• Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More) 1
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More) 2
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More) 3
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More) 4
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More) 5

Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums in 2021 - Tried and True! (Haku, SK-II, and More)

We might not be able to prevent aging altogether, but we can still age gracefully. That feels like the consensus here in Japan, where anti-aging skincare is popular and constantly evolving. As time goes by, our skin undergoes certain changes–hormones are thrown out of balance, certain functions are dulled–and serums that you used once may no longer be as effective.

So which serums a) target the signs of aging and b) will actually work for you? In order to answer that question, we ordered the 18 most popular anti-aging serums from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited a skincare specialist and had her compare the following:

1. Hydration
2. Application

This is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese anti-aging serums, essences, and ampoules.

Experts featured in this article

Aiko Kawakami
  • Last updated: 06-08-2021
  • 28,286 views
Table of Contents

What Exactly Does an Anti-Aging Serum Do?

What Exactly Does an Anti-Aging Serum Do?
The main thing an anti-aging serum does is hydrate. Dehydration is said to be one of the biggest culprits behind the various signs of aging. And it’s not just the wrinkling and the sagging; when your skin is dehydrated, its natural barrier gets worn down, which in turn leads to hyperpigmentation and acne.
Furthermore, as your skin ages, it loses its ability to hold on to water. When your skin starts losing its firmness and elasticity or when spots and dulling start to become apparent is when you need to pay attention to hydration more than ever. When it comes to anti-aging, the most important thing is to use products that help with water retention.
That isn’t to say that other things, such as ingredients that help firm up skin or prevent age and sun spots, aren’t important; they are. But they’re more like the cherry on the sundae. At the end of the day, the first question you should ask yourself is, “Does my anti-aging serum keep mature skin properly hydrated?”
Aiko Kawakami
Skincare Specialist
Aiko Kawakami
When it comes to anti-aging, the most important thing is keeping the stratum corneum—the horny outer layer of skin—moisturized. It wouldn't be too much to say that the key to anti-aging lies in the extent to which you can stave off dehydration.

Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules

Now to introduce the 18 best Japanese anti-aging serums, essences, and ampoules available online. They were ranked by how well they did on our tests and given an overall grade ranging from D to A+.
Just keep in mind that these products are not guaranteed to produce all the results we talked about above. If you do choose to buy any of these products, be sure to double-check the official description and purported benefits.
1
Japanese資生堂 HAKU メラノフォーカスV
Active ingredients4MSK, m-Tranexamic acid
BenefitsPrevents spots, Retains moisture
HydrationA+
ApplicationC
Overall scoreA
2
Active ingredientsNicotinic acid amide W, D-pantothenyl alcohol
BenefitsPrevents spots and rough skin
HydrationA
ApplicationB
Overall scoreA
JapaneseSKⅡ ジェノプティクススポット エッセンス
3

Beauty Mall Premium APPS + E Fullerene Serum

$78.06

Japanese【7種ビタミンC】リポソーム化(フラーレンAPPSセラミド5種)APPS+E(TPNa)フラーレン美容液
Cosmetic ingredientsFullerene, apple fruit cell culture extract, trisodium ascorbyl palmitate phosphate, ubiquinone, ascorbyl glucoside
BenefitsPrevents spots, improves skin elasticity, retains moisture
HydrationA
ApplicationC
Overall scoreA
4
RISOU  Repair Gel 1

