Ingredients Showcase

7 Ways Sake Can Benefit Your Skincare Routine

Treat yourself to an ancient J-Beauty secret - drinking up the luxurious benefits of sake as part of your skincare routine.
7 Ways Sake Can Benefit Your Skincare Routine

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.

3. Sake Promotes Hydration

The amino acids created during the fermentation are potent hydrating agents, specifically glutamic acid. Glutamic acid helps skin retain moisture, preventing the moisture on your skin from evaporating.

Sake is rich in enzymes that can gently exfoliate your skin, without robbing it of moisture. Highly concentrated amounts of amino acids and saccharides help to replenish the skin with much needed nutrients that can promote supple, hydrated skin.

In fact our Dassai Facial Mask is drawn from the lees produced during the brewing process of Junmai-Daiginjo Dassai 23 sake.  This hydrating mask is a great first step in learning about the skin benefits of sake.

4. Anti-Aging Properties of Sake

In addition to an abundance of amino acids, sake also contains ferulic acid, aka hydroxycinnamic acid. Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that has been proven to activate cells that help prevent aging and increase skin’s elasticity.

Ferulic acids neutralize free radical damage from ultraviolet light and pollution, acting as a shield to protect your skin from further damage due to environmental toxins.

5. Elasticity and Firming Benefits of Sake

Alpha ethyl D-glucoside, or a-EG, is another byproduct of the fermentation process that creates sake. This ingredient improves skin's luster and elasticity by promoting the production of collagen. The extremely fine molecules of a-EG are able to deeply penetrate the skin, imparting long lasting benefits.

One of the main contributing factors for dry skin is what is known as “trans-epidermal water loss”, also known as TWEL. When TEWL levels are high, your skin may become dry, or irritated. Products containing a-EG have been shown to significantly lower TEWL, helping your skin retain moisture throughout the day.

6. Sake Normalizes Skin Turnover

We all know that sake is made from rice, so it may surprise you to learn that it also contains fruit acids (AHA). Alpha Hydroxy Acids are known in the skincare world to provide a whole host of incredible benefits for your skin, helping to exfoliate, brighten, and improve texture.

Many people are familiar with AHA fruit acids through peels or micropeels, as fruit acids are highly effective at removing unwanted dead skin cells, promoting skin turnover. AHA fruit acids remove rough skin, leaving behind a smoother, more youthful texture.

7. Acne, Eczema, and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Sake

We’ve already talked about how sake can help brighten or lighten skin, and this means it works as a potent agent to lighten acne scars. But sake also works to prevent breakouts in the first place, by tightening the skin and helping to control sebum production. Sake can also help soothe inflammation and eczema, without removing the natural moisture of your skin.

At Shiko Beauty, we believe that less is more, and embrace traditional, holistic products that work on a variety of levels to provide the most benefits for your skin. The ancient practice of using sake to soothe a variety of skincare issues has deep roots in Japan for a reason - and we’re excited to share some of our favorite products that feature sake with you here.

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