Life in Japan The Beauty Files

Learning From the Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare

I’m back with a (very) lengthy update to The Beauty Files. There’s a lot of information to cover, and I did lots of  research in regards to the aging process and Japanese skincare regulations/ingredients/products. “Learning From the Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare” is divided into several parts:

This post contains affiliate links.

Learning From the Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare

  1. A Look At The Causes Of Aging
  2. The Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare
  3. Reevaluating Your Skincare Routine
  4. Selecting the Right Japanese “Anti-aging” Skincare Products
  5. Japanese Anti-Aging Products For Your Skin Type

The Causes of Aging

There are a remarkable number of changes that occur underneath the layers of our skin in our 20s and 30s. I’ll do a quick rundown of what I’ve discovered as I prepare for my Cosmetic Licensing exam.

Let’s start at the surface.

The skin turnover cycle, the process in which new cells replace old cells, slows down. In our 20s, this process takes and average of 28 days. As we get older, it’s anywhere between 45 to 60+to 90 or more days.

In comparison, the skin turnover cycle in infants and children is 3-5 days. No wonder they’ve got such enviably plump and smooth skin!

A slower skin turnover cycle results in dull and dry skin as dead skin cells accumulate on the surface. Pores enlarge with a mixture of dead skin cells and oil, causing blemishes and acne.

Now, let’s look at the structural changes to skin that occur as we age:

First, the levels of collagen and elastin, elastic tissue that support the skin, slowly decrease. The fat beneath our skin loses volume, and causes skin to sag and sink.

Next, fat deposits underneath the skin shift and redistribute, gathering in the lower part of the face.

Lastly, our skin becomes thin, translucent, and prone to bruises as the epidermis (surface layer of skin) and blood vessel walls thin out. (WebMD; Harvard Health)

But, wait, there’s more to aging! I haven’t gotten to fine lines and wrinkles, which are a result of several factors:

Fine lines form on dry, thinning skin. This is why fine lines tend to appear first around the eyes, where skin is thin, and around the mouth, where skin is prone to dryness. Smoking and excess exposure to the sun also cause fine lines.

Repeated facial muscle movement causes smile lines around the mouth, vertical frown lines between the eyes, horizontal forehead lines, and lip lines. Deep wrinkles also form when collagen and elastin levels decrease.

TL;DR: Aging, like Thanos, is inevitable, so what can we do about it?

Well… we can’t reverse the aging process because it’s a natural part of life. We can, however, temporarily correct signs of the aging process with cosmetic procedures. There’s injectables, laser resurfacing, LED light therapy, face lifts, etc.

In my case, I haven’t ruled out the possibility of injectables or laser treatments. (If anything, I’d love to hear the honest experiences of those who’ve had work done so I know what to expect!)

With that said, I’m concerned about my crow’s feet and smile lines. As I research Japanese products to try, I’ve noticed a refreshingly honest approach to aging.

Learning From the Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare

All cosmetics sold in Japan must meet strict ingredient guidelines. (You can see an example of this in my whitening products post). Product labels advertising must meet specific industry standards set and enforced by the Japan Cosmetics Industry Association.

Cosmetics advertising standards are taken very seriously in Japan.

In my personal experience working with Japanese brands, I’ve had to resubmit drafts for a few posts because my text didn’t meet advertising standards. These guidelines are updated yearly, and are available online.

The most recent version of the Japan Cosmetics Industry Association Proper Advertising Guidelines For Cosmetics was updated in June 2020 and is available here in PDF format (link in Japanese). I’ll be referring to this specific document when talking about Japanese “anti-aging” skincare products, which are listed on pages 38-40.

Japanese “anti-aging” skincare products are formulated and marketed under the label of  “aging care” (エイジングケア | eijingu kea).

By legal definition, this means that these skincare products are formulated to treat (“take care of”) certain skin troubles that occur as one ages. Furthermore, these products deliver documented results in response to said skincare concerns (Page 39).

Products advertised as “aging care,” which are intended to treat skincare concerns related to the aging process, must meet the following definition guidelines and expressions, and must not deviate from said definitions (Page 38).

