Japanese women have been using skin softeners for decades and it’s easy to see why; they moisturize the skin and give it that extra bounce and glow older skin needs. It’s time to ditch harsh toners (which strip the skin of its natural oils) and opt for softeners!
Why is a skin softener so important?
As we get older our skin looses elasticity and begins looking drier. I’m 39 years old now so I’m constantly looking for products that can help my skin look bouncy and healthy. I used to apply toner every day after washing my skin and before using a moisturizer. That worked well in my 20s but not so much in my 30s, as it tends to dry out my skin.
During my last trip to Japan, my cousins and mother told me about skin softeners – a skin softener come in many different form (lotion, cleanser and cream) but its purpose is specific and always the same – to hydrate the skin, which is the exact opposite of what toners do.
Japanese women don’t believe in peeling their skin of nutrients. Instead they treat it very delicately and try to add as much moisture to it as they can. The purpose of a softener is to give your skin ‘double the hydration’ it needs.
I’ve been using softeners now for over 5 years and have nothing but positive things to say. I notice a big difference whenever I use it; my skin looks a lot more hydrated! There’s also other types of softeners such a creams, cleansers and even lip balm!
Finding softeners can be difficult outside Asia: I’ve seen them being sold in Koreatown, Japanese supermarkets and in specialty beauty stores. There’s also this line from Shiseido called Future Solution LX, which is loved and raved about by Marie-Claire magazine.
I’m currently using a Dior skin softener given to me by a Japanese cousin of mine. I apply it before bed under a moisturizer. I pat it on my skin until it feels sticky but firm and finish with a night cream. Unfortunately, this Dior line isn’t available in the States but I’ve previously used Shiseido hydro nourishing softener (listed below) and that’s worked really well for me too.
Asia’s bestselling skin softeners
- SK-II Facial Treatment Essence – 30ml – $19.50
- Cure Natural Aqua Gel – 250ml – $38.00 (Best selling exfoliator in Japan)
- Wei East white lotus hydrating cream – 1.45oz – $24.00
- Yu-Be therapy stick for dry lips – $5.00
- Laneige balancing emulsion moisture – 120ml – $29.99
- Shiseido hydro nourishing softener astringent – 150ml – $30.73
Is the fragrance of this softener strong? I had to ditch my previous skin softener because the fragrance was too strong for me and it made me a bit dizzy.
Hi Amanda, can you tell me which softener you used previously? I don’t find Shiseido products to be too strong in fragrance but it’s such a subjective thing that it’s hard to say based on zero information. Maybe I can help you better if I know which one you found to be too strong.
Thank you for sharing this post. I believe that a regimen of good skin care (skin softener: a girl’s best friend), regular yoga sessions and a diet nutritious in antioxidants and vitamins (anti aging foods good for your skin and soul) has changed the way I see getting older.
Thank you for this amazing post caroline! Never heard of the term softerner’s but now I do, So I am gonna try some. I loved this line from the article “Japanese women don’t believe in peeling their skin of nutrients” as i also believe in similar terminology. I always hated the concept of peel-offs. Well time for me to make a change in my beauty regime.
Thank you Monica! I hated peeling off my skin as well, it always felt weird and wrong. I personally prefer to focus on moisturizing since my skin always end up looking healthier and glowing this way.
Your products look nice to use. Gonna try this super soon. Actually, I am a nature freak thus I mostly relay on natural products but skin needs a little more care than that. Now, I will try these products with my hacks. Thanks for sharing. Keep sharing.
Nice content! Every women wish to have glowing skin, but due to busy schedule they do not take much care of their skin.I’ll definitely try this softener for my skin and hope so it work great with my skin.I also recommend to my friends about this product.
Hi! It is true that skin softeners are hard to find outside of Asia, so the last time I went to Japan, I stocked up big time on Hada Labo Gokujun Hyaluronic Lotion. I was just aware that it was a ‘lotion’ as I was doing homemade face masks as recommended by Chizu Saeki. I had never heard of skin softeners before then, but it really did make me look fresher. It also contains succinic/amber acid which really stimulates your skin cells.
Hi! Is softener the same thing as essence?
