J-Beauty: a combination of tradition, technology & nature

Is the Japanese market, aka J-Beauty, the heir to the K-Beauty throne?

J-Beauty is Japanese beauty, or products originating from Japan, deriving from their beauty methods and habits. For the last two years, the demand for innovative make-up and skincare from Korea has been increasing. Popularity of K-Beauty products doesn’t fade away, especially with the trend of translucent « glass skin ». Since 2018, Japan economy is getting better and its beauty industry is coming back. Did you know that a large part of what was appealing in K-Beauty was inspired from Japan? Victoria Buchanan, specialist in strategy at The Future Laboratory foresees that « aesthetical principles of Japanese traditions such as kanso, shibui, and seijaku – what might be translated as simplicity, discreet beauty and energizing tranquility – will prevail in the next beauty innovations that will be launched from Japan."


Don’t say that ‘J-Beauty is the new K-Beauty’

Experts of the Japanese beauty scene compare Japanese beauty to Korean beauty, which is known for its fun packaging and of-the-moment formulas and colors. « J-Beauty is centered around quality manufacturing, understated opulence, and groundbreaking science and technology » explains Frances Grant, senior vice president of marketing for Shiseido Cosmetics America. Unlike Korea, where products can be churned out the minute a trend starts to take off, J-Beauty is much more interested in careful refinement and longevity. A lot of what we see come out of Korea is trend-based or 'on-demand' beauty. They're obsessed with immediate results, gadgets and device, it's the best of fun and fast. Whereas Japanese beauty prefers to play the long game.


How is J-Beauty different to K-Beauty?

You won't see gimmicky face masks, aggressive peels, unnecessary packaging, and animal byproducts (like snail slime…) in the J-Beauty routine. The Japanese approach their skin in an entirely different way, because they think in terms of maintaining the harmony of all five senses. The sense of restrained perfection and utility in architecture or gardens is obvious in elegant packaging of cosmetics. Boxes and bottles often present a smooth surface with softened edges. This heightened awareness of smell is why Japanese prefer their products to be fragrance-free or delicate.


Less is more

Japan beauty customers don’t follow trends. It’s only about finding what suits you and never adding what is not needed. While other countries add more and more and create new gestures, Japan finds a unique sense of abundance in less. As Emi Hayashi, Senior Vice President at KOSÉ Corporation points out: « J-beauty is nothing new in Japan, it's just new to the 'Western World’. Japanese beauty has always been very big in Asia. The recent attention driven in the Western market is the trend of natural and holistic lifestyles ». In Japanese culture, the ritual of beauty is centuries old. Japanese beauty, especially skin care, has always been focused on time-honored methods and traditions. Brands create minimalist but sophisticated formulas based on traditional indigenous ingredients. When formulas work with so few ingredients, the quality and precision is paramount, like sushi. Beauty is not considered as expendable. Everything is carefully contemplated to create products that are timeless, efficacious and humbly luxurious. Japanese customers are very sophisticated: they study ingredients, understand how skin works, and ask a lot of questions.


Tradition and innovation: Beauty lies on health

While being rooted in tradition, J-Beauty is also innovation-driven. Japanese brands are actually on the forefront of technological advances in the beauty market. The quality in textures and the efficacy of the products is far more advance with Japanese science and technology especially in SPF products, creams and foundation.

Now, think science combined with nature. Key natural ingredients that have been used in Japanese rituals for centuries lifted by innovative technologies and R&D. Beauty and wellness have long been important parts of Japanese culture - just look to the traditional Onsen springs in which bathing is elevated to an almost spiritual art. The Japanese beauty philosophy is very close to healthcare philosophy", says Miyabi Kumagai, Shiseido Brand Manager. « Western culture is more concerned with correcting damages after they have occurred, whereas Japanese beauty care is more about anticipation. For them, everyday prevention is a natural action ». Skincare is at the root of Japanese routines, as they believe beauty lies on a healthy skin base. "All their care routines have been embedded in their minds from a young age, and they prefer anticipating rather than needing an instant emergency superficial cure."


What are the best beauty secrets to learn from Japan?

Deep cleansing is a very important part of Japanese culture. Cleansing is the key condition to be as pure as possible to best receive the benefits of skincare. Japanese men and women cleanse every morning and night, and bathing rituals are of prime importance to purify and moisturise skin. Hot springs (onsen) relax and allow the skin to be cleansed of all imperfections and to get prepared for a healthy skincare ritual. Japanese take care to stay away from the sun and are fond of face masks and lotions to offer deep skin hydration.


J-beauty market share is growing in China

Though some Korean beauty products like cushion compacts and CC cream are still in hot demand in China, J-Beauty have recently begun to offer some great competition.

A report found that in 2017 sales growth and digital visibility of J-Beauty brands increased faster than that of K-Beauty brands. Shiseido CEO Masahiko Uotani is optimistic about China, stating that the brand is making big progress in terms of market share. Today, consumers in China are more concerned about quality than ever, as they are “more demanding and pragmatic, according to McKinsey & Company. They are willing to pay more for better quality products, and Japanese products are perceived to be higher quality.


Please find more about J-Beauty brands and innovations during your visit at Cosmetic 360 17-18 October 2018 in Paris.


Photo by Pascal B. on Unsplash