J-Beauty Vs K-Beauty: What’s The Difference?


Source: Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images

All anyone can talk about for the last six months is how J-Beauty is going to be the new K-Beauty, and we’ll admit, we were a little confused as to why. First of all, why does it have to replace Korean beauty – we love K-Beauty – and why are we only talking about J-Beauty now when actually Japanese brands like Shiseido and Japanese-inspired brands like Tatcha have been around for years. The truth is both beauty cultures have a similar ethos; their focus is on cleansing and layering hydrating, protecting formulas with effective and high-quality ingredients. “Japanese beauty care is more about anticipation. For them, everyday prevention is a natural action.” Miyabi Kumagai, Shiseido’s International Brand Manager, explained.

But there definitely is a difference between the two beauty empires, and you only have to look at the packaging to tell. We spoke to the industry experts to get the DL on both and find out if J-Beauty will actually replace K-Beauty.

What is J-Beauty?

Japanese Beauty centers on effective skincare with complex, hard-working formulas; plus the Japanese consumer is different, they have a deep understanding of skin, and they ask questions. Their approach to beauty is centuries old and steeped in tradition, from the indigenous ingredients, like camellia oil, green tea, and rice, to their take on keeping products simple. But they’re also innovative and spend a long time creating technologies to improve formulas; as Miyabi explains “Japanese beauty is about innovation with a long-term reliability and basing the results on scientific research and logic. A product will never be launched without 100% certainty on its qualities and benefits.” Founder of cult Japanese-inspired skincare brand Vicky Tsai compares J-Beauty to the Japanese diet, “it’s minimalist and timeless, focused on few, high-quality ingredients. What I love about Japanese skincare is that it’s centered around purity and simplicity.”

What is K-Beauty?

K-Beauty, like Japanese Beauty, is different from Western beauty in its approach to skincare: It focuses on great ingredients to hydrate and protect the skin, whereas Western skincare often creates solutions to repair damage. Christine Chang, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO of our fav K-Beauty site, Glow Recipe, set us straight: “K-Beauty has been described in the past as trendy or all about fun packaging, but we believe South Korea is the epicenter of modern skincare innovation. We often see new formulas, ingredients, and textures coming out of Korea that actually end up creating entire categories in the beauty industry such as splash masks, rubber masks, and pressed serums.” But even though Korean skincare is fun, it doesn’t make it any less serious than J-Beauty. Korea also has a rich history of beauty, and the typical South Korean woman spends twice as much time and money on her skincare routine.

Do you need to choose?

The truth is, K-Beauty has a lot of similarities to Japanese skincare; however slightly more involved in trends. Interestingly Kumagai says, “Japanese are traditionally discrete and humble. Culturally, they would rather take inspiration from Western culture than think that their own lifestyle would inspire others.” So really, the difference between the two beauty industries almost entirely stems from the behavior and beliefs of the people making them. While the Japanese are creating incredibly complex, technological formulas with trusted traditional ingredients, the Koreans are using similar amazing ingredients but transforming them into cool new formulas with funky packaging that reflect their society and love for fun and fast-paced pop culture. But this definitely doesn’t mean K-Beauty performs to a lower standard. Instead, K-beauty were the ones who drew attention to a new way of treating the skin that centers around healing, hydrating and nourishing it, but Japanese beauty has always done this – just quietly. The only reason J-Beauty is popping up as a trend now, is because more people are visiting the country, and K-Beauty has drawn attention to this new skincare ethos.

The verdict

You don’t have to choose! Both K-Beauty and J-Beauty will be a positive addition to your skincare routine, and because they both share similar practices, they complement each other. As Sarah Lee, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Glow Recipe, put it, “Skincare is about finding what works for you and what you love, and I’m not a fan of the two markets being categorized and forcefully differentiated with specific terms. In fact, there are many similarities between beauty from Japan and K-Beauty”. So, look out for amazing Korean toners, awesome rubber masks, essences, and serums, and complement them with state-of-the-art Japanese moisturizers, cleansers, and SPF – they can work together.

Our fave J-Beauty Inspired products:

japanese beauty products

Source: DHC, Tatcha, Shiseido

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, $28: Essential to any Korean or J-Beauty routine is double cleansing, starting with an oil cleanser. This olive oil-based cleanser dissolves dirt and oil while soothing skin with rosemary leaf oil. Shop it here.

Tatcha The Water Cream, $68: Packed with traditional Japanese ingredients like Japanese Leopard Lily and Wild Rose, this lightweight moisturizer is perfect for all skin types and heals skin while improving hydration and texture. This cult cream often sells out! Shop it here.

Shiseido Multi-Defense UV Protector, SPF 50, $65: This weightless sun and pollution protection lotion combines amazing ingredients with technology for the ultimate defense against the elements. Plus, it layers perfectly under makeup; just be sure to use it as the last step in your skincare routine. Shop it here.

Our fave K-Beauty products:

korean beauty products

Source: Dr.Jart, Glow Recipe, Mizon

Dr. Jart Shake & Shot Rubber Masks, $12: These rubber masks are packed with potent active ingredients and form an evaporation barrier to help every drop of goodness absorb into your skin. Shop it here, or read the full review here.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, $45: This insanely amazing-smelling moisturizer is packed with hydrating hyaluronic acid and AHAs and will leave you with glowing baby-soft skin by morning. Shop it here.

Mizon Hyaluronic Acid 100, $21: We love this potent serum; it’s packed with 50% hyaluronic acid, ceramides to retain moisture, and antioxidant-rich raspberry extract. Shop it here.

Have you tried both or either?