Japanese haircare is making a comeback thanks to its soothing formulas and scalp-first approach. As consumers seek more gentle products for hair health, J-beauty rituals offer an alluring alternative to harsh Western shampoos. This trend presents an exciting chance for retailers to showcase nourishing, botanical oils and scalp-focused tools from Japan. The refreshing simplicity and skin-first sensibilities of Japanese hair care present ample opportunities for retailers globally.
Soothing formulas for scalp and strands
Japanese haircare uses mild ingredients that ‘baby’ and nourish the scalp and hair, offering consumers an alternative to more aggressive actives and rituals used by Western brands. Japanese haircare applies the principle of being gentle regardless of hair type and for all ages. Similar to the Japanese preference for skincare, consumers favor natural botanical oils and routines that nurture scalp health.
Products formulated for oily scalps emphasize moisture-boosting properties as a means of regulating sebum production. Cult favorite brand &honey’s Herb Smooth hair series for oily scalps boasts a lock-in moisture formula that balances the moisture level of the scalp over time instead of stripping oil. Ingredients are organic, 90% naturally derived, and additive-free, gentle enough for the whole family to use.
Other brands use native herbs that borrow from centuries-old Japanese beauty traditions. NatureLab Tokyo’s Perfect Shine Clarifying Scalp Scrub is a two-in-one sugar scrub and shampoo infused with probiotic-rich sake water and willow bark extract – ingredients said to cleanse environmental impurities and improve blood circulation for the scalp and promote hair growth.
Efficient routines for busy consumers
Fuss-free application is a mainstay. Time-strapped and ‘lazy’ consumers will favor efficient products with multifunctional benefits.
Hair masks that require little leave-in time are popular with hyper-skinimalist Japanese consumers and commonly feature among @cosme’s top-ranking hair products. Budget-friendly fave Shiseido Tsubaki’s Premium Repair Hair is a camellia oil-infused mask that can be washed off right away to achieve salon-level results. Fino’s Premium Touch is a two-in-one conditioner and hair treatment mask that doesn’t require conditioner before use, with a five-minute leave-in time. Royal jelly, PCA, and Lipidure restore smoothness, strength, and elasticity to hair damaged by weather, UV rays, color dye, and perming.
As the OGs of the ‘Lazy’ Skinimalist, Japanese consumers are seeking efficient all-in-one treatments. Athletia’s Scalp Refresh Lotion from its Active & Go line for athletes is a spray-on lotion that refreshes sweaty, sticky scalps. Licorice root, peppermint oil, and lavender oil help replicate the feeling of having shampooed.
MiMC ONE’s Styling Herb Balm is created for professionals in the workplace. Available in tinted and non-tinted shades, the multifunctional stick touches up flyaways and grey hairs hands-free and on the go. Camellia seed oil, argan oil, and olive oil are infused into the formula to simultaneously moisturize hair.
Therapy-inspired products promote relaxation
Many Japanese consumers place a strong emphasis on scent in hair products. Consumers ranked scent in fourth place as it is an “inexpensive way of relaxing during bath time”. Natural Island’s Yasuragi Hair Care Series, which comprises a shampoo and treatment cream, draws on the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). Every part of the fir, from branches to leaves, is used to invoke the imagery of forests in Hokkaido, where it is sourced, for their aromatherapeutic benefits.
Off & Relax’s uses onsen water in its Spa hair series, invoking Japan’s love of the hot springs, which are rich in minerals that treat the scalp.
Caring for maturing hair
Japan is home to one of the largest aging populations globally, with Gen X and Boomers making up a large percentage of its consumer base. Anxiety around aging is linked to rising stress levels, with anti-aging products seeing interest from younger consumers too.
In Japan, 7.8% of women and 26.7% of men aged 20-69 have experienced hair loss. A further 30% expressed their anxiety around hair aging, while 20% are taking measures to prevent it (Recruit Lifestyle).
A senior principal research scientist explained: “We have found that elderly people who have a habit of dyeing grey hair and washing their hair every day tend to enjoy better mental health [because age-related issues such as grey hair make us feel old].”
Gradual dyes and focused applicators hide greys and focus coverage on balding spots for those not ready to fully embrace grey hair. POLA’s Glamorous Growing Shot hair series is created for audiences with greying hair. Its shampoo, conditioner, and treatment cream gradually dye hair black or dark brown overuse. The products are infused with gentle, hydrating ingredients such as ceramide, amino acid, collagen, and ginseng that support scalps of 40 years old and above. Its Color Quick Brush provides immediate and pinpoint coverage for balding spots and greys as an interim measure. Fujiko’s PON PON Powder is housed in a tube, allowing users to touch up greys and thin hair on the go discreetly.
Professional looks at home
Sophisticated products that can recreate salon-ready looks will be in demand in the cost-of-living crisis, as a means of saving costs without a hair out of place.
Salon-grade hair appliances are pivotal in replicating the J-salon routine. YA-MAN’s VedaBright BS is a salon-style hair dryer that adapts tech from facial care technology. Equipped with the brand’s patented Ion Bright Comb, the device combines ionic pulses with LED therapy to eliminate static electricity by restoring the hair’s ion balance, adding moisture to achieve smooth hair, as anti-frizz and straightening treatments are popular among women. The hair dryer uses strong air blast speeds at a controlled temperature of 60°C to prevent hair from drying out, keeping hair damage from heat to a minimum.
RETØUCH’s Hair Balm is created for men with permed hair, which is currently on trend in Japan. Made to support chemically treated hair, it is infused with moisturizing ingredients argan oil and jojoba oil for hydrating benefits, while the wax maintains and helps men create popular looks such as wavy center parts and fluffy perms.
The refreshing simplicity and skin-first approach of Japanese hair care presents ample opportunity for retailers globally. As consumers increasingly seek gentler, healthier haircare regimens, Japanese formulas offer a compelling alternative to harsh Western shampoos. Retailers should focus on showcasing the core traits that make J-beauty stand out, and highlight gentle, plant-based ingredients like camellia oil that soothe scalps and strands. They should also bring in efficient masks, lotions, and balms that simplify routines for busy consumers, source aromatherapeutic and onsen-inspired products that turn washing into a relaxing ritual, and stock-targeted solutions for maturing hair that empower older consumers.