Japanese vs Korean Skincare

Japanese vs Korean Skincare featured photo

I’ve been obsessed with Asian skincare and beauty for years now. Just like anybody, I was confused about Japanese and Korean skincare – how they’re similar and different.

Japanese skincare focuses on mochi-hada or rice cake skin. They like to keep routines quick and simple. Korean skincare, on the other hand, prefers dewy and glass skin and are pretty much known for their rigorous seven to 12-step routine.

Skincare routines are not a one-size fits all situation. Routines and products vary according to preference, skin concerns, and what the skin needs.

Below, I’ll be dealing with Japanese and Korean skincare routines, how they’re similar, and how they’re different.

Japanese vs Korean Skincare

Asian skincare has taken and is continuously taking the world by storm.

Two Asian skincare routines that always seem to be in the spotlight are Japanese and Korean skincare.

At first glance, they seem to be the same thing. While it’s true they have quite the similarities, it’s not the case from top to bottom.

How are they similar?

Both Japanese and Korean skincare value hydration. Both focus on keeping the skin hydrated, moisturized, and healthy.

Japanese and Korean cultures both value pale, fair, and blemish-free skin. Both like to maintain the skin’s youthfulness, glow, and radiance.

The difference between Japanese and Korean skincare lies in the routines itself and the type of skin each routine pursues to attain.

What is Japanese Skincare?

What is Japanese Skincare

Japanese skincare focuses on achieving what they call mochi-hada or rice cake skin. If you’re not familiar, mochi is a Japanese glutinous rice cake dessert. Its texture is soft, plump, and often said to be like a baby’s skin. This is what Japanese skincare wants to achieve for anyone following the routine closely.

Japanese skincare and achieving mochi-like skin puts great focus on the softness and plumpness of skin. For them, skin that is smooth like a baby skin, hydrated, soft, and free from fine lines is what’s beautiful.

Their skincare routine likes to focus on layering hydrating and smoothing products. Blemish-free skin is another standard of beauty in Japanese culture. Sunscreen and sun-protecting skincare products are also a huge essential for them.

Of course, Japanese skincare products welcome innovations and new advances to make their skincare products even more worthwhile for your money and time. But Japanese beauty brands also pay close attention to time-trusted, traditional, and natural ingredients that have proven, time and time again, their effectiveness.

Japanese skincare routine

Japanese skincare tends to be shorter and uses fewer products.

The reason behind this is because it focuses on being gentle on skin all the while addressing skin concerns. This makes it ideal for those with sensitive skin due to the simplicity.

A typical Japanese skincare routine consists of five easy steps:

  1. Double-cleansing

Japanese people love oil-cleansing and it’s true from way back to the 14th century when geishas used them to remove traditional white makeup.

To do this, first cleanse your face with an oil cleanser or cleansing balm. This removes any makeup, dirt, and oil from the skin’s surface. Next, a foamy, water-based cleanser is used to reveal skin that is clean and clear.

  1. Lotion or essence

Toner is called lotion or essence in Japanese skincare. These lotions have a watery consistency, like toners. After cleansing, these are patted and applied on the face.

Just like a typical toner, this can help balance the skin’s pH level. What makes it stand out is the additional moisture and hydration the skin gets.

  1. Serum

Which serum is in your routine would depend on your skin concerns and needs. A serum would address a variety of concerns from pigmentation, acne, to even fine lines.

In Japanese skincare, this is where you can truly personalize the routine.

  1. Moisturizer

Moisturizers are a must in Japanese skincare. It’s what helps you achieve mochi-like skin thanks to the hydration and moisture you can get from it.

  1. Sunscreen (AM routine)

Japanese people take extra precautions against the damaging effects of the sun. In the morning, a thick layer of sunscreen to cap off the routine is essential.

What about other Japanese beauty products?

Japanese skincare focuses on simple and minimal routines but you can always adjust, add, or remove steps if you are inclined to do so.

Japanese skincare can be a basic structure to get you started and you can add and adjust the routine according to what your skin needs.

You can choose to add an eye cream, exfoliator (limit to once or twice a week!), face mask, or other treatments to address specific skin concerns.

What is Korean Skincare?

What is Korean Skincare

The goal of Korean skincare is achieving glass or dewy skin. Koreans value glow, radiance, and luminosity above all else.

