The Japanese beauty standard for striking skin is a term referred to as mochi-hada, or rice-cake skin. The reference is to a ubiquitous Japanese dessert that is deliciously plump and soft. The philosophy here is that softness reigns supreme as a beauty ideal, and the more gentle and nurturing you can be with your skin, the better. The secret to achieving mochi-hada is sun protection, thorough but gentle cleansing, and the application of multiple hydrating and moisturizing layers.
MAKEUP REMOVAL: This is the first step in a double cleansing process. The skincare ritual begins by removing makeup with an oil or balm pre-cleanser. This step can be traced back to Shu Uemura who introduced the technique in 1967. It is now a permanent fixture in daily routines.
CLEANSING: As the second step in the double cleansing ritual, the cleanser is a mild (but thorough) facial wash. These are often foaming formulas that can be applied to the skin without too much friction.
LOTION: Known as kesho-sui, this step is key for achieving plumpness, while hydrating the skin with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and aloe. There’s no American market equivalent, but the closest likeness is somewhere between a toner and a light moisturizer.
SERUMS: Biyou-eki, which roughly translates to “beauty liquid,” targets specific conditions like dark spots, wrinkles, or dullness. These products tackle many of the same issues as lotions, in a more concentrated formula.
MOISTURIZERS: This central step can range from oil-based products to creams and milks which act as a seal for previous products. Traditional moisturizers include sonbahyu, which is a rich horse oil, and squalane, which comes from olives or (traditionally) from sharks.
EXFOLIATORS: Japanese women slough off skin without harsh abrasives or chemicals. Preferred delivery methods include peeling gels, creams, and powders that gently scrub to reveal fresh and glowing skin.
FACIAL DEVICES: Facial devices are common tools in the Japanese beauty arsenal. Their functions vary based on the tool, but are often used for rolling and massage to encourage tone and lymphatic drainage.
SUNSCREEN: This may be the single most important step in the daily ritual. As such, Japan has developed some of the most lightweight formulas with maximum protection. Textures range from transparent gels to milky, mattifying formulas.
WHITENING PRODUCTS: There is an ancient Japanese saying that states “A fair complexion hides seven flaws.” This notion is one that still rings true today. Women are constantly in pursuit of this pale ideal of beauty. There are a multitude of products in the Japanese market to help achieve a light skin tone. Whitening skincare promotes a brightness to the skin. While there are some products that bleach or reduce pigment, traditional “whiteners” bring skin to life, often using natural ingredients such as sake and rice to achieve powerful results.
Photo: Karim Ghantous via Unsplash