I left for Japan with high expectations. I was fully prepared to come home with additional suitcases packed full of hidden gem beauty products. While I managed to come back to NYC with lots of goodies (my shopping guide is coming soon!), some of the best beauty discoveries I made were in the form of beauty tips and secrets from real, trend-setting women.
During my two-weeks in the country, I explored many different Japanese beauty traditions and experienced many out-of-this-world treatments that lead to these discoveries. I spent a total of 4 nights in Tokyo at two different hotels — the Aman and the Mandarin Oriental. I treated myself to spa treatments at both hotels. I also experienced a private tour (one of the last…ever!) at the Tsukiji Fish Market, watched the Sumo tournament finals and had dinner at Narisawa. Afterwards, I headed to the countryside to Hakone where I visited Gora Kadan (one of Japan’s best Onsens) and received an acupuncture facelift – painful but worth it! I also visited the art island of Naoshima and experienced a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. I went on to spend three days in Kyoto at the Ritz and did lots of beauty research through my guide and some locals, even experience a special kaiseki dinner at Arashiyama Kitcho. Somewhere in there I traveled to Kobe, to the P&G headquarters for an interview with an SK-II scientist and a trip to a sake brewery where I learned about the fascinating skin benefits of sake and fermentation (details/ way more to come on this!). I ended the trip at another Onsen called Beniya Mukayu. This one was more modern and the food and minimalist décor was out of this world.
Out of everything, I owe most of my insider look at the Japanese beauty scene to my friend Maria, former Miss Universe Japan and major influencer on the Japanese fashion world. She served as my main local connection in Toyko and gave me real, unfiltered advice about approaching beauty like Japanese girls.One of the high points of my trip was a traditional Japanese dinner Maria hosted for me. The best part (besides the food, of course) was that she brought along a group of incredibly chic (also, ahem, famous) friends who gave me the 411 on beauty and wellness routines in the East. Here are a few things I learned during our very thorough, super interesting chat:
- The #1 beauty trend at the moment is whitening, following by face-narrowing. Japanese women look for products that give the face a slimmer appearance.
- Japanese women, unlike me and my fellow American friends, are not really into lasers, peels, acids, or anything that might cause downtime.
- The Japanese drugstore is merely a drugstore, not this mecca of uncovered Japanese beauty treasure that I thought it would be. That’s more of a Parisian thing.
- If you are pregnant, you absolutely can eat raw fish – as long as you only eat raw fish in Japan, the freshest of the fresh.
- Real women don’t leave home without sun-protection. In addition to traditional SPF, they wear hand, leg and arm gloves and always carry an umbrella sunbrella. Japanese women don’t mess around.
- Mie-nai osharé. This translates to “unseen beauty.” The basic idea is that beauty does not have to be displayed to be appreciated. True beauty radiates from the inside out, and does not have to be visible in plain site.
- You are what you eat. After spending two weeks traveling throughout Japan, I didn’t gain weight like I normally do on vacation. But why? The Japanese diet consists of lots of veggies (brassica vegetables), fish, seaweed and lots of anti-inflammatory chemicals. I ate soba, sushi, sashimi, fish, veggies, lots of tea, white rice, tempura, those weird red-bean curd Japanese sweets and even lots of champagne and sake and I woke up every morning feeling light and energized. Also, using chopsticks ensures small bites and slower consumption.
- Drink green tea or matcha. I am obsessed with Matcha and the ceremony that goes along with it. The benefits are endless.
- Use natural, non-toxic and organic skincare products. Traditionally, Japanese skincare is quite natural. They source real ingredients from Camilla oil to sake to keep their perfect skin.
- When it comes to makeup, less is more. They focus on the skin and hair, not necessarily color makeup.
- Japanese women shower and cleanse their face more than anyone. In fact, they take cleansing so seriously that they shower before bathing.
- Fragrance isn’t really a thing in Japan like it is in the US. If you are looking for a new perfume, head to France. Most of the sushi restaurants even specified on the reservation confirmation, “no perfume.”
- The Onsen. It’s the Japanese equivalent of a weekend in the Hampton’s. Like I mentioned, the Japanese LOVE to bathe. Bath time is a ritual, from simple at home bathtubs to hot spring Onsen (bathhouses), involving a series of steps to clean and scrub the body from head to toe before climbing into a steaming hot bath or natural hot springs. It’s perfect for beautifying the skin, as well as de-stressing and detoxing the mind and body.
- Exfoliate, exfoliate and exfoliate for better, brighter skin.
Do any of these surprise you? Let me know what you think in the comments! As a more detailed and specific followup to this story, I will be sharing my complete Japanese beauty shopping guide. Who is excited? Look for it early next week.