The Ultimate Guide To Japanese Skincare: 12-Step Process

Have you ever wondered why Japanese women look so youthful? One of the secrets is, without a doubt, Japanese skincare.

Guest Post by Amrutha Dintyala Creator of
August 8, 2022 5 minutes read
Japanese woman sitting at a table full of with skincare products

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Compared to K-Beauty, or Korean skincare, Japanese skincare is still somewhat in the shadows. However, some of the best skincare brands, like Shiseido and Obagi, are from Japan. Also, Japanese women have long been lauded for their beautiful, flawless skin. And it's no wonder – Japanese culture places a great emphasis on skincare.

So if you're interested in achieving the same level of perfection in your skincare routine, look no further than this 12-step guide to Japanese skincare – explaining everything from double cleansing to layering your products.

Step-by-Step Guide to Japanese Skincare

Japanese skincare is not only about having beautiful, porcelain-like skin, but it's a deep-rooted tradition, and it's viewed as a form of social etiquette. Japanese women usually start taking care of their skin from a very early age as they are faced with an astonishing amount of skincare-related content through different media, including magazines, TV, and the Internet.

All the following steps in their skincare routine are focused on maintaining youthful, dewy skin and fighting signs of aging:

#1: Preparation

Asian woman taking a bath and preparing her skin

Japanese skincare usually starts with a warm shower or a bath. However, if there's no time for either, you can use a towel drenched in warm water instead. This step is meant to prep your skin for the skincare routine that follows as it softens the skin and opens up the pores. When the skin is soft and the pores open, removing dirt, makeup, oils, and other impurities will be easier.

#2: Cleansing

woman using a face cleanser

Once your skin is prepped, it's time for face cleansing. To remove dirt, oils, makeup, and other impurities from the skin, use a face wash with a gentle cleansing agent that won't strip your skin from its natural oils completely. There are many different types of cleansers on the market today. Choosing the right one for your skin type is crucial.

In the evenings or whenever you have makeup on, it would be best to do a double cleanse. This involves using an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup and dirt and then following up with a water-based cleanser to remove any leftover residue.

#3: Exfoliating

cosmetic bottles with exfoliating scrub

When it comes to Japanese skincare, one of the most critical steps is exfoliation. This is because exfoliation removes dead skin cells from the skin's surface layer, revealing brighter, more radiant skin. Not only that, but it also helps improve skincare products' absorption in the following steps.

There are two main types of exfoliation: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation involves using a physical tool, such as a scrub or electric facial brush, to remove dead skin cells manually. Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, uses acids to dissolve dead skin cells.

Regular exfoliation is vital during harsh winters because our skin tends to be dryer in this period and dead skin cells collect more quickly. It really can take a toll on the skin, but exfoliating it once or twice a week can keep it healthy and looking its best.

#4: Toner

Japanese woman applying toner to her skin

Toners are becoming an increasingly popular skincare step in both Japan and the West. However, they are still often overlooked in Japan because the #6 step has a similar purpose.

You can apply it with your fingertips or with a cotton pad. Some come in spray forms so that you can sprinkle them directly onto the face, neck, and décolletage. Toner can be applied morning and night and should be used after cleansing but before moisturizing.

#5: Booster

booster bottle

Boosters have yet to become a standard part of Japanese skincare. Still, they undoubtedly enjoy growing popularity due to the many skin benefits they provide. Boosters' role is to soften the skin and regulate its PH level, helping the skin to absorb other skincare products better. They can also help if you have dry skin that often feels tight.

#6: Lotion

face lotion bottle

One key element of Japanese skincare is lotion, or as the Japanese call it, Keshosui. It's loved and heavily used by many generations. Facial lotion or Keshosui (化粧水) is essentially equivalent to toners in the West and essence or skin softeners in Korea.

Japanese lotion is a water-based skincare product that's supposed to soften the skin and seal in the moisture after cleansing. It's typically applied by pouring some into clean hands and warming it up by rubbing your palms together. Then it's gently pressed into the skin. After a minute or two, any excess is wiped away with a tissue.

