There’s no denying that K-beauty has been dominating headlines and social media for a while now, as it successfully eclipses almost every other brand in the world by getting everyone crazy for its makeup, skincare, and even haircare.
From groundbreaking cushion compacts and 10-step “glass skin” routines to trendy nail art and bizarre ingredients used in sheet masks and face creams, there seems to be nothing Korean beauty innovators cannot do.
But it may just be time for the K-beauty craze to subside and let its more established and older sister take back the spotlight. We’re of course talking about Japanese beauty, who for years has firmly stood in the shadows, having quietly invented the double cleansing ritual as well as products like facial essences and emulsions.
There’s nothing wrong in boarding the K-beauty hype train, of course, but if you’re looking to add some variety to your daily beauty routine that can work perfectly for Asian skin and climate, Japanese beauty products – with its devotion to time-honoured rituals and advanced nanotechnology in skincare, haircare, and even fat-busting supplements – are definitely worth the consideration.
Apart from the usual suspects like SK-II, Shiseido, Clé de Peau Beauté, and Shu Uemura, there’s a number of Japanese beauty brands that have recently landed in our shores, resurfaced in the market or launched first-of-its-kind products.
Ahead, we list eight new and under-the-radar Japanese beauty brands that are worth investing in for beautiful mochi skin and healthy, luscious locks.
The brand was established in 2004 by founder Masatoshi Nakanishi, who first came across a skincare ingredient called DMAE – short for dimethylaminoethanol – in his previous USA-Japan import business.
After learning that a diet high in DMAE (from say, salmon) has a host of benefits on memory, cell protection, muscles, and even skin, Nakanishi incorporated the concept to a skincare brand in Japan and rolled out its first skincare line, the MT Firming Care Line, featuring DMAE.
MT Metatron has since become Japan’s top professional skincare brand in Japan and can only be found exclusively at aesthetic clinics, skin centres, and beauty salons. The brand is known for its expertise in skin anti-ageing, combining cutting-edge scientific research and advanced technology to develop formulas that work quickly while being safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
MT Metatron has been quietly transforming women’s skin in Singapore for a few years, but it recently opened its first flagship beauty counter in Isetan Scotts and is also available online.
What to try from MT Metatron: The MT Essential Serum, $185.10 for 30ml and $270 for 50ml. The anti-ageing essence enjoys a cult status in Japan, and comes recommended by aesthetics doctors as post-treatment home care for Ultherapy and Thermage to help maintain and prolong the lifting and firming effects of both treatments.
Freeplus is a Japanese skincare label launched by Kanebo Cosmetics in 2001 to cater to women with sensitive skin, and it arrived in Singapore earlier this year. After spending years in research, the brand has managed to create clean, simple, and safe formulations that are hypoallergenic and powered by oriental herbs to strengthen the skin’s barrier and preserve moisture.
From mild cleansers and moisturising lotions to face mists and UV creams for face and body, Freeplus places the utmost importance on pleasant textures so that every product feels gentle and comfortable even on the most sensitive skin.
Don’t believe us? Just check out a Freeplus review by Daily Vanity’s most sensitive team members here!
What to try from Freeplus: The Mild Soap A, S$27 on Lazada. It’s an ultra-mild cleanser that lathers up effortlessly to produce a delicate, cushiony foam that just glides across your skin to wash away dirt and excess sebum without causing unnecessary friction and irritation or disturbing your skin’s natural moisture.
Created by Japanese celebrity and former model Sonmi, Meeth recently hit our shores with its skincare approach that’s grounded in gentle, skin-nourishing ingredients and new advanced Japanese technology. Its goal is to produce products that are easy on the skin yet highly nutritious, so that the skin can stay happy and healthy.
To achieve this, Meeth mainly uses special mineral-rich water sourced from Sapporo and Hokkaido’s Iwanai in all its products, as well as other skin-loving ingredients such as fullerenes and pentavitin.
What to try from Meeth: The Morerich Pack, S$190 (for a box of seven pieces) on Meeth’s official e-store. This unique carbonated gel is packed with mineral-rich water from Hokkaido and plant-derived pentavitin to soothe, replenish, and deliver face-firming oxygen to the skin for a healthy, natural glow.
Also recently launched here in end-September, this premium skincare line by Japanese beauty giant KAO preaches cutting-edge bespoke formulations that aim to deliver intense hydration and moisturisation.
Having discovered that the key to youth and resilience is in none other than skin’s protein cycle, the brand developed a range of serums called the Growing Power (G.P) Cycle serum care that initiates, conditions, and replenishes this natural process alongside other basic skincare formulas. You can find the brand exclusively at its flagship counter in Isetan Scotts as well as online.
