15 Japanese Skin Whitening Products for Translucent, Milky White Skin

There's skin lightening and there's Japanese skin lightening. Japanese women are famous for their wrinkle-free look, which makes you mistake their age by a decade at least. They also manage to somehow keep their smooth, pale skin perfectly free of blemishes, beautifully clear and doll-like. 

If you've ever admired the milky white, translucent skin of Japanese women, you've probably wondered what sort of products they're using to achieve that light and bright skin complexion. 

“Bihaku” marks in Japanese “skin lightening” cosmetics and this is a trade they surely know a thing or two about. Creams bearing this label are no longer limited to the Japanese market only. Many Japanese skin whitening products successfully reach satisfied buyers in the West daily. 

It’s important to be clear from the outset about what Japanese skin whitening products can achieve. Since most are based on traditional insights and natural skin whitening ingredients, you shouldn’t hope them to alter your natural skin color or skin tone. Do expect them to help you do away with dark spots, small scars, blemishes and all sorts of discoloration. 

Be clear what kind of issues exactly you wish to address using Japanese skin lightening products and stay consistent in their application. When those translucent, youthful faces stand as the promise in using a certain product, it’s easy to get caught up in unrealistic expectations.

So do you dream of getting the fresh-faced, Japanese type of clear skin? Of course, some of it is genetics. But the rest of it? Look no further than Japanese skin whitening products.

Top Japanese Skin Lightening Products

Alongside other Asian nations, Japan is a huge exporter of movies, pop music, and J-drama, one of the genres of the famous Asian soap operas. No wonder this intensive exposure to Japanese beauties and their fabulous skin has pushed the world to turn to this country’s secret formulas and skin whitening products. 

Japanese women learn about taking care of their faces from an early age and start anti-aging prevention skin care earlier than most Western women. They learn to do facial massage to relax the tense muscles. Gentle tapping and circular movements (without stretching the skin) are only two of their magical tricks. They use these movements not only during the application of the moisturizer, but even during makeup removal!

The same goes for their various tricks in skin whitening. Even celebrities have started swearing by the effectiveness of Japanese skin whitening products and other skincare coming from this country. Some Western models have even become the international faces of Japanese skincare brands. 

What’s more, it seems like this isn’t just another hype. Japanese skin whitening and beauty products are indeed very effective and revered by professionals and users alike. 

What  Makes Japanese Skin Lightening Products so Popular?

First of all, because they are really high-quality. Japan imposes much stricter regulations on dangerous skin whitening ingredients than many Western countries such as the US. Hydroquinone, for example, is banned in Japan. 

Moreover, developing skin whitening formulas in Japan hasn’t been primarily market-led and profit-oriented. The importance of skincare in the lives of people from this Asian culture has produced a long-standing tradition of quality products that benefit from scientific innovation nowadays. 

Skin lightening is a giant pillar of the Japanese beauty market, one of the biggest in the world. They believe that white skin can make up for other flaws such as unattractive facial features. The investment in skin whitening products has been culturally important here. As a result, Japanese skin lightening products really do work and their popularity isn’t waning anytime soon. 

Finally, the ingredients used in these skin lightening products matter. In the past, they have experimented with all sorts of herbal (and not so herbal) ingredients and many of these are still used today in our skin lightening creams, such as kojic acid for example. 

Being the technologically advanced society Japan is today, of course they’ve went on to maximize their historical comparative advantage and add innovation to the skin whitening ingredients list. 

For example, recently the Japanese company Ichimaru Phacos introduced a raw material that whitens the skin instantly by inhibiting the activity of kinesis - a motor protein that takes an active part in the transport of melanin. Most other skin bleaching ingredients work by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase to reduce melanin production. In contrast, the innovative Japanese thyme extract keeps melanin remains localized around the nucleus of melanocytes in the deep layers of the epidermis and thus prevents darkening of the skin. The existing pigmentation brightens gradually and safely as was confirmed in both in vitro and in vivo tests. 

So which of these goodies should you pick? Here is the best Japanese skin whitening to get your hands on!

Shouvy Skin Lightening Soap

Let's start with the basics: soap. 

Skin lightening soap is a brilliant, almost effortless way to lighten your skin ‘cause, well, you gotta wash yourself anyway, right?

So you might as well choose a soap that has a heap of melanin-blocking, skin-lightening ingredients in it. And while Shouvy is relatively new to the skin lightening soap market, it offers some great choices.

The funky green soap combines Vitamin C and one of the effective skin lightening ingredients ever: glutathione. ​Glutathione is one of the most popular skin lightening ingredients ever, both for its ability to inhibit the enzymes that stimulates melanin production and for the fact that it changes the metabolic pathway of melanin from making dark pigmented melanin to creating light pigmented melanin.