Hi Eshani! A softener is the same as essence indeed, it adds a layer of moisture to your skin and keeps it hydrated 🙂
Have just recently stumbled across your blog and found your anti aging tips great! Just wondering if I am considering using retinol products like a retinol cream where in the Japanese beauty steps would it fit in and if you have any Japanese retinol product recommendations. Otherwise would the other retinol products you recommended in your other article suffice?
I would only recommend using retinol at night since it can burn your skin during the day if you don’t add a sunscreen or wear foundation (with sunscreen). Using the products that contain retinol in the post should be plenty! 🙂
I’m really sorry if this has already been answered. I’m staying in Japan at the moment & trying to stock up on skin care products. As you say, skin softeners are very rare outside Japan. I’d never even heard of them in Australia. I was wondering, would you be able to give me the Japanese word (in hiragana and/or romaji and kanji) for skin softener so I can pick them out in the chemist? I can read both to an extent, but I can’t seem to find that particular phrase.
Thank you very much for your time!
Liliana, skin softeners are called skin softening ‘lotion’ in Japan which can be confusing since it means something completely different in the English speaking world. Look for clear liquid with this written on it -> (化粧水) ローション 🙂
Thank you! It seems I’d already bought & been using one (Kikumasamune Sake Skin Lotion High Moisture), so that works out well. I’ve only been following the oil/cleanser/softener/mosturiser regime (being Australian sunscreen all the time is just a given. XD) for a week but it seems to really help. I hope I can keep it up when I go back. Thank you so much for your site & the advice in it.
Thank you for sharing this post!
I have a question about SK II….
what is the difference between sa SK Ii FTE and SKII facial lotion? is facial lotion like a toner.is it better to use them both?
I saw your post as well about the Japanese skin care secrets…. I am planning to follow these…
1. Cure Aqua Gel cleanser
2. SK II Facial lotion
3. SK II Facial Treatment Essence
do you think applying these products is too much? or is it the right thing? I am 27 yrs of age.
Hi Paola! You don’t need to use both SK II products, just one is fine 🙂 Because you are so young (I envy you!), I don’t think you need to get the FTE one unless you can already see signs of sun damage. The FTE lotion is for aging skin with age spots and wrinkles while the lotion is focused on giving your skin the moisture it needs to look smooth while getting rid of impurities. My advice is to get Cure Aqua Gel Cleanser, follow it up with SK II Facial Lotion and finish with a moisturizer like DHC Astaxanthin (it’s also listed on my post). I hope this helps and thank you for reading my blog!
i came across your website coincidently and it’s very informative
would you please tell me what was dior softner you were using i might successfully be able to get it while im in my trip to tokyo
im currently in xo obagi skin care line.. do you have any impressions about it
thanks a lot i’ll be following you 🙂
Hi Noa, I don’t remember the name of the Dior softener but the bottle was a light pink. I haven’t been able to find it since, it was so amazing, really made my skin glow and had a nice thick, sticky texture. One brand I found that has a similar texture is Son & Parks’s Beauty Water, I’m loving this product!
Thanks for sharing these Japanese skin softener products. Honestly, I have not tried using any of the Japanese products yet, and this could be my first time. Since I am looking for a skin softener I wanted to try Cure Natural Aqua Gel, because this is best selling it must be effective. This is really worth a try.
Thank for taking time to write about skin softener. Is there any herbal product? I heard that lemon juice help to keep your skin tight , is that try?
Hi Brett, I don’t know if lemon juice applied topically works. From everything I’ve read about citrus being applied to the skin it looks like the nutrients can’t actually penetrate the skin, but since I’m not not a scientist so I can’t confirm this. However drinking lemon juice will make your skin glow because of the high concentration in Vitamin C 🙂
Can you please tell me if this brand works as well? I am trying to see if I could fade my age spots. — Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Balancing Softener Enriched W.
Hi Mia, any product that contains whitening should help fade age spots. If they are prominent, I would recommend seeing a dermatologist since they have amazing tools these days to get rid of them. I know you can get them removed at a hospital in Japan, not sure how it works here in the States.
Hi caroline, i have lots of pimples in my face. I have skin softener give my mom. Is it ok to use it on my face? Or it can worsen my pimples? Please reply.. thanks..
Hi Anne! What type of skin do you have? Oily, combination or dry? Have you always had trouble with your skin (underlying condition or medication you are taking) or is this something that’s been happening recently (hormonal change or diet)?
