Do you know your K-Beauty from your J-Beauty?

Snail mucin, fermented yeast, and sheet masks—most of us are familiar with Korean beauty (K-beauty.) But slowly edging its way into the beauty world is J-beauty from Japan, whose lesser known products are gaining momentum. HEALTH speaks with renowned K-beauty expert Jude Chao— whose blog ‘Fifty Shades of Snail’ makes her an expert on the subject.


“The general concepts of K-beauty and J-beauty are similar; both emphasize consistent and thorough makeup removal and cleansing (cleansing oils and the double cleansing routine are commonplace in both markets), hydrating skincare products, skin brightening and ‘whitening’ products, and layered, hydrating skincare routines. Both K-beauty and J-beauty also strongly emphasize strong sun protection, and both Korean and Japanese brands offer a variety of cosmetically elegant and high-protection daily use sunscreens for the face. There are some minor differences of terminology. For example, in Korean beauty, hydrating toners are called ‘toner’ or ‘skin’ while in Japanese beauty, you’ll often find such a product referred to as ‘lotion.’”


“I have found over the past few years that due to the Korean beauty industry’s substantially greater focus on overseas markets than the Japanese beauty industries, K-beauty products tend to be more trend-driven. A greater variety of new releases make their way into the consciousness of Western K-beauty fans. Mass market products are often more accessible to Western consumers, labeled in English as well as Korean, and developed to stand out among a very crowded and competitive global market. There is a huge range of potential ‘steps,’ a near-infinite variety of star ingredients, and development of many different types of face masks and other occasional use products to supplement the daily routine.”


“Until recently, it could be argued that the Japanese beauty industry was more insular and focused on the domestic market. English labeling seems to be much less common, and ingredients innovations, marketing, and formulations are more conservative, less trend-driven. I think this is where the stereotype of Japanese skincare as more ‘simple’ and ‘elegant’ has come from—there appears to be a narrower range of featured ingredients and a less globally accessible aesthetic of packaging. Of course there are exceptions to both rules. The Korean government has put a lot of investment behind promoting and exporting K-beauty abroad, and that has driven many brands’ formulation and marketing decisions.”


“The ultimate in any East Asian beauty market is going to be perfectly smooth, firm, unblemished, fair, and even-toned skin that has a hydrated bounce and luminous glow. Our goal is not to push any particular standard or trendy skin ‘ideal.’ We want to empower our audience with accurate information so that they can make their own informed choices and achieve their own ideal of beauty, no matter what shade or shape that is.”


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