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Japanese Beauty Standards. How Important are Looks in Japan?

By Celia Li Jul 22, 2019

Do you think your Japanese friends have different beauty standards than those in your own country? When you walk on a street in Tokyo, or even in most places around Japan, do you notice that most Japanese people are very well dressed?

Are Japanese Beauty Standards High?

No matter if it is a smart suit for work, a cute dress for a date, or just a casual hangout with friends, most Japanese people are dressed-up from head to bottom. Even if they are going for a quick shop at a nearby store, Japanese people are unlikely to wear their pyjamas, flip-flops and go out with a head of messy hair outside of their homes. You will hardly find a girl on the street with a bare face, makeup-less. Why is an appearance so important in Japan?


Japanese beauty standards, women in her beauty routine

Being Well-Dressed in Japan

In Japan, it is understood that not dressing well is disrespectful. Japanese people are taught from a young age that they should not bother other people with their own problems. If your appearance is untidy and unclean, it doesn’t appear polite. This is because your looks are a visual representation of yourself and show how much care you take of yourself and your respect for the occasion.

It is necessary to have a professional outfit at the workplace because it shows your respect for the job. Although looks do not define a person, it is one of the biggest things influencing people’s impressions of you. Japanese people tend to be cautious about how others perceive them, which causes them to pay extra attention to how they present themselves. It is a culture, a norm where being well-dressed helps you fit into society.

Although you may find stylistic and unique outfits in Harajuku, many other people tend to dress similarly. For example, most men with an office job wear black suits with a white shirt and a briefcase. While times are changing, uniformity is a key part of Japanese, as it shows a general sense of concordance and coordination within the society.

What Are the Beauty Standards in Japan?

Beauty standards exist everywhere globally, and especially in Asian countries, their beauty standards really differ from the West. Although there are general trends in Asia’s beauty standards, there are still many differences between each country. What is seen as beautiful in Japan?

The general beauty standards in Japan have changed a lot over history. Due to genetics and environmental differences, Japanese and Westerners have different appearances and body shape. To an extent, Japanese beauty standards have been influenced by how Westerners look. For example, defined facial features and paler skin tone are seen as beautiful, which many Westerners possess. As the trend changes, Japanese people have developed a general list of beauty standards that are pretty different from Western beauty standards nowadays. So that list includes:

1) Skin – Pale skin tone, clear skin

Pale skin is a beauty standard shared by most Asian countries like Koreans and Chinese. People believed that having paler skin represents wealth back in the days, as only people with a lower socioeconomic status would have to work outdoors, like a farmer working in the sunlight all the time. In contrast, it is seen to be wealthy if you have tanned skin in Western culture as it shows you can afford to travel. Japanese girls are keen on maintaining their skin; for example, they use whitening mask or cream, put on sunscreen, and use UV protection umbrellas to cover up themselves from the sun.

Having clear skin is also seen as being beautiful in Japan. Although makeup may cover up spots and pores, the key factor to having clear skin is skincare. A natural style is preferred in most cases, which means possessing skin that requires minimum makeup is important. As a result, many Japanese girls go through masks and creams daily, and their lifestyle is the biggest part of how Japanese girls have clear skin. This means they consume less oily food, drink water to moisturize their skin, take hot baths to open up blocked pores, etc. A person with clear skin is seen to have good care over themselves as they have to maintain good habits.

Japanese beauty standards, beauty routine

2) Face shape – Small, oval, slim

If a Japanese person tells you, “you have such a small face!” it is probably a compliment. Having a kogao (small face) that is oval-shaped with a sharp chin, especially on girls, is seen to be delicate and kawaii (cute). In Japan, many beauty products claim to make your face smaller, like a mask, a roller or a retainer-like mouth trainer, which trains up the muscle on your face. These are labelled with the word 小顔 (kogao). Though, the only method that really works is through surgery. Japanese girls worried about their face’s size sometimes adopt the antenna hairstyle, which is having two strands of hair by the side of their faces to cover up part of it. You can also find many Japanese girls strike a “toothache”-like pose when taking pictures, using their hands on the side of their faces to cover it a little.

Japanese beauty standards, woman

3) Eyes – Double eyelids

Generally, many Japanese people have mono eyelids, which means they do not have an eyelid crease. Eyes with double lids are usually seen to be bigger, more energetic, and defined. Most Westerners with a more pronounced facial feature would have a pair of double eyelids.  Double eyelid surgery is the most requested cosmetic surgery in Asia and the third most commonly proceeded worldwide. You can find many products for double eyelids in a cosmetic store, such as double eyelid tape, glue, string, etc.

