Turning Japanese: beauty thats taking over
By STEPHANIE RAFANELLI
Last updated at 11:47 25 June 2007
How the West is going wild for weird and wonderful beauty treatments from the EastLet’s face it, Yoko Ono may not be as universally adored as her late husband, but doesn’t she look good these days? John Lennon would have undoubtedly still loved her when she was 64, and even today at 74 with barely a line or wrinkle behind her ever present robotic shades.
The fact is that Japanese women just don’t get fat – and even more annoyingly – they don’t seem to get old either. Now, after a spate of blockbuster movies on Japan like Memoires of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which glamorise Japanese beauty Western women are demanding to know their secret of eternal youth.
With Nippon-crazed celebrities like Sofia Coppola and Gwen Stefani leading the way, Japanese skincare and beauty treatments have become the newest ? and in some cases the most bizarre – route to a flawless complexion. Japan ? the country that brought you robot pets and vending machines dispensing and worn school girl’s knickers ? has never been a nation to do things by half measures.
Its latest Geisha-inspired treatments based on ancient natural remedies include the Nightingale Droppings Facial, the Goldfish pedicure, the Bull Semen Hair Treatment and the pure Gold Facial.
Strong of stomach, mind and pocket must be devotees to the way of Japanese facial enlightenment. But why are so many Japanese beauty treatments so weird and wacky? ?In the Japanese beauty industry research is very high-tech but tends to focus on – sometimes unusual – organic natural ingredients,? says Krista Madden editor of http://www.beautyandthedirt.co.uk and a fan of Japanese products. ?Whereas in American skincare research looks forward, current research in the Japanese skincare looks to the past, with Japanese rituals permeating every area of life including skincare. ?
For several centuries, Japanese women made their own skincare formulas at home with natural food products ? and the trade secrets of their female ancestors were passed from generation to generation. It is these ancient beauty rituals ? and renewed interest in the once denigrated Geisha ? that have been resurrected in Japan and sold around the world on websites like http://www.naturaljapanesebeauty.com.
Exfoliants containing ground adzuki beans ? the facial scrub of Imperial court beauties – are now popular for their clarifying properties, Wakame seaweed (containing anti-ageing Fucoidan) is traditionally used to make a detoxifying face gel, and classic Nuka or rice bran has been revived as a Japanese cleanser and remedy for wrinkles. Even today, the highest compliment a Japanese woman can be paid is to be called a Nuka Bijin ? literally a rice bran beauty.
So in sharp contrast to skincare ranges that were invented in a Lab six months previously and tested on 100 housewives across the country, Japan’s beauty traditions have a long and ancient history with spa culture dating back to 737AD when the first Japanese mineral hot springs were opened for their restorative mineral properties.
Since then, Japan’s cultural obsession with flawless skin, youth and purification, has made beauty big business with more people working in the industry than wedding and funeral services, auto-repair and the software industries combined. And we in the West are only just beginning to catch up as we become more youth orientated and aware of the benefits of natural products.
“We’ve all heard about potentially harmful chemical anti-ageing agents that can be absorbed through the skin. Now, the tide has turned to natural, earthy treatments that have been tried and tested by women over centuries,” explains Madden. “Aside from that, japanese beauty products focus on anti-ageing and sun damage. ?The Japanese beauty industry has always concentrated on lightening the skin because, pure white, unblemished skin is prized about all things.
As Western beauty ideals have moved away from big breasts and St. Tropez tans ? now the unique preserve of footballers wives ? so we seek a look of sexual innocence with pale, unblemished skin and shiny, silky hair. The Japanese aesthetic has become the new benchmark for beauty.
?More and more women are having Yuko hair straightening treatments to get Japanese looking hair.?says Firyal Arneil a half-Japanese make-up artist who works for Elle and Red magazines. ?and now everyone wants lighter skin. As a result, there has been a trend in Japanese skin whitening and brightening ranges in the UK.?
Japanese cosmetic giants Shiseido, Kanebo and SK-11 have all introduced skin lightening ranges to the West. The SK-11 range, an international bestseller and current favourite of Kate Moss and Sadie Frost, is based on skin lightening ingredient Pitera derived from Sake. Its anti-ageing effects were discovered in the eternally youthful hands of monks distilling rice wine at a Kobe monastery (SK-11 Signs Dual Treatment Mask £60 from Selfridges Tel: 0800 123 400).
Origins Modern Fusion range (www.origins.co.uk tel: 0870 034 2888) uses 8 ingredients derived from rice to resurface the skin and the new SUQQU range employs traditional Gankin massage to drain lymph nodes and boost circulation (Musculate Massage Cream £60 at Selfridges Tel: 0800 123 400).
