The Ultimate J-Beauty Guide to Winter Skincare

Winter is the season for snuggles and cuddling, and who wants to deal with chapped lips, cracked hands, dry skin, and flaky patches? Following up my list of Japanese skincare products to fight winter dryness is the ultimate J-beauty guide to winter skincare.

You’ll find some crossover with the tips and items featured in my post about Japanese anti-aging skincare philosophy. This is mainly because the aging process makes skin more susceptible to dryness and dry skin enhances the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Add in a winter climate, long hot baths and stale indoor air, and you have the perfect recipe for a skincare disaster!

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The Ultimate J-Beauty Guide to Winter Skincare — The Basics

What’s the Difference Between “Hydrating” and “Moisturizing”?

To keep winter dryness at bay, you’ll need products that hydrate and moisturize your skin. While the terms are used interchangeably and have the same goal of healing dehydrated skin, they have fundamentally different properties.

Hydrating products work by increasing the water content in your skin cells. On the other hand, moisturizing products trap and lock in moisture to keep skin irresistibly soft and smooth to the touch.

“Hydration makes our skin feel soft, but it won’t stay soft if there is no oil to protect that hydration from escaping. If hydration escapes, skin ends up dry and flaky. However, putting oil on dehydrated skin may visibly smooth it, but it will still be lacking that soft, bouncy feeling that comes from hydration.” (Wander Beauty)

TL:DR* Together, “hydrating” and “moisturizing” products are an effective duo that you’ll want in your skincare regime this winter! 

Japanese Vocabulary List

Keep an eye out for these words when you’re browsing the aisles on your next drugstore trip or online shopping marathon for winter skincare items:

保湿 | hoshitsu | moisturize/hydrate

潤い | uruoi | moisture

モイスチャー | moisucha- | moisture

乾燥肌 | kansou hada | dry skin

肌荒 | hada are | rough skin

しっとり | shittori | dewy

And, here are 5 winter skincare ingredients to look for when shopping for Japanese skincare items:

1. Ceramides (セラミド | seramido)

    • Fatty acids that naturally occur in skin and create a barrier that locks in moisture.

2. Collagen (コラーゲン | kora-gen)

    • A naturally occurring protein that promotes skin hydration, improves the elasticity of the skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles (read more about collagen as a skincare ingredient here:)

3. Hyaluronic acid (ヒアルロン酸 | hiaruron san)

    • Increases skin moisture and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

4. Royal Jelly (ローヤルゼリー | ro-yaru zeri-)

    • Contains natural vitamins and minerals that lead to increased collagen production. gelatinous substance produced by honey bees to feed the queen bees and their young. It’s

5. Shea Butter (シアバッター | shia batta-)

    • A creamy fat rich in vitamins A, E, and F that is extracted from the nut of the shea tree and commonly used as a moisturizing ingredient in skin and hair care.

Basic Winter Skincare Routine

Your winter skincare products are only as effective as your skincare routine and lifestyle habits. Be sure to double cleanse, exfoliate regularly, hydrate, and wear UV protection.

Double Cleanse

Why double cleanse? Essentially, double-cleansing (when done right) prevents your skin from losing its natural oils, which is very important when you’re trying to protect your skin from winter dryness. Double cleansing is also an effective way to remove dead skin cells, makeup, sunscreen, dirt, dust, and pollution that accumulate on the surface of the skin. Check out 10 of Japan’s top cleansing oils here: Top Japanese Cleansing Oils.

Here are 5 of my favorite cleansing products:

Bifesta Micellar Cleansing Water Moist


Bifesta Micellar Cleansing Water Moist is a “no rinse” cleanser that uses 2 kinds of hyaluronic acid to hydrate while tiny micelle particles dissolve makeup, dirt and oil from the skin’s surface. The cost performance of this cleanser is phenomenal. It’s a 400 mL pump bottle that retails for around 1,000 yen and refill pouches are available. If you opt for a tenugui facial cloth instead of cotton wipes you’ll save more!