Aging care products in Japan are not allowed to market false promises to consumers with phrases such as, “turn back the hands of time,” “prevents aging,” “prevents wrinkles and fine lines.”

“The EU has a category of cosmetics called Anti-Wrinkle Products, and while the United States may not have such a category, it is possible to state temporary improvement of wrinkles as an efficacy claim on products labels. In Japan, however, it is not acceptable to use expressions related to wrinkles on product labels, other than as an effect of makeup”.

How does this compare with “anti-aging” cosmetics in the EU and United States?

“The EU has a category of cosmetics called Anti-Wrinkle Products, and while the United States may not have such a category, it is possible to state temporary improvement of wrinkles as an efficacy claim on products labels.

“In Japan, however, it is not acceptable to use expressions related to wrinkles on product labels, other than as an effect of makeup.” (Task Force Committee for Evaluation of Anti-Aging Function, “Guidelines for Evaluation of Anti-Wrinkle Products.” Journal of Japanese Cosmetic Science Society)

Why is the Japan Cosmetics Industry Association so strict?

The first line under the “aging care” section in the Proper Advertising Guidelines For Cosmetics literally states: “It goes without saying that aging is a natural [Divine] providence we all experience.”

(人は皆加齢することは自然の摂理であることは言うまでもない。| Hito wa minna karei suru koto wa shizen no setsuri de aru koto wa iu made mo nai.)

In fact, this respectful approach to the inevitability of loss, change, and death is deeply rooted in Buddhism, one of Japan’s major religions.

I’d like to share an article that I came across, “Elderhood: A Buddhist Approach to Aging Well.” It’s a thoughtfully written piece that describes “a contemplative approach to growing old and aging well” through Buddhist teachings.

What can we learn from the Japanese approach to aging and industry standards regarding “anti-aging” skincare?

Learning From The Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare — Reevaluate Your Skincare Routine

As our skin cells die, they are replaced by newer cells. But, the skin cell turnover cycle slows down as we age. It visibly marks the passage of time on our faces in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, sunspots, and scars.

But, there’s no need to throw out every single skincare product that you own and buy everything that has “anti-aging” on it. Rather, take a moment to evaluate your current skincare routine, your skin’s condition, and skin concerns.

Take Action With These Three Steps

Perhaps one of the best things that we can do for our skin is to limit exposure to UV rays and use sunscreen.

If you’ve spent just one summer in Japan, it’s very likely that you’ve seen women dressed head to toe in peculiar, almost comical, garments, even when temperatures soar into the mid 30s!

But, there’s a reason to this madness! UV exposure accelerates the natural aging process. It can also increase one’s risk of skin cancer.

Another step we can take is double cleansing and exfoliation.

Yes, double cleansing adds an extra step to your skincare routine. But, it’s an effective way to remove dead skin cells, makeup, sunscreen, dirt, dust, and pollution that accumulate on the surface of the skin. Likewise, regular exfoliation improves cellular turnover and brightens the skin.

Lastly, we can’t forget how important it is to moisturize the skin!

Dryness causes dull skin and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Switch to hydrating toners/lotions and apply gels and creams to nourish the skin overnight.

As you see, the Japanese “anti-aging” approach is to take preventive measures through a minimalist skincare routine. There’s no rush to frantically (trying) to turn back the hands of time.

Selecting the Right Japanese “Anti-Aging” Skincare Products

Now, let’s look at a few common ingredients in Japanese “aging care” products.

Remember to apply and layer products from thinnest to thickest consistency to boost absorption and lock in moisture. I’ve selected a few items to add into your existing skin care routine to help improve skin tone and texture.

