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Japanese beauty products may have taken a seeming backseat to trendy Korean beauty brands, but we got to give credit where it’s due: J-beauty skincare comes up tops for its science-backed and innovative formulas that are unbeatable in their efficacy.

And while their K-beauty cousins have been dominating social media in the past decade or so, J-beauty brands have been quietly keeping up with all-important research and development. These Japanese skincare brands are big on anti-ageing from within, aiming to help reverse the clock deep at the cellular level, instead of merely resurfacing wrinkles on the top layer of the skin.

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Image source: Shiseido/Facebook

Today, we spotlight Japanese skincare brands that are totally worth the precious real estate in our beauty drawer.

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What sets luxury Japanese skincare brands apart

These luxurious Japanese skincare brands are backed by years and years of time-honoured beauty traditions and natural, plant-based ingredients – so you can be sure these aren’t flash-in-the-pan, trendy products you’re buying into.

And lots of celebrities all over the world think so too, relying on some of these splurge-worthy brands to keep them looking glamorous all day, while filming and even on off-duty days. Sounds good? We agree.

Packed with highly effective and heavily researched ingredients that are the epitome of less is more, you’ll be on your way to bouncy mochi skin faster than you can say sayonara!

Are they worth the splurge? Let’s find out.

Ahead, we spotlight seven of the most effective and luxe J-beauty skincare brands that are poised to lead the Asian beauty charge.

7 luxury Japanese skincare brands that are worth splurging on

1. Clé de Peau Beauté

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This internationally acclaimed J-beauty darling is known for its luxurious range of products that combine years of research on Skin Cell Science, lots of modern technology, and quintessentially Japanese ingredients.

Being one of the prestigious top-line brands in Japanese giant Shiseido’s arsenal of global beauty brands, Clé de Peau Beauté’s products can be a right splurge. It’s well worth it though, if you’re looking for an effective cream or essence to work some magic.

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The Clé de Peau Beauté La Crème (S$875) is an ultra-luxurious anti-ageing wonder that teaches tired and aged skin how to repair and regenerate its cells, for a noticeably more youthful complexion. Three pearl-sized dabs every night are all you need, we hear.

Other must-gets are The Serum (S$270), an illuminating serum packed in a multi-chromatic bottle as a nod to its promise to help skin return to its original radiance; and the Precious Gold Vitality Mask (S$440), a wash-off mask infused with antioxidants and 24K gold that’s intensely energising and luxurious with a capital L.

2. Shiseido

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Probably the most well-known of J-beauty luxury brands is Shiseido – the company’s flagship and titular brand whose products are available in more than 85 countries worldwide today. With more than 145 years of experience behind it, the iconic brand that calls Ginza, Tokyo, home, is beloved for its science-backed beauty products that are infused with a vision of art.

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If you’ve not heard of Shiseido’s award-winning Power Infusing Concentrate (S$208), you’ll want to read right on. Shiseido’s anti-ageing products are known to be extremely effective because of this key ingredient: Ultimune Complex, the result of 25 years of research in their labs.

Said to defend and regenerate the skin from within to prevent further ageing, this serum has since been updated with the addition of a new proprietary blend, the capillary-protecting Lifeblood technology.

Another must-try is the Essential Energy Moisturising Cream (S$80), which helps reset your skin’s health and protect it from external damage so that it becomes more responsive to the benefits of skincare products again.

And if you’re looking for the ultimate Shiseido experience, we recommend the iconic Eudermine Revitalizing Essence (S$75). Delicately perfumed with the scent of peonies after are rain shower, this high-performing essence refines the skin, keeps it moisturised, and improves the skin’s cell turnover cycle.

3. Shu Uemura

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It’s all about cutting-edge beauty with a heavy dose of excellence, with Japanese beauty brand Shu Uemura. Bearing the name of its make-up artist founder Shu Uemura, the brand is popular among professional make-up artists and beauty enthusiasts for its wide range of colours that suit Asian skin tones, and innovative beauty tools.

Beauty junkies also wait with bated breaths for the brand’s annual collaborations with global icons and brands such as Pokemon, Super Mario, Karl Lagerfeld and Onitsuka Tiger – last year, it was with Japan’s most famous, most kawaii kitty, Hello Kitty!

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Shu Uemura is known for its gentle cleansing oils that are incredibly lightweight with a water-like consistency, cleaning off make-up with a gentle wipe. Infused with Tsubaki oil and comprising an impressive 75% of skincare ingredients in its formulation, this cleansing oil with a smooth texture like cashmere is a cult favourite.

There’s a whole range of cleansing oils available now, but you’ll want to try the signature Ultime8∞ Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil (S$65) if it’s your first meeting with the brand.

Get your eyebrow and eyelash game on with Shu Uemura’s signature Brow Sword (S$53), a one-of-a-kind brow pencil in the shape of a traditional Japanese blade for precise filling in of brows that comes in five shades; and Eyelash Curler (S$30), an award-winning curler that’s well-loved by almost everyone who’s used it, from celebrities, make-up artists, and regular women alike.