What to try from est: The Serum O.N.E., S$180. The first step in the G.P. line, it is an ultra-fine carbonated foam serum that supposedly works well with all skin types to deliver highly moisturising active ingredients deep into skin layers for soft and supple skin. What’s more, this product is currently the only one from the brand that comes in a refill packaging (priced at S$172) that you can easily purchase when it’s time to replenish stock.
Allie is an innovative Japanese sunscreen brand that launched in sunny Singapore just a couple of months ago, with the aim to make sunscreen-wearing a fun and enjoyable experience for all. The brand currently has a range of super friction-proof sunscreens (their words), which are developed with a friction guard that’s resistant to rubbing and therefore will not leave a residue on your clothing
All five broad-spectrum sunscreens in the range are fitted a UV protection of SPF 50+ PA++++ and come in a variety of different finishes and formulations to suit your preferences and needs while protecting you from both UVA and UVB rays.
In addition, the formulas also contain hydrating beauty essence ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, and are paraben-free, waterproof, and sweat-resistant.
What to try from Allie: The Extra UV Protector Gel N, a fragrance-free formula that shields the face and body from intense UV rays effectively but remains lightweight enough for indoor use. It retails for S$14.90 (40g) and S$29.90 (90g) at selected Don Don Donki and Welcia-BHG stores, as well as online at Lazada and Shopee.
Those old enough may remember Pola from beauty salons and direct selling many years ago, but the award-winning brand has since made a return to Singapore after a long hiatus with a dedicated counter in Takashimaya.
Established in 1929 by founder and scientist Shinobu Suzuki who formulated a special hand cream for his wife’s skin problems, Pola is known for creating effective anti-ageing formulas and quasi-drug skincare that has earned Japan’s Ministry of Health’s notoriously difficult-to-get stamp of approval.
Not only that, but the brand has also been recognised several times by the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC), which is the “Olympics” of cosmetic science and technology, for delivering breakthrough results in the skincare industry.
With its revival in Singapore, Pola is bringing with it four iconic ranges: the much-lauded B.A (Bio-Active), which is both a luxury insider’s beauty secret as well as the world’s most awarded skincare series; Red B.A, which targets dull and fatigued skin; Wrinkle Shot, a quasi-drug range that treats wrinkles; and White Shot, a quasi-drug series that addresses uneven pigmentation.
What to try from Pola: The Wrinkle Shot Serum, S$205, and the Wrinkle Shot Geo Serum, S$160. The former, which was created after 15 years of research and broke sales records within six months of launch, reduces visible wrinkles and prevents future onset by inhibiting the degradation of our healthy skin cells. The latter future-proofs your skin from wrinkles by increasing the adeptness and efficiency of your lower dermis layer.
Fans of Japanese haircare products are probably no stranger to LUX, the number one haircare brand in Japan. Recently, the ultra-affordable brand introduced an innovative amino acid-based regime that promises to rebuild hair strands from within.
Infused with a unique complex of 11 different essential acids, this new Hair Supplement collection is all about delivering a more personalised wash and consists of shampoo and conditioner from the Smoothener Range and Moisturizer Range, a hair mask, and a nourishing spray.
Thin, damaged hair that gets easily tangled can opt for the Smoothener range which repairs gaps on damaged surfaces and fortifies your tresses, while those with dry and rough hair can get much-needed intense hydration from the Moisturizer range.
The all-new Hair Supplement collection retails between S$17.90 and S$19.90, and is available at Guardian.
What to try from LUX: The Deep Care Suppli Mask Treatment, which is powered by Amino Complex EX and Plus Charge Amino to replenish moisture and proteins for instant hair rescue.
Michiru is a premium Japanese haircare brand that recently arrived this month with its anti-hair loss range parked exclusively at Guardian.
Armed with 50 years of research on scalp and hair biology, the brand formulates all of its products Japan using the highest quality Japanese botanicals and herbs such as yuzu, brown rice, silk, senburi, and sakura – all of which are found to be beneficial to the hair and scalp.
What to try from Michiru: The Hair Growth Tonic, S$48.90, which is jam-packed with sakura, silk powder, senburi and rice germ oil to strengthen hair roots, boost growth, and prevent hair loss. It’s best used with the Anti-Hair Loss Intensive Hair Serum, S$89.90 (5 x 9ml), which has been clinically proven to reduce hair loss and increase 2,721 growing hairs in one month.