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How One Japanese Woman is Trying to Avoid Wrinkles While Living in Canada

By June 30, 2015May 26th, 2017Moments

After her mother experienced a stroke, Masae Okabayashi vowed to take better control of her own health.

A transplant from Japan, Okabayashi realized that while longer summer daylight hours here in Canada means more time to enjoy the outdoors, from her perspective the sunlight is far harsher here compared to Japan.

After her mother experienced a serious stroke that has reduced her mobility, forty-something Okabayashi realized she had better start paying attention to her own lifestyle.

“People of my mother’s generation in Japan were working too hard to pay much attention to their health,” says Okabayashi.

While Okabayashi, like many Canadian women, took up yoga, weight training and running after the age of forty, she also pays special attention to her skin.

Classic LifeCare interviewed Okabayashi about what she does to take care of her skin.

You’re from Japan originally. What’s so different about living in Canada?

When I first moved to Victoria, BC I was shocked when I saw the UV index here. The UV rays are incredibly strong in Victoria. Here in Canada we are so very far north compared to Japan that the atmosphere is actually thinner, and provides less protection from UV rays.

This is a problem. Not only does UV damage your skin, it can also cause cancer. Both of my parents experienced serious health issues later in life, and I want to avoid that from happening to me.

So it’s not just about avoiding freckles and wrinkles – although UV rays will damage the collagen that provides your skin with elasticity. I have very fair skin, so I also want to avoid the risk of developing melanoma.

What’s the number-one thing women can do in Canada to protect themselves from the sun?

I think women – and men – should consider covering up more. In Japan it’s very unusual for women to leave the house with bare arms, especially in summer. This isn’t exactly an issue of cultural norms or modesty.

Women in Japan typically wear a light summer cardigan, a sun hat and even gloves to protect themselves from the sun.

How else do you protect yourself from the sun in Canada?

I use cosmetics to protect myself from the sun. So, I use a pre-foundation from DHC. I bought it in Japan, but you can buy it Canada. It’s cheap but is also very high quality. This pre-foundation serves as a sunscreen.

I then apply foundation (DHC or Shiseido). and after that I apply a “UV block” powder as a third layer.

On the back of my neck and my hands I use regular sunscreen. I always wear a cardigan, even to the beach, as well as long pants or capri pants.

I haven’t seen the DHC here in Victoria,. You can buy DHC in Canada, but there isn’t very much selection, and the same brand uses different ingredients than in Japan. So I usually buy DHC on trips back to Japan.

I use a high SPF (50) when I go to the beach, but if it’s just for going shopping I use an SPF of about SPF 30. The higher the SPF, the harder it is on your skin.

Of course, if I’m out for longer than two hours the sunblock will have worn out. So I always bring a sunblock spray with me. It’s something that I can apply over my foundation and so on.

I use Biore “UV Perfect Spray” that I brought with me from Japan. You can even use it on your hair.

But to protect my hair I usually wear a sun hat from the beginning of April until the end of September. In this part of the world UV rays are strongest and April and May, so that is when I am most careful.

I understand you actually make your own cosmetics? Why did you start?

I make my own cosmetics and soaps not only because I think most products here in Canada are pretty hard on my skin, but also because I guess you would say it’s my hobby or my obsession. It’s something I like to do.

I decided to research and create my own skin care products because compared to Japan it can be very difficult to find something that’s right for me.

And often when I find a product that I like, it’s very expensive. So I just took a look at the labels and reverse-engineered the ingredients. It took a bit of work to track down online suppliers in Canada, but then again this has turned into a bit of a hobby.

After a product I bought in the store here dried my skin out, I actually started to make the UV block powder (that third layer I mentioned) myself. I had to figure out where to buy titanium oxide and zinc oxide to make it, though.

I also started making my own sunscreen because I hadn’t been able to find sunscreen I’ve liked in Canada.

The biggest issue is that all sunscreens sold in Canada seem to contain the chemical oxybenzone. Oxybenzone gives me a pretty severe rash, so I just cannot use sunscreens sold in stores here in Canada.

That’s why I use the pre-foundation sunscreen from DHC combined with a sunblock powder, and an over-the-counter spray from Japan.

You also mentioned that you take very special care removing sunscreen

Yes! The first thing I do when I return home, and if I’m not going to go outside again is that I always make sure to wash my face. I try not leave makeup on too long after I get home.

This is because, while sunscreen is great for protecting your skin, it is also a natural desiccant, meaning it dries out your skin.

Dry skin temporarily loses its elasticity, and over time dry skin will lead to wrinkles.

Of course, wrinkles can be quite lovely, but for the time being I want to hold onto my shiny, smooth skin.

Of course, when removing makeup and sunscreen I have firm rules for myself about how I wash my skin!

Rule number one: I never use a wash cloth or facecloth on my skin. It’s too rough.

Instead, I apply a cleansing oil to remove the foundation and sunscreen I applied earlier in the day.

What kind of cleansing oils do you use?

I made the cleansing oil myself. I actually make different cleansing oils for different times of the year, and use olive oil, hemp oil, macadamia oil, sesame oil and other oils.

I have had to figure out the cheapest places in Canada to source these oils. For example, I bought the hemp oil online from an Ontario company.

To create the finished product, I brought back an emulsifying solution from a recent trip to Japan.

But you have a very specific process for cleaning your skin when you get home, right?

Yes! Not to sound obsessive or anything, but I do.

So, after applying the cleansing oil, I gently massage my face. I try to avoid leaving the oil on too long in case it transports dirt and so on deeper into my skin.

Then I use a Kleenex to gentle remove some of the cleansing oil. Then I use lukewarm water to rinse off the rest of the oil. Hot water will actually dry your skin out… and dry skin will lead to wrinkles.

I then use a homemade soap to create a lot of foam, and gently wash my face. I also try to create a thick foam that lubricates the space between my palm and my cheek. I pat my face dry with a soft towel, then apply a moisturizing cream.

What about moisturizing?

For moisturizing my face, there is of course a step-by-step process.

At the moment in the summertime I use rosehip oil, and apply to my face. And then I apply lavender water mixed with glycerin.

And after that I apply a homemade lotion that is a combination of aloe vera gel, royal jelly and koji, or rice yeast used to brew sake. There are actually some other ingredients, but I don’t want to bore anyone.

Do you have any other skincare advice?

Canada is very dry, so I also apply moisturizers before going to bed.

It’s also important to preserve drink plenty of water and drink Vitamin C. I also keep in mind that our skin typically regenerates between 10pm and 2am, I am sure to be in bed at that time.


5 Tips to Avoid Damaging Your Skin

  1. Cover up, and consider wearing a light cotton cardigan to the beach
  2. Wear sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30
  3. Understand that sunscreen will dry out and damage your skin, so be sure remove as quickly as possible.
  4. Be gentle on your skin when removing cosmetics
  5. Get plenty of “beauty sleep” by going to bed earlier in the evening.