#7: Mask

Japanese woman applying a sheet mask to her face

The next step is a face mask that comes in different forms, such as sheet masks, clay masks, creams, and gels. These target specific skin issues, like brightening, anti-aging, etc. Sheet masks are perhaps the most prevalent in Japanese skincare, but you must leave them on for a while to allow the skin to absorb all the nutrients. For this reason, it's usually a part of nighttime skincare routines.

#8: Massage

Gua Sha tools and face rollers for face massage

One of the best ways to relax after a long day is to give yourself a face massage. It's also ideal for maximizing the benefits of a face mask. You can do a face massage with your fingertips or use a Gua Sha tool or face rollers. Do it while your face is still soaked with all the ingredients from your mask because, this way, your fingers or any tools you might use will glide across your skin smoothly. Start with your forehead, then move onto your cheeks and your neck.

#9: Serum

skincare serum bottle

Face serums are a type of skincare product that contains a high concentration of active ingredients. These actives can be anything from Vitamin C to retinol – they target specific skin concerns such as wrinkles, dullness, and skin texture. Apply a small amount of serum to your face and massage it into your skin.

#10: Eye Care

Japanese woman using an eye mask

The skin around our eyes is the most delicate and sensitive, and it's often the first area to show signs of aging. An under-eye mask or an eye cream is a simple and effective way to address these concerns. By providing targeted hydration and nourishment, an under-eye mask can help smooth fine lines, reduce wrinkles, and brighten dark circles.

#11: Moisturizing

moisturizing cream

Moisturizing your skin is vital to prevent dryness, flaking and cracking. A good moisturizer should also protect the skin's natural barrier and seal all the nutrients from the face lotion, mask, and serum.

Face moisturizers can sometimes be a bit heavy and greasy - so the Japanese often use emulsions, or Nyueki, instead. These serve the same purpose as regular moisturizers but are slightly lighter in texture.

#12: Sunscreen

sunscreen cosmetic bottle

In Japan, sunscreen is the final step in the morning skincare routine. Now, you may ask yourself – why? Well, for one, it helps to protect your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. But it also keeps your skin hydrated and healthy. And, simply, sunscreen is a must in Japanese skincare, regardless of the season.

This is because the sun's UV rays can penetrate through clouds and window glass, causing damage to the skin. While Westerners typically associate sunscreen with beach trips and outdoor activities, Japanese people use it daily to protect their skin from premature aging caused by UVA rays. So, if you're looking for a way to improve your skincare routine, add sunscreen into the mix!


As you can see, Japanese skincare is slightly more involved and complicated than what you're probably used to. However, you don't need to follow all twelve steps to achieve good results. Instead, it's better to choose those products and skincare steps that are tailored to your skin needs and be persistent.

Japanese skincare routine infographic


What is the Japanese skincare routine?

The Japanese skincare routine consists of 12 steps, including preparation in the form of a bath, cleansing, exfoliating, toner, booster, lotion, face mask, face massage, serum, eye cream, moisturizing, and sunscreen.

How do the Japanese get flawless skin?

Japanese skincare routine is focused on using gentle and hydrating products that nourish the skin. Also, wearing sunscreen every day and genetics have a lot to do with the Japanese having flawless skin.

Is Japanese or Korean skincare better?

Both Japanese and Korean skincare products are great. But choosing one or the other will depend on what kind of look your want to achieve. So, go for the Korean if you want a dewy look and for the Japanese if you want matte and baby-soft skin.

Why do Asians have better skin?

It's partly due to their skincare and partly to their genetics. People in Asia generally have thicker skin with a thicker dermis or the middle layer of the skin that contains collagen fibers.

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About the Author...

Amrutha Dintyala is an upcoming writer and blogger who aspires to write articles and grow her blog. In addition to this, she works as an SEO Analyst in the Digital Marketing field.