If you walk down the streets of any major city in Japan, you’ll probably be greeted by a drugstore (or maybe even two!) filled with rows upon rows of beauty and cosmetic products that’ll leave you completely flustered the first time you step into one.
Don’t be surprised when we tell you that department stores in Japan have multiple floors of cosmetics counters and even powder rooms, which are specifically designed for ladies to touch up on their makeup while they’re out shopping!
So it definitely comes as no surprise when we tell you that Japan has the highest per capita spending on skincare and cosmetics.
While you’re familiar with cult-favourite Japanese beauty products
If you’re racking your brains but don’t really have an answer, we’ve got it covered. Read on to learn the difference between Japanese makeup and Korean makeup looks, how to create a Japanese makeup look, and our top J-beauty product recommendations.
What does Japanese makeup look like?
While there’s a variety of Japanese makeup styles out there, we’re going to be focusing on the more commonly seen style known as Igari. This style of makeup was named after the renowned Japanese makeup artist Igari Shinobu, as seen on her large clientele of models and celebrities.
Igari makeup usually takes on a minimalist approach for a soft and brightening look.
Many Japanese women tend to opt for a more natural-looking base and use BB creams and foundations with lighter coverage, with concealers swiped on to hide blemishes and under eye bags.
As for the cheeks, blush is usually applied between the cheekbone and the corner of the eyes for a soft flush while also bringing attention to the eyes. The “bitten lip” look is also a popular trend, with many women going for a sheer coat of colour or a deeper hue dabbed over lip balm, depending on their preferred style.
Asian makeup usually places an emphasis on the eyes, and Japanese makeup is no different. While smoky eyes aren’t part of an everyday makeup look, eyeshadows in muted browns, taupes, pinks, and corals in matte or shimmer finishes will do just the trick and make those eyes pop!
Japanese makeup vs. Korean makeup
We break down what sets Japanese makeup styles apart from Korean makeup styles so you can have a sense of the different effect and techniques to go for.
Matte vs Dewy Skin
As previously mentioned, Japanese women tend to go for a more natural-looking base. Hence, most makeup is done with a matte finish to the skin, but that’s not the case in K-beauty, which places an emphasis on glowing, dewy skin.
Angled vs Straight Brows
In Japanese makeup, brows can either be straight or slightly angled, as long as they aren’t too dramatic so hey, if you’ve already got naturally arched eyebrows, achieving those Japanese-style brows would be no sweat! On the other hand, you’ll usually see flat, soft brows without any arches or angles in Korean makeup.
In Japanese makeup, shimmer eyeshadows are typically applied on the eyelids to make the eyes appear bigger and brighter, whereas in Korean makeup, they’re applied right below the eye to highlight those eyebags. Who would have thought eyebags would one day be coveted?
Thick, cat-eye eyeliner is the order of the day in Japanese makeup for that doe eye look, while in K-beauty, it’s more common to see a thin wing that points slightly downwards (also known as the “puppy eye look”).
The Japanese Igari look requires putting blush between the cheekbone and the corner of the eyes, almost directly under the eyes, while Korean makeup typically applies blush on or right below the cheekbone to accentuate those features.
Full vs Just Bitten Lips
While the signature lipstick style in Japanese makeup is an entire filled lip with a soft lip line, the gradient look that’s popular in K-beauty is also gaining traction within the J-beauty community. The gradient lip is usually achieved with a two-tone lipstick that creates a strong red or pink hue in the center of the lips, that fades into a lighter or nude shade towards the outer lips.
How to do Japanese makeup
1. Prepping your skin
To start off, follow the three-step prep that the Japanese swear by: cleansing, moisturising, and applying sunscreen!
As Igari makeup is a minimalist look, soft and supple skin can really show through, which is why skincare is such an important part of preparation.
We know how tempting it can be to skip the sunscreen, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways of protecting your skin against hyperpigmentation and premature ageing. Prepping your skin with these three steps will make your skin much smoother so you’ll have an easier time applying your base makeup (and it’ll look better too!).
2. Achieving mochi skin and applying base makeup
While Western makeup focuses on full-coverage bases and the glowing and K-beauty on dewy, a velvety matte finish on the skin, also known as “mochi skin” is popular in Japanese makeup.
To achieve the coveted mochi skin, you can use a very thin layer of foundation, or swap that out for BB and CC creams for a light coverage.