4. Decorté

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Another gem under Japanese powerhouse Kosé’s umbrella of beauty brands is Decorté, a premium Japanese beauty brand that counts model Kate Moss as a fan.

Though only gaining more popularity worldwide of late for its innovative and technology-based skincare and make-up ranges that boast products with premium ingredients, Decorte is definitely no stranger to the scene, having been around since 1970!

Today, it’s also known for its online skin diagnostic service, which helps you get the right product recommendations based on your unique skin concerns.

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If there’s one thing to try from Decorté, it has to be the Moisture Liposome Serum (S$172.55, usual price S$203). This lightweight serum promises to change the destiny of your skin with every potent drop, which delivers time-released hydration throughout the entire day for a legitimate radiance that doesn’t fade with time.

You’ll also be hard-pressed to try the prettily-bottled Prime Latte (S$84.50), a concentrated emulsion made up of a blend of fruit and botanical oils with the texture of smooth milk. It’ll leave your skin feeling soothed and soft, as though you just took a milk bath.

Decorté’s make-up products are also made to give you that healthy, youthful glow. Try the Powder Blush (S$60.50) that comes in five colours, with a silky and soft-focus formula that gives a soft, rosy glow minus the pores.

5. Koh Gen Do

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With its eye-catching red-and-black packaging that’s somehow reminiscent of Japanese theatre, Koh Gen Do is a cult favourite that’s definitely worth its spot in your beauty cabinet. Created by Japanese actress Ai Saotome who wanted to achieve that ethereal glow that lights up TV and film screens while protecting the health of her own skin, Koh Gen Do is the real deal when it comes to J-beauty.

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The Maifanshi Moisture Foundation (S$107.08) is one beauty product you definitely must try if a poreless, brushed complexion is what you want to achieve.

Hollywood actresses from Jennifer Lawrence, Dakota Johnson and Julianne Moore swear by it for their best film-worthy skin that looks amazing on-screen – which says a lot, considering how the camera literally zeroes in on imperfections. It’s moisturising while providing a gorgeous, natural-looking dewy coverage.

Do also try the Maifanshi Aqua Foundation Illuminator (S$74.55), a contouring and illuminating liquid that’s enriched with the brand’s signature blend of oils for a warm and healthy glow.

Even before micellar water was a thing, Koh Gen Do had its version of cleansing water for makeup removal and we highly recommend it – the Cleansing Spa Water (S$77.26). A signature blend of mineral-rich thermal water and botanical extracts are what makes this water so effective at gently cleaning even the most lasting of make-up while keeping the skin hydrated and nourished.

6. SUQQU

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Inspired by the Japanese expression, “a woman rising to her full height,” Suqqu is a J-beauty brand that has a loyal fan base in Japan, and rightfully so. Celebs like Margot Robbie and Victoria Beckham are also known to be long-time fans of the brand.

Believing in minimalist beauty from within, working with the muscles, skeletal framework and lymph system, Suqqu’s products are meant to be used in a streamlined routine from skincare to make-up. The inner glow is real, and we’re not bluffing!

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While lesser known on the international stage, don’t let that stop you from trying some of Suqqu’s star products out. First up is its super lightweight and thin sunscreen, the Multi Skin Protector SPF50 (S$65). Fans swear that it brings out the skin’s natural glow while protecting it from sun damage.

Adding this pre-toner serum to your regime is a great idea, or so your facial muscles will say. The Moisture Repair Essence (S$139) literally helps facial muscles recover, by softening each layer of the skin so well and thoroughly. Easily absorbed and light as a feather, this is the metabolism-boosting essence you never knew you needed.

And if you’ve got to try just one more product from Suqqu, make it the Face Stretch Mask (S$116/6 count) – a favourite of Posh Spice Victoria Beckham. It’s a three-dimensional mask that is deeply hydrating, while tightening the skin and sharpening the jawline. We want in.

7. POLA

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With a long history that goes all the way back to 1929, the brand prides itself on accumulating tonnes of real skin data (from 19.1 million skins, to be exact!) –  data that goes into formulating its premium skincare products. Which are pseudo-drugs, in their own right, targeting the very science behind the mechanics of ageing in the skin.

Pola is big on natural beauty, believing in beautiful skin as the basis for lasting beauty. Can we say that we love this outlook?

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The springy-textured B.A. Eye Zone Cream (S$268) is a game-changer in firming and lifting the eyes, penetrating deeply into the orbicularis oculi muscles for actual change from within.

We and beauty enthusiasts from Japan will highly recommend you to try items from Pola’s award-winning Wrinkle Shot line. The original holy grail product in this line is the Wrinkle Shot Serum N (S$205), which basically targets wrinkle formation by increasing the production of chondroitin sulfate to improve cell regeneration in wrinkles.

Also, try the Wrinkle Shot Geo Serum (S$126), a quasi-drug serum that actually prevents wrinkle formation by helping the lower dermis layer of the skin become more flexible – so you needn’t worry about daily facial expressions causing wrinkles to form. Yes, really.

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