For the past few years beauty obsessives have been utterly enthralled by the techniques and products coming from one country in Asia.
From sheet masks and BB creams to sleeping packs and ten-step routines, it’s all been about Korea’s innovations, or K-beauty as they’ve become known.
But recently we’ve seen a resurgence of Japanese brands — J-beauty — in the UK. Of course, we aren’t exactly strangers to these Japanese imports. ‘It all started with Shu Uemura in 1990,’ explains Millie Kendall MBE.
Kendall is now CEO at the British Beauty Council but nearly 30 years ago, she was instrumental in launching the Japanese brand to the UK market.
Claire Coleman revealed a selection of the best J-Beauty products for anti-aging, including Moisture Eye Zone Essence (pictured) from the Curel range
According to Kendall, in recent years South Korea’s research, and its sheer number of products, have buried the Japanese message, but things are starting to change, and that’s good news for the older consumer.
‘Korean beauty is very collectable — it’s cute and quirky — but, as a woman of a certain age, I want a little more,’ says Kendall. ‘Japanese products, on the other hand, are scientific, but also holistic. The country uses amazing bio-tech and likes a simpler, more elegant aesthetic, so they feel more modern.’
J-Beauty is finally finding its feet in Britain. Here’s our pick of the best…
The Curel range, which launched in Boots in October, uses a technology designed to boost levels of the skin’s natural ceramides (moisturising elements that strengthen the skin’s protective barrier). It’s Japan’s number one brand for sensitive skin and looks set to give America’s CeraVe a run for its money when it comes to affordable skincare that works.
Try: Moisture Eye Zone Essence (£22.50, boots.com), a favourite of skincare expert Caroline Hirons. Or you could opt for the Trial & Travel Kit (£17.50), which contains minis of the cleansing gel, facial wash, lotion and cream, so you can give the Japanese double cleanse and double moisturise regime a go.
Hada Labo has proven popular with YouTube sensations Nadine Baggott and Jo Jones, Claire suggests investing in the brand’s Lotion No. 1 Super Hydrator (pictured)
One of the newest — and most affordable — imports, Hada Labo was launched in Japan in 2004. Its hyaluronic acid-based products were soon stockpiled by beauty editors visiting Tokyo.
It’s been popularised by grown-up YouTube sensations Nadine Baggott and Jo Jones, aka The Beauty Hags, who love the brand’s products for their super-hydrating properties. Use them after cleansing and before SPF for plumper, dewier skin.
Try: Lotion No. 1 Super Hydrator (£32.95 for 150ml, amazon.co.uk). It’s cheap enough for you to be able to use it from your forehead down to the decollete, and around the eyes too.
A-listers including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Kim Kardashian and Serena Williams are fans of Cle de Peau Beaute, Claire recommends trying the brand’s concealer (pictured)
Staggeringly costly, but with a list of fans that reads like a Who’s Who of A-listers (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Kim Kardashian, Christina Ricci, Kate Hudson, Serena Williams…), Cle de Peau Beaute aims to combine ‘Japan’s cutting-edge science and aesthetics with modern French elegance’.
It launched in Harrods this year to applause from the sort of people who used to stock up on the brand’s three-figure foundation when they popped to New York (it’s been available in the U.S. since 1999.)
Try: Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer SPF25 (£54, harrods.com) — it’s less expensive than the £105 foundation and loved by make-up artists for its combination of decent coverage and lightweight, moisturising texture.
Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate Serum 2.0 (pictured) is designed to help protect against pollutants and maintain skin health
You’ve probably heard of Shiseido — and that’s because it’s one of the first Japanese beauty brands to be available in the West. But it did have a head start, as it was founded in 1872.
Its longevity means some of its bestsellers have been reformulated over the years as new technology was discovered. The group itself has expanded beyond a single brand and now owns some of the most well-known beauty names, from Laura Mercier and bareMinerals to Nars.
Try: Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate Serum 2.0 (£58.65 for 30ml, johnlewis.com), a reformulated product designed to help protect against pollutants and maintain skin health.
Claire suggests using Absolute Silk Micro Mousse Treatment (pictured) by Sensai after cleansing, to help rejuvenate skin
The Japanese brand Sensai didn’t actually begin selling in Japan until this year.
It was created for the European market in 1983 by Kanebo, a textile company that saw the value of a precious type of silk, known as Koishimaru silk. Apparently silk weavers had surprisingly youthful hands, thanks to the silk’s ability to promote the production of hyaluronic acid. Every Sensai product has an extract of this silk.
Try: Absolute Silk Micro Mousse Treatment (£145, harrods.com), an innovative mousse formulation that is thicker than a toner, but thinner than a lotion.
It should be used after cleansing and before moisturising to help rejuvenate skin.
However, if that feels a little pricey, try The Lipstick (£42). The silk extract helps it glide on and moisturise, and it is available in a range of rich shades.
Kate Moss is the face of J-Beauty brand Decorte, Claire says the brand’s AQ Cleansing Oil cleans effectively
When a beauty brand has supermodel Kate Moss as its face, you know it wants you to sit up and take notice. But Decorte is more than, well, just a pretty face. Founded in the 1970s, the brand combines natural ingredients, with ancient Eastern medicine and science, and now has three main skincare ranges, as well as a make-up collection.
Try: Decorte AQ Cleansing Oil (£50, harrods.com) — part of the mid-priced range (yup, the cleanser in the more expensive range is twice the price). This blend of oils cleans effectively.
A MODERN CLASSIC
Claire claims Suqqu feels like J-Beauty’s answer to Bobbi Brown, she recommends trying the brand’s Musculate Massage & Mask Cream for brighter skin
A relative newcomer, Suqqu was launched in 2003 as a more mature sister to the parent company’s RMK range. More than a decade on, it’s still going strong.
In its colour cosmetics and skincare line, Suqqu epitomises the minimalism you might associate with Japan. It feels like J-Beauty’s answer to Bobbi Brown — classic, with the odd modern twist.
Try: Musculate Massage & Mask Cream (£66, selfridges.com). Use with the three-minute Gankin massage technique for brighter skin.