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Age like the Japanese

Japanese women don’t get fat. But what’s even more fascinating is that their skin simply doesn’t seem to age. No lines, zero blemishes, just luminous skin. How do they stay so stunning and what’s on their beauty menu? We reveal the best-kept secret

brunch Updated: Aug 18, 2012 16:48 IST
Kavita Devgan
Japanese women

Japanese women don’t get fat. But what’s even more fascinating is that their skin simply doesn’t seem to age. No lines, zero blemishes, just luminous skin. How do they stay so stunning and what’s on their beauty menu?



Stick to ‘Plan B’
Koyoto Okugawa runs a rice sake café in the Oinodaira area at the foothills of Mount Fuji. She is 48 and doesn’t look it. Okugawa believes in keeping her skin hydrated – both internally and externally. “I keep hydrating my face all the time and I drink a lot of rice sake,” she says. The non-alcoholic drink is made using a yeast mould called koji and is a rich source of vitamin B.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/8/Japenese_brunch.jpgVitamins B2, B3, B6, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B12 are key components in maintaining healthy haemoglobin levels, which directly affect skin quality. While rice sake is not available in India, there are plenty of ways to ensure you have your B fix: help yourself to chicken, tuna, whole grains, dairy, green vegetables and garlic regularly.

“External application of Vitamin B also does wonders,” says Okugawa. “I know this because my grandmother used to make koji with her hands, and she had the softest hands I have ever seen.” The anti-ageing effects of koji were discovered in the youthful hands of old monks who distilled rice wine at a Kobe monastery in Japan years ago.

According to Rashmi Shetty, cosmetic physician at Mumbai’s Dr Rashmi Shetty’s Non Surgical Cosmetic Solutions, “Vitamin B and its derivatives help improve the texture and moisture retention capacity of the skin.” Shetty adds, “Research shows that external application of nicotinamide – a derivative of B3 – leads to softer, skin. Similarly niacinamide, another byproduct of the vitamin, is proving to be an effective skin lightening and anti acne and pigmentation agent and gaining entry into skin-care products.” For those of us not making sake at home, Japanese skincare giant SK-II’s is a pricey, but a great substitute.

Angle for fishy benefits...
Hakone-based Nemoto Yuko is 40, but has the skin of a 16-year-old. She keeps it simple. She uses nakabukuro (a cotton bag of rice bran that offers a gentle massaging effect) to improve the skin’s texture, and red beans to gently scrub her face. “It’s gentle exfoliation,” explains Swati Srivastav, a dermatologist with VLCC in Mumbai, citing that it is essential for great-looking skin. “Use milk, lime, apricot and papaya to exfoliate. But be careful. The scrub should have fine granules so that it doesn’t harm your skin.”

japanese_brunch_oneOf course, food plays a part too. Yuko says she eats fish (a great source of skin-friendly Omega-3 fatty acids) and lot of seaweed, particularly wakame algae. "I add seaweed to my soups and have it as a side dish as well," she says. Wakame is another Japanese skincare secret. It is known to strengthen skin against UV rays and also delays wrinkles. "Many Japanese cosmetics companies use seaweed extract in their skincare products," says Srivastav. Simal Soin, dermatologist at Delhi’s Three Graces, vouches for seaweed’s benefits too. "Creams that contain the extract have been shown to increase levels of hyaluronic acid – which improves skin’s elasticity – and makes you look younger."

Go Green
As a Yakult lady, responsible for educating clients and delivering probiotic products in Tokyo, Yuko Yamamoto is out visiting customers in the sun, rain and cold through out the year. But it hasn’t affected her skin one bit. She uses only Yakult skincare and swears by its moisture-retaining benefits. Her other secret weapon is green tea. Like most Japanese women, she sips many cups a day. It seems to be working: Yamamoto looks like she’s in her early twenties, even though she is actually 41.

So how does green tea work? It contains L-theanine, an amino acid that keeps the stress hormone cortisol in check and keeps collagen fibres intact, ensuring firm skin. “Green tea masks are becoming extremely popular,” adds Srivastav.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/8/brunch_skin.jpgMessage in a bottle

Japanese cosmetics are a rage worldwide. Here are the top few:

SK-II: A favourite with Kate Moss and Sadie Frost, it uses a skin lightening ingredient derived from sake

Shu Uemura: The make-up brand offers very high-quality skincare. Apart from perhaps the best cleansing oils, they also make excellent anti-ageing creams

Yakult Beautiens: Look for moisturisers derived from lactic acid bacteria, which help you get tighter skin, healthier radiance and better skin elasticity

Kyusoku Bihaku: Famous for its whitening products, the brand is now available in India

Shiseido: The Japanese beauty giant’s latest skincare line, Future Solution LX, has an extra rich cleansing foam, concentrated balancing softener, and a regenerating cream

RMK: Easily the largest Japanese skincare brand, it is known for delivering signature dewy glowing, translucent skin. Try their cleansing oil, recovery gel and foundations and watch your skin transform

Jill Stuart: The fashion designer’s makeup and skincare range is exclusive to Japan and is drop-dead gorgeously packed in silver. It’s not cheap, but her lip lustres and jelly eye colours are much in demand

From HT Brunch, August 19

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