Hi Caroline, which Dior skin softener do you use? I have an oily T zone and light acne around my chin any other advice. Thank you.
Hi Connie, the Dior softener I was using was only sold in Japan. I ran out a while ago and am now using Shiseido Benefiance http://www.sephora.com/benefiance-wrinkleresist24-balancing-softener-enriched-P173612 It’s good although there seems to be some alcohol in there (the smell gives it away). This should be good for you though if you have an oily T-zone. If you just want a regular, non anti aging softener, just the regular The Skincare’ Hydro-Balancing Softener should be good.
hey beautiful. may i know if softener and moisturizer is the same thing or not? and can this softener reduce eye wrinkle also? thank you.
Hi Pheno! Softeners are not the same as moisturizer. The texture is just like toner except they do not contain alcohol. Instead of drying the skin, they add moisture to it and are used under moisturizers – they are truly amazing! I don’t think they can reduce eye wrinkles, for that I recommend good old eye cream and plenty of peppers and sweet potatoes in your diet (these foods can minimize wrinkles by up to 30%!) 🙂
Hi Caroline. Thanks for the information regardin softner. I have dry and sensitive skin. Ive used toners labeled non alcohol (as i read toners help with ph balance of your skin – but ive also read its an unnecessary step so i am confused) and am wondering if i should eliminate it and just use skin softners instead. Do you know of one that is good for dry and sensitive skin types? Thank you so much for answering my question.
Unless you break out a lot, I would completely eliminate toners and only use a softener. Shiseido has a line called The Skincare line that might work as it is recommended for sensitive skin (I’ve previously used it and found it to be very gentle).
Or you can go into a Japanese supermarket, they usually have a few softeners for around $10. They should all be for sensitive skin since Japanese women don’t like anything too strong for their skin.
Hi Caroline! I’m so happy to have discovered your website while searching for a Miso Ramen recipe, which i’m going to attempt to make tomorrow night!
Thank you for listing out the softener, I’m considering on getting the Shiseido Hydro one. But out of curiosity, will it also help reduce pores and blemishes as well? If not, would you recommend any facial product(s) that do? 🙂
Hi Xinyi! I’m not sure if it helps reduce pores but it will definitely help blemishes (unless they are related to rosacea). But here’s a trick I heard from a couple of makeup artists that’s supposed to be amazing in reducing pores: First make sure your pores are clean otherwise you might end up breaking out. Create a paste using baking soda and water, thick enough to stick to your skin. Rinse after a couple of minutes when it’s almost dry but not so dry that it flakes off (apparently leaving it for too long gives the skin a bleached look). Both of them swear by it and I’m going to try it soon too. Let me know if you do and how it turned out!
Hi Caroline i have been using dermology skin brightner cream for the past few months with excellent results. Would like to use softeners myself. However i am confused if i should use the softener in isolation or would it be good enough to use it with what i am using till now.
I would use a softener prior to using the brightening cream. Is there a particular reason you are thinking of using a softener? Does your skin feel dry?
Not really dry Caroline however i want it more soft. That’s why i was thinking of using a softener. I will try using a softener as you have suggested. Will post you about the results i achieve.
A softener will be good then, I suggest you put it on as soon as you come out of the shower to get as much absorption as possible. In the evening I use it under a serum and a moisturizer. Let me know about the results!
Hi, Caroline! I’m confused if a softener is the same as a toner. If they aren’t, should I apply a softener on my face after a toner? Thank you.
Hi! A softener is not the same as a toner. Toners contain alcohol which dries out the skin whereas a softener doesn’t. A softener will add moisture to the skin and keep it soft. I prefer softeners since I like to stay away from harsh chemicals that could potentially strip away the natural oils of my skin. I hope this helps 🙂
Noted. Thank you very much, Caroline. 🙂
Women are not the only one who need a skin care regime, men need it too!
Hi Caroline, I came across this post of yours a few weeks ago and went out the next day to get a softener (the Shiseido hydro-nourishing one) because I had never used a softer. Wow, what I difference it makes, my skin has never felt so comfortable and so good. So I just wanted to come back and say thanks for sharing you softener info. xx
You are so very welcome Sofia! I’m a huge fan of softeners therefore I’m really glad it’s making a positive difference on your skin too!