Bifesta Micellar Cleansing Water Moist – Amazon Japan

Cleansing Research Wash Cleansing b

Cleansing Research is a line of apple-scented AHA cleansing products from the BCL Company. (AKA the company that makes those fruity Saborino morning sheet masks!). I AHA, or alpha hydroxy acids, work by helping the skin shed its old skin cells and stimulate the production of collagen. Perfect for dealing with fine lines !I like using this one as a nighttime cleanser because it lathers up into a creamy moisturizing face wash that exfoliates without leaving my skin feeling tight afterwards.

Cleansing Research Wash Cleansing b – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Comeitto Rice Cleansing Balm

Are you ready to replace your current cleansing balm? Because this stuff feels like liquid silk when it makes contact with your skin. Comeitto is an organic skincare brand that uses rice as their main ingredient. Their Rice Cleansing Balm uses BioDTox, an ingredient made with citrus, aloe and broccoli extracts, to deep cleanse, tighten pores, and moisturize the skin.

Comeitto Rice Cleansing Balm – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Skinvill Hot Cleansing Gel

Skinvill Hot Cleansing Gel is a thick gel with a honey-like consistency and sweet, citrus scent. This is wonderful on cold nights because it gradually warms as you work it gently into your skin to cleanse. It has Vitamins A, C, and E in its formula to treat skin concerns.

Skinvill Hot Cleansing Gel – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi+ Pollutant & Dullness Clarifying Cleansing Oil


Banish dull, lifeless skin with Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi+ Pollutant & Dullness Clarifying Cleansing Oil. Massage into the skin and rinse with warm water to remove makeup and sunscreen without damaging the skin and delicate areas around the eyes and mouth for softer, radiant skin.

Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi+ Pollutant & Dullness Clarifying Cleansing Oil – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Exfoliate

Exfoliation diminishes the appearance of dull skin caused by dry, flaky patches o your face and body. Regular exfoliation also stimulates skin cell turnover, the cycle in which old skin cells are replaced with new skin cells. This leaves you with fresh, clear skin which allows for hydrating skincare products to penetrate and nourish your skin.

Here are few of my favorite exfoliating J-beauty items:

DetClear Bright & Peel Fruit Peeling Jelly


DetClear Bright & Peel Fruits Peeling Jelly is one of my favorite peeling products. ( I got to work with them on a campaign, and that was truly a dream come true!) It uses both AHA and BHA to exfoliate the skin. The AHA comes from 7 different fruit extracts and the BHA comes from plant extracts. I use this 2-3 a week on my face. I also use it in the shower on my shoulders, décolletage, elbows, knees, and butt!

DetClear Bright & Peel Fruit Peeling Jelly – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Perorin Foot Peeling Socks


If you haven’t ever tried these “foot peeling” booties from Japan, here’s how they work. Simply place your feet in the plastic booties, secure the openings to the ankle with the tape provided, and let your feet soak for an hour. You won’t see immediate results, but after a few days, the skin on the soles of your feet will peel away to reveal super soft and smooth underneath!

Perorin Foot Peeling Socks – Amazon | Amazon Japan

House of Rose Original Oh Baby! Body Scrub


Just like your face, the skin on our bodies need exfoliation in order to remove all those dead skin cells accumulating on the surface. House of Rose Original Oh Baby! Body Scrub is like a paste that uses fine granules to remove dead skin cells on the surface of your body. The lovely rose scent is not overpowering and leaves you feeling relaxed.

House of Rose Original Oh Baby! Body Scrub – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Tunemakers Undiluted Solution Peeling Lotion


Tunemakers is a brand of “concentrated/undiluted” beauty products that stands out thanks to its simple packaging and filler-free formulas. Undiluted Solution Peeling Lotion is a wipe-off toner with a 5:3:2 ratio of AHA made with fruit extracts, fermented AHA made with fruit extracts, and ceramides to brighten and smooth the skin and remove blackheads.

