This year, K-beauty has been knocked off its skincare prowess pedestal by newcomer J-beauty. But like any fair fight, a winner shall not be declared until the challenger is truly put to the test.
And unlike Adam from Love Island, I’m not afraid of a little commitment. So for one whole month, I stuck to the same skincare routine, every day and night, using J-Beauty products only.
Ding ding, round one!
Unlike the 10-step Korean skincare routine, the Japanese believe in simplicity. Plus, they’re very confident in their formulas and think because they make very good, scientifically-led products, you don’t need to use as many. Either way, less is more works for me. Therefore, my nighttime routine consisted of just six steps and about twenty minutes of my time. Unless I became distracted by my own beautiful face in the mirror, which happens frequently.
Step 1: Cleanse
Using: Deep Cleansing Oil, £24, DHC
Smells like an oil (olive), feels like an oil, looks like an oil, and boy do I dislike oil cleansers. But this one got me shook. It removes every scrap of makeup (waterproof eyeliners and mascaras don’t stand a chance), but in the most gentle, non-stripping, comfortable way ever. Remove with hot water and a face cloth for easy peasy use.
Step 2: Double Cleanse
Using: Reset Cleansing Emulsion, £33, SUQQU
Deep Cleansing Oil definitely does a good enough job on its own, but as ‘deep cleansing’ is a very important part of Japanese culture, I gave the double cleansing concept a whirl. This guy smelt subtle but delicious, like orchids and citrus. It didn’t strip my skin; on the contrary, it left it smooth and squeaky clean. My face definitely became accustomed to the double-cleanse at night. My oily forehead subsided for the first few weeks, but returned with a vengeance once it realised what was going on.
Step 3: Tone
Using: Labo Super-Keana Lotion, £14.14, Labo
I’m lucky and don’t suffer from too many enlarged pores (I know, I’m such a jerk), so I don’t tend to use a toner. But I was wrong in thinking that’s all they were good for. This was like a nice skin prep for the following products, kinda like wiping the slate clean. But if I had to skip a step in the future, this would be it.
Step 4: Essence
Using: Facial Treatment Essence, £74, SK11
I think this is the reason I found the previous step a bit redundant. This product tones, exfoliates and hydrates all at the same time. Instead of soaking a cotton pad, I applied the Japanese method of patting it into my skin with my fingertips. It was refreshing, gentle and the long-term results were radiance and smooth skin texture. I fell in love with this step and now understand why people like using an essence.
We asked the experts if you really need an essence in your skincare regime
Step 4: Concentrate
Using: Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, £92, Shiseido
This smells like Berocca, so I was surprised to learn the main ingredient is Reishi mushroom root. It has the texture of a serum and my skin soaked it up like a desperate sponge. It would bring my blood to the surface, like it was kickstarting something deep down, which I’d never experienced before. I purged a little with this product at the start, but I was expecting it, as a friend had a similar experience. Once my skin was used to it, we got along great.
Step 6: Moisturise
Using: Cellular Performance Cream, £107, Sensai
Hello, luxury. I like a heavier cream at night and this bad boy was RICH. A little goes a long way, and I definitely went overboard at the start, waking up to a greasy pillow each morning. But as the month went on, I got the amount right and reaped the benefits of well balanced, hydrated skin.
I prefer sleep over skincare in the morning, so I kept it simple with a three-step, out-the-door routine. Cleansing was pulled back to one step with the easier of the two, and SPF was added because, duuur.
Step 1: Cleanse
Using: Reset Cleansing Emulsion, £33, SUQQU
I chose this cleansing option over the oil because it was less faff for the morning and there was no need to remove makeup. It was refreshing and woke my skin up each morning. But I still went back to the oil at night.
Step 2: Moisturise
Using: The Water Cream, £85, Tatcha
I had been gagging to try this product after multiple sell-outs and couldn’t have been more jealous of the countries with Sephora. When I finally got my hands on it, I was not disappointed. Luxurious but lightweight and the ideal morning moisturiser to keep my skin hydrated, but my oily forehead in check. I’m going to give this the credit for better makeup application and longevity.
Need a new moisturiser? Here’s 19 iconic creams to choose from
Step 3: SPF
Using: Urban Environment UV Protection Cream Plus SPF50, £32, Shiseido
Shiseido was granted a second gig because I needed an SPF that was matte and not oily. This one does what it says on the bottle, no more and no less. It’s weightless and doesn’t disturb my makeup application, so I have zero complaints.
ONCE A WEEK TREAT:
Mask: Lift Sculpting Face Mask, £170 for a pack of 6, Decorté
I would treat myself to one of these every day if I could, but at £28 a pop, I limited myself to once a week (so spoilt). They are soaked in the most glorious juice that smells like heaven and leaves my skin feeling like silk. Hooked.
I have never in my life paid so my love and attention to my skin before, so of course, the results were grand. My oily forehead was more balanced, pigmentation reduced and I was able to wear less makeup because I felt confidently more radiant.
The heroes of the experiment were definitely the DHC Oil Cleanser (I now dislike every oil cleanser EXCEPT this one), SK11 Facial Treatment Essence, the Tatcha Water Cream the Shiseido SPF. These are the four I can definitely see myself keeping in my routine and if I win the lottery, the Decorté masks. The toner I could do without. I don’t think I’m a convert of the double cleanse, because I think my skin just became used to it and now I have to train it back to accepting that just one decent cleanse a day is enough.
However, if you had oilier skin and more visible pores, I think the full routine would be beneficial to you.
As far as the J-Beauty goes, I can’t deny the efficacy of the products. They all did what they said and then some, so if you chose the ones most relevant to your skin and keep it simple (not necessarily using ALL the ones I did), you’d be sure to see results and save yourself some pennies by incorporating them with the products you already own.
The Japanese believe in simplicity, so start small. Sometimes just one product can make all the difference.