J-beauty trends 2021: Cica, beauty from within, Osmanthus among the top trending keywords

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Centella asiatica, or cica, was the top keyword of the year in Japan, says @cosme. [VT Cosmetics]
Centella asiatica, or cica, was the top keyword of the year in Japan, says @cosme. [VT Cosmetics]

Related tags j-beauty Japan trends

Centella asiatica, beauty from within, and Osmanthus were among the top trending beauty keywords in Japan, new data has revealed.

@cosme has revealed the top eight keywords that have trended throughout the year on its portal, which has received 16 million monthly visitors and amassed 15 million product reviews since launching in 1999.

This year alone, members logged in around 1.12 million reviews, growing by 1.2 times since the year before and breaking the website’s record.

Owned by Japanese beauty retail and media firm istyle Inc, @cosme has since spun off into a retail business that has an offline and online presence in markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Cica takes top spot

By analysing the ratings and reviews on its website, the company determined that Centella asiatica, or cica, was the top keyword of the year.

While cica is has been a standout ingredient for the past several years thanks to the dominance of K-beauty, @cosme reported that it has come out on top this year for its anti-inflammatory properties, which has become important during COVID-19.

“It came into the limelight at once as it helped against rough skin, a skin concern that emerged as the frequency of mask-wearing increased.”

Furthermore, 2021 saw more brands – including luxury French brand Dior – launching cica-based products, which helped accelerate the prominence of cica beauty products overall.

Among the top cica products on the @cosme platform include VT Cosmetics’s Cica Daily Soothing Mask, Dr. Jart’ Cicapair Cream, and Nature Republic’s Green Derma Mild Cica Big Toner – all of which were from South Korea.

Inner beauty spotlight

Another big trend that dominated was inner beauty.

Throughout the year, keywords such as ‘immunity’ and ‘gut health’ increased as the lines between health and beauty continued to blur in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report stated that more consumers were starting to relate things like intestinal health to skin health and overall beauty.

As such, functional foods from brands like Yakult and FANCL, as well as foods like Manuka honey, gained more interest from consumers.

Autumnal fragrances

While it is one of the global beauty powerhouses, Japan has historically been rather ambivalent about perfume.

However, demand for fragrances accelerated in Japan in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, said @cosme.

They are paying more attention to scents, not just in the context of fine fragrance, but in hair oils, hand creams and fabric mists.

In particular, Japanese consumers are seeking out products with Osmanthus, known as kanagi, a flower symbolic of autumn in Japan.

Japanese brand SHIRO, which has been releasing the Osmanthus-inspired Kinmokusei Eau de Parfum seasonally since 2018, recently announced that it would become part of its permanent line-up due to overwhelming demand.

Additionally, French beauty brand L’Occitane launched an Osmanthus fragrance​ which has proven to be popular among Japanese consumers.

All about that base

The ongoing pandemic has fundamentally changed the Japanese consumer’s idea of face make-up.

With more people staying home and wearing masks, consumers were now moving away from foundation​.

For the first half of 2021, ‘no foundation’ was one of the top keywords on the platform, reported @cosme.

Aside from the issue of mask-wearing, the reliance on foundation has reduced as consumers reported wanting to give their skin a break and “cultivate the beauty of bare skin”,​ said @cosme.

In its place, make-up primers, concealers and powders have become the new foundation.

Among the top products in this category include Maquillage’s Dramatic Nude Jelly BB, a tinted beauty essence and Decorté’s Tone Perfecting Palette Concealer.

Mask-proof beauty

In a similar vein, the COVID-19 pandemic has cultivated a demand for make-up products that can hold up against the use of protective face masks.

One of the top-ranked products on @cosme this year have been Kate Cosmetic’s new transfer-proof lipstick, Lip Monster.

@cosme noted that Lip Monster has been in short supply​ since its release, highlighting the consumer need for more of such products.

Additionally, Kosé’s Make Keep Mist EX, a facial mist that claims to prevent make-up from smudging or transferring onto masks, also garnered a lot of attention.

This prompted the company to introduce a trial-sized bottle that could be easily carried around as well as a limited-edition variation of the product.

The eyes have it

In 2021, @cosme observed a revival of eyeshadow palettes as eye make-up continued to gain traction in the wake of the pandemic.

According to the report, Japanese beauty consumers previously favoured monochromatic eyeshadows but now are more open to trying more colours.

“In an environment where opportunities to use make-up is limited as you can't go out as you wish, many people seemed to want excitement in colourful and gorgeous colours.”

The quality of eyeshadows was noted to be vital as consumers were looking for shadows that could create a beautiful finish with minimal effort and technical know-how.

Eyeshadow palettes from Kate Cosmetics, & BE and SUQQU were among the standouts of the year.

Helping hands

Consumer demand for hand care products has grown more sophisticated over the last couple of years.

According to @cosme data, hand care remains one of the priorities for consumers as frequent hand washing and sterilisation habits persist.

Aside from soothing and moisturising, consumers are now looking for hand creams that are value-added with functionalities including sun protection, sterilisation and fragrance.

Among the top hand creams in Japan were Shiseido’s Ultimune Power Infused Hand Cream and Steamcream’s UV Protection 33 hand cream.

Additionally, Authentic Beauty Concept developed a vegan serum that can be used for both hands and hair that has become popular among Japanese consumers.

Conscious beauty

With the rise of clean beauty, Japanese consumers are now more aware of choosing cosmetic products that are “friendly to both people and the environment,”​ said @cosme.

Beauty products with greener packaging are appreciated, such as Uzu by Flowfushi’s Eye Opening Liner, which utilises recycled plastic, steel, and paper.

Additionally, Japanese consumers are also seeking out brands that go the extra mile and contribute to society.

According to @cosme, they have resonated with global beauty brands such as Yves Saint Laurent Beaute, L'Occitane, and Lancome, which have supported important issues such as women’s welfare and sustainability.

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