Formulated with skincare benefits such as sun protection, hydration, and shine control, BB and CC creams are known for blurring the look of pores, wrinkles and any other stuff you may want to hide and providing a light coverage. Do note that CC creams are often formulated for aging skin and offer more coverage, so they’ll have thicker and heavier formulas as compared to BB creams.
After that, make sure to blend and buff your foundation before dabbing on some concealer on your spots and blemishes. Unlike Western makeup where concealer is used to highlight and correct, Japanese makeup keeps it simple and concealer is usually only used for spot correction. This way, your base remains light and thin and allows your skin to breathe.
Don’t forget to set your makeup with some powder at the end. Many mochi powders in Japan have slight sheens or glitters in them so you can achieve that overall glowy look too.
Make those eyes pop with some shimmer eyeshadows! Go for shades of muted browns, taupes, pinks, and corals to maintain that natural, yet sweet and soft look. Kirakira (shiny or glittery in Japanese) is another J-beauty trend that involves applying one to two layers of shimmer shadows on the lids. If you’re a beginner with eyeshadow, this is super easy as no blending is required unlike in Western makeup.
Follow it up with a black or brown eyeliner – you can either smudge it at the corner for a subtler tightline, or draw a little wing to elongate and draw more attention to your eyes. Lastly, finish your eye look off with some mascara for some long ,voluminous lashes!
Unlike in Western makeup where thick, dark eyebrows are in trend, the Japanese are all about that soft eyebrow look. Using a black or brown brow pencil, fill in your brows until they look nice and full, and you’re good to go!
In Japan, cream blushers are way more popular than cheek tints or powder blushes, as they’re easier to work with when creating the Igari look. Opt for light corals and baby pink blushes and apply it right under your lashline and just above the cheekbone and there you have your “drunk blush” look!
There’a also a variety of other Japanese blush styles, such as swiping the pigment ocross the apples of your cheek,and dabbing it along the tip of your nose for a sun-kissed look.
Keeping it all natural, most Japanese women tend to go for light lipstick colours with a soft lip line for the everyday look, but occasionally spicing it up with a bold red. Go for a lipstick shade in a pink, coral, or nude, and top it off with a clear lip gloss (or even better, just go for a coloured lip gloss) which will make your lips look plump and oh-so-soft!
Japanese beauty products to try
Here’s how you can get started – starting with these fan-favourite Japanese beauty products!
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence
A revamped version of the well-loved UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel, this is a colourless essence that forms an invisible waterproof shield on skin without leaving it feeling sticky. Your skin will feel comfortable and hydrated thanks to the moisturising ingredients in it, such as hyaluronic acid and royal jelly.
This sunscreen can also double up as a primer; it’s no wonder that the Japanese love this product so much!
Retails for S$18.90. There are ongoing promotions at the time of writing. Click on the links to compare prices.
Sekkisei White BB Cream Moist
Well-loved by loyal fans for its ability to create a bright and clear complexion, this BB cream incorporates the brand’s iconic treatment lotion in its formula to deliver skincare benefits.
It has a medium coverage and doubles up as a suncare product with its SPF 40+.
Retails for S$39.
Kate Tokyo Lasting Eyebrow W (Slim)
A double-ended eyebrow pencil and powder to easily create contoured eyebrows, this has a design that helps you achieve brows that look naturally fluffy.
The slim pencil type allows for the drawing of precise lines to the tail of the brows, while the flat pencil type is able to draw both thick and fine lines, depending on how you angle the pencil.
Retails for S$21.90. Click on the link to check for latest promotions.
Heroine Make Kiss me Super Waterproof Long & Curl Mascara
A cult-favourite mascara in Japan, this features 5mm long fibres on the brush to lengthen and curl the lashes. Delivering a waterproof and smudge-proof formulation, this mascara will keep your lashes looking long and curled throughout the day. We think it totally lives up to the hype!
Retails for S$21.90. Click on the link to check for latest promotions.
Canmake Cream Cheek
This extremely popular cream blush from the drugstore brand comes in a wide shade range with a melting gel-type formulation that dries upon application to a matte finish and amazing pigmentation.
One feature that sets the Canmake Cream Cheek apart from the other powder blushes out there is the emollient agents in the formula that can protect your skin from drying out and make the blush more longer-lasting.
Bonus: it doubles up as a lip tint!
Retails for S$14.90. There’s an ongoing promotion at the time of writing. Click on the link to see latest price.