Expert Advice

3 Self-care Truths from Legendary Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Ishii

As Japan's foremost cosmetic dermatologist, it's no wonder that we still look to Dr. Ishii's insights about skincare to guide us today. Here are three of his most timeless truths.
Dr. Ishii

The Pioneer of Cosmetic Dermatology 

Today, visiting a dermatologist when you’re concerned about your skin is a fairly common practice. As the importance of self-care has grown, so too has our trust in the expertise and guidance of such specialists. In fact, dermatologists are now responsible for turning more people on to new skincare products than friends or influencers.  


However, back in 1970s Japan, dermatology as a function of beauty and self-care was unheard of. For Dr. Reijiro Ishii, specializing in dermatology at that time meant primarily caring for patients with severe medical skin conditions like burns. It took an eye-opening experience with a distraught patient for Dr. Ishii to realize the true potential of cosmetic dermatology for holistic wellness, and in 1973 he established the first cosmetic dermatology clinic in Japan. The clinic, with its revolutionary attached esthetic salon, sparked a newfound appreciation of medically-guided skincare throughout the country. Dr. Ishii then went on to become the chief consulting physician for major cosmetic brands, such as Kanebo and Max Factor, and was also behind the development of SK-II and its bestselling Facial Treatment Essence. 


It’s no wonder then, that as Japan’s foremost cosmetic dermatologist—with a wealth of pioneering experience spanning more than 40 years—we still look to Dr. Ishii’s insights about skincare to guide us today. While his contributions to the industry are many, there are definitely a few classic principles that stand out to Shikō Beauty Collective. We’ve narrowed down the most special of Dr. Ishii’s insights to three timeless truths you need to know: 

  1. Skin Health Impacts Overall Wellness 
  2. Medicine Facilitates the Pursuit of Beauty 
  3. The Best Beauty Serum Is Your Smile 

Your Skin’s Health Impacts Your Overall Wellness. 

While working as a dermatologist at Japan Red Cross Central Hospital and treating patients with serious medical conditions, Dr. Ishii encountered a patient looking for help with her severe acne. When he downplayed her frustrations as “not a matter of life and death”, the woman broke down. It was then that Dr. Ishii realized the treatment of skin conditions wasn’t about the purely functional or practical elements of skincare; the condition of a person’s skin could impact their happiness, mental health, and emotional wellbeing, in addition to their physical health. 


Skin is our biggest organ and, oftentimes, the most outwardly visible representation of ourselves to others. Skin ailments like eczema and acne can also be very physically painful, which compounds feelings of stress, anxiety, or emotional discomfort about their visibility. These stressors can then continue to exacerbate skin issues, creating a vicious circle of suffering. Dr. Ishii’s experience underscored the fact that, when your skin looks and feels healthy, it contributes to your overall sense of wellness—and when it doesn’t, you can feel that pain everywhere, too. This is what inspired Dr. Ishii to focus on developing treatments, guided by medical knowledge, that improve skin health and holistic healing. 


“Since 1973, Dr. Ishii has been asking what medicine can do for the pursuit of human beauty.”

Medicine Facilitates the Pursuit of Beauty. 

After his fateful encounter with the patient at Japan Red Cross Central Hospital, Dr. Ishii was determined to use his expertise to help as many people as possible. He understood that medicine could provide an essential bridge that connects skin health with overall health for many who might otherwise suffer in silence. It was with this goal in mind that Dr. Ishii developed the FINGGY MASK, which was so well-suited for treating a wide variety of skin types and conditions, that it became known as the Ishii Clinic’s “cure-all” treatment. In fact, the FINGGY MASK was so popular, it was prescribed to nearly all of the clinic’s more than 200 daily clients, many of whom waited in line to receive it. While Dr. Ishii could see that the FINGGY MASK was certainly helping many clients, he soon realized that its prescription-only status and special handling requirements limited its ability to help those beyond the reach of the clinic. This inspired Dr. Ishii to develop the FINGGY LOTION, which provided many of the same benefits of the FINGGY MASK, but in a convenient, widely-available lotion that could be used all over the body. With his breakthrough of the FINGGY LOTION Dr. Ishii recognized that he would be able to provide life-changing solutions to improve skin health for people across Japan and even around the world—and it’s why all of Dr. Ishii’s products (from the revolutionary the FINGGY Lotion to the ISHII CLINIC BEAUTY LABO line) have been designed to provide medically-guided, professional-quality care that’s accessible to everyone. 

All of this innovation was possible because of Dr. Ishii’s commitment to using science and medicine to further the pursuit of beauty. Based on his decades of clinical research, Dr. Ishii believed the common causes of various skin concerns to be related to dehydrated skin and an imbalanced skin microbiome. He found that fermented metabolites were remarkably effective for treating skin diseases, and his research led him to Nakamurakin yeast which was being produced by a Kyoto brewing company with a more than 150 year legacy. This particular strain of yeast could only be cultivated in Otowa mineral water obtained from the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, and when the yeast and mineral water combined together they created NAKAMURAKIN®️ FERMENT FILTRATE—a potent ingredient that leveraged fermentation to increase the amount of active ingredients, resulting in a formula packed with beneficial organic acids to rebalance the skin and maintain hydration for optimal health. When Dr. Ishii carefully combined this NAKAMURAKIN®️ FERMENT FILTRATE with other nourishing ingredients, his game-changing FINGGY MASK was born, and his dream of helping as many people as possible was one step closer to becoming a reality. 

The Best Beauty Serum is Your Smile. 

This chestnut from Dr. Ishii might seem quaint, but it’s a scientific fact that smiling has a positive effect on wellbeing. A recent study from the University of South Australia, for example, confirms that the physical act of smiling can trigger a response in the amygdala—the emotional response center of the brain—producing positive emotions that generally make you feel better. Smiling also cues your brain to release neuropeptides and neurotransmitters that fight stress, relax the body, and lift your mood. 


In addition to the physical benefits of smiling, Dr. Ishii’s insight also speaks to the emotional power generated by the things that make us smile—such as the happiness and contentment that comes from a nourishing regimen of self-care. Dr. Ishii understood that conscientiously making time for yourself, and being purposeful about your health and wellness, can boost your sense of fulfillment and inner tranquility. This dedication provides peace of mind that allows you to radiate beauty from the inside out—and nothing shows that off better than a smile. 

Dr. Ishii’s Impact on Japanese Beauty 

While these three skincare/self-care truths are just a few examples of Dr. Ishii’s 40-plus years of trailblazing wisdom, we chose them because they represent some of our most fundamental Japanese beauty ideals. They have not only helped to shape holistic self-care into its current form, but also serve as evergreen standards for the future of skincare—and we look forward to being your guide to wherever these truths may lead us. 

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