Japanese beauty standards, double eyelids

4) Tiny frame – Petite or skinny body

Shared between most Asian countries is the image of smaller body frames being beautiful. Build-wise, Asians tend to have a smaller body than Westerners, which means they are shorter in height and likely to be skinnier. Many Japanese girls go on diets, exercise, and purchase beauty products that claim to “shrink” certain body parts. However, many Japanese guys find girls with big breasts, small waists and curvy hips attractive, which, realistically speaking, are usually only found in anime or models. In Japan, many girls prefer guys with a skinnier or toned body build rather than being muscular.

Japanese beauty standards, woman juicing

At the end of the day, everyone has different beauty standards and preferences. Beauty standards do not represent anyone, and the beauty of a person can only be defined by themselves, both in and out. People who work hard on their appearance to achieve beauty are admirable, but at the same time, it is important to appreciate and love yourself for how you are. Ultimately, being healthy in and out is the best kind of beauty one may possess.

How Do Japanese People Dress?

People in Japan, especially in Tokyo, are very well-dressed on all occasions. For work, many Japanese tend to dress in a similar way to present their professionalism. Outside of work, it is common to see all kinds of outfits and fashion styles depending on when and where you are in the country. Regardless of all the differences between styles, there is one main similarity: all well-dressed. So, what are the key points to dress up as well as the Japanese do? Let’s start from head to bottom.

Japanese beauty standards

1) Japanese Beauty Standards and Hair

Many Japanese girls and women wake up an hour or even earlier for their morning routine before work or school. Hairstyling is an essential part of that. Regardless of the hair length, many tend to style their hair in a way that is in between straight and wavy – a flowing line. Using a curler is necessary, along with hair products like setting spray or gel for better styling. Straighteners are also handy as many Japanese tend to have bangs or smaller strands of hair which could be styled better with a straightener. Another daily styling is very common for a Japanese girl to get their hair styled by a professional for occasions and go to the salon for regular hair treatment. There are fewer procedures required with guys, but many styles their hair with setting gel every day for a tidier and cleaner look. The common hairstyle depends on what is trending at that time.

Japanese beauty standards, women curling hair in a hair salon

2) Clothing

Japanese girls who are into fashion follow trends through magazines or social media. Though there are many exceptions of people in Japan who dress in a unique style, like the Harajuku style, most other women follow the general clothing style and “rules”. There are two main styles: layering or balancing. Layering is having multiple layers of clothing on, like a coat, sweater, shirt, scarf… definitely the most commonly used styling skill by most Japanese people to dress up. It flatters their body shape, and it is great to keep you warm in the wintertime. Balancing is where you would proportionally have heavier clothing on the top or bottom of the body and lighter on the opposite side. For example, in wintertime, many girls wear layers of sweaters and a coat on top with a short skirt on the bottom to balance out the “weight” of the outfit. Other than that, some people would go for their own way of styling – it could be urban, sweet, casual, kawaii… something they are confident in!

Generally, there are certain pieces of clothing that Japanese girls don’t usually wear. They often wear clothes that are relatively more conservative than Western outfits, as they do not show off a lot of skin in public. Dresses are usually at least knee-length, no tank tops or tops which show cleavage, and no flip-flops. Mini-skirts or shorts are not commonly worn, but they often have long socks or tights underneath. Japanese girls wear socks no matter what shoes or outfit they are wearing, even with sandals, where they wear transparent socks. However, it is seen as attractive to have an outfit that a Japanese girl could “show off” her neck, wrist, and ankles.

Japanese beauty standards, girl in coat and scarf

3) Makeup

In every Japanese girl’s morning routine, makeup is probably the part no one misses out on. It is seen to be rude and disrespectful to go out bare-faced without makeup by some people. A face that looks healthy, energetic, and clean is vital to give a good impression. Although natural beauty is admired and respected in Japan, it is still believed that you look more professional and present with makeup.

There are a few general trends in Japanese-style makeup. Japanese girls prefer having big eyes, which is emphasized mainly through the double eyelid, eyeliner, and long eyelashes. A clean, natural, but defined eyebrow is preferred. While contouring, Japanese girls focus on the highlight to achieve a sense of gloss. They love using blush on their cheeks to emphasize their baby-like face features, so it is more kawaii (cute).

Japanese beauty standards, putting on makeup

Japanese Beauty Standards Might Be Changing With The Times

What do you think about the way the Japanese think about appearances?

No matter what kind of style or fashion you are into, it is important to find one that suits you, and you are happy with. Remember to check and be aware of the occasion you will dress up properly and not be disrespectful!


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