Japanese vs. Korean Skincare: What’s the Difference?

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Two Asian women sitting on a couch and applying face cream

Many people lump all Asian skincare products together, not recognizing the distinction between Japanese vs. Korean skincare approaches. 

These two, known as J-beauty and K-beauty, respectively, are the most popular. While there’s nothing wrong with mixing and matching elements from both, would you know the difference if you had to choose one over the other? You might even find that one suits your routine and skin’s needs better than the other. 

Let's go over the differences between Japanese and Korean skincare to help you make an informed choice for your skin's health and beauty.

Japanese vs. Korean Skincare Cultural Influences

To understand the root of all the differences between these two skincare approaches, the first place to look is the two cultures. 

Japanese Culture

Japanese culture values simplicity and nature, which is reflected in the country's architecture, art, and cuisine. For example, Japanese homes are often small and minimalist, with clean lines and natural materials—their gardens, too. And, if you’re a sushi lover, you know Japanese cuisine uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and simple preparation methods. 

This is exactly how they approach their skincare, which typically consists of a few mindful steps using simple but powerful ingredients. Their less-is-more philosophy of beauty is as elegant as it is effective. 

Korean Culture

On the other side of the Japanese vs. Korean skincare spectrum, the latter is a complex and ever-changing mix of traditional and modern cultures. 

While some age-old practices have stayed popular, K-pop and celebrity fashion have had a big impact on Korean skincare trends, leading to high demand for products that promise the flawless, radiant complexions of their beloved K-pop stars. 

People don’t mind going all out to achieve the same look as their idols. 

Japanese vs. Korean Skincare Goals

Close-up of an Asian woman’s eye


Japanese skincare has long focused on achieving “mochi-hada,” which is a traditional glutinous rice cake. Mochi skin is as soft, clear, and plump as a baby’s.  

Additionally, historical beauty practices involved striving for pale, white skin. As far back as the 700s, women would use white powder and lead oxide facial packs to achieve this look. 

In contrast, Korean skincare shares a similar appreciation for fair skin but aspires to achieve a different aesthetic: radiant, glass-like skin that exudes a glowy and dewy allure. The emphasis here is on achieving a complexion that’s youthful and vibrant. 

Japanese Skincare Routine

If you’re still not sure which is which, here's where the differences start to become more obvious. 

The Japanese skincare routine emphasizes hydration and gentle exfoliation while keeping things as simple as possible. A typical Japanese routine looks like this: 


  1. Double cleansing with an oil and water-based facial cleanser. 
  2. Polishing with a gentle exfoliating toner. 
  3. Hydrating with lightweight toners, essences, or serums. 
  4. Protecting the skin with ceramide-rich products and sunscreen. 


Interestingly, the double cleansing technique is said to have originated in Japan, where geishas used it to remove their elaborate, mask-like makeup before bed. 

Korean Skincare Routine

In contrast, the K-beauty approach is all about layering multiple products and treatments for skin “plumping.” With five to 10 steps in Korean skincare vs. Japanese skincare’s four, it is a lot more elaborate. 


A typical routine involves:

  1. Double cleansing 
  2. Exfoliator 
  3. Toner 
  4. Essence 
  5. Serum 
  6. Ampoule 
  7. Sheet mask  
  8. Eye cream
  9. Moisturizer 
  10. Sunscreen 


Basically, the Japanese approach emphasizes a gentle, minimalistic routine that prioritizes maintaining the skin's natural balance, while the Korean routine takes it a step further with targeted treatments. 


Japanese vs. Korean Skincare Ingredients and Products 

A woman in a bathrobe using face cream

While Japanese skincare is all about tradition and heritage, Korea’s industry thrives on innovation and trendsetting. Japanese products prioritize natural ingredients, tradition, and reliability, with brands like Rohto Mentholatum and Kao boasting long histories and even more loyal followings. 


Japanese companies also tend to be more consistent in their product offerings and formulations. Trends change more slowly, and you’re less likely to see a brand come out with a new product every week. 


On the other end of the Japanese vs. Korean skincare spectrum, K-beauty brands are always coming out with new products and formulations, and trends change quickly. One minute, snail mucin is all the rage, and the next, everyone is talking about Centella Asiatica. 


In the same vein, Japanese skincare packaging is often simple and almost traditional in appearance. In contrast, Korean skincare products feature more colorful and modern branding that embraces a more youthful image. 


Japanese vs. Korean Skincare Similarities 

​​Though they have their own unique approaches, Japanese and Korean skincare share some key similarities. Both cultures emphasize the importance of thoroughly cleansing the skin to remove dirt, oil, and makeup. This prevents breakouts and keeps the complexion looking healthy. 

They also place a high value on hydration as a fundamental component of healthy skin, using lightweight hydrating layers for a well-moisturized complexion. 

As a boost, both cultures love sheet masks, which are a convenient and effective way to deliver an extra dose of nourishment to the skin. 

While their methods may differ, the universal goal is to achieve a radiant, healthy complexion. 


Japanese vs. Korean Skincare: Which One is Right for You?

As with everything beauty, your ideal skincare routine depends on your specific skin type and concerns. 


If you have sensitive or dry skin, the minimalist approach of Japanese skincare, with its emphasis on hydration, may be the best solution. On the other hand, people with oily skin may want to try the Korean routine, as it emphasizes exfoliation, oil control, and targeted treatment. 


Of course, your time and dedication should also play a role in your decision. No matter your skin type or concerns, it's important to find a skincare routine that works for you. So, Japanese or Korean skincare, the best routine is the one you'll actually stick to! 


Shop Authentic Asian Skincare Products at EYURS

Whether you prefer the sophisticated products of Japan's skincare or the playful formulations of Korea's ever-changing industry, EYURS has all the cult favorites and trending products to fit your needs. 

Explore our wide variety of products and let us bring the best of Japan and Korea to your doorstep. We stock our products in the United States so that you can receive your order in no time. Enjoy free shipping on all orders over $40 and hassle-free 14-day returns. Shop authentic Asian skincare products now!