One of the faces of SK-II
Pretty much every Westerner that comes to Japan notices that Japanese women look amazingly young for their age. Most 50-something year old Japanese ladies look like they are in their 30s, and 30-year olds practically look like high school students. This really ruins my day, usually about 8.05am when I walk out of my building and pass the first Japanese lady on my way to the tube.
Not only do I suffer during my way to work, but at work I am constantly reminded about Japanese ladies’ perfect complexion, given that I work with two Japanese women who are roughly my age (mid-late 30s) and who have hardly any wrinkles. I feel like a Shar Pei in comparison.
Shar Pei (photo from: dogbreedplus.com)
Even worse, when I’ve compared our ages with ‘How old do I look’ – a software that relatively accurately estimate the age of people in photos – my work colleagues are consistently estimated as 25-year olds. Me on the other hand…
(not only does the software estimate me being 79 years old – it also thinks that I am a man!)
So the question that for the past year has been keeping me awake at night (in addition to my 4-year old Type 1 diabetic daughter’s blood sugar testing) is:
What the hell do these women do to stay looking so young?!
I believe many labs have been/are running tests here in the far East, trying to figure out why Japanese and Korean people retain their youthful skin decades longer than their Western counterparts. Unfortunately, genetics (and one’s facial structure) seems to play a big part in whether your look like a Shar Pei at 40 or not.
Since there isn’t much we can do about our genetic make up or facial structure, in a desperate attempt to get some sleep and to shave a couple of years off my face (try 30 years!), I’ve been slyly observing my Japanese friends and their habits and even asked them what their beauty secrets are. Here’s what I’ve found out.
Most people in Japan drink green tea every day, and many people I’ve talked to say they believe green tea is one of the most important reasons for their skin looking like that of Michelle Pfeiffer’s, or perhaps nowadays more appropriately that of Kim Kardashian’s.
Green tea is full of antioxidants which not only fight many diseases but also are beneficial to your skin, so there might really be something to be said for drinking green tea. Having said that, my husband really likes green tea but he looks like the above Shar Pei’s grandad.
Japanese mothers tend to give their children green tea instead of water and most of the children grow to love it. I feel the word ‘grow’ is important here because green tea is an item on my list of acquired tastes. I mean, having a mouthful of green tea or neat vodka results in a similar grimace on my face. And thinking about it the grimace caused by a gulp of green tea probably counterbalances any positive effects that mouthful has on my wrinkles, so (in my case) I am not sure if it would prove to reverse the damage done by drinking too many mouthfuls of vodka over the years.
I suppose I could attempt to reach my daily green tea quota by eating the tea in the form of ice-cream (green tea is one of the most popular ice-cream flavours in Japan). As you might have guessed, it’s not my favourite ice-cream flavor – but the fact that green tea is combined with ice-cream fools my brain into thinking it is something edible – a similar phenomenon as having rum-raisin ice-cream: not in my top 100 ice-cream flavours but I’ll down it if there’s nothing else on offer.
Many Japanese women think that this spicy Korean cabbage-dish also fights aging because of the antioxidants in it. And in fact, many Japanese women think Korean women look even younger than themselves and they put it down to Kimchi. I’ve tried to flag up the fact that Korean women visit their plastic surgeons at least as often as Donatella Versace, but the ladies over here are convinced it is kimchi.
When my Japanese friends and I go out for a BBQ, I tend to opt for sirloin steak or some other meaty part of the cow. My Japanese friends on the other hand go for things like cow’s pancreas, diaphragm or womb (see photos some menus below).
I was rather shocked by their dinner choices until they told me that gizzards have a lot of collagen, and therefore anti-aging properties. So, I tried stomach, pancreas, and I don’t even know what else. I don’t want to come across as a princess, but pancreas and the other stuff just doesn’t taste like something I want to eat on a regular basis. Perhaps your taste buds agree more with this anti-aging category of food, but my gagging reflex says:
For the love of God, lets age gracefully without chewy gimmicks!
2. Skin care
This is nothing new to anyone, right? -We all know that sun is not good for one’s skin, in terms of aging at least. But what do us Western women do? We want a (permanent) tan – and so we exchange 50 years of youth for 25 years of tan. It is probably obvious what I will say next, but I’ll say it anyway: Japanese women do not sunbathe. In fact, they carefully cover themselves up especially in Osaka’s 40 degree August even when just popping out for a quick food shop.
The brand that all Japanese women seem to swear by is SK-II, a brand that I had never heard about until I came to Japan. Although many Japanese women swear by it, they do not use it themselves, largely because its probably more expensive than having Botox. I’ve never had Botox (or any other invasive facial treatment), and please correct me if I am wrong, but I’m guessing paying about £250 for a 50g tub of face cream is not far off from Botox prices.
In any case, this facial product is a Japanese make. It’s anti-aging and its age repair qualities derive from yeast. Apparently in the 1970s, Japanese researchers noticed that people working in sake factories had unbelievably young looking hands in comparison to the age showing on their faces and investigated whether sake could be the Grail of eternal youth. Eventually researchers managed to identify one strain of yeast (called Pitera) that seemed to provide protection from aging.
Like many Japanese women, I use SK-II. I parted with a relatively large sum of money about six months ago (when I turned 40) and invested in several SK-II products. And I have to say, I really like them. My skin has generally been as dry as the Sahara for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried more or less every product under the sun (no pun intended) but, due to central heating, during the winter my skin always looked like a snake peeling its skin – until the winter just gone (and SK-II) when this was not a problem at all.
Disappointingly, the cream has not turned me into an 18-year old, at least if measured by the number times I’ve been ID-ed since I started using SK-II (zero).
Japanese hot springs, or onsens, are similar to places like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. The minerals and chemicals in the water are thought to revitalize the skin.
Most Japanese people visit onsens on a regular basis, similarly to your standard British person visiting their local pub. While the geothermal water of onsens is likely to have long lasting benefits on your skin, the pints of lager in your local pub are likely to result only in temporary (drunken) misconception that you are 18 again.
I don’t know what your thoughts are on aging, or whether or not you look like a Shar Pei, but some of the above tips might be worth trying. And if you get really desperate – one way to deal with aging is to visit your local pub every evening and time-travel with a pint of Stella.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The views here are solely mine. The tips listed above may not have significant effects on your aging or health.