• Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True! 1
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True! 2
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True! 3
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True! 4
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True! 5

Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!

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※1 serums※2 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.

※1 エイジングケア: anti-aging (lit. aging care), which, in this article, refers to products meant to moisturize mature skin

※2 美容液: serums, essences, and ampoules (all three are basically the same product, just with different concentration levels of active ingredients)

This article's specialists

Aiko Kawakami
  • Last updated: 10/27/2019
  • 1,386 views
Table of Contents

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.

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, 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.

How to Choose a Japanese Anti-Aging Serum, Essence, or Ampoule – 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.

① Look for Something Hydrating

① 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※3: Hydrates your skin and helps restore its natural barrier
  • Hyaluronic Acid※4: 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※5, found in articular cartilage. That’s would explain why it’s highly elastic. It has exceptional water retention. It 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.
※3 セラミド: ceramides
※4 ヒアルロン酸: hyaluronic acid
※5 アグリカン: aggrecan

② 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※6: A stabilized vitamin C derivative. Reduces melanin in the skin and suppresses its production.
  • Kojic Acid※7: Inhibits tyrosinase, an enzyme that catalyzes the production of pigments.
  • Fullerene※8: Suppresses melanin production. Also said to help with hydration and reducing crow’s feet.

※6 アスコルビルリン酸Na: sodium ascorbyl phosphate
※7 コウジ酸: kojic acid
※8 フラーレン: fullerene

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)※9: Helps with skin elasticity. Also reduces dullness and the appearance of spots and wrinkles.
  • Pine Extract※10: Strengthens lymphatic vessels. By doing so, also keeps skin from sagging.
  • Astaxanthin※11: A red pigment. Lightens the skin and reduces wrinkles.
  • Acetyl Hexapeptite8※12: Relaxes facial muscles, reducing face contractions. This, in turn, helps with sagging and expression lines.

※9 レチノール (ビタミンA): retinol (vitamin A)
※10 マツエキス: pine extract
※11 アスタキサンチン: astaxanthin
※12 アセチルヘキサペプチド-8: acetyl hexapeptite 8

③ Look for a Serum with a Pleasing Texture and Scent–and is Also in Convenient Packaging

③ Look for a Serum with a Pleasing Texture and Scent–and is Also in Convenient Packaging
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.

What Products We Ordered and How We Tested Them

What Products We Ordered and How We Tested Them
Now to introduce the 18 most popular Japanese anti-aging serums that we ordered and the process by which we tested them.
{The Products We Tested}
1. Beauty Mall Premium APPS + E Fullerene Serum (ビューティーモールAPPS+E(TPNa)フラーレン 美容液)
2. RISOU Repair Gel (リソウリペアジェル)
3. Sofina Lift Professional EX (ソフィーナ リフトプロフェッショナル ハリ美容液EX)
4. Dr.Ci:Labo Super White 377VC (ドクターシーラボスーパーホワイト377VC)
5. Melano CC Medicated Blemish Prevention W Vitamin Serum (メラノCC 薬用しみ 集中対策 Wビタミン浸透美容液)
6. POLA B.A Prislumina Serum (POLA B.A セラム プリズルミナ)
7. SHISEIDO Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate N (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)
8. Albion Upsurge Solution (アルビオン アップサージ ソリューション)
9. Elixir enriched serum (エリクシール シュペリエル エンリッチドセラム)
10. MUJI Aging Care Moisturising Essence ( 無印良品 エイジングケアプレミアム美容液)
11. MAIHADA KATSUJUN Lift Essence (米肌 活潤リフトエッセンス)
12. HAKU melanofocus V 45 Whitening Serum (HAKU メラノフォーカスV 45 美白美容液 )
13. SK-II Genoptics Spot Essence (SK-II ジェノプティクス スポット エッセンス)
14. ORBIS Lift Bright Essence (オルビス リフトブライトエッセンス )
15. NOV L&W Lift Essence (ノブ L&W リフトエッセンス)
16. ASTALIFT Essence Destiny (アスタリフト エッセンス デスティニー)
17. Cosme Decorte Whitelogist Bright Express (コスメデコルテ ホワイトロジスト ブライト エクスプレス)
18. Kobayashi Seiyaku Keshimin Essence (小林製薬 ケシミン美容液)
We then 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.

The Big Takeaway: Hydrating Serums Contained Sugar Derivatives or Antioxidants

The Big Takeaway: 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.

The Big Takeaway: We Liked Serums that Felt like Lotion and Smelled like a Field of Flowers

The Big Takeaway: 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.