RISOU Repair Gel

$125.92

Japaneseリソウ リペアジェル
Cosmetic ingredientsAscorbic acid, rhizopus/fermented rice extract solution, hesperidin, licorice root extract
BenefitsImproves skin elasticity and Glow, Prevents Spots and Dullness
HydrationA
ApplicationC
Overall scoreA
5
Japaneseドクターシーラボ スーパーホワイト377VC
Cosmetic ingredientsNano W377, raw vitamin C
BenefitsPrevents spots and dullness
HydrationB
ApplicationC
Overall scoreC
6
Japanese花王 リフトプロフェッショナル ハリ美容液 EX
Cosmetic ingredientsAcetyl hexapeptide-8, ginger root extract, horse chestnut seed extract, fucus extract, amidinoproline
BenefitsImproves skin elasticity
HydrationB
ApplicationA+
Overall scoreB
7
Japaneseポーラ B.A セラム プリズルミナ
Active ingredientsAscorbic acid 2-glucoside
BenefitsImproves skin elasticity, prevents spots
HydrationB
ApplicationA
Overall scoreB
8

MelanoCC Medicated Blemish Prevention W Vitamin Serum

$8.68

Japaneseロート製薬 メラノCC しみ集中対策美容液
Active ingredientsAscorbic acid, tocopherol acetate, glycyrrhizin dipotassium, isopropyl methylphenol
BenefitsPrevents spots & dullness
HydrationB
ApplicationA
Overall scoreB
9

Cosme DecorteWhitelogist Bright Express

$124.56

Japaneseコーセー ホワイトロジストブライトエクスプレス
Active ingredientsKojic acid
BenefitsPrevents spots
HydrationB
ApplicationB
Overall scoreB
10

Kobayashi Seiyaku Keshimin Essence

$9.86

Japanese小林製薬 ケシミン美容液
Active ingredientsL-ascorbic acid 2-glucoside, glycyrrhizin dipotassium, tocopherol acetate
BenefitsPrevents spots, dullness, and rough skin
HydrationC
ApplicationC
Overall scoreB
11
Japaneseアルビオン アンフィネス アップサージ ソリューション
Cosmetic ingredientsTocopherol, royal jelly extract
BenefitsPrevents rough skin, spots, & fine lines; retains moisture
HydrationC
ApplicationA
Overall scoreC
12
JapaneseSHISEIDO アルティミューン パワライジング コンセントレート N
Cosmetic ingredientsTrehalose, sodium carboxymethyl beta-glucan, PEG/PPG-17/4 dimetyl ether, rosa damascena flower water, glycerin, ectoine, xylitol
BenefitsRetains moisture
HydrationC
ApplicationA
Overall scoreC
13
MAIHADA KATSUJUN  Lift Essence 1

MAIHADA KATSUJUN Lift Essence

$104.44

Japaneseコーセー 活潤リフトエッセンス
Cosmetic ingredientsBacillus/(rice bran extract/soybean extract) fermentation liquid, sodium hyaluronate, polyglutamic acid, xanthan gum, hydrolyzed collagen, water-soluble collagen, PEG-150
BenefitsImproves skin elasticity
HydrationC
ApplicationB
Overall scoreB
14

MUJI Aging Care Moisturising Essence

$24.00

Japanese無印良品 エイジングケアプレミアム美容液
Cosmetic ingredientsPropanediol, hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, jojoba seed oil, soluble collagen, hydrolyzed collagen, polyquaternium-51
BenefitsAdds moisture
HydrationC
ApplicationB
Overall scoreC
15
Japanese常盤薬品工業 L&W リフトエッセンス
Active ingredientsUbidecarenone, N-acetyl-L-hydroxyproline, α-glucosyl glycerol solution, L-ascorbic acid 2-glucoside
BenefitsPrevents spots and dullness, improves skin elasticity
HydrationC
ApplicationB
Overall scoreC
16
Cosmetic ingredientsSatsuma mandarin peel extract, mangosteen bark extract, inositol, soapberry extract, turmeric extract
BenefitsImproves skin elasticity
HydrationC
ApplicationD
Overall scoreC
17
Japanese富士フイルム エッセンス デスティニー
Cosmetic ingredientsNano-resveratrol EX, nano-astaxanthin, nano-lycopene
BenefitsImproves skin elasticity
HydrationC
ApplicationD
Overall scoreC
18

