Korean vs. Japanese skincare: Which is better?

After years of this ongoing love affair with Korean skincare, I started to wonder what Asia had going on over there. They’d either figured out the fountain of youth, or a good substitute for it, because Asian women had the sort of skin I always wanted: Glowing, healthy, and above all, porcelain.

You see, I was always the pale girl that refused to tan and got made fun of for having painfully white legs (once back in my retail days a customer sniffed disapprovingly at me after asking why I didn’t get a tan and said, “Well, if you WANT to look like that…”). Mind you, that same dude was wearing a tasseled white scarf over his three-piece suit and looked like a total asshat.

At any rate, finding skincare that treasured pale, white skin was a gift for me that made me feel a lot more at home in the world. And my curiousity has been on the rise about Japanese products since seeing lines like Tatcha (although their Rice Enzyme Powder made my face miserable with its whopping pH of 9) and  Cure’s Natural Aqua Gel. So I really wanted to learn more about what Japanese skincare had in common with Korean — as well as how it differed.

Enter this absolutely illuminating book that I just got as a Christmas gift (thanks Mama!) all about the Japanese skincare philosophy, “The Japanese Skincare Revolution: How To Have the Most Beautiful Skin of Your Life at Any Age,” by Chizu Saeki, who basically invented the sheet mask decades ago, so you can thank her in some part for that addiction! She’s the woman on the cover, which I was instantly attracted to for several reasons: One, because she’s clearly older (72), two, because her skin is not only pretty but she is glowing with happiness in the photo, and three, because she has mildly pink hair. What a consummate badass.


If you care about skincare, you MUST read this book. I especially recommend it if you are religious about Korean skincare, because it does have some theories that clash with the cult of kbeauty — and I personally enjoy having different perspectives in my own learning experiences. Plus, as skincare has come to further fascinate me, I’ve wanted to learn a lot more about different philosophies within it and how much truth there is to them.

Before you get into the book’s practices, you learn a bit about this glowing woman, who is hard not to admire. She’s been in the industry for 45 years, spending much of that time with Christian Dior and Guerlain. She has her own salon and beauty school in Tokyo. She wrote her first book at 60, and has written over 30 books since. And she says that the most essential skincare tool we need we already have: Our own hands.

One approach of Saeki’s that majorly differs from k-beauty’s is her non-emphasis on products. She does encourage that women pamper their faces, but everything she shows off in her book is basic: Cotton squares, water, and your hands. The book has no list of products to run out and get. And rather than be about he latest new thing, Saeki emphasizes care of the entire body, including the heart and mind. What we eat, how we sleep, how much water we drink, and how we talk to ourselves in the mirror each day are an integral part of it all.

“When I give counseling to people, I don’t ask about their skin; I ask about their life,” Saeki said in a 2009 interview with The Japan Times. “Everything going on inside you comes out on your skin.”

I was prone to buying tons of stuff when I started my k-beauty journey, but I find now as I progress I feel I want to move away from that and towards more careful choices. There’s a fine line between having a healthy regime and having a bloated one, in my opinion. I’m also a person who will binge and overspend at times to avoid my real feelings about something troublesome, and there’s nothing good for my heart and mind about that.

Another philosophy that Saeki recommends is to take one day a week to give your skin a break by doing literally nothing to it at all. No washing, no products. I could just imagine the k-beauty community fuming over that advice! Personally, it appealed to me because I trust the intelligence of the body, and I like her concept that the skin knows what to do and enjoys the break. I’ll be giving this method a shot in the future to see what I think.

While Saeki’s ideas are just one slice of the Japanese beauty code, I really enjoyed her alternate take on some of the ideas I have been learning these past few years since discovering k-beauty. Which products work best for you is very much your own journey, so I can’t say that Korean or Japanese skincare is better or worse. But delving into Saeki’s philosophy certainly enriched my own idea of what skincare is to me, which I am learning is a constantly developing vision.

What are your experiences with the Japanese skincare approach and products?



7 Comments Add yours

  1. clinkit2011 says:

    I’m super intrigued by this book! It seems to be really well-rounded from your description of it. I would love to learn more about how to take care of skin, body, and mind.. Want!


  2. Jessica says:

    This book sounds really interesting! I wish Japanese products were as easily accessible as Korean products to my area, but alas they are not. I used to be fairly well versed in Taiwanese skincare, but a few major differences I have read about Korean & Japanese skincare are product formulation and marketing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. colettebennett says:

      I know so little about Taiwanese skincare…am I missing out on anything great?


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