Luxury product lines are now being created not just using ingredients synonymous with Asia (think silk, green tea, ginseng), but based on the overall Asian approach to beauty. While qualities like lustrous hair, clear skin and symmetrical features are universal standards of good looks, elements more specific to the Asian standard of beauty are now finding appeal elsewhere. More melanin in the skin means Asians don’t wrinkle as quickly as their Western counterparts, and because they tend to wear lighter and more translucent make-up, flawed skin has nowhere to hide. While Caucasian women prize a glowing, bronzed tan, Asian women see pale, white skin as a gift.


“In Asia, we focus on natural ingredients like Japanese herbs,” says Nao Tsuruta, founder of Shinso Skincare, whose £ 255 Shinso Essence is used by Jennifer Aniston and Charlize Theron. The serum contains a blend of 70 Japanese herbs and botanicals, combined with salt mined from the Sea of Japan, all designed to work at a deep cellular level. Because of potent ingredients like Epidermal Growth Factor, which accelerates skin cell renewal, and fullerenes, which absorb free radicals, Shinso Essence was first used by cosmetic surgeons to treat inflammation or bruising after laser treatments and Botox sessions.   “In the West, they look for more pharmaceutical and chemical ingredients,” says Tsuruta. Western cosmetics also tend to target specific issues like dry skin, oily skin or acne, whereas Asian-influenced lines treat the skin holistically and put more emphasis on beauty rituals, in which looking after the skin is a multi-step process.

Victoria Tsai had to comb through a 200-year-old book, Miyakofuzuko Kewaiden (“Capital Beauty and Style Handbook”) to divine how to formulate her brand, Tatcha. “It documents everything the geisha has been doing for a hundred years,” says Tsai. “At least 85 per cent of it is still applicable.” Among the beauty secrets revealed in the tome are daily polishing and exfoliating, and the use of oils for cleansing so the skin isn’t stripped of its natural moisture.The book provided Tsai, who is based in San Francisco, with the impetus she needed to create her Japanese-produced line that, as soon as it launched last year in the Beverly Hills branch of Barneys, became the top-selling treatment brand there. It made its appearance in Hong Kong, at Joyce, last month. 


Tatcha is at the forefront of a mounting interest in Asian skincare in the rest of the world. The Korean brand Sulwhasoo, which means “snow flower,” has recently been making waves well beyond its home – for instance in the US. The line includes potent natural ingredients such as ginseng, red pine and white mulberry.The precepts of the Dongui Bogam, a 500-year-old Korean book compiled by the royal physician of the time and widely recognised as the authority on traditional medicine, was the inspiration for Amarté, a line formulated by American dermatologist Craig Kraffert. Created in Seoul, it is founded on a four-step process of cleansing, moisturising, rejuvenating and protecting, a progression shared by many Asian beauty brands. The rituals of Japanese bathing are encapsu-lated in the new line Sai-Sei, its products designed to replicate the spa experience at home. Created by the founder of the Space NK Apothecary, Nicky Kinniard, after a visit to the Gora Kadan hot springs near Tokyo, each product is meant to reinvigorate the mind, body and soul. The Mineral Bath and Shower Gel, Mineral Oil and Loofah Body Polish Soap are full of softening fruit extracts and marine-based ingredients. AmorePacific uses red ginseng, bamboo sap, matsutake mushrooms and green-tea plants grown in volcanic soil replete with minerals, and is among the priciest Asian brands.

The Korean skincare line Dr Jart is widely credited for the phenomenon of the BB Cream – a foundation-moisturiser in one – as well as its Time Renewal Serum and Cream, made of snail mucus extract, a popular ingredient in Korean skincare.Jill Blakeway, an acupuncturist, herbalist and founder of the YinOva Centre in New York, one of the largest acupuncture clinics in the US, is a fan of ginseng for treating the skin and seeks it out in the products she recommends. “As a herbalist, I really appreciate the way the formulas in the Sulwhasoo products are composed,” she says. “They’re clearly designed by a herbalist and not just by the R&D department.” Asian brands that originated to address common issues – brown spots on the skin, for example – are finding that their products are translating worldwide.

“A lot of Caucasian women recognise the beauty of Asian skin,” said Jerry To, co-owner of L’Opera, a prestige skincare line based in Houston, Texas. Its products focus on whitening, an integral component of beauty routines in Asia. L’Opera uses ingredients like titanium dioxide and larch tree extract, both known for their whitening properties. “We went to Asia before coming to the US, but these products are targeted for a global market”.