ORBIS Lift Bright Essence

$37.53

Japaneseオルビス リフトブライトエッセンス
Cosmetic ingredientsCeracute®, hydrogenated retinol, ursolic acid B, burnet extract
BenefitsImproves skin elasticity
HydrationD
ApplicationB
Overall scoreD

Compare the Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums

Image
1
HAKU melanofocus V 45 Whitening Serum 1

HAKU

2
SK-II Genoptics Spot Essence 1

SK-II

3
Beauty Mall Premium  APPS + E Fullerene Serum 1

Beauty Mall Premium

4
RISOU  Repair Gel 1

RISOU

5
Dr.Ci:Labo  Super White 377VC 1

Dr.Ci:Labo

6
Sofina  Lift Professional EX 1

Sofina

7
POLA  B.A Prislumina Serum 1

POLA

8
Melano CC Medicated Blemish Prevention W Vitamin Serum 1

Melano

9
Cosme Decorte Whitelogist Bright Express 1

Cosme Decorte

10
Kobayashi Seiyaku  Keshimin Essence 1

Kobayashi Seiyaku

11
Albion  Upsurge Solution 1

Albion

12
SHISEIDO  Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate N 1

SHISEIDO

13
MAIHADA KATSUJUN  Lift Essence 1

MAIHADA KATSUJUN

14
MUJI  Aging Care Moisturising Essence 1

MUJI

15
NOV L&W  Lift Essence 1

NOV L&W

16
Shiseido Elixir Superior Enriched Serum 1

Shiseido

17
ASTALIFT  Essence Destiny 1

ASTALIFT

18
ORBIS  Lift Bright Essence 1

ORBIS

Name

melanofocus V 45 Whitening Serum

Genoptics Spot Essence

APPS + E Fullerene Serum

Repair Gel

Super White 377VC

Lift Professional EX

B.A Prislumina Serum

CC Medicated Blemish Prevention W Vitamin Serum

Whitelogist Bright Express

Keshimin Essence

Upsurge Solution

Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate N

Lift Essence

Aging Care Moisturising Essence

Lift Essence

Elixir Superior Enriched Serum

Essence Destiny

Lift Bright Essence

Features

Hydrates and Protects Against Blemishes but Feels a Bit Tacky

Love the Sleek Packaging, and No Complaints about Hydration, Either

Features Fullerene and Targets All the Signs of Aging

A Hydrating Serum Where All the Ingredients Serve Some Kind of Cosmetic Purpose

Hydration is Only Average, but Texture Makes it Easy to Target Problem Areas

Restores Your Skin, Leaving it Soft and Plush

Takes a While to Set but Pumps Hydration into Skin

Feels Like an Oil but is Surprisingly Not Sticky

Feels Extremely Light and Absorbs Without a Trace

Prevents Blemishes With the Help of Vitamin C Derivatives

Has a Relaxing, Elegant Scent; If Only it Were a Bit More Hydrating

Subtle and Refreshing Fragrance, but the Thick Texture Leaves a Sticky Residue

This May Feature Rice Power Extract No. 11, but Hydration is Barely Decent

Feels Light on Skin, but Hydration Falls Short of Expectations

Has a Bunch of Active Ingredients but Still Doesn’t Hydrate

Might Not be for You if You’re Picky About Scent

Permeates Through and Absorbs into Skin, Restoring Elasticity

Is a Bit Sticky, but Leaves Your Skin Smooth and Supple

Price$77.61$225.00$78.06$125.92$43.80$45.63$185.46$8.68$124.56$9.86$111.17$72.99$104.44$24.00$65.00$68.31$50.62$37.53
Japanese資生堂 HAKU メラノフォーカスVNicotinic acid amide W, D-pantothenyl alcohol【7種ビタミンC】リポソーム化(フラーレンAPPSセラミド5種)APPS+E(TPNa)フラーレン美容液リソウ リペアジェルドクターシーラボ スーパーホワイト377VC花王 リフトプロフェッショナル ハリ美容液 EXポーラ B.A セラム プリズルミナロート製薬 メラノCC しみ集中対策美容液コーセー ホワイトロジストブライトエクスプレス小林製薬 ケシミン美容液アルビオン アンフィネス アップサージ ソリューションSHISEIDO アルティミューン パワライジング コンセントレート Nコーセー 活潤リフトエッセンス無印良品 エイジングケアプレミアム美容液常盤薬品工業 L&W リフトエッセンスSatsuma mandarin peel extract, mangosteen bark extract, inositol, soapberry extract, turmeric extract富士フイルム エッセンス デスティニーオルビス リフトブライトエッセンス
