Japanese makeup techniques focus on giving a youthful look, with a glowy complexion and natural-looking flush being particularly popular these days. Some of these techniques might seem a little odd to you, and they’re definitely not one-size-fits-all, so pick which Japanese makeup practices you would like to adopt and which you would rather skip.
You can follow my Japanese makeup tips to copy your favorite J-pop idol, or you can use Japanese cosmetics as part of your go-to look. We have put together a tutorial that explains how to achieve an adorable Japanese makeup look, following techniques and styles that are popular in Japan.
To get an idea of what this makeup looks like in practice, check out Japanese beauty gurus, like Kajieri and Kawanishi Miki.
In this article:
Japanese Makeup for Base
- To start things off, make sure your skin is clean, moisturized, and protected from the sun. Read our article to learn all about the Japanese skin care routine!
- A skin-brightening base is an important part of the Japanese makeup routine. Makeup primers with a bit of a pinkish tint are especially popular.
- The best way to apply a Japanese foundation is with the tools your mama gave you, and I’m not talking about your behind. Japanese beauty gurus prefer to apply foundation with fingers rather than with makeup brushes or sponges. The key is to use very little foundation so that the skin looks as natural as possible. About a pea-sized amount is enough to start with. Spread it over your face sheerly, so that it slightly evens out your skin but doesn’t hide it completely. At this point, you can use a damp makeup sponge to help you with the blending.
- The amount of foundation probably won’t be enough to hide any serious skin discoloration, but that’s what concealer is for. Use a concealer that matches your skin tone to hide blemishes or facial redness. Once again, you can just use your fingers to apply. Use a tapping motion to dispense the color, and then blend it out with a gentle dragging motion.
- Use a slightly lighter concealer to highlight your under-eye area, as well as to brighten any dark spots in the skin, especially around the mouth or nose. You can also apply it to the center of your forehead and chin, and diffuse out to blend.
- If you’d like to, you can powder your face, especially if you have oily skin. Use a fluffy brush, and swirl it in your powder, making sure to tap off any excess. You don’t want too much powder on your brush since the key is to lightly set your foundation without looking overly matte or powdery. Next, tap it gently over the skin, covering the areas of your face where you usually get shiny first. Don’t reload the brush, since that first swirl should be enough for your entire face.
Japanese-Style Blush, Contour, and Highlight
While blushes and highlighters are very popular in Japan, contour powder is less popular. This is because the very sculpted look that is so popular in the West doesn’t fit in with the cute, child-like aesthetic that is so popular in Japan. Blush and highlighter should be applied in a way that looks natural and gives the face youthful roundness.
- Cream blush is very popular, for its natural and dewy look. Make sure to apply it before powdering your face. You can follow it up with a powder blush, and it’s not unheard of to only use a powder blush in your look.
- In Japan, blush is normally applied near the center of the face, on the part of the cheeks that is close to nose and eyes. This looks like a very natural flush, rather than a face sculpting wash of color. Blend it outwards a bit, but don’t pull it all the way to the temple the way you would a Western blush.
- You can even experiment with bringing your blush right under the eyes, either towards the outer corner or all over the under-eye area.
- Cheek contour is not usually a part of the Japanese beauty look since it can take away from the round youthfulness of the face. However, contouring the nose is very popular, so feel free to apply a tiny bit of powder contour along the sides of your nose with a small brush.
- Highlighting with a shimmering powder is as popular in Japan as it is in the West. Apply your highlight in a thin line down the center of your nose, and perhaps a little bit on the center of the forehead and chin.
- You may highlight your cheeks as well, although it’s not very common.
Japanese Makeup for the Eyes
There is a lot of room for creativity with Japanese eye makeup, but here I’ve focused on a softer, day-to-day look that is very popular these days.
- Eyeshadow in Japan is usually kept quite soft, so though you may use an eyelid primer, chances are a bit of concealer or foundation will suffice.
- The most classic way of applying eyeshadow is to simply swipe on a medium-toned, shimmery shade across the lid, with a highlight in the inner corner of the eyes, and perhaps a smokey line of darker shadow across the lash line. It’s an easy and flattering look, although there is lots of room for going beyond this and getting creative.
- In addition to highlighting the inner corner of the eyes, you can also pull the highlighter under the lower lash line, to give what the Koreans call an “aegyo sal” – a look that is also popular in Japan.
- Even if you’re not going for an obvious makeup look, tightlining with a bit of eyeliner is still useful for opening up the eyes and making the lashes look thicker. Pull your lid upwards a bit, and then come in from below the lash line to apply a pencil eyeliner in between each lash, which makes for a very natural look.
- You can also apply a bit more eyeliner from above the lash line, for a more defined look. You can use the same pencil eyeliner for a smokier look, or use a liquid eyeliner. In the past, it was very popular to pull the eyeliner slightly downwards at the outer corner for a “puppy eyes” look, but these days you can also bring it slightly upwards to pull the eye up.
- Make sure to curl your eyelashes before applying mascara! To curl your lashes, choose a high-quality lash curler. With your eyes open, fit the curler over your upper lashes, making sure that it is not touching your lid. Squeeze it down slowly, so that you’ll feel right away if any skin got caught without pinching yourself. Once it’s nearly closed, shimmy it down as close to the lash line as possible, and squeeze it for a few seconds while pulling down a bit. Open it up slightly, and shift it a little upwards, and repeat the squeezing. Keep doing this in order to curl the entire length of your lashes, and then move over to the next eye.
- Next, lock in that curl with a mascara. Tubing mascaras are especially popular in Japan because they hold a curl well, and they are lengthening, gentle, and easy to remove. To apply your mascara, begin at the base of the lashes and then pull it upwards with a wiggling motion. Mascara on the lower lashes is optional.
- To fill in your brows, use a brow powder or shadow that will give a more diffused look. Apply it with a slightly larger angle brush or a flat shadow brush with a straight top, in a straighter shape. Don’t carve out your arch or add any angles, and keep the look diffused rather than sharp.
- Set your brows with a clear mascara or a tinted brow gel in order to keep each hair in place and to give a bit more volume.
Japanese Makeup for Lips
Japanese lipstick is usually applied to look diffused and natural, even if the color chosen is a little unusual. The desired effect is “bitten” or “flushed” lips. Because of this, lip liner is not commonly used.
- You can apply your lipstick in a few different ways, depending on the level of smudginess or opacity you would like. It is not unusual to see women smudge their lipstick a little past their lip line, for example.
- To deposit color, tap the lipstick over your lips rather than swiping it straight on. Concentrate the color over the center of your lips. Next, rub your lips together in order to spread the color over the rest of the lips.
- If you’d like, you can even create a two-toned effect by first applying a lighter lipstick all over, and then concentrating a darker lipstick in the center of the lips.
Photos via @pinpinpinpin, Instagram