Tunemakers Undiluted Solution Peeling Lotion – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Hydrate

When I mentioned “stay hydrated,” you probably thought I meant drink 8+ glasses of water a day. But, what I really mean is keep your skin hydrated! Here are 5 of my favorite hydrating toners, sheet masks and night creams from Japan:

Lululun Precious Cream


LuLuLun Precious Cream works wonders with the Precious Red sheet masks (see next entry). It has a rich, pudding-like consistency that leaves a silky, non-greasy layer of moisture on my skin. I’ve been using the Precious Cream as the final step in my winter nighttime skin routine
and it does its job of delivering an overnight boost of moisturize.

Lululun Precious Cream – Amazon

Lululun Precious Red Sheet Mask


The Lululun Precious series is the “grown up” version of its original Blue, White, and Red sheet masks and is the brand’s first “aging” skincare line. These daily sheet masks help diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by adding intensive moisture to the skin. The essence contains no less than 4 different kinds of ingredients derived from rice to add intense moisture.

Lululun Precious Red Sheet Mask – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Obagi X Lift Lotion

Ever since I worked on a campaign for Obagi to promote this toner, it’s seriously become one of my favorites. Unlike many toners which can be watery, Obagi Lift X Lotion has a high viscosity, like an oil. It also has a faint floral fragrance that’s really relaxing, so I like to use this after a long bath and after exfoliating with my original [EDO BEAUTY LAB] Green Radiance Clay Mask.

Obagi X Lift Lotion – Amazon Japan

Panasonic Nanoe Facial Steamer EH-SA3A-P

J-beauty isn’t just sheet masks, toners, and serums. There’s a fantastic assortment of beauty tools available to relieve dry skin, like this Panasonic Nanoe Facial Steamer. It releases a steady stream of “nano-sized electrostatic atomised water particles” into a purified mist that moisturises the skin. As a bonus, it also helps alleviate sinus pressure! This particular model has 2 “moisture” (保湿 | hoshitsu) modes and a deep cleansing mode, too.

Panasonic Nanoe Facial Steamer EH-SA3A-P – Amazon Japan

Sana Nameraka Wrinkle Eye Cream

Sana Nameraka Wrinkle Eye Cream is a rich, nourishing cream that uses fermented soy milk, retinol and Vitamin E to brighten the under eye area, hydrate, and plump fine lines. While I haven’t noticed any significant brightening (yet), this stuff is amazing when applied under the eyes and around the mouth!

Sana Nameraka Wrinkle Eye Cream – Amazon | Amazon Japan

UV Protection

UV exposure accelerates the natural aging process, exacerbates dry skin problems, and it can also increase one’s risk of skin cancer. But, since it’s winter, you’re off the hook, right? NOPE!

For starters, snow is a wonderful medium for refracting the sun’s rays. So, not only are you exposed to the sun’s rays beaming from the sky, you’re also getting an extra dose from the rays that are refracted off the ground. Plus, the winter cold might actually have you actively seeking out the warmth of the sun, preventing you from feeling a burning sensation. Even on overcast, dreary days, you still need to avoid exposing your skin to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

If you’re doing winter sports or are just getting silly in the snow with your kids, it’s a good idea to invest in a quality pair of snow goggles/sunglasses with UV protection. As an extra precaution, apply a SPF lip balm regularly, and don’t forget to wear a hat to avoid sunburn on your ears and scalp. Here are my favorite Japanese sunscreens, SPF lip balms, and SPF hand creams:

Allie Nuance Change UV Gel Sunscreen

After receiving several full and sample size bottles of Allie this summer (courtesy of My Little Box and Raxy Beauty Box), I am officially a fan of the fresh, dewy finish. Now, it’s worth noting here that Allie is a Japanese sunscreen brand known for its whitening/brightening qualities. (See my post here on Japanese whitening products for more details.) However, I wasn’t about to let 2 full-sized bottles of good sunscreen go to waste!