Active ingredients4MSK, m-Tranexamic acidPrevents spots and rough skinFullerene, apple fruit cell culture extract, trisodium ascorbyl palmitate phosphate, ubiquinone, ascorbyl glucosideAscorbic acid, rhizopus/fermented rice extract solution, hesperidin, licorice root extractNano W377, raw vitamin CAcetyl hexapeptide-8, ginger root extract, horse chestnut seed extract, fucus extract, amidinoprolineAscorbic acid 2-glucosideAscorbic acid, tocopherol acetate, glycyrrhizin dipotassium, isopropyl methylphenolKojic acidL-ascorbic acid 2-glucoside, glycyrrhizin dipotassium, tocopherol acetateTocopherol, royal jelly extractTrehalose, sodium carboxymethyl beta-glucan, PEG/PPG-17/4 dimetyl ether, rosa damascena flower water, glycerin, ectoine, xylitolBacillus/(rice bran extract/soybean extract) fermentation liquid, sodium hyaluronate, polyglutamic acid, xanthan gum, hydrolyzed collagen, water-soluble collagen, PEG-150Propanediol, hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, jojoba seed oil, soluble collagen, hydrolyzed collagen, polyquaternium-51Ubidecarenone, N-acetyl-L-hydroxyproline, α-glucosyl glycerol solution, L-ascorbic acid 2-glucosideImproves skin elasticityNano-resveratrol EX, nano-astaxanthin, nano-lycopeneCeracute®, hydrogenated retinol, ursolic acid B, burnet extract
BenefitsPrevents spots, Retains moistureAPrevents spots, improves skin elasticity, retains moistureImproves skin elasticity and Glow, Prevents Spots and DullnessPrevents spots and dullnessImproves skin elasticityImproves skin elasticity, prevents spotsPrevents spots & dullnessPrevents spotsPrevents spots, dullness, and rough skinPrevents rough skin, spots, & fine lines; retains moistureRetains moistureImproves skin elasticityAdds moisturePrevents spots and dullness, improves skin elasticityCImproves skin elasticityImproves skin elasticity
HydrationA+BAABBBBBCCCCCCDCD
ApplicationCACCCA+AABCAABBBCDB
Overall scoreASKⅡ ジェノプティクススポット エッセンスAACBBBBBCCBCCCD
Link

Introducing the Expert Who Lent Us Her Knowledge

This time around, we borrowed the expertise of a skincare specialist, who’s a well-known face both in magazines and on the web.
Introducing the Expert Who Lent Us Her Knowledge
〈Aiko Kawakami〉
Skincare Specialist

She's a skincare specialist who's got over 20,000 consultations under her belt. She approaches skin with a combination of scientific evidence and experience, using her knowledge of dermatology and cosmetic ingredients to help women become even more beautiful, down to their fingertips.

She's the representative of the board of directors over at ANSEM (Association of Nail & Skin Experts Maestro) and an instructor at the JCLA (Japan Cosmetic Licensing Association). She's also made numerous media appearances.

How We Tested the Anti-Aging Serums

How We Tested the Anti-Aging Serums

Now to introduce the 18 most popular Japanese anti-aging serums that we ordered and the process by which we tested them. We tested for each of the following things:

Test ①: Hydration
Test ②: Application

Test ① Hydration

Test ① Hydration

First, we looked at hydration-the key to anti-aging. We applied pearl-sized drops of serum to our arms. We then used a moisture analyzer and compared the state of our skin before application to its state eight hours after application.

