Cosmetics have been an important part of Japanese women’s lives for centuries, from the white powdered face and blackened teeth of nobility to the geisha’s distinctive red pout. According to the Japanese Cosmetic Industry Association (JCIA), modern Japanese women began to be influenced by American makeup trends from around the 1920s, however Japanese makeup as we know it today came into its own in the early 1950s. The focus shifted from the complexion to the eyes and mouth – and that became one of the most important distinctions between Western and local makeup trends.

Opting for a more natural-looking base, many city-living and -working Japanese women tend to choose BB creams and foundations with lighter coverage meant to be slapped on as quickly as possible (time is of the essence in a fast-paced place like Tokyo). Concealers are reserved for heavy-duty missions: camouflaging pimples and helping make those long-working-hours undereye bags disappear.

Eyeshadow, blush and lipstick are referred to as “point makeup.” Their purpose is to highlight the relevant features to create the desired look, whether you’re heading to a business meeting or out for drinks.

Skipping smoky and halo eyes, a single wash of color across the lid does the trick. In stores, you can expect the shelves to be stocked with muted browns, taupes and beiges in a satin finish. Trending colors are often bolder, dipping into pinks and corals but still staying away from very pigmented formulas.

Blush has remained fairly classic, with shades of pink dominating the market and available in your familiar powdered compact or small cream pot (or in the shape of pretty rosebuds). The key is in the application. Avoiding placing the product on the apples of the cheeks, Japanese makeup trends often feature blush sitting between the cheekbone and the corner of the eyes, giving a more radiant look to the face while bringing attention to the eyes.

Where many women do experiment a little more with color, however, is with lipstick. Depending on their preferred style, they might opt for a sheer coat of color or deeper hue dabbed over lip balm and, more recently, we’ve been seeing bolder pouts making an appearance on both runways and streets.

Three Products to Help You Get the Japanese Everyday Beauty Look

Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation

This popular foundation boasts a dewy finish and works well on its own or mixed with your favorite moisturizer if you’re going for the no-makeup makeup look. Don’t let its compact packaging fool you: a little goes a long way.


Lip & Cheek Cream N by Visée

Add a soft wash of color to your lips and cheeks or dig into this year’s trending shades to make a statement. For a cool monochromatic look, also apply this sheer, buildable formula on your lids.


Matte Lipstick by MAC

Known for collaborating with up-and-coming Japanese artists, MAC has the broadest selection of shades and finishes when it comes to lipstick. This year terracotta reds and brick browns are in fashion so we recommend opting for a shade like Chili.


Product photographs by David Jaskiewicz