“Japanese women believe that they are born with magic Japanese skin,? explains Mikiko Ashkiri, a research associate at Cambridge University studying modern Japanese cosmetic and beauty practises. ?The respect for natural therapies and the more bizarre ancient beauty traditions like facials using nightingale droppings and silkworm cocoons used to cleanse the skin is a way of preserving their unique Japanese identity.? But respect for the rituals of their ancestors is not the only reason for the kookiness of Japanese treatments.
?Japanese culture has a constant need for innovation,? Ashkiri continues. ?As a nation we are always looking for something new, extreme and strange. At the moment, it’s by reinventing ancient beauty practises by giving them a new high tech edge.?
Some of Japan’s less run-of-the-mill beautifiers include Shark Liver Oil (Squalane Oil) ? added to moisturiser to treat dry skin and Silk Worm Cocoons (Matyutama) used as exfoliating cotton wool balls (available at http://www.naturaljapanesebeauty.com). Mandarin Wood Vinegar, distilled from burnt wood from Mandarin trees, is reported to create naturally occurring infrared energy, which draws out black impurities though a kind of sanitary towel attached to the soles of the feet. (PATCH-IT for Nutriworks £12.95 for 6 at http://www.patch-it.info).
Other forms of Japanese beauty torture include Mezaik eyelid crease makers ? a superfine stretch fabric worn on the eyelids to make a perfectly natural looking eyelids creases ? if you thought yours were missing (Available at http://www.naturaljapanesebeauty.com) – and the Hana nose clip which if worn 20 minutes a day will stretch your cartilage and refine your nose. It’s got to be cheaper than a nose job ? they maybe not less painful.
BIZARRE BEAUTY TREATMENTS FROM JAPAN COMING TO A SALON NEAR YOU:
NIGHTINGALE DROPPING FACIAL: In the times of Imperial court, Nightingale faeces was used by Geisha and Kabuki actors to remove their thick clay-based make-up. The bird dung has tried-and-tested skin lightening properties and contains the enzyme Guanine that brightens dull skin.
Once left out in the sun to dry, today the nightingale emissions are treated with UV light to sterilise them. The treatment is applied as a clay mask – preceded by an adzuki bean scrub and a lymph stimulating massage. Thankfully, it is fragrance-free.
BULL SEMEN TREATMENT: Reminiscent of ‘that’ scene in There’s Something About Mary, this deep-conditioning protein treatment is a mixture of Aberdeen Angus Bull semen and Katera ? an Iranian protein rich plant. The semen is extracted as part of a breeding programme using blow-up cows. Also available at Hari’s salon for £85.
INVIGORATING SENTO: A purifying and invigorating massage based on the purification of the Japanese bathing ritual ? the process includes exfoliation with Sento Invigorating products containing bamboo, seaweed, rice protein, salt and wasabe – Japanese horseradish normal eaten with sushi. A massage and meal rolled into one. An 85 minute treatment is available at The Sanctuary for £90. For booking call on 0870 770 3350.
Or fly to Japan for:
THE GOLDFISH PEDICURE: The Japanese have been eating live fish for centuries ? and now it’s time for Goldfish revenge in the form of a pedicure in which hundreds of miniature fish literally eat your feet alive before your very own eyes. Thankfully, piranha’s are not native to Japan, and the treatment uses doctor fish or gara rufa, whose appetite for human flesh is limited to dead, scaly skin (not to everyone’s taste). Your most unpleasant flaky bits will be swiftly nibbled away in 15 unbearably ticklish minutes to reveal baby, clean feet. So the only thing your likely to die off is laughing. Contact Ooeden Onsen in Tokyo (Tel: 0081 355 001126)
THE GOLD FACIAL: Inspired by the mask of Cleopatra, this gold-leaf facial is the ultimate in Japan’s decadent pursuit of wrinkle-free skin. Showcased at Tokyo’s Beautyworld 2007 expo in May, it is now available in over 20 salons across Japan. A snip at £125 plus a return flight to Tokyo. ( http://www.beautyworldjapan.com)
THE DE-0DOURISER: With Japan’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-like obsession with purification, the Sell Etiquette Up treatment is the ultimate inside-out approach to beauty claiming to eliminate faeces odour by detoxing your internal organs. Be a pure, wrinkle-free Japanese beauty ? even when you’re on the toilet. Available at Takano Yuri Beauty Clinics across Japan (Tel: 0081 3 5465 1107)