Much like Japanese skincare, Korean skincare puts extra effort on layers upon layers of moisture and hydration. This is what helps achieve that glow.

What sets it apart from Japanese skincare is instead of smoothness and plumpness like mochi, Korean skincare wants the clear complexion like that of a glass. Korean women prefer a certain glow and moistness to their skin instead of a matte finish the Japanese prefer and that’s what Korean beauty products work towards.

Like the Japanese, the Korean beauty standard values paleness and views blemish-free skin as the beauty standard. This is where their products are geared towards, including their fan-favorite sunscreens.

Though they value time-trusted and traditional ingredients their ancestors proved to be effective, the Korean skincare market and Korean skincare products don’t shy away from extreme innovations. They’re known for pioneering unconventional ingredients like snail mucin into the skincare world.

Korean skincare routine

Contrary to its Japanese counterpart, Korean skincare is known for its rigorous seven to 12-step skincare routine:

  1. Double-cleansing

Like the Japanese, Koreans are one of the pioneers for double-cleansing.

This is done with an oil-based cleanser or balm to remove all the makeup, oil, and dirt. Next, follow up with a water-based cleanser to reveal a fresher and cleaner skin.

  1. Exfoliate

To achieve glass skin, exfoliation is a very important step to get rid of dead skin cells. Do this once or twice a day but don’t overdo it. You have many choices from physical to chemical exfoliators.

  1. Toner

Toning after cleansing preps your skin for the rest of the routine and allows better and faster absorption of the rest of the products. This can also balance out the skin’s pH level after cleansing. Another way to tone is to regularly hydrate with a Korean face mist.

  1. Essence, serum, and/or treatment

The essence, serum, and treatment (if any) is where you can totally personalize the routine. Whatever you apply in the step depends on skin concerns you want addressed and whatever your skin needs.

Acne, fine lines, blackheads, or skin texture, there for sure is a product that can help you address whatever.

  1. Face mask

Koreans love their face masks! You might even associate face masks and sheets with K-beauty.

A face mask or sheet mask is just another way for the skin to drink up as much moisture and hydration. The good news is you don’t even have to do this step everyday. This can be done once or twice a week, keeping what your skin needs in mind. Learn more about how to use a Korean face mask.

  1. Eye cream

Eye creams don’t need a minimum age requirement. Anyone can start taking care of their eyes at any age, no matter how young or old. This is a must-have in Korean skincare.

  1. Moisturizer

Koreans love moisture and it’s what helps them achieve that coveted glass and dewy skin. A moisturizer is the perfect way to seal off all those layers of products.

  1. Sunscreen (AM routine)

No skincare routine is complete without sunscreen and this is especially true in Korean skincare. Make sure to apply an ample amount of it in the morning to prevent damages from the sun.

Japanese vs Korean Skincare: Similar or Different?

Both believe that a well-hydrated and well-moisturized skin is key to healthier skin.

The difference is that Japanese prefer their skin to appear more matte while Koreans like theirs with glow and luminosity.

There is also a difference in how their respective routines go.

Japanese skincare routine likes it simple, minimal, and gentle above all else. Korean skincare routine likes multiple steps to achieve desired results.

Which is better: K-beauty or J-beauty skin care?

It’s a pointless argument to have both skincare routines go against each other. The answer to which is better would solely depend on your preference and what you believe your skin needs.

If you like to keep routines simple or simply don’t have the time of day, a Japanese skincare routine would be appropriate. Japanese skincare is also known to be very gentle. If you have a history of reacting badly to using many products, this might also be the way to go.

If you view skincare as therapeutic and wouldn’t mind going through multiple steps, try out a Korean skincare routine. It’s also great if you want to experiment on various products and see how your skin might react to them.

The bottom line is – if you have the same belief that hydration and moisture is key to healthier skin, either routine would be favorable.


Asian skincare has taken the world by storm over the past few years. Two of the most popular are Japanese and Korean skincare.

While both skincare routines emphasize hydration and moisture, Japanese skincare aims for mochi-hada or rice cake skin. Meanwhile, Korean skincare works towards glossy and dewy skin.

And that has been my guide on everything Japanese vs. Korean skincare! For any questions, hit me up right below!

Michelle Jackson
Michelle Jackson