Between scalp spas and hydrating essences, here’s how we’re embracing Japanese beauty trends

The Japanese have long been known for their love of wabi-sabi interiors, but the concept of yūgen (profound grace and subtlety) is present in all aspects of their lives, including wellbeing and skincare. Now, this philosophy is starting to seep into the mainstream, encouraging us all to embrace a slower pace and more holistic approach, grounded in Zen principles.

The Japanese have always had a deep appreciation for the beauty of imperfection, impermanence and simplicity — and this philosophy, known as wabi-sabi, has stood the test of time. Drawing from traditional Zen teachings, wabi-sabi places a premium on mindfulness, respect for nature and inner harmony. And in a world that moves at breakneck speed, these principles have become all the more essential. From lifestyle to health and beauty, the wabi-sabi ethos encourages us to slow down, savour the moment, and find joy in life’s simplest pleasures. In embracing this more mindful approach to living, we may just find the peace and contentment we’ve been searching for all along.

“Japanese skincare feels like a welcome antidote — one that sees the industry returning to a slower, more considered pace”.

Perhaps one of the best ways to apply this philosophy in our lives (and an area in which it is increasingly called for) is our beauty routines. It encourages us to slow down our skincare, and focus on holistic treatments that leave us with a more well-rounded understanding of what it means to be well. Here, we delve into some simple but central Japanese skincare principles to fold into your everyday regime. Your skin and sense of wellbeing will thank you for it.

Skincare Spotlight: Hydration

When considering the simple addition of new products, rather than reinventing the wheel, essences are the best place to start. Likened to a toner, these products embed an additional hydration-delivering step into your daily skin routine that gives a serious glow. With similar benefits to a serum, an essence has a lower molecular weight than a moisturiser and will (when formulated correctly) penetrate the skin more deeply. Hailey Bieber, for instance, is one prominent voice in beauty that sings the praises of this in her routine, while Japanese beauty influencers like model Kiko Mizuhara regard it as essential, especially when travelling. Add this step into your routine daily and you will quickly notice the difference. Some essences that we have been trying and loving at the moment include Tatcha’s The Essence and SK-II’s The Facial Treatment Pitera Essence, for an additional, luxurious step. 

Kiko Mizuhara

Haircare Spotlight: Scalp

The Japanese scalp spa is a luxurious, multi-step hair ritual that currently has the beauty industry captive. It involves a combination of scalp massage, deep cleansing and conditioning treatments that work together to promote healthy hair growth and improve scalp health. By exfoliating the scalp and stimulating blood flow to the hair follicles, the scalp spa can help revitalise even the most lacklustre hair, leaving it looking and feeling thick, soft and full of life. It’s a little known fact that the skin on your scalp ages six times faster than that on your face, and as we’ve recently discovered, the health of your scalp impacts the health of your hair.

These treatments, undertaken in speciality salons, start by examining your scalp. This puts factors like oil production, blocked follicles, dryness and product buildup under the microscope, so your therapist can tailor your treatment. From here, rigorous scrubbing and invigorating steam treatments begin, matched with ritualistic water baths and all-round pampering for the head. Unblocking the pores is great for hair health, and with an added blow dry, it’s the kind of treatment that will instantly transform your locks. If you want to try it in Auckland, Morgan & Morgan offers the full service from its salon in Takapuna, and the Chloe Zara Scalp Facial at M11 offers a similarly nourishing and enriching ritual.

Japanese skincare feels like a welcome antidote to the busyness and pressure of our daily lives — one that is encouraging the industry to return to a slower, more considered pace. About time, I think.

Shop Essential Essences


Japanese Skincare
tatcha The Essence from Mecca
TATA HARPER Hydrating Essence from Sephora
Japanese Skincare
Augustinus Bader The Essence from Spring Store
Sk-II Facial Essence from Strawberrynet
mutha Cell Rejuvenating Essence from Ssense
Japanese Skincare
LA MER Genaissance De La Mer from Smith + Caughey’s

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