Asian beauty. There’s so much to be proud of from this side of the world, whether it’s the most innovative skincare formulas, or revolutionary products that make a huge impact across the beauty industry — surely, you’ve heard of oil cleansers and cushion compacts! We’ll even go as far to say that the Western world is still trying to catch up with some of these beauty trends.
The rise of k-beauty is one thing, what with “gradient lips” and “glass skin” trending on even US-based websites, but we’d argue that Japanese-style beauty, or j-beauty, has always been close to our hearts.
the case for j-beauty
The effort of years of scientific research is unparalleled, that even humble drugstore beauty products achieve as much cult status as luxury brands, while that same dedication goes towards their sophisticated makeup styles too.
Where k-beauty often caters to on-demand trends, there seems to be a certain endurance to Japanese styles, which largely steer towards the subtle, natural and fresh-faced. The focus is on soft textures — the silky edge of an eyeliner pencil, skin that’s smooth as velvet, or a sweet-looking natural flush — that work across time and are suitable for all ages. You’ve probably heard of the “momoko blush” trend, popularised by It-girl Momoko Ogihara; it’s where blush is applied high on the cheekbones, which gives off a youthful vibe.
And if we’re making a case for j-beauty, we really can’t ignore one of the biggest Japanese beauty brands out there: Shiseido.
The global brand recently did an overhaul of their entire makeup range, unveiling a vast array of makeup items sorted according to 4 different textures — dews, inks, gels and powders. An eyeshadow palette and a lipstick, for example, could belong in the same “powder” category simply due to their finished effect.
We were so excited, we even did an entire beauty shoot with Terrace House alumni, Lauren Tsai, to show off the makeup.
Now, it’s our turn to take on some of these products, and we’ve done so with a makeup tutorial that reinterprets some of the best Japanese beauty trends — first, the youthful flushed cheeks, then the subtle but well-defined eye, as well as a more recent development, impactful lips. We promise, nothing as complicated as “baking”, and certainly nothing beyond 10 steps. Maybe you’ll be inspired too!
Japanese women love natural-looking skin — so nothing overly glowy or highlighted, just a soft sheen that suggests you have good skin all the time. That usually calls for more “velvet matte” textures for your foundation. With that as a base, you’ll need a light wash of colour to complete the look as well — which is where the mousse-like “soft matte” texture of Shiseido’s Minimalist WhippedPowder Blush comes in.
This lovely coral shade goes on like a dream, and can be blended out with just your fingers; the colour’s pigmented when you first pick it up, but goes on light, and blends out evenly. It’s also buildable, should you need more colour.
Then, there’s the j-beauty way of doing it; the niche “byojaku” trend, or sickly trend, suggests pinkish tones underneath the eyes, which give off a doll-like innocence and suggests someone in need of looking after. We’re not really fans of super pale skin or that particular message, but you can certainly reinterpret the trend into something more, well, healthy. Think a light, natural flush, much like the kind you get after exercise.
The key takeaway, after all, is where you place your blush — rather than the apples of your cheeks or angled like you would a contour shade, dab the blush on the high points of your cheekbones, and even under your eyes. This higher placement, combined with the rosy pink hue, achieves a sweet, youthful look.
Nude or pink lips, topped with a swipe of gloss, seem to be favoured among Japanese women as that’s usually associated with a more girly vibe; maybe it’s also because juicy-looking, plump lips appear more healthy and hydrated. Then again, there’s something to be said for high-impact lip colours — just look at popular icons such as Kiko Mizuhara and Rola, who’ve embraced this more edgy trend.
So, we’ve decided to take the best from both: how about bold modern colours, though less matte, with a fresh-looking and comfortable gel-like finish?
The VisionAiry Gel Lipstick is, very pleasingly, a wonder to work with, simply because it glides on smoothly with hardly any pressure at all, while still preserving that intense burst of colour. And we did love the colour. Ginza Red, inspired by the fashionable enclave, is a universally flattering colour that’s a bit on the warm end of the spectrum.
Secondly, we’re impressed by the delivery: you’ll notice it’s so pigmented that lines are filled with just one swipe, while the slender bullet is shaped for precision, especially around the edge of our lips. It also feels weightless, so you don’t feel like you have anything on despite how bright the shade actually is. This is probably due to the Triple Gel Technology allows both that pigmented shade and lasting hydration.
Head to Tokyo and you’ll notice how diverse Japanese culture is, from the trendy street style of Harajuku and Shibuya millennials, to the classy wear of Ginza ladies. So of course, eye looks go from classic to edgy as well! What we do notice across the board though is something more minimal — the majority preference is for wide, round eyes, created by defining them with eyeliner, while the eyeshadow shades are kept to light champagne shimmers.
Here, we started with a base of a light shimmer gold using the Essentialist Eye Palette, before lining the lashline with the Kajal InkArtist in Plum Blossom, which, true to form, glided on effortlessly. Rather than a harsh, defined line, this creates a thin, smooth and soft edge.
However, the product is casually labelled the “everything pencil” after all, which means it can be used as a liner, eyeshadow or brow shade, and we wanted to test that out — the pencil comes with a detachable sponge blender at the tip too, which we used to diffuse the colour. Our only tip is, do this fast before the pigments are set, to achieve a nice wash of colour. Despite the bold purple shade, the warm tones still made the look more wearable than bold. After that, we used the Kajal InkArtist in Tea House to create a soft winged tip. The overall look’s incredibly subtle, and certainly easily achievable!
Here’s the finished look!
Shiseido makeup collection, available at Shiseido counters and online at Sephora.
PHOTOS AND GIFS BY
Patrene Mathieu using the Canon EOS 77D