Hydrating Serums Contained Sugar Derivatives or Antioxidants

Hydrating Serums Contained Sugar Derivatives or Antioxidants
The serums that proved to be most hydrating usually contained antioxidants–such as Vitamins A and C, as well as tocopherol–or sugars–such as rhamnose or sugar squalane–as ingredients. Sugars in particular are great at absorbing and holding on to water.
Other anti-aging serums that were effective contained ascorbic acid, ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10), and apple fruit cell culture extract. To summarize, we found that ingredients that either prevent oxidation or are effective humectants have a positive effect on your skin’s ability to retain moisture.

Test ② Application

Test ② Application

Next, we looked at how well each serum applied. We gathered staff from several departments and had them test each product. They then shared their impressions on how the formula felt and smelled, as well as how convenient the packaging was.

We Liked Serums That Felt Like Lotion and Smelled Like a Field of Flowers

We Liked Serums That Felt Like Lotion and Smelled Like a Field of Flowers
As for texture, we preferred products that were a bit dense, as opposed to thin and watery. They felt and usually proved to be more hydrating. They were a bit tacky, but they also seemed to do more to plump out the skin and smooth out wrinkles.
As for smell, we found that most anti-aging serums do have classy, subtle fragrances. Our favorites tended to be those with light, floral scents.

How to Choose a Japanese Anti-Aging Serum – Buying Guide

There are a whole lot of anti-aging serums out there. Let’s talk about how to narrow down the choices and find one that’s right for you.

Look for Something Hydrating

Look for Something Hydrating
As we’ve already mentioned, the first thing we want you to check for is hydration. We’re not exaggerating when we say that, simply by making sure your skin doesn’t dry out, you can eliminate or ameliorate many signs of aging. The following are examples of effective moisturizers:
  • Ceramides: Hydrates your skin and helps restore its natural barrier
  • Hyaluronic Acid: Known for water retention
  • Proteoglycans: Glycosylated proteins. Provides hydration and elasticity

In particular, proteoglycans have enjoyed tons of popularity in recent years. The poster child of proteoglycans would be aggrecan, found in articular cartilage. 


That’s would explain why it’s highly elastic. It has exceptional water retention. It has also been experimented on and proven to help with collagen synthesis–truly a superstar when it comes to anti-aging.

Aiko Kawakami
Skincare Specialist
Aiko Kawakami
As for other hydrating ingredients, glycerin and BG come to mind. Then there's fruit cell culture extract, taken from apples, as well as sugars like trehalose and sugar squalane, which have the ability to attract and retain water.

Then, Look for Other Ingredients That Target Your Concerns

It’s not only hydration–there are a whole host of other benefits an anti-aging serum can offer you. Below, we introduce a few of the most common woes of aging, as well as ingredients that target those areas.

Ingredients Said to Work on Spots and Dullness

Ingredients Said to Work on Spots and Dullness
With age comes blemishes and lackluster skin. The following are ingredients meant to prevent that.
  • APPS: A vitamin C derivative that has the ability to permeate into skin. Brightens skin and fights off wrinkles.
  • Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate: A stabilized vitamin C derivative. Reduces melanin in the skin and suppresses its production.
  • Kojic Acid: Inhibits tyrosinase, an enzyme that catalyzes the production of pigments.
  • Fullerene: Suppresses melanin production. Also said to help with hydration and reducing crow’s feet.

Ingredients Said to Restore Firmness and Elasticity

Ingredients Said to Restore Firmness and Elasticity
Another thing: as your skin matures, it loses suppleness and gains wrinkles. The following are ingredients that are said to smooth out skin.
  • Retinol (Vitamin A): Helps with skin elasticity. Also reduces dullness and the appearance of spots and wrinkles.
  • Pine Extract: Strengthens lymphatic vessels. By doing so, also keeps skin from sagging.
  • Astaxanthin: A red pigment. Lightens the skin and reduces wrinkles.
  • Acetyl Hexapeptite8: Relaxes facial muscles, reducing face contractions. This, in turn, helps with sagging and expression lines.

