Not-So-Secrets to Youthful Japanese Anti-aging Skincare
Goodbye skin damage, I’m looking forward to healthy skin for the rest of my life
When it comes to anti-aging skincare, we’ve all heard that timeless advice: wear sunscreen!
But how many of us actually wear sunscreen every day?
The RealSelf Sun Safety Report released in 2020 reported that while 62% of Americans use anti-aging products daily, only about 10% use sunscreen every day (with 46% of Americans never wearing sunscreen!). If we are willing to spend so much money and time on skincare products, why is it so difficult for many of us to build the habit of wearing sunscreen every day?
The answer is quite easy, in that sunscreen can be kind of uncomfortable.
Why we have such a hard time wearing sunscreen every day
It’s easy to shame someone for not wearing sunscreen — it is often referred to as skincare’s Holy Grail — but I am not ignorant to how much it can just kind of… suck. It can be greasy, leave white streaks on your skin, and make your sweat feel gummed to your pores. If you’re sensitive to acne and breakouts, all the more reason you’d want to avoid the product.
But we should take our skin’s health seriously. Sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancers, and is primarily responsible for premature skin aging, wrinkles, sagging, and age spots. Everyone has the right to look and feel their best, and building a daily habit to protect our skin from ultraviolet damage is one that should be trained into us, like all healthy habits.
But when you find sunscreen repulsive, there are three options that people believe they are left with when it comes to sun protection:
- To carry an umbrella or wear clothing that covers the skin (popular in many East Asian cultures, but maybe less acceptable in Western cultures)
- To avoid the sun (not always a viable solution)
- To just not wear sunscreen
It’s no surprise that many people choose not to use sunscreen every day.
What Japanese skincare taught me about effective anti-aging
But in Japan, sunscreen is such a big staple in many people’s skincare routine. Sold and promoted throughout the year, according to a survey conducted in 2020, over half of Japanese women use sunscreen regardless of the time of year, and over 85% of Japanese women and 67% of men routinely use it by about May. At first I simply attributed the widespread use of sunscreen towards high beauty standards of being fair-skinned. Maybe Japanese people just care about their skincare a bit more than Americans?
But reflecting on how much Americans spend on anti-aging products every year — the anti-aging products market in the U.S. was estimated to be about $14.2 billion in 2020 — I felt that it couldn’t be the case. So why are Japanese people more willing to wear sunscreen than Americans?
Well, one day I borrowed my mother’s Japanese sunscreen and immediately figured out why: it’s a great product.
What Japanese skincare showed me is that the secret to effective skincare is not some obscure ingredient, or an expensive, multi-step process, but it’s about being consistent in putting on sunscreen. And the most effective way to be consistent in doing so? Use a product you look forward to using every day.
The sunscreen my mother lent me was sheer, non-sticky, kept my skin soft, and the liquid consistency felt nice to apply to my cheeks. The packaging was nice, felt sturdy, and always gave me just the right amount.
Instead of tolerating poor quality products because they’re still good for us, the skincare products in Japan completely redefined what sunscreen should feel and look like — that’s why so many people are happy to use it every day.
Sunscreen today is not sunscreen that was 10 years ago
It is hard to change people’s minds about products that they’ve already formed a hard opinion on. If for years you were only offered uncomfortable, cheap, and goopy sunscreen, why even explore the option of trying again?
But sunscreen offered today is not the same sunscreen offered 10 years ago, and today there are thousands of brands and formulations in the U.S. that are comparable, or even better in quality than what is offered in Japan. Products range from lightweight, mineral-based, oil-free, sensitive, and clear dry. A new development is environmentally-conscious sunscreen, which are products that have been verified reef-safe, which exclude traditional sunscreen chemicals which have been found to hurt coral reefs (rule of thumb: avoid products with ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene).
With beautiful packaging, comfortable consistency, and ingredients that leave you feeling good about yourself, sunscreen has gradually stopped being this cheap, necessary-evil summer to-do, but a year-round luxurious and trustworthy product that many people can’t imagine starting their day without.
I’m not here to sell a specific product, but remind you that wearing sunscreen is no longer the burdensome task that it once was. So forget slathering on that old bottle of sunscreen that was bought on whim two summers ago, but instead shift your focus on finding a high-quality product that makes you feel good in your skin. Find a sunscreen that fits your needs, invest in a product you love, use it daily, and use it forever. That is the secret to glowing and youthful Japanese anti-aging skincare.
All future versions of yourself will be grateful that you did.