American vs. Japanese Skincare Routines
American skincare is typically focused on fixing or hiding imperfections. It usually includes a standard 4-step routine featuring a makeup remover that does all the work of stripping makeup as well as cleansing; toner or astringents designed to kill bacteria; serum, which is considered supplemental care for repairing specific issues; and finally a moisturizer to hydrate the skin. J-Beauty, on the other hand, is about prevention, maintenance, and embracing one’s natural beauty—all of which can be achieved with proper hydration. It features a unique double cleansing first step that typically includes a hydrating makeup remover and face wash in separate formulas; essence that is designed to replace moisture lost after cleansing; serums, which are often deep-penetrating and used to target and treat specific issues; and emulsions or creams, which help to lock in moisture and form a protective barrier against external stressors.
Why do Japanese skincare routines devote so many steps and products to moisturizing? Look no further than Japan’s centuries-old wisdom that the root of all skin troubles is dehydration and optimal skin health is typified by “mochi skin”—an extremely soft, yet firm, plump, and smooth texture that is achieved with meticulous and delicate layers of moisture. Serums, essences, emulsions, and moisturizers are J-Beauty essentials that might seem similar (especially in that they all usually feature moisture and hydration as a primary or secondary benefit), however, these solutions are actually completely different product types that are distinguished by their textures, viscosities, and purpose of use—all of which are crucial elements that need to be considered for a successful, individualized regimen of self-care. In order of lightest in texture to heaviest (also the order in which these layers of hydration should be applied), here’s everything you need to know about essences, serums, emulsions, and moisturizers.