Japan's skincare guru says wrinkles are beautiful too

TOKYO Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:57am EDT

1 of 3. Japanese beauty expert Chizu Saeki cups her cheeks, which is part of her facial care, at her salon in Tokyo March 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Wear a shower cap over your face. Think about sexy men. And don't stress about those inevitable wrinkles.

All are part of Japanese beauty expert Chizu Saeki's "Skincare Revolution," her compilation of sometimes unorthodox facial care that has made her a household name in Japan. Her tips were even taken up in a video game several years ago.

Yet she also says flawless skin isn't everything.

"As you age, it's okay to have wrinkles, it's okay to have age spots, it's okay to sag," the 66-year-old Saeki told Reuters after the publication of "The Japanese Skincare Revolution," her first book to come out in English.

"Growing older -- that's just the way it is, it means you've lived. Anything else is a lie. You should live naturally."

This reassuring message has no doubt contributed to her success in Japan, one of the world's fastest aging nations, with visitors to her salon in the fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo ranging up into their 80s.

And the core of her methods -- getting women to use things they already have -- resonates even more as Japan's economy is hit by recession and consumers tighten purse strings still more.

"Becoming beautiful isn't cosmetics, it's your way of thinking, your hands," she said.

"This is something you can do at home, with what you have around you. I thought if I could spread the word on this, age won't matter, money won't matter."

Saeki is a good advertisement for her methods. Though her short hair is white, her face is firm and unlined.

But anybody expecting exotic treatments such as seaweed wraps or rice bran potions may be disappointed, with Saeki basing her methods on the often simple care Japanese women have lavished on their skin for centuries.

"Japanese women were always spoken of for their pale, beautiful skin and their dark hair. But now they get tanned like foreigners and use makeup from their teens," she lamented.

"There was a very strong trend among Japanese women for branded things, for expensive things. And even if they still had cosmetics products left over, they'd go off and buy even more," she said. "I felt this was a real waste."

THE ELIXIR OF IMAGINATION

Following a 40-year career as a beautician, a good part of it with foreign firms such as Dior and Guerlain, Saeki set up her own salon in 2003, at the age of 60.

She advocates simplicity, whether using already bought cosmetics or things such as honey, recommended for chapped lips.

To increase the effectiveness of lotions, she suggests wearing a shower cap over the face as an instant "steam sauna." Of course, cut out breathing holes first.

And then there's the "elixir of imagination" -- fantasizing. She recommends thinking about attractive men, which she says promotes the secretion of hormones beneficial to the skin.

"I like to capitalize on everything our bodies have to offer, from our hands and our fingers to the warmth of touch," she writes in her book. "A bit of heart-throbbing excitement makes a great supplement for healthy skin."

Three million copies of her books are in print in Japan, and she is often on television. Treatments at her salon, which run from 31,000 yen to 48,300 yen ($313-$487), are fully booked months in advance.

"The face is proof of the heart, a chart of your health, a signboard of your life," she said. "When I look at a person's face, I know everything about them."

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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