What is Japanese Beauty?


So what actually is Japanese Beauty? Or J-Beauty, as it is starting to be known outside of Japan. How is is different to Western beauty? Or even K-beauty?

These are questions that I am asked regularly. Around the world interest in everything Japanese is growing fast. Japanese food, whisky, architecture and now beauty. I have even been asked by the likes of Grazia UK, Allure and Emirates Woman to shed light on the mysterious world of Japanese beauty and what sets is apart from Korean and Western beauty.


For most people the words, Japanese beauty, immediately bring to mind visions of Geisha with their white faces and red rosebud lips, and the iconic Japanese brands, Shiseido and SKII, which are well known around the world. When I moved to Tokyo in February 2013, this was the extent of my knowledge of Japanese beauty too. As a life-long beauty enthusiast and Beauty Brand Manager in Australia, my interest in Japanese beauty was immediate- there were so many Japanese beauty brands and products that I have never heard of before. It was literally like an alternate beauty world to the one I had grown up with in Australia. The world of Japanese Beauty.

So after many years living in Tokyo, living and breathing Japanese beauty first hand- I want to share it with you what I have learned and what I am continuing to learn about Japanese beauty.

There is so much to share, that the topic of Japanese beauty going to take a few blog posts to cover. In this first post I am going to start with the basics

The most simple definition really is that Japanese Beauty encompasses any skincare, cosmetics and beauty related products, brands, techniques and aesthetics that originate from Japan.

But to really understand what Japanese beauty is, I think we need to understand the basic of what is considered "beautiful" in Japanese culture.


Wabi Sabi- Japanese Philosophy of Beauty

Wabi and sabi are arguably the two most important concepts of Japanese cultural aesthetic. The two separate words - wabi and sabi - have been combined to form, wabi sabi, meaning an aesthetic sensibility which includes these two related ideas.


Things that are fresh and simple.

Beauty of simplicity and functionality.

Quiet, Unostentatious style.


Accidental beauty, perhaps a small flaw that gives elegance, uniqueness.



Closeness to nature.

The celebration of naturalness;

Beauty that comes with age and the concept that change may make an object even more beautiful.


By starting to understand the Japanese culture of beauty- it makes defining the world of Japanese beauty and what sets it apart from Western or even other Asian beauty cultures, like K-beauty much easier.

From the philosophy of wabi sabi we can understand and appreciate that the world of Japanese beauty embodies:

  • simplicity
  • unoscentatious style
  • quiet elegance
  • close to nature,
  • appreciates natural beauty and imperfect beauty
  • honours beauty that comes with age

We can see clearly how the philosophy of wabi sabi translates to Japanese skincare, beauty ideals, makeup styles and beauty rituals. I will take you through these ideas and more in the following post in the "What is Japanese beauty" series.

Note: This blog post first appeared on the Tokyo Beauty Book blog (here) on the 19.09.19.