When most U.S. consumers think of sake, they probably imagine enjoying a glass when out for a night of sushi. But sake is much more than just a drink – it’s the national beverage of Japan, and has earned its revered place in Japanese culture for far more than just its rich and complex flavors. Sake actually has numerous health benefits, especially when it comes to Japanese skincare. In fact, in Japan, the secret of using sake for youthful, healthy skin dates back to the third century.
In the early days, when sake was brewed in the lush, terraced rice fields of Japan, sake brewers known as “kurabito” were famed for having the softest skin in the country. Local geishas soon took note that the kurabito, who often had their hands deep in milky white sake for most of the day, had hands that were unusually youthful and soft. Soon Geishas began using sake as part of their regular skincare routine, and would even bathe in sake to keep their skin soft, supple, and renewed.
Today, we now know that there are proven scientific reasons for how sake keeps skin looking radiant and refreshed. We asked Shiko’s beauty expert, Hinako Sugioka, to help distill the science behind sake as a skincare secret - and the numerous ways that incorporating sake into your J-Beauty routine can benefit your skin.
The Science of Sake
The numerous benefits of sake come from two key elements: rice, and Koji mold, which contains kojic acid. Rice on its own is bursting with vitamins, amino acids, and minerals, all of which can help brighten, soften, and tighten your skin. The fermentation process used in brewing sake increases the nutritional value of these components, making sake significantly higher in peptides, vitamins and enzymes than it is pre-fermentation.
The brewing process for making sake involves fermenting rice with Koji mold, which is so revered in Japan that it is known as the “National mold” of Japan. This process creates Kojic acid, an antioxidant that penetrates past the dermis to erase dark spots and discoloration. It also creates the essential fatty acid “linoleic acid”, a potent ingredient for hydrating skin, as well as containing anti-inflammatory properties.
But how does sake address specific skin care concerns, and what makes it such a powerful tool in nurturing plump, supple skin? Below, we take a closer look at 7 ways sake can benefit your skincare routine.
1. Sake Can Help Brighten Your Skin
Dark or dull spots on the skin occur when certain areas of the skin produce more melanin than others, and this overproduction of melanin is promoted by increased enzyme activity. So to brighten dark spots, you first need to inhibit the production of melanin by reducing enzyme activity.
The kojic acid created during the fermentation process of sake contains large amounts of an enzyme known as tyrosinase. This copper-containing enzyme has been shown in studies to be highly effective in inhibiting enzyme activity, thereby impeding the production of melanin. The high levels of tyrosinase, alongside the acidic nature of sake, make sake a powerful skin brightener, and one that is exceedingly good at improving dark spots and dullness.
2. Sake Has an Ideal PH Balance
Acid is present in all alcohol, in various levels. While sake contains acid, the acidity level is normally between 1.0 and 2.0, with an average of around 1.3. This means sake contains only around one-fifth the acidity as most wines, making it a far more PH balanced beverage than most other alcohols.
Maintaining a proper PH balance on your face is essential to promoting healthy, soft skin, without excess oil. Sake is ideal for maintaining and promoting your skin's natural beauty, without a disruptive level of acidity.