The Secret of Japanese Skin Care: The Geisha Skin Care Ritual
Japanese skin care is focused around a deep respect for the skin as a brilliant organ; it reflects our health from the inside out. In the West, we have been taught to seek out aggressive treatments for the smallest of ailments: a pimple, fine lines, or a sunspot. In Japan and Asia broadly, they instead consider the underlying factors. What in their diet might be causing a breakout? Are they unusually stressed recently? It’s a wonderfully holistic approach.
Another difference between a Western skin care regimen and a Japanese one is the element of ritual. In the Western world, we are tremendously busy and skin care can feel like a chore. Performing a ritual is not about spending more time on skin care, but about pausing for a moment to take care of yourself. Between their classes, performances, and social obligations, geisha are just as busy as modern women—yet they still create time to properly care for their skin.
While modern Japanese skin care routines have evolved to become quite complex with up to seventeen steps, the geisha’s beauty rituals which they have practiced consistently for 300 years are simple and just an efficacious. When I created Tatcha, I wanted to honor the simplicity of the original skin care rituals of the geisha.
The first step in any Japanese skin care ritual is purification. I had always thought of cleansing my skin as a throwaway step, investing instead in expensive creams and treatments. The geisha taught me that instead, purifying the skin is central to effective skincare. By gently removing burdens like makeup, SPF, and environmental aggressors, we return it to neutral every day. Oil-based cleansers are brilliant because they draw impurities from the skin without stealing away its natural moisture. At first, I was hesitant to use oil on my face; once I felt how clean and hydrated it left my skin, I began to use a camellia oil cleanser every day.
After purifying the skin is the perfect time to polish it with an exfoliator. Gentle, daily exfoliation will leave skin baby-soft by clearing away dead skin cells and revealing newer skin beneath. Exfoliation will also enable your skin to effectively absorb any treatments you use afterwards. Whatever your skin type, regular exfoliation will help it glow.
The next steps in a Japanese skin care routine will be treatment. For this step, use an anti-aging and hydrating serum that quickly sinks into your skin. A serum that is rich in antioxidants will help your skin repair itself and prevent future damage. Since your skin will easily absorb any serums you use at this stage, make sure your serum is formulated without parabens, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, sulfate detergents, phthalates, urea, DEA, or TEA, which can be harmful for your health.
Finally, it’s important to seal all this goodness in with a nourishing moisturizer. Some moisturizers come with additional benefits, such as anti-aging ingredients or promoting the regeneration of collagen. If your skin is on the drier side, be sure to use an emollient moisturizer that will keep your skin well hydrated during the day. If your skin is combination or oily, a gel-based moisturizer will help keep skin moist without overburdening it.
The classical Japanese approach to skin care may seem quite counterintuitive at first, the four simple steps: purification, exfoliation, treatment, and nourishment keeps the skin balanced. I’ve found that my skin glows from working with it instead of against it, and from the feeling of a new beginning each time I begin my ritual.