The global beauty market is a sprawling organism, worth roughly $500 billion in sales annually with newcomers popping up on the daily. From every corner of the world, brands have emerged as the “next best thing” in beauty, and some of them have even amassed some pretty fanatical followings. In this installment of Savoir Flair’s Cult Classics series, we’re taking a closer look at Japanese beauty – or “J-Beauty” – and the brands and products that have amassed a cult following.
While Korean beauty – or “K-Beauty”– has already made a significant impact on the global beauty industry with its 10-step skincare regimens and curious ingredients like snail slime, there is another contender hot on its heels. J-Beauty has a lot to offer the discerning shopper, and it couldn’t have a more different outlook on proper skincare. J-Beauty is preferred by many because of the fragrance-free nature of the products; none of them are made with added perfumes.
J-Beauty also differs from traditional beauty treatments because of its intense focus on gentle, high-quality ingredients that are ideal for sensitive skin. In fact, J-Beauty doesn’t have traditional exfoliators at all – no harsh apricot shell, sugar, or salt scrubs here – and prefers gentle peels and gels instead.
Japanese beauty offerings also differ because there are no “moisturizers” as such, since the Japanese view moisturizers as products that sit on the skin. Instead, J-Beauty focuses on hydration, with deeply penetrative products that offer an inside-out way of keeping skin plump and healthy. This might be a different skincare methodology than you’re used to, but no one can argue with the results.
For 15 of the cult J-Beauty products currently dominating the market, continue reading below.
DHC ‘Deep Cleansing Oil’
Search anywhere on the Internet for the best J-Beauty cleanser and this product is always the top result. If you’re not used to the Japanese method of double-cleansing, here’s a crash course: the first step is always with an oil, as oils are emulsifiers that can reach deep into the pores to pull out all of the nasty gunk inside. Simply apply to dry skin in a circular motion and rinse thoroughly with warm water. To finish the routine, wash your skin again, this time with a normal foaming, cream, or gel cleanser to ensure that you completely remove all traces of the oil.
Shiseido ‘Perfect Whip’
Close on the heels of the DHC ‘Deep Cleansing Oil’ is this effervescent face wash with a worldwide cult following. This is a great second-stop product if you’re doing the double-cleaning routine, or on its own as an effective but gentle makeup remover.
Sana ‘Nameraka Honpo Cleansing Milk’
Packed with healthy soy milk – which is effective for fighting redness and encouraging collagen production – this cleansing solution is a mild option for sensitive skin. Fans love it because it deep cleans the pores without making the skin feel tight or irritated after.
Cure ‘Natural Aqua Gel’
Out of every product on this entire list, this is the one with the biggest cult following. In fact, a bottle of this stuff sells every 12 seconds. Why is it so insanely popular? As a gentle, water-based exfoliant, this is the opposite of a harsh scrub but ten times more effective. Users love it because as your rub it into your skin, it visibly sloughs off dead skin for results that occur right before your eyes, leaving your skin radiant and baby soft.
Tony Moly ‘Folia Brightening Peeling’ Gel
If you like to see the results of your exfoliant instantly, this peeling gel is great because it visibly sloughs away dead skin and debris (note: this is not a chemical exfoliant, and is not at all abrasive). This product is so results-driven that fans have dubbed it “magic in a bottle” because it leaves your skin bright and clean without stripping it of moisture, and it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin.
Morihata ‘Binchotan’ Towel
This charcoal-activated towel is as close as you’re going to get to a vigorous J-Beauty scrub. However, even its rougher side is pretty easy on the skin, and when combined with a good cleanser applied in firm circular motions, your skin will be soft and glow-y.
Yu-Be ‘Advanced Formula Pure Hydration Cream with Chamomile Extract’
Yu-Be’s original formula, a Vaseline-like salve that packed heavy hydrating properties, was already a cult classic when the beauty company revised it with even better ingredients. Now with both parabens and camphor removed and chamomile extract added, this product is not only hydrating, but soothing to red skin as well.
Curel Japan ‘Intense Moisturizing Cream’
Fans love this hydrating cream because it’s intense but doesn’t leave skin greasy or slick after. Because it’s ultra gentle, even people with extremely sensitive skin or conditions like rosacea praise its healing benefits.
Hada Labo ‘Rohto Mentholatum’ Lotion
Praised by thousands as a “miracle salve”, this lotion is fantastic for even the most problematic, break-out prone skin, because it contains zero irritant triggers like alcohol, fragrance, or parabens. This lotion contains five types of hyaluronic acid plus urea, which locks in moisture, keeping you hydrated around the clock and your skin looking plump and fresh. Note: fans of this product recommend using it only on wet or damp skin to help it absorb.
MegRhythm ‘Steam Eye Mask’
This extremely popular self-heating eye mask works as you rest, and is so soothing that even troubled sleepers have confessed that they use it to help them fall asleep at night. While you’re only supposed to wear it for 10 minutes in bed, it’s safe to sleep in all night. It works by releasing steam infused with extracts like lavender or yuzu at a comfortable degree and calms dry, fatigued eyes. It also smells so good that it doubles as aromatherapy.
Hadabisei ‘Facial Mask’
Considered a “holy grail” beauty product, this mask fits perfectly to the face and contains fruit acid to soften, keratin to hydrate, and nanoparticles that absorb easily in order to leave the skin baby soft. With four once-per-week masks to a pack, you can restore dry, hormonal, or irritated skin to a normal state in no time.
Utena ‘Premium Puresa Golden Gel Jelly Mask’
Infused with hyaluronic acid, this jelly mask is great for bringing elasticity and bounce back to tired, dull skin. With eight different amino acids, ceramide, and squalene, it works to hydrate from the inside out, and is specially formulated for women over 30.
POLA ‘Wrinkle Shot’ Medical Serum
This impressive product has the unprecedented honor of being the first product in Japan to be authorized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in order to label the product “anti-wrinkle”. The majority of “anti-wrinkle” creams are really just moisturizers in disguise, but this one does exactly what it promises – which is hard to come by in the skincare realm. It really, actually reduces the appearance of wrinkles, and it’s not just a placebo effect.
Adsorb ‘Beauty AntiBody Moist Essence Serum’
As one of the pricier cult classics on the list, this product is an ultra-concentrated formula that offers a solution to almost every skincare need: it hydrates, it plumps up lines and wrinkles, erases dullness, lightens dark spots, and firms the skin. For all of that, the price tag seems like a bargain.
Hada Labo Tokyo ‘Skin Plumping Gel Cream’
Women all over the world rave about this effective and affordable cream, and a clinical trial backs up their findings as well. After four weeks of daily use, 87% of users saw an increase in their skin’s texture and elasticity, 80% saw a significant reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, and 93% saw a vast improvement in overall hydration.