arranged with balanced nutrition, taste, texture, smell, and appealing presentation.
Japanese women have the lowest obesity rate and the highest life expectancy in the world (2017 numbers). The nutritional contents of Japanese foods — centered around rice, noodles, soy products, mushrooms, fruits, vegetables, and fish — together with Japanese traditions and cultural habits, are responsible for the health and longevity of Japanese women.
Japan is a land of four seasons. Eating seasonal foods is a Japanese national obsession, and a part of its tradition of kisetsukan (sensing the seasons). Seasonal foods arrive at the peak of freshness with higher nutritional content than out of season foods. They also taste better and have high savory (umami) content. Umami-rich foods are mouth-watering, literally. They trigger the secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes, which lead to better digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body.
Wisdom of the old Japanese saying "stop eating when eight-tenths full" (hara hachi bu) is supported by scientific facts. On average, it takes twenty minutes for the brain to process the information coming from the stomach. If we continue to eat until we feel full, we will overeat.
Can eating with chopsticks make us more healthy? In all likelihood, yes. Chopsticks pick up less food than forks and spoons, resulting in more efficient chewing and better digestion. Using chopsticks also helps prevent overeating by slowing down the eating process, giving the brain time to sense that we are full.
12. Value poise and feminine grace
Refined manners and poise will make any woman look more attractive. Poise comes from being comfortable with who we are, what we do, and the way we do it — necessary elements for elegance which can radiate.
A Product of Imagination
Japanese say "in love, blemishes become dimples" (horete shimaeba, abata mo ekubo) — like the English saying "love is blind".
Beauty is a relative quality that exists in individuals' perceptions; a "beautiful" woman is a product of others' imagination.
In describing looks, words such as "graceful" and "charming" play important roles. A charming lady is perceived as beautiful.
The Unseen Beauty
In Japanese aesthetics, there is the concept of mie-nai osharé (unseen, hidden beauty), denoting 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 carefully chooses her outerwear for the proper look, along with what she considers beautiful to wear underneath. This is not the same as lacy undergarments or intimate apparel — it is for her alone.
Similarly, Japanese kimonos come with fine inner linings, typically of silk, in beautiful patterns and colors — hidden and not meant to be shown.
The typical Japanese woman cares more about being appreciated than noticed. She is not out to put up a show. She cares for herself and treasures her mie-nai osharé for her own sake.
She is feminine inside and out, and radiates with grace and self-assured dignity of poise — regardless of her social status, attractiveness, or age.