Japanese Skincare Morning Routine

Girl remove makeup by Cleansing cotton tissue

Japanese women take their skincare very seriously, and are taught from a young age to take the time each day to properly care for their skin. As a foreign women, when you start investigating the differences between Japanese and western skincare routines can be quite daunting. There are products that you have never heard of before, multiple layering steps and massage techniques…it’s enough to make your head spin.

So over the next few weeks I am going to write a series of posts designed to demystify the Japanese skincare routine. Starting with the morning skincare routine- enjoy!

Face Washing

In the morning your face may only need a rinse with lukewarm water  or micellar water to refresh the skin and remove any residual cream applied the night before. If you have very oily skin, or just can’t face the day without using a cleanser then make sure you use a gentle cleanser and rinse well. Pat dry with a clean towel.

Lotion/ Skin Softener

Lotion is an essential step in all Japanese skincare routines, and it is something quite unique to Asian skincare. Most western skincare routines and brands don’t include a lotion. At this step most western skincare routines would call for a toner or astringent to swipe over the skin before moisturiser. Japanese women use lotion to restore moisture after washing their face. Lotion has a watery consistency, and is applied with a cotton square or just patted gently onto the skin with hands. It is also extremely common to use the lotion as a D.I.Y quick mask made from soaking cotton squares and placing over the face, or now you can dry sheet masks from the drugstore that you can soak in your lotion at home.


For many western women there is still quite a lot of confusion regarding what an essence actually is. Is it a light serum? Is it a toner? It does all start getting quite confusing at this point so lets break it down.  Japanese essence is a concentrate of ingredients that target specific skin concerns like wrinkles, fine lines and dull, uneven skin. Mostly they have a thin, watery consistency, the famous being SKII’s iconic Treatment Essence or Sekkisei . Essence works to promote cell regeneration, and with consistent use you should see brighter, clearer skin. Apply essence by gently patting or pressing the essence into the skin using the palms of the hand, starting from the decolletage.


Serums are used to target specific skincare concerns, such as anti-aging. Contains high concentration on active ingredients to target problem areas such as dryness, pigmentation, dull skin, anti-aging, pore size. Due to the higher concentration on ingredients, serums are more expensive and have a thicker consistency.

Eye Contour

Interestingly, use of a specific eye cream is somewhat of a new thing in Japan, where women simply used their lotion and creams on the eye area. Even today some Japanese brands don’t have a specific eye area cream. However it seems that eye cream is now a universal daily skincare essential, and most of the big Japanese skincare brands (especially those that export overseas) have a specific eye care product.

Emulsion/ Cream

In Western skincare routine this is the only moisturising step,  where hydrating ingredients are delivered to the skin. In Japanese skincare, the emulsion/ cream is seen as applying a barrier on the top of the skin locking in all of the nutrients and hydrating ingredients in the lotion and serum. Choose according to your skin type, as the emulsions are more lightweight consistency and creams are heavier. Also, once you start using the lotion and essence products in your skincare regime you should find that you don’t need such a heavy moisturising product at this point as your skin will also ready be quite hydrated.

UV Cream/ Primer

Japanese women are fastidious when it comes to UV care, and this dedication pays off with their youthful, even complexions. UV care is a year round, essential step in your morning skincare routine. Japanese UV creams are world renowned for their quality, and you will be spoilt for choice in drugstores and beauty counters for sun care products. Many Japanese UV creams/lotions are designed to act as a primer as well so that. Look for a 2 in 1 product that act as both a sun protector and primer.

Foundation/ BB Cream/ CC Cream

This could be a traditional foundation, BB cream or CC Cream. In Japan, most women wear makeup daily, even when they are just going to the park with their children or making a quick trip to the supermarket. Unless you are genetically blessed with perfect skin most people can benefit from even a light cover of makeup to even out the skin and cover blemishes and redness.

There you have it! I hope that this post has helped to somewhat demystify the Japanese skincare routine, and the different products that are used. I would love to hear what you think, so leave a comment below.

Next read: Japanese Evening Skincare Routine

11 thoughts

  1. Thank you very much for this, really clear explanation and is opening up the Japanese drug store world of confusion to me. I spent a happy half hour in one today and for the first time felt that I had a bit of a grasp of what was there!

    1. Thank you Catriona! I’m so happy that you found the article helpful. That is what Tokyo Beauty Book is all about 😊

  2. Does the IPSA Time Reset Aqua have alcohol? They reformulated this product a few months ago and I think they removed the alcohol but I am not sure.

    1. Hi Esme, thanks for reading Tokyo Beauty Book and for your comment! I just looked at the current ingredient list for the IPSA Time Reset Aqua and I couldn’t see alcohol listed. So as you mentioned maybe it has been removed with the updated formula which is good!
      Thanks again,

  3. Hi alisa! Your post is so good! Thank you for all the precious information!
    Can I use the popular Skin Conditioner as Lotion/Skin Softener?

    Thank you!

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