Face Off: The Lowdown on K-Beauty Versus J-Beauty


February 9, 2018
Read Time: 4 minutes

“Skin first. Makeup second. Smile always.”



This is the philosophy made popular by Glossier, the beauty brand taking the internet by storm. But behind the “cool girl” packaging is the same ol’ concept peddled to the market: skin care is where pretty starts—it just now comes in aesthetically pleasing millennial pink.


While it’s great to know that Western brands are catching up, the true experts in this arena have been abiding by this approach to beauty for up to centuries now.


K-beauty and J-beauty (aptly named after Korean beauty and Japanese beauty) are about skin first and makeup second. Healthy, well-maintained, unproblematic skin is the end goal. But how are the two seemingly similar beauty cultures different? Is one really better than the other? Will the two give me different results? We’re here to find out.


Chances are you’ve heard more about K-beauty than J-beauty and may have even immediately associated it with the 10-step skin care routine that’s apparently a standard for some in Korea. J-beauty, however, actually got its big moment first. The late ‘90s and early 2000’s were the heyday of brands like Shu Uemura, Shiseido and Bioré. They’re brands that always topped the lists of beauty editors in those glossy pages. They were paired with terms like “must-haves” and “holy grail items.” Then, came the K-beauty boom in 2015. “So much of what is exciting in K-beauty originally stemmed from Japan,” shares Anna-Marie Solowij, former British Vogue beauty director. “With a struggling economy and South Korea investing in beauty R&D, K-beauty stole the limelight. Now, with Japan’s economy recovering, it will reassert itself.”


It may seem like a battle of the beauty trends, but the two are coexisting just fine; K-beauty just managed to get the buzz going more than J-beauty did—until now. Apparently 2018 is going to be the year of the J-beauty comeback. Co-founder of BeautyMART and Asian beauty specialist Millie Kendall tells Refinery29: “We are seeing a return to the expert. The makeup artist, the hairdresser and the stylist are all being asked once again for their expert opinion and their tastes and use of product is based on performance, not gimmick. They need well-made products that deliver where there is no room for error, and that’s where Japanese formulations come on.”


No matter which one you choose to subscribe to today, there’s a lot to learn from the two beauty philosophies. Which one could potentially work for you?


J-Beauty says: “Let’s upgrade what we know already works.”

TATCHA Rice Enzyme Powder, $65[/one-half-first]


K-Beauty says: “Let’s see what else we can do with what’s out there.”

3CE White Milquidro Mild Toner, P2,000




J-Beauty says: “The fewer steps, the better.”

via YouTube

[/one-half-first] [one-half]
K-Beauty says: “The 10-step skin care routine is the way.”

via Soko Glam




J-Beauty says: “Super soft skin dreams.”

SHISEIDO Bestselling Perfect Whip Foam Cleanser, P408

[/one-half-first] [one-half]
K-Beauty says: “Virtually poreless skin dreams.”

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, P1,070




J-Beauty says: “Double down by double cleansing.”

DHC Top-Selling Deep Cleansing Oil, P1,500

[/one-half-first] [one-half]
K-Beauty says: “Double down by double cleansing.”

KLAIRS Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil, P1,010




J-Beauty says: “There’s something about essence.”

SK-II Treatment Essence, P10,101

[/one-half-first] [one-half]
K-Beauty says: “There’s something about beauty water.”

SON & PARK Beauty Water, P1,400




J-Beauty says: “Put a sheet mask on it.”

LULULUN Precious Anti-Aging Care 7-Day Face Mask Pack, P335

[/one-half-first] [one-half]
K-Beauty says: “Put a sheet mask on it.”

INNISFREE It’s Real Squeeze Manuka Honey Mask, P65



When it comes to beauty, you need not choose one or the other. There’s always the amazing third option of combining the best of both worlds: First, listen to your skin first and target your skin issues next. Remember that no two people will require the same set of skin care products, so work on a routine that’s made for you.



Art Alexandra Lara

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