The Final Verdict: Top 18 Best Japanese Anti-Aging Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online

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.
※Prices are as they were at the time of this article’s publication. They may fluctuate depending on when and the site on which you purchase the product.
Cosmetic IngredientsCeracute®, Hydrogenated Retinol, Ursolic Acid B, Burnet Extract
BenefitsImproves Skin Elasticity
HydrationD
ApplicationB
Overall ScoreD
Cosmetic IngredientsNano-Resveratrol EX, Nano-Astaxanthin, Nano-Lycopene
BenefitsImproves Skin Elasticity
HydrationC
ApplicationD
Overall ScoreC
Cosmetic IngredientsSatsuma Mandarin Peel Extract, Mangosteen Bark Extract, Inositol, Soapberry Extract, Turmeric Extract
BenefitsImproves Skin Elasticity
HydrationC
ApplicationD
Overall ScoreC
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
Cosmetic IngredientsPropanediol, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Jojoba Seed Oil, Soluble Collagen, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Polyquaternium-51
BenefitsAdds Moisture
HydrationC
ApplicationB
Overall ScoreC
13. MAIHADA KATSUJUN Lift Essence 1

13. MAIHADA KATSUJUN Lift Essence

$150.90

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
12. SHISEIDO Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate N 1

12. SHISEIDO Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate N

$70.00

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
Cosmetic IngredientsTocopherol, Royal Jelly Extract
BenefitsPrevents Rough Skin, Spots, & Fine Lines; Retains Moisture
HydrationC
ApplicationA
Overall ScoreC
10. Kobayashi Seiyaku Keshimin Essence 1

10. Kobayashi Seiyaku Keshimin Essence

$9.86

Active IngredientsL-Ascorbic Acid 2-Glucoside, Glycyrrhizin Dipotassium, Tocopherol Acetate
BenefitsPrevents Spots, Dullness, and Rough Skin
HydrationC
ApplicationC
Overall ScoreB
Active IngredientsKojic Acid
BenefitsPrevents Spots
HydrationB
ApplicationB
Overall ScoreB

8. Melano CC Medicated Blemish Prevention W Vitamin Serum

$8.68

Active IngredientsAscorbic Acid, Tocopherol Acetate, Glycyrrhizin Dipotassium, Isopropyl Methylphenol
BenefitsPrevents Spots & Dullness
HydrationB
ApplicationA
Overall ScoreB
Active IngredientsAscorbic Acid 2-Glucoside
BenefitsImproves Skin Elasticity, Prevents Spots
HydrationB
ApplicationA
Overall ScoreB
Cosmetic IngredientsAcetyl Hexapeptide-8, Ginger Root Extract, Horse Chestnut Seed Extract, Fucus Extract, Amidinoproline
BenefitsImproves Skin Elasticity
HydrationB
ApplicationA+
Overall ScoreB
Cosmetic IngredientsNano W377, Raw Vitamin C
BenefitsPrevents Spots and Dullness
HydrationB
ApplicationC
Overall ScoreC
4. RISOU Repair Gel 1

4. RISOU Repair Gel

$125.92

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
3. Beauty Mall Premium APPS + E Fullerene Serum 1

3. Beauty Mall Premium APPS + E Fullerene Serum

$78.06

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
Active IngredientsNicotinic Acid Amide W, D-Pantothenyl Alcohol
BenefitsPrevents Spots and Rough Skin
HydrationA
ApplicationB
Overall ScoreA
Active Ingredients4MSK, m-Tranexamic Acid
BenefitsPrevents Spots, Retains Moisture
HydrationA+
ApplicationC
Overall ScoreA

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 That’ll Complete Your Japanese Beauty Routine

Other Products That’ll Complete Your Japanese 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

We consulted a skincare specialist, purchased the 18 most popular anti-aging serums, essences, and ampoules, and tested them all.
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.
Original by Yukina Matsuda; Translation by Jasmine Li