Nuance Change UV Gel Bright White SPF50+PA++++

Allie Nuance Change UV Gel Bright White, as its name implies, is a whitening sunscreen. It does not “bleach” the skin, but rather gives a translucent sheen (basically a whitecast, if that makes sense). But, in the case of my complexion, the differences aren’t too noticeable. It says that it’s a gel, but it’s a very smooth cream that rubs in evenly.

Allie Nuance Change UV Gel Bright White – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Nuance Change UV Gel Lucent Breeze SPF50+PA++++

Allie Nuance Change UV Gel Lucent Breeze has a slight blue tint but gives my skin a beautiful glow. It also has a summery, citrus/lemongrass scent and cooling effect. Like Allie Nuance Change UV Gel Bright White, this one is a “gel” with creamy properties.

Allie Nuance Change UV Gel Lucent Breeze – Amazon | Amazon Japan

Atrix Beauty Charge Premium Cherry Blossom Scent Hand Cream

Atrix is one of my favorite Japanese hand creams and this is the “premium” version of Atrix’s hand cream. It contains moisturizing ingredients like cherry blossom leaf extract, collagen, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. As a bonus, it’s also SPF 20/PA+ to block UV rays and prevent sun spots.

Atrix Beauty Charge Premium Cherry Blossom Scent Hand Cream – Amazon Japan

Nivea Rich Care & Color Lip Balm SPF 20 PA++


If you’re in Japan you might have noticed two things about Nivea: (1) The formulation of its classic blue tin cream is different and (2) there’s a whole new world of Nivea products that are only available in Japan. Nivea Rich Care & Color Lip Balm is formulated with macadamia nut oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil. It moisturizes and nourishes while giving the lips a natural tint and protection from UV rays.

Nivea Rich Care & Color Lip Balm – Amazon | Amazon Japan

How To Layer Your Winter Skincare Items

So, we’ve gone over what ingredients to look out for when shopping for winter skincare products in Japan, and I’ve introduced a few of my favorites, too. Now it’s time to talk about how to effectively layer your winter skincare items.

Whether you’re going the K-Beauty 10 step routine or have a much simpler skincare routine, it’s important to layer your skincare items in a certain order to boost their hydrating and moisture-retention properties. AM Routine:

In the morning you’ve probably got a lot to do, so let’s keep it simple.

  1. After washing your face with a nourishing cleanser, gently pat dry.
  2. Apply a facial mist, toner, or essence to hydrate.
  3. Follow up with moisturizing gel or cream to lock in hydration.
  4. Apply sunscreen.

PM Routine:

Your evening routine will be just as simple because you don’t want to irritate dry skin with unnecessary steps and treatments.

  1. Start your nighttime routine with a cleansing oil to remove makeup, sunscreen, and a day’s worth of pollutants and dirt.
  2. Follow up with a cream cleanser or micellar water.
  3. Next, apply a hydrating toner (and sheet mask and/or serum, if that’s on the agenda!).
  4. As the final step, apply a night cream and eye cream, if necessary.

NOTE: Remember to exfoliate 1-2 times a week, depending on your skin condition. Ideally you should exfoliate after cleansing so your other skincare products can work their magic on your dry skin.

The Ultimate J-Beauty Guide to Winter Skincare — Final Words

Winter skincare is all about protecting and restoring your skin’s moisture in order to prevent dry, flaky, and itchy skin. Stay hydrated with nourishing products, protect your skin from harmful UV rays, and stick to a simple skincare routine that includes double cleansing and regular exfoliation.

For more hydrating and moisturizing J-beauty products to keep your skin smooth from head to toe, be sure to check out my post: Japanese skincare products to fight winter dryness.

Ready to switch from winter to spring skincare? I’ve got you covered with a post via [EDO BEAUTY LAB]: Transition From Winter Spring Skincare.

The Ultimate J-Beauty Guide to Winter Skincare

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