  • Vitamin A (ビタミンA | bitamin ei or ビタミンA誘導体 | bitamin ei yuudoutai) and its derivatives, retinoids (レチノール | retino-ru or レチノイド | rechinoido):
    • Promote skin cell turnover and reduce wrinkles by stimulating collagen production
    • Try: SANA Nameraka Isoflavone Wrinkle Eye Cream — Amazon | Amazon Japan

  • Peptides (ペプチド | pepuchido):
    • Strings of amino acids (building blocks that make up protein in the skin) that stimulate the body to produce more collagen and elastin fibers
    • Try: DHC Queen of Serum —  Amazon Japan

  • Vitamin C (ビタミンC | bitamin shi-)  and Vitamin E (ビタミンE | bitamin i-):
    • Oxidation-inhibiting antioxidants that stop free radicals, unstable molecules that break down collagen fibers.
    • Try: Dr.Ci:LaBo VC100 Essence Lotion (Toner) — Amazon | Amazon Japan

 

  • Hyaluronic acid (ヒアルロン酸 | hiaruron san) and ceramides (セラミド | seramido)
    • These hydrate the skin, giving it a smoother appearance while plumping fine lines, and locking in moisture.
    • Try: Hyalo One Moisture Serum All in One Gel — Amazon Japan

Notice anything about these ingredients?

They all stimulate the production of collagen (コラーゲン | collagen)!

Collagen makes skin appear plumper and more youthful. Experts still debate the effectiveness of topical collagen as the molecules are simply too big to penetrate the skin’s surface (epidermis) and get down to the dermis level where collagen supports the skin. (Cedars Sinai)

Collagen products, however, will moisturize your skin and provide temporary results on the surface level. (For effective Japanese collagen “aging care” products, check out my review of the DHC Super Collagen Supreme Premium Sheet Mask!)

Japanese Anti-Aging Products For Your Skin Type

Last up is a selection of Japanese aging care products to address your specific skin type.

Combination Skin

Choose a gentle cleanser and add balance with a hydrating lotion (toner). Use an AHA/BHA + ceramide formula to remove dead skin cells and add moisture. Try:

TUNEMAKERS Undiluted Solution Peeling Lotion — Amazon Japan


FANCL Moist Refine Lotion II — Amazon | Amazon Japan

Dull, Dry Skin

Remove dead skin cells with exfoliation peels or an AHA/BHA serum to reveal the newer skin cells underneath. Apply a rich cream at night to repair and restore dry skin. Try:

AHA Cleansing Research Renew Bright Clear Oil Gel Cleansing — Amazon Japan

Shiseido Elixir Superieur Lifting Night Cream —  Amazon | Amazon Japan

Oily Skin

Choose foamy facial cleansers to dissolve excess sebum. Deep cleaning clogged pores will prevent blemishes and acne. At night, apply oil-free hydrating gel products with hyaluronic acid. Try:


Phiten Aquagold Face Wash — Amazon Japan


Evita Botanic Vital Deep Moisture Gel — Amazon | Amazon Japan

Sensitive Skin

Select products that gently remove dirt and clogged pores without causing irritation. Stay clear of products with fragrances and artificial colors. Allow skin to heal overnight with a deep, nourishing cream. Try:


MUJI Light Toning Water High Moisture — Amazon | Amazon Japan


Nanoa SC (Stem Cell) Cream — Amazon Japan

If you’re wondering where all the sheet masks are, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!  The final installment in my anti-aging skincare series takes a look at 5 10 anti-aging sheet masks from Japan! Until then, start with my review of LuLuLun Precious White, Red, and Green Sheet Masks. They’re Lululun’s first foray into “aging care” products!

Learning From The Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare — Sources

[Anti-Aging] Skincare will not prevent aging (SkincareAddiction Subreddit)

Collagen for Your Skin: Healthy or Hype? (Cedars Sinai)

Divine Providence (Wikipedia)

The Effects of Aging on Skin (WebMD)

Elderhood: A Buddhist Approach to Aging Well (HuffPost)

Guidelines for Evaluation of Anti-Wrinkle Products.” (Journal of Japanese Cosmetic Science Society)

Proper Advertising Guidelines For Cosmetics (Japan Cosmetics Industry Association)

Why Your Face Ages and What You Can Do (Harvard Health)

Learning From The Japanese Approach To Anti-Aging Skincare

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