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    Top 25 Best Japanese Whitening Serums, Essences, and Ampoules to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    It’s a buzzword in Japan: translucence※1. It’s similar to Korea’s glass skin–skin so pure that it’s nearly transparent, resembling layers of frosted glass. In order to respond to that aesthetic, cosmetic companies–both drugstore and high-end–here have been coming out with scores of whitening※2 serums, essences, and ampoules※3.As always, it’s difficult to tell what kind of skincare is effective and what isn’t. That’s why, this time around, we ordered the 25 most popular whitening 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. Hydration2. ApplicationThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese whitening serums, essences, and ampoules.※1 透明感: translucence (lit. transparency; used to describe glass skin)※2 美白: whitening (in this article, that refers to the tamping down of hyperpigmentation and the production of melanin, thereby preventing freckles and blemishes)※3 美容液: serums, essences, and ampoules (more on how we translated that term below)
    Cosmetics and skincare
    1,719 views
  • Top 19 Best Japanese Face Washes for Acne to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Top 19 Best Japanese Face Washes for Acne to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Our editors searched Japanese e-commerce sites (such as @cosme, Amazon, and Rakuten) for face washes that work on acne-prone skin. We looked at products with salicylic acid; we looked at pore-clearing stuff; we looked at foams and clays and bars of soap.After some hemming and hawing, we narrowed our list down to 19 options. We then tested them for the following:1. Cleansing Power2. Hydration (that is, how hydrated your skin is after cleansing)This is how we hand-picked the best Japanese face washes for acne. For those interested, we also discuss face washing technique at the end of the article–just a quick heads-up so you don’t miss it.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    1,187 views
  • Top 10 Best Japanese Hair Dyes to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Top 10 Best Japanese Hair Dyes to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Let’s get this straight–there’s no such thing as a “best” hair dye. Strictly speaking. Just like there’s no such thing as a “best” concealer or “best” mattress or “best” jacket because it all comes down to you. What kind of skin do you have? What kind of sleeping posture? Do you get cold easily?This time around, we ordered the 10 most popular hair dyes found in Japanese drugstores and on Japan’s e-commerce sites and compared the following:1. How Vivid the Color was2. How Gentle on Hair the Dye was3. How Long the Color LastedHowever, we want you to keep in mind that the Japanese hair dyes we introduce were formulated with Japanese (naturally black, bleached Asian) hair in mind and are most effective on hair of a similar quality. If you’ve hair like that, great–you’ll probably find that it works better than your average box of CVS/Walgreens stuff. If not, though, results may be a bit unexpected.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    1,316 views
  • Top 38 Best Japanese Lip Balms to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Top 38 Best Japanese Lip Balms to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    If eyes are the windows to your soul, your lips are the shape to its voice. They’re worth taking good care of, especially because they’re tender and prone to aging, just like the rest of your skin. And in Japan, as in America, lip balm is cheap and plentiful, so you’ve plenty of choices–choices between brands, as well as between medicated, tinted, or organic balms.So which balms are worth your money and which aren’t? To answer that question, we ordered the 38 most popular lip balms from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as @cosme, Amazon, and Rakuten) and tested for the following:1. Hydration2. ApplicationThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese lip balms.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    1,177 views
  • Top 28 Best Japanese Toners to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Top 28 Best Japanese Toners to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    We don’t know when it started, but Japanese women are known–have been known for a while–for beautiful skin. And walking around Tokyo, you can’t help but think “where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.” While there’s no one factor that makes one’s skin what it is, we’d hazard a guess and say skincare is important.The Japanese skincare routine has quite a few steps. There’s cleansing; then the first step after cleansing is toning. To help you ease into Japanese skincare, we ordered the 28 most popular toners※1 from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and @cosme) and tested them all. We also invited an specialist and had her compare the following:1. Application (How It Feels on Skin)2. HydrationThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese toners. We also consulted our specialist about skincare–for example, we asked about how to properly put on toner and the order in which we should apply toner, lotion, and essences. We share all this information at the end of the article, so stay tuned.※1 化粧水: tone
    Cosmetics and skincare
    1,115 views
  • Top 18 Best Japanese Waterproof Mascaras to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Top 18 Best Japanese Waterproof Mascaras to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Summers here in Japan get humid and sticky. And yet Japanese men and women alike feel a need to look impeccable even when they’re floating in the middle of the ocean on a huge inner tube. In order to answer that need, cosmetics companies here have come out with scores of waterproof mascaras meant to withstand the steamiest hot springs and the biggest waves.If you’re new to the Japanese cosmetics market, it can be hard to tell which brands–Canmake, Heroine Make, Majolica Majorca–are amazing and which are a passing fad. That’s why, this time around, we ordered the 18 most popular waterproof mascaras from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as @cosme, Amazon, and Rakuten) and tested for the following:1. Smudge Resistance2. Curl Staying Power3. Finish4. Ease of Use5. Ease of RemovalThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese waterproof mascaras.
    Cosmetics and skincare
    292 views
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