Overall, it’s a damn good lightening ingredient.

But what if you want more than just glutathione? Reach for the pink bar, which combines glutathione with kojic acid, which is one of the most popular skin lightening ingredients in the world, thanks to the fact that it’s totally natural but still as effective at inhibiting melanin production as chemical skin lighteners.

Whichever bar you go for, rest assured that both bars contain a healthy heap of nourishing oils to counterbalance the drying effects of the lightening ingredients. If you’re prone to sensitive, dry skin, though, the Pure Gluta (green) bar may be a better choice since it’s formulated with glycerin and rice milk extract for extra moisture.

Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder

Not a fan of using bar soap on your sensitive facial skin? You’ll want to meet Tatcha’s Rice Enzyme Powder. This innovative, award-winning facial cleanser is inspired by the ancient beauty rituals of geishas and combines a number of natural ingredients that have been used for centuries to lighten and brighten skin tone.

If you haven’t used a powdered cleanser before, it can seem strange at first but you’ll come to love it - in like, 2 seconds. The water-activated enzyme powder is a lovely, superfine consistency and has heaps of goodies like rice bran, papaya extract, green tea leaf extract, pearl protein, and algae extract.

Thanks to its gentle grainy nature, you get both a thorough cleansing and a soft exfoliation at the same time. The result? Skin that’s so soft, bright and glowy, and with smaller pores to boot.

Whitening Sunscreen

Japan's got a whole lot of skin care products but an absolute must-have Japanese whitening product is whitening sunscreen. These fluid wonders are the best of both worlds, providing sun protection as well as being loaded with skin lightening ingredients to whiten your skin at the same time. It's like a lightening lotion and sunscreen in one. 

We especially love that these whitening sunscreens are lightweight and easily soak into your skin, making it perfect to layer under makeup. 

Plus, what a damn clever way to fade hyperpigmentation, lighten your skin and never get a tan?

Our favorites when it comes to whitening sunscreens all hail from Japan - Shiseido's Anessa Whitening UV Protector provides ​broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays while also containing M-Tranexamic acid, a proven ingredient for skin lightening, as well as hyaluronic acid and collagen, 2 more skincare powerhouses that provide a bevy of skin benefits.

​Skin Aqua's UV Moisture Milk contains a similar lineup of ingredients but at friendlier price tag. 

Skin Lightening Lotion

You've got the lightening soaps and the sunscreen to protect your skin afterwards but why use a regular old lotion when you can slather on a lotion with skin lightening benefits?

The best facial lotions to come out of Japan - with lightening and brightening perks - are Hada Labo's lotions. You may have already heard of this ever popular brand, thanks to their hyaluronic acid lotions but they also have a range of lightening lotions that are formulated with an extra boost of naturally brightening ingredients. 

​The best ones? Hada Labo's Albutin Medicinal Whitening Lotion is perfection - it contains a good dose of arbutin, commonly known as Bearberry Extract, and an all natural skin lightener that inhibits melanin and is an effective and much safer derivative of hydroquinone. Combined with the hyaluronic acid that Hada Labo is known for and you get lightening and plumping benefits. 

Another great choice for a skin lightening lotion is Hada Labo's Deep Whitening Milky Lotion, which also contains arbutin as well as Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP), a vitamin C derivative to gently and effectively brighten skin tone. 

Overnight Whitening Mask

Shouvy Whitening Mask, $20

Want to whiten your skin as you sleep? Reach for Shouvy's Whitening Mask. It's not a cream that you'd want to use in the daytime since on top of skin lightening ingredients like glutathione, niacinamide, arbutin and kojic acid, it also contains retinols and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) that gently exfoliate your skin. 

Both retinols and BHAs are great for encouraging cell turnover which gets rid of hyperpigmentation but like so many skin lighteners, they can increase your sensitivity to the sun so it is best to use this as a sleeping mask. 

This is a beauty brand that releases top quality medicinal cosmetics with a Japanese influence. Shouvy boasts a large pool of satisfied customers since their products have shown to be effective and constantly improved. They invest a lot in innovation and work with a team of experienced biotech experts. Moreover, in the spirit of Japanese cosmetics development, each product was meticulously tested before hitting the market. All of their products, as Japanese beauty products in general, undergo regular quality check-ups, resulting in a comprehensive product, equally safe for any skin type. 

Last but not least, none of these products was tested on animals and that’s a common practice in the Japanese beauty industry. 

Skin Whitening Mask

Soaps, lotions and creams are great but sometimes you want to pamper yourself and get quick whitening and lightening benefits. 

Enter whitening face masks.

