Most people who are into skincare know that Korean beauty has infiltrated the American skincare market in a big way over the past five years—and Japanese beauty is slowly following in its footsteps. I admit, even as a beauty editor, I was pretty unaware of the skincare and makeup technologies currently being developed in Japan—that is, until a month ago when I went on a trip to Tokyo with Japanese cosmetics brand Koh Gen Do. After a few days of touring a dozen or so Japanese department stores and drugstores, it became abundantly clear that J-beauty is just as cutting-edge as K-Beauty.
And I discovered so many ingenious formulas—from sunscreen to blush—that have replaced American staples I've used for years.
Newly obsessed with Japanese skincare and makeup, I was curious to find out what J-beauty products my fellow Byrdie editors are into. So I asked them to share the Japanese cosmetics they consider to be holy-grail status. Keep scrolling to discover Byrdie editors' J-beauty favorites.
"I like lathering cleansers; there's something about the texture that I prefer over slippery cream cleansers. What I don't like, though, is when a lathering cleanser strips my skin so dry that it squeaks. It's hard to find one that removes dirt, makeup, and impurities, without removing my skin's natural moisture. Surprise: That's what I love about Shiseido's Benefiance Extra Creamy Cleanser. It's soft, silky, sudsy, and actually adds moisture to the skin with hyaluronic acid spheres. I just tried it last month, and I haven't stopped using it since." — Kaitlyn McLintock, news writer
"This was the first luxury product I ever bought for myself ($22 for a lash curler was expensive for my high school retail budget) and the one I'll use until the end of time. I've tried other lash curlers, but none of them fit the shape of my eye so perfectly or give my lashes that flawless, natural-looking lift without any pinching. I'll pledge my love to this J-beauty product until the end of time." — Faith Xue, editorial director
"This iconic product was one of the first cleansing oils I ever tried, and it's still one of the best. It simply has everything you'd want in a cleansing oil: It removes makeup and grime from the skin super effectively and moisturizing ingredients like vitamin E and olive oil leave my face super soft after use but never greasy." — Amanda Montell, features editor
"Although I actually own each of the tints that make up Koh Gen Do's color-correcting line of makeup bases, this yellow-tinted one has my heart and is really the only one I use on a daily basis. The pale yellow tint is specifically designed to diffuse and brighten dark spots and discoloration, which, as someone who is in the process of tending to post-breakout inflammation and acne scarring, is key. Not only does this primer help blur the pigmented edges of my spots underneath my foundation each morning (I combine a pea-sized amount with my normal face cream before pre-foundation), but it also takes the edge off my perpetual dark circles.
It melts and blends beautifully into the skin, and my makeup always sits on top of it evenly and without the dreaded pilling, blotches, or overall unevenness I've experienced with other primers." — Erin Jahns, assistant editor
"I found this too-cute-to-be-true product in a Japanese drugstore while on a trip to Tokyo the other month and have been addicted to it ever since. The super-kawaī packaging is irresistible of course (and the included powder puff is actually shockingly high quality), but it's the gorgeous coral shade, killer color payoff, and long wear that keep me coming back every day when I apply my blush." — Amanda
"Another classic J-beauty product, this essence really made a noticeable difference in my oily-combination skin. After using it for a few weeks, my skin was brighter, less oily, and overall plumper and akin to a baby's butt cheek. There's a reason it's considered such a cult product. Essences are everywhere now thanks to the Korean beauty trend, but this will always be the OG in the U.S., and for good reason. It really works." — Faith
"I saw the magic of SK-II's Facial Treatment Essence work firsthand on my 60-year-old mom. She'd begun to see sagging in her neck, so I gave her this essence to pat into her skin, and after several weeks, it looked like she'd gotten a neck-lift. The secret is pitera, the yeast found in sake full of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to help rejuvenate the skin." — Lindsey Metrus, managing editor
"Nivea only sells this drugstore sunscreen in Japan, which is a total travesty because it is game-changing. I picked some up on my trip to Tokyo last month and have been using it every morning—the texture is so liquidy, lightweight, and hydrating, you feel like you're wearing absolutely nothing, much less SPF 50. It's also totally fragrance-free. Nivea, please bring this to the U.S.!" — Amanda
"Cleansing water may seem like a simple, boring product, but when you find one that both annihilates makeup and dirt from your face and makes your skin insanely glowy and soft, it's truly life-changing. Such is the reason I keep a literal vat of Koh Gen Do's Spa Water on my bathroom counter—it's simply my favorite product of the moment to use to make sure my face is 100% clean." — Amanda
"Hairstylists and savvy beauty editors alike have recommended Shu Uemura's Essence Absolue to me, and it doesn't disappoint. I've made it a habit of slathering it all over my hair the day before I shampoo—I just slick my hair back into a low bun or topknot, and let it really soak in. After shampooing, my hair feels silky, strong, and so soft. This is pretty amazing considering my hair is prone to dryness and I bleach it regularly!" — Victoria Hoff, wellness editor
"Cotton pads may seem like a dime-a-dozen beauty product, but certainly not in my eyes. Some are scratchy; some absorb all the product. You've got to play Goldilocks and find one that's just right. For me, hands down, the best cotton pads ever are these spongey pads from Shiseido. They're baby-soft and absorb in such a way that they become saturated with the product, so instead of eating up whatever you put on them, they transfer the product directly onto your skin with each swipe. I actually find myself using less toner with these pads as opposed to when I use a cheap, highly absorptive cotton pad." — Lindsey
"Tatcha's Pore-Refining Sunscreen is the BEST face SPF I've ever tried, hands down. In the summer months, I wear it every single day because it's really an amazing primer—it has a velvety, demi-matte finish that blurs imperfections and holds onto makeup really well." — Victoria
Want more Japanese beauty? Next up, read about how this J-beauty Lotion Pack totally changed my flaky skin.