Find a Texture That's Pleasant and Packaging That's Convenient

Find a Texture That's Pleasant and Packaging That's Convenient
With skincare, consistency is key. Even the best anti-aging serum in the world will be of no help if you don’t use it every day. That’s why it’s important to find a formula that smells and feels good, wrapped up in packaging that’s easy to use.
Serums vary in density. They can be lightly or heavily scented or have no scent at all. As for packaging, you can find serums in tubes or bottles with either a pump or dropper. This kind of stuff all comes down to personal preference, so make sure you find something you like.

The Difference Between "Cosmetic Ingredients" and "Active Ingredients"

The Difference Between "Cosmetic Ingredients" and "Active Ingredients"
In the tables above, you probably noticed that we list the “cosmetic ingredients” of some products and the “active ingredients” of others. Why’s that? 

Both in Japan and the US, serums that aim to merely beautify and alter appearance are labeled as cosmetics. Their main ingredients are usually not present in high concentrations and are called “cosmetic ingredients.”

On the other hand, serums that are meant to change bodily functions are labeled as drugs. Their main ingredients are present in higher concentrations and function like medicine (though, rather than curing anything, they are meant to prevent things, like the production of melanin). These ingredients are called “active ingredients.”

Other Products to Complete Your J-Beauty Routine

Other Products to Complete Your J-Beauty Routine
You’re not done yet! Serums are smack dab in the middle of the Japanese skincare routine. They’re actually proceeded by toner and followed by lotion. Find out more below.

Summary

Everyone ages in different ways. There are some signs of aging you may be able to accept and others you want to ameliorate, so it’s important to choose a serum that targets your specific needs. Just remember that a lot of skincare is preventive and not curative, and anti-aging care starts early.
Well, at the bottom of it, the best thing you can do for your skin is lead a healthy lifestyle–eat well, sleep well, exercise, and moisturize. And then, when you’re looking for a little extra insurance in the form of an anti-aging serum, be sure to keep what we talked about today in the back of your mind.

Author: Yukina Matsuda/Translation: Jasmine Li/Photos: Koichi Miura, Yoshio Yoshida

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    Last time, we talked about toners. Now, we move on to the next step in the Japanese skincare routine: moisturizers and face lotions. Face lotions are important–they are, if you remember, the lid that seals your toner in. And, just like in America, in Japan, we have our high-end and drugstore brands, our revolutionary products, and dupes.We thought it was high time someone separated the wheat from the chaff. That’s why we ordered the 23 most popular moisturizers and face lotions from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited a skincare specialist and had her compare the following:1. Hydration2. ApplicationThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese moisturizers and face lotions. We also talk about the difference between lotion and cream at the very end of the article–be sure not to miss it.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    39,157 views
  • Top 10 Best Vegan Sunscreens in 2021 (Supergoop!, Coola, and More)
    Top 10 Best Vegan Sunscreens in 2021 (Supergoop!, Coola, and More)
    Sunscreens might contain animal or animal-derived ingredients such as collagen and elastin. So, for those who follow a vegan lifestyle, you might want to look specifically for sunscreens that are labeled as vegan. Since vegan sunscreens come in different consistencies and levels of sun protection factor, though, it might be tough to know which product is right for you. If you're looking for some suggestions, check out our list of favorites! Supergoop's Unseen Sunscreen won our grand prize thanks to its lightweight and antioxidant-rich formula that's highly effective in defending your skin against the damages of UV rays. Read on to know about nine other great options and take a look at our buying guide at the end for some tips in choosing a vegan sunscreen. 
    Cosmetics and skincare
    154 views
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