Early starts, long days, little left in the tank once bedtime rolls around: there are plenty of excuses for getting shut-eye with a full face of make-up. On the odd occasion I’ve woken up hugging a mascara-smeared pillow. And while there’s nothing I enjoy more than indulging in an at‑home spa session, finding the time is tough: give me Dior’s Capture Totale Dreamskin 1-Minute Mask any day. Although most of us are probably guilty of slipping under the sheets with make-up still on at least a handful of times, in Japan doing such a thing is considered the ultimate beauty sin. “We would never go to bed with make-up on,” says Shiseido product developer, Saeko Suzuki. While many of us find setting aside time for our beauty regimen a chore, for Japanese women that’s certainly not the case.
Removing every inch of makeup and putting time into a thorough skincare regimen is a way of life, explains Suzuki, and she says, Japanese women start young, “Usually around 12 years old.” According to Suzuki, starting a skincare routine as a teenager is something of a tradition and a ritual in Japan. “The mother’s influence is huge,” she explains. “Normally, teenagers would start using skincare by using their mother’s products.”
Setting up good habits at a young age might have something to do with the flawless, ageless skin that Japanese women seem blessed with. But when I ask Suzuki what the Japanese secret is to healthy skin, she says she believes the biggest difference between the Western approach and Japanese approach is the importance they place on hydration. While we might simply turn to a daily moisturiser, Suzuki explains that Japanese women place a lot of emphasis on additional steps to keep skin hydrated.
Cleansing, Suzuki explains, is another vital part of the ritual. “Skin needs to be cleansed properly, otherwise the following steps won’t penetrate the skin efficiently.” But she adds there’s a certain etiquette involved in skincare routines in Japan: because personal appearance is so treasured, Japanese women would never be seen without cleansed skin. “We always pay a lot of attention to how we look to other people, and the key point is the skin. That’s why we have fostered a skincare culture that is structured in layers.”
Slowly but surely, the rest of us are cottoning on to the benefits of embracing beauty regimens. Suzuki says that while Shiseido has always thought of skincare as ritual, there’s a definite international move towards embracing the philosophy. “It’s a global trend which can be seen among all women in the world,” she says. Suzuki says globally beauty has experienced a shift towards a holistic approach. “In the past, women really wanted to pursue their appearance only, but now they’re looking for inner beauty.” Women are considering external factors that impact on skin health. “We’re paying more attention to what we eat, what we drink, how we are living and how we are feeling. All these steps have an impact on healthy skin.”
SMART TIP: Add citrus to your bath to soften dry skin. The acids in the fruit speed up cell turnover, giving you a brighter complexion. The antioxidant vitamin C can also help fight free radical damage – staving off visible signs of ageing
Photography by Florian Sommet.