Tradition meets innovation: Japanese beauty

Tradition meets innovation: Japanese beauty

Japan has long been revered for its approach to beauty, driven by the country’s rich history and culture.

Considered to be one of the more sophisticated markets, the Japanese approach to beauty, J-Beauty, is characterised by meticulous attention to detail, a dedication to innovation, and a reverence for tradition.

Routines such as Geisha beauty, onsen bathing, oil cleansing, and the use of natural ingredients, have all stood the test of time, extending out into Western cultures today.

The Japanese cosmetics and personal care market is one of the largest globally, just after the US and China[1], with a market size of USD31.16 billion and projected to reach USD35.90 billion in five years[2].

Well-known Japanese brands such as Shiseido, Bioré, Clé de Peau Beauté, Kose Corporation, SK-II, and many others have earned a well-deserved reputation for excellence, helping Japan stand at the forefront of global beauty.

While the foundation of Japanese beauty remains rooted in tradition, consumers’ modern-day personal care preferences and socioeconomic factors are changing the direction of the industry.

Redefining perfection

In addition to its own well-known brands, a substantial portion of Japan’s cosmetic imports come from South Korea and China.

According to Harumi Suzuki, Marketing Div at NIKKOL GROUP Nikko Chemicals, these neighbouring countries are having a direct influence on Japanese consumers.

Among the myriad of K-Beauty trends sweeping the globe, Suzuki cites the ‘Ulzzang’ makeup trend as a particularly significant influence on Japanese consumers. Translated as “best face” in Korean, Ulzzang is a makeup trend that focuses on achieving a doll-like appearance with clear, youthful, and dewy skin and ‘puppy dog eyes’.

Now, Suzuki says, Japanese consumers are looking towards China for the next trend. ‘Chaiborg’, a blend of ‘China’ and ‘cyborg’ is a captivating fusion of Chinese tradition and cyborg-inspired innovations, with the goal being to achieve a look so flawless and otherworldly, that it borders on inhuman[3].

“Chaiborg is gaining popularity on YouTube and TikTok following South Korea’s Ulzzang makeup trend,” he said. “This spread created an opportunity for Asian cosmetics to be accepted by the younger Japanese generation. Since SMS can instantly share content globally by transcending language barriers, Asian cosmetics make a buzz among Gen Z and then become popular with other generations in Japan.”

As the media and internet continue to accelerate beauty trends, this fusion of Chinese tradition and futuristic cyborg-inspired interest is redefining the Japanese concept of perfection.

Gentle on skin and the planet

While Japanese culture has long been associated with an impeccable sense of beauty, climate change and shifting weather conditions are increasingly posing challenges to this overall pursuit of perfection.

Japan, like many nations, is experiencing the effects of global warming; According to the G20 Climate Change Atlas, Japan stands to lose 3.72% of its GDP by 2050[4].

A perfect storm of rising temperatures and humidity, increased pollution, and changes in weather patterns have all given rise to a new set of beauty concerns. Nikko Chemicals’ Suzuki said Japan’s increasingly “humid summers” are causing Japanese consumers to “suffer from makeup collapse, enlarged pores and excessive sebum secretion due to high temperatures.”

He said: “Due to global warming, Tokyo recorded 86 days in 2023 with temperatures above 30 degrees. As a result, it’s getting more difficult to maintain the skin barrier function because air conditioner use creates dry, low humid conditions and causes skin fatigue due to temperature differences. We think there are great opportunities for growth in makeup items with water/sebum resistance and skincare with sebum care, which are strengths of SEA cosmetic products.”

Many consumers are also becoming increasingly conscious of ingredients with their sensitive skin issues in mind. According to Suzuki, sensitive skin has been reported by a large portion of the population. “In a research report by TPC Marketing Research, ‘Survey on Women’s Awareness and Situation Regarding Scalp and Hair’, 51.2% of females mentioned ‘I have sensitive skin’ and 67.6% of those women answered that their scalp is sensitive.