Japan (and Korea and other parts of Asia) love their sheet masks so when it comes to skin ​lightening masks, you have a lot to choose from. 

Our favorites for best results? Kose's Turn White Vitamin C Facial Masks are a cult classic - they're super affordable, they're loaded with Vitamin C and they produce an immediate, noticeable lighter difference to your skin tone. Wonderful masks with the only downside being they can get a little addictive. 

Another one we love are HadaLabo's Medicated Whitening Facial Mask, which contains a good dose of arbutin, an all natural skin lightener to quickly lighten dark spots and brighten overall complexion (great to use alongside Hada Labo's skin lightening lotions, which also contain arbutin). Also great is Kracie's Whitening Facial Mask, which has a helpful combination of Vitamin C and fruit extracts for lightening as well as skin boosting ingredients like collagen. 

Fun tip: Another quirky little product that hails from Japan is the electric mask heater, which essentially warms each and every facial mask before you put it on so your skin gets better nutrient absorption and deeper penetration of the mask's ingredients. 

Whitening Body Lotion

You can't forget about your body, of course - you don't want to lighten your face and end up with a stark contrast starting from your neck! 

Which brings us back to Shouvy. Shouvy's Whitening Body Lotion is packed - really packed - with a bevy of skin lighteners like glutathione, kojic acid and vitamin C. It also does a decent job moisturizing although it can be too light for the winter months. 

Just keep in mind that skin lightening does take time, especially when you're dealing with body skin that's consistently exposed to the sun. To speed up your progress, combine the whitening lotion with other helpers like whitening soaps as well as regular exfoliation (this one's a must!). 

As for darker areas of your body that you'd like to lighten up (i.e. armpits, inner thighs), you can go for a more concentrated product like Shouvy's Underarm Whitening Cream. This combines lightening ingredients like arbutin along with exfoliants like salicylic acid to gently and gradually fade and lighten dark armpits. 

Skin Whitening Pills

Last but not least, Japan also offers plenty of ways to get lighter skin from the inside out. After all, why only stick to topicals when there are ingredients that have been shown to be effective skin lighteners when consumed orally?

A skin whitening supplement infused with Placental Protein, a proven twice more effective whitening ingredient than Glutathione, Mosbeau Placenta White makes skin visibly whiter in just 14 days! 

Mosbeau Placenta White goes beyond skin whitening. It plays an active role in skin-aging reversal too. It visibly reduces wrinkles and fine lines. Stimulates skin cell renewal to revitalize the skin. Moreover, it detoxifies the body with its potent antioxidant ingredients. 

Mosbeau Placenta White has a breakthrough formulation. It contains Placental Protein, Collagen, Vitamin C & Asparagus Extract. You don’t need other vitamins or supplements for the skin whitening or anti-aging effects to manifest. 

Every step entailed in developing Mosbeau Placenta White is done in Japan—clinical research, ingredient sourcing, product development, manufacturing, and packaging—utilizing their advanced technology and a keen eye for perfection.

We're mainly talking glutathione, of course. To be honest, our favorite skin lightening pills don't hail from Japan but Japan still has some good ones. Tatiomax is a well known brand in Japan, albeit a bit too expensive for what you get (at this price, we'd choose liposomal glutathione every time). 

A good alternative, though, is the Ishigaki L-Glutathione Whitening Capsules, which contain a pretty good dose of glutathione (600mg in each capsule) and at a really affordable price. 

Another option for a skin lightening pill that's unique to Japan is placenta. Placental protein has been lauded for everything from plumping the skin to whitening the skin and you can get it in supplement form with Mosbeau Placenta White Advanced Skin Whitening Tablets.


Japan is an amazing country to shop beauty products produced there. Various kinds of skin care and makeup products are available in a wide price range, and there are numbers of cosmetics brands which are famous worldwide, such as Shiseido, KOSE, and SK-II.

Japanese skin care products are renowned all around the world for quality, effectiveness and innovative formulae. This applies not only to high-end branded products, but also to the many inexpensive items, easily found at most drugstores.

Choosing the right Japanese skin whitening cream or soap for you can get tricky since English-language info about them might be limited on their websites. The difference in aesthetics also makes for labels you’re not used to looking like that. As a result, you may find some of these products looking untrustworthy. Make no such mistakes. 

We consulted Japanese cosmetics experts and picked the 10 most popular Japanese skin care products out of hundreds falling within a wide price range.

From affordable drugstore cosmetics to award-winning best quality products, pick your favourites among the 10 must-buy skincare products in Japan in 2019!

Final tipThe above are some of our favorite Japanese whitening products, but if you want to search around for new finds don’t forget to keep an eye out for the word "bihaku," which means “beautifully white” and is used on a lot of their whitening products.