The number of consumers who self-declare that they have sensitive skin has increased 55% in two decades globally and this tendency is the same in Japan,” he explained. “Many consumers say they have sensitive skin on both their face and scalp, and the report suggests there are many complaints about rough scalp, especially among people who dye their gray hair. We think that countermeasure solutions are needed to take care of sensitive skin conditions in various areas.”

As consumers opt to avoid fragrances, harsh preservatives, and allergens, gentler ingredients that focus on hydration and skin barrier repair will continue to be a focus for the industry. According to Reiko Hasegawa, Senior Beauty and Personal Care Analyst at Mintel Reports Japan, traditional and natural ingredients such as Vitamin C “resonate well with Japanese consumers”.

“[They] appreciate upgrades in products and ingredients, but it often takes a while for them to trust new ingredients,” he advised. “Besides hyaluronic acid and collagen, Vitamin C is a favoured ingredient for its perceived safety and protection against skin damage. This presents an opportunity for brands to leverage Vitamin C’s potential and its derivatives to enhance safety and efficacy in skincare products.”

Sleeping your way to beauty

Further supporting the country’s holistic approach to skincare, according to Mintel, Japanese consumers are big believers in the power of beauty sleep.

While reports have shown the Japanese typically get less sleep per night than Western cultures[5], the link between sleep and beauty has taken centre stage. Hasegawa said there is a “growing focus” on the intersection of beauty and sleep which is being translated into the personal care industry. “Over half (54%) of Japanese consumers are saying they prioritise a good night’s sleep to enhance their appearance,” he said. “[Here], there are opportunities for brands to capitalise on the concept of beauty sleep and emphasise the importance of developing a nighttime skincare routine to support and maintain healthy-looking skin.”

In today’s ever-connected ‘always switched on’ world, more brands are beginning to focus on overnight skincare rituals, offering products with ingredients designed to improve sleep quality and maximise skin’s natural regeneration while we sleep.

Leading personal care ingredient manufacturer, Lucas Meyer Cosmetics, for example, will be showcasing its latest Immunight™ ingredient, a green-processed oil-soluble lavandin extract designed to reduce the effects of poor-quality sleep on skin, boosting nighttime skin recovery and targeting the improvement of sleep quality by inhalation of olfactory compounds at this year’s in-cosmetics Asia.

In addition, the company’s Regenight™ also increases nighttime recovery and boosts melatonin regenerative and protective pathway to improve skin regeneration and reduce daily damage. Also at the event will be ImDerma Laboratories Co., Ltd’s Imdermalab ® ArMorpheus, which effectively relaxes brain waves and assists sleeping efficiency by up to 81%.

The Japanese beauty and personal care industry has masterfully harnessed its heritage and combined it with modernity to create an industry that exemplifies grace and sophistication to the world. Its unique approach, combining tradition with innovation, a minimalist philosophy, traditional ingredients, and cutting-edge research and development, has resulted in a beauty market that is unmatched in its elegance.

This year, in-cosmetics Asia is poised to host 22 leading Japanese suppliers set to unveil their latest creations aimed at addressing a myriad of current trends, including Nikko Chemicals, Miyoshi Kasei, Ogawa & Co., Ltd., Yamakawa & Company, Ltd., Ikeda Corporation and more.

Nikko Chemicals will showcase NIKKOL LECINOL® MFL, a highly safe multi-functional ingredient that can improve skin barrier ability, protect against pollution-induced damage, suppress pore enlargement due to immature differentiation, and use nerve cell mechanisms for care. Meanwhile, Miyoshi Kasei, global leader in the development and manufacture of surface treated pigments and mineral fillers, will introduce MiyoNAT CAI, its next generation acylated amino acid treatment compatible with various oils used in cosmetics thanks to its superior dispersibility and colour development.

in-cosmetics Asia will return to Bangkok, Thailand from 7-9 November 2023. For more information or to sign up for the event, visit the website.

[1] Reference 
[2] Reference 
[3] Reference 
